Netflix has taken captioning to the next level

Subtitling and captioning are often used interchangeably when reproducing the spoken word in written form. Subtitles usually mean a language translation for films and television. However, it is often used to mean closed captioning. Whether it’s captioning or subtitling, it now provides an opportunity to describe the sound effects as well as the words. Sound effects and music are a major part of the movie experience, especially the horror and action genres. So Netflix has taken captioning (or subtitles as they call them) to the next level.

A horror scene in shades of blue with a human figure with wrinkled skin and no proper flesh. From Netflix series, Stranger Things.

Netflix’s subtitling gives deaf and hard of hearing viewers the same immersive experience of tentacles squelching and roiling wetly as hearing audiences.

Photo Netflix

An article in Vulture online blog explains how Netflix are keeping up with the ever-changing rules for subtitlers. The subject of the article is the Netflix series, Stranger Things. Apparently the subtitles “became a sensation among fans”.

People writing captions and subtitles are usually in the background working away quietly. The Netflix subtitling team relies on audio but sometimes gets a shooting script which helps with character and location names. What ends up on screen is often different to the script.

A young man is holding a large box of popcorn and has a frightened look on his face.

I didn’t understand the care and diligence that a good subtitler makes and the difference they make within a whole community.

Photo from Pixabay

The subtitlers try to stick to genre-appropriate language as well. “Squelching” in a horror movie is meant to evoke disgust. The sound would be described differently in a Regency-era picture or comedy. It’s all about creating atmosphere.

The title of the Vulture article is, Wet Writhing and Eldritch Gurgling: A Chat With the Stranger Things Subtitles Team. It has more background information on how the team works and thinks.

Editor’s comment. For hearing people, there is a bonus. It’s like reading the book and viewing the story at the same time. It will be good if all subtitlers and captioners follow suit. Audio describers have the task of matching the vision to those sounds to create the same atmosphere.

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