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Subtitling, voiceover and dubbing are the main modes and preferred practices of audio-visual translation (AVT) in professional translation work, and a distinct area of specialization within Translation Studies. Historically, audio-visual translation emerged in the course of the 1920s with the arrival of sound film and the aspirations of the U.S. film industry to export English-language films abroad, especially during post-World War II Europe. The earliest type of this kind of translation took the form of intertitles interspersed between film frames. Since the integration of sound in film, technologies have undeniably determined and directed the processes, expectations and capabilities associated with subtitling, voiceover and dubbing productions. The audio-visual translation that focused on films produced for cinema in the past has vastly expanded its scope, transformed by the globalization of production and distribution processes, mergers and acquisitions, TV, DVD, Web and mobile technologies. It is now discernibly a domain that is global, multilingual, multicultural and multimedia.
Translation processes, however, comprise only one link in the overall chain of production for subtitling, dubbing or voiceover. The words uttered audially and produced visually for the screen exist synchronously with a multitude of other audio sounds (music) and visual signs (images, gestures) which, only when combined, produce a context that is meaningful for viewers. Subtitling translation operates under specific constraints. The text displayed on the screen traditionally does not surpass two lines of approximately 70 characters in all, which amounts to about 40% loss in original content information. The reduction of the dialogue from its original oral medium to written summary requires translators to focus principally on relevance, intent and achieving coherent communicative effect. Translators, who are provided with a source language transcription of the dialogue and descriptions of visual information, must be capable of creatively segmenting, compressing and paraphrasing the dialogue lines, which in turn will be adapted to speech. Dubbing requires further synchrony with image and sound. Lip-synchronized dubbing re-records the original voice track with target language actors reading the translation of the source language dialogue. Voiceover, a technique often used for news, interviews and documentaries, generally records the translated voice over the original voice, leaving a few seconds of original sound at the start and at the end.
Subtitles have historically been associated with translation and bilingual versions of programs and films. However, subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH), which is mandated and regulated by many countries, is currently a rapidly developing domain. Neither are films and TV programs the only media to be translated; software applications and videogames also make use of some audio-visual translation techniques. Finally, along with standard modes of production organized through conventional entities like specialized studios and agencies, we presently find new trends such as fansubbing and fandubbing, where audio-visual media are voluntarily subtitled and dubbed by communities of fans. Likewise, alongside corporate proprietary and professional programs implemented to carry out high quality subtitling and dubbing, there exist open source programs and freeware for non-professional use. For example, YouTube provides functionalities for users to create their own captions and subtitles of video dialogue. Many translators choose to specialize professionally in audio-visual translation, as one of their areas of expertise. Training is available in some academic settings but usually through professional workshops.
Baker, Mona and Gabriela Saldanha (eds), Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. 2nd Edition, London / New York: Routledge, 2009.
Díaz Cintas, Jorge and Aline Remael (2007), Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling, Translation Practices Explained Series, Manchester & Kinderhook: St. Jerome Publishing.
Díaz Cintas, Jorge, Anna Matamala and Josélia Neves (eds), New Insights into Audiovisual Translation and Media Accessibility. Media for All 2, Amsterdam / New York: Rodopi, 2010.
Gambier, Yves and Henrik Gottlieb (eds), (Multi)Media Translation, Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing, 2001.
Gambier, Yves and Luc Van Doorslaer (eds), Handbook of Translation Studies. Vol. 1, Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2010. Also online.
Ivarsson, Jan (Transedit, Sweden) -- "Translation and Subtitling Resources" (updated 2010) website.
Orero, Pilar (ed), Topics in audiovisual translation, Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing, 2004.
Riggio, Francesca, "Dubbing vs Subtitling", published in Multilingual Oct/Nov 2010. Available online.
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