Good subtitles are INVISIBLE.

Have you noticed how well-written subtitles go invisible, whereas poorly written ones completely hinder your immersion in the movie?

Did you ever find yourself unable to fully appreciate a scene because of the subtitles?

They take us to different languages and cultures without affecting the magic of the movie.

Subtitling is part of the history of cinema. We can’t help but think about Herman Weinberg, whom we might call the first subtitler.

In the early 20s of the last century, Weinberg recognized that text overlays shouldn’t obscure the narrative’s visual elements.

During his experimentation with the placement and quantity of subtitles, he visited various theaters to observe the audience. He noticed that people could read the text without moving their heads up and down. They simply moved their eyes.

Somehow, this perception led to the technical guidelines that lead the subtitler’s work.

For instance, the limit of 42 characters, divided into two lines, ensures a comfortable reading without interfering with the narrative of the images.

But it’s not just about the number of characters. Skilled subtitlers adjust timing to match dialogue flow, translate humor and wordplay, and even convey other elements to make a movie accessible to the SDH communities.

Due to their complexity, subtitles have become an integral component of the movies’ industry.

However, they cannot be a distraction from what is truly important – the narrative conveyed through images.

Here’s to the cinema, the art of subtitles, and Herman Weinberg.

Image: During the Goya Awards on February 10, 2024, Spanish national television decided to use pre-translated subtitles for Sigourney Weaver’s acceptance speech. The result was disastrous and caused a lot of protests from the Spanish public.