How to translate films: revealing secrets

    Translation and localization of films is an extremely interesting activity, in which there are a whole bunch of pitfalls. The perception of the film by the audience largely depends on the translator, therefore this is an extremely responsible matter.

    We’ll tell you how the work on the localization of films is actually carried out and why the result often depends on the erudition of the translator.

    We will not delve into the technical jungle of translation - there are also enough nuances there. We’ll tell you how the work is going on in general and what problems translators face in order to make a quality product.

    Translation of the film: preparation for action

    Let’s say right away, only marketers are involved in the translation of the names. In a previous article, we looked at bad name translations. In most cases, translators cannot influence them - the material comes with an already approved name.

    Translation time varies greatly. It all depends on the scope. In low-budget arthouse films, one week can be allotted for the entire translation process, along with edits and voice acting. Sometimes studios generally work in the "yesterday" mode, so jambs happen quite often.

    It is a bit more comfortable to work with large world studios. Often they send materials a few months before the premiere. In some cases - even six months, because a huge amount of time edits and refinements eat up.
    For example, to translate the movie Deadpool, the Twentieth Centuries Fox film company sent materials 5 months before the start of distribution.

    The translators of the “Cube in a Cube” studio, who were involved in the translation, claimed that 90% of the time was taken not by the translation itself, but by communication with legal owners and various corrections.

    What do the source codes for translating the movie look like?

    Separately, it is worth mentioning which materials the film makers dump to translators. Well-known companies are very afraid of "drains" - video leaks on the Internet before the start of screenings in movie theaters, so they scoff at translators' materials quite strongly. Here are some of the ways - very often they are combined or even used together:

    • Cutting the entire video into segments of 15-20 minutes, which are additionally protected from copying.
    • Low resolution video - often the quality of the material is not higher than 240p. Just enough to see everything that happens on the screen, but not get any pleasure from it.
    • Formatting colors. Often source codes give black and white or in sepia tones. No color!
    • Watermarks on top of the video. Most often, these are static translucent or transparent volumetric labels across the screen.

    All this does not interfere with the translation process, but almost completely eliminates the release of the film on the Internet. In this format, even the most ardent moviegoers will not watch it.

    Also, without fail, dialog sheets are sent to the translator. In fact, this is a script in the original language with all the remarks that are only in the film.

    In the dialogue sheets, all the characters are described, their remarks and the conditions in which they speak these remarks. Timecodes are set for each replica - up to hundredths of a second, the beginning, the end of the replica, as well as all the pauses, sneezes, coughs and other noises that the characters make are set down. This is extremely important for actors who will voice the line.

    In serious projects, very often in the comments to the remarks they chew on a specific phrase so that the translators accurately understand its meaning and come up with an adequate equivalent.
    00: 18: 11,145 - You bastard!
    Here: an insult. Means a person born of parents not married to each other; illegitimate
    In most high-budget films, the text is accompanied by a huge number of posts and clarifications. Especially detailed are jokes and references that may not be understood by foreign viewers.

    Therefore, most often if the translator could not convey the meaning of the joke or find an adequate analogue, this is a puncture of the translator and editor.

    What does the translation process look like


    After familiarization with the topic, the translator begins work. First of all, he checks the timings. If they are and are placed correctly (with all sneezes and ahs), then the specialist immediately proceeds to the next stage.

    But experience shows that properly designed dialog sheets are a luxury. So, first of all, translators are taken to bring them to a digestible look.

    If there are no timings at all, then the translator, swearing quietly, makes them. Because the timings must be mandatory - the dubbing actor cannot work without them. This is a pretty tedious job that eats a huge amount of time. So for filmmakers who do not put down timings for localizers, a separate boiler is prepared in hell.

    Compliance with facial expressions and accuracy of sounds

    This item distinguishes the translation of films for dubbing from the usual translation of the text. After all, replicas in Russian should not only fully convey the meaning of phrases, but also should fall into the facial expressions of the heroes.

    When someone says a phrase with their backs to the camera, the translator has a little more freedom, so you can tighten or shorten the phrase a little. Within reason, of course.

    But when the hero speaks close-up on the camera, then any discrepancies between phrases and facial expressions will be perceived as trash. Allowable play between the length of phrases is 5%. Not only in the total length of the replica, but in each part of the phrase separately.

    Sometimes the translator has to rewrite the replica several times so that the phrase "lies in the mouth" of the hero.
    By the way, there is one interesting way how you can determine if a professional movie translator is in front of you or not. These pros additionally make notes about intonation, aspiration, coughing, stumbling and pauses. This greatly simplifies the work of the dubbing actor - and they are really grateful for this.

    Adaptation of jokes, references and mats

    Individual whistles begin when you need to adapt jokes or various references. This is a serious headache for a translator. Especially for films and series that are initially positioned as comedies.

    When adapting jokes, most often you can save either the original meaning of the joke or sharp humor. Both immediately happens very rarely.

    That is, you can explain the joke almost literally, but then it will be much less funny than in the original, or rewrite the joke again, but make it funny. Different tactics may be required in different situations, but the choice is always up to the translator.
    Let's pay attention to the film “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”.

    When Bilbo greeted the guests at his birthday at the beginning of the film, we get a very interesting pun:

    'My dear Bagginses and Boffins and my dear Tooks and Brandybucks, and Grubbs, Chubbs, Burrowses, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles, and Proudfoots'.

    The meaning of the joke here is that in English the plural of the word “foot” is formed using the irregular form, and not by prefixing the ending “-s”.

    “Foot” is “feet,” but not “feet.”

    Naturally, it will not be possible to fully convey the meaning of the joke - in Russian there is no such thing as the “irregular plural form”. Therefore, translators simply replaced the joke:

    My dear Baggins and Boffins, Tukey and Brandybucks, Grubby, Chubby, Dragodui, Bolger, Breisgerdy ... and Bolsheruki.

    There is a joke, but it is not as thin as in the original. However, a perfectly acceptable and good option.

    In one of the amateur translations, there was a good pun in the place of this joke:

    ... and woolly paws.

    If the official translators would think of a pun "paw-pala", then in our opinion the joke would be juicier. But this is one of those non-obvious solutions that come after.
    With references too many questions. Sometimes it’s even more difficult with them than with jokes. Indeed, in essence, the translator assumes the level of education and erudition of the audience.
    Let's take a simple example. The main character tells his friend:

    Well, you're cool. Jose Canseco would envy you.

    If a person does not know who Jose Canseco is, he will not understand the reference. But in fact, there is a completely unambiguous banter, because Kanseko is still an odious person.

    And if, for example, replace the referral with a character more known to a particular audience? For example, Alexander Nevsky? Will such a replacement reflect the nature of the original dispatch?
    Here the translator sets foot on thin ice - if you underestimate the audience, you can give an analogy that is too flat and uninteresting, if you overestimate it, the audience simply won’t understand the sending.

    Another important part of the activities of a translator that cannot be kept silent is the translation of swear words.

    Different studios have different approaches to translating obscene phrases. Some try to make the translation as “chaste" as possible, even at the cost of wit. Some translate mats in full, and in American films they swear a lot. Still others are trying to find a middle ground.

    Translating abusive phrases is actually not difficult. And not because there are two and a half obscene words in English - believe me, there are no less mats there than in Russian - but because it’s quite simple to pick up an equivalent equivalent to the situation.

    But sometimes there are masterpieces. Recall the one-voice translation of Andrei Gavrilov with films on VHS tapes. Probably one of the most legendary scenes in the translation is an excerpt from the film "Blood and Concrete" (1991):

    Warning! The video has a lot of mat.

    Most translators try to transfer mats in English into rude, but not obscene expressions in Russian. For example, “fuck!” translate as "your mother!" or “shit!” This approach is also worthy of attention.

    Work with facts and context

    In his work, the translator rarely relies only on his own knowledge. After all, possession of the context is the basis for the accurate transfer of meanings.

    For example, if the dialogue turned to financial transactions, then you can’t rely on a Google translator or a dictionary of general terms. You need to look for proven sources of information in English, fill in the gaps in knowledge - and only then translate the phrase.

    For the translation of films with very highly specialized vocabulary, individual experts are involved who are versed in this field. Translators rarely risk reputation by trying to translate without context.

    But sometimes there are moments that the director thought as a joke, but in localization they look like jambs of a translator. And they can not be avoided.
    For example, in the first part of the Back to the Future trilogy, Doc Brown is eager to search for "1.21 gigawatts of energy." But any first-year student will say that the right thing is gigawatt!

    It turns out that Zemeckis specifically inserted “jigawatt” into the film. And this is precisely his cant. While writing the script, he attended lectures on physics as a free listener, but did not hear the unknown word. Humanities what to take from him. And already during the filming it seemed funny, so they decided to leave the Jigawatt.

    But the translators are to blame anyway. There are heaps of threads on the forums that translators are morons, and you need to write "gigawatts". But the original story is not necessary to know.

    How is work with the translation customer

    After the translator completes the work, the draft version is necessarily analyzed by the editor. The translator and editor work in symbiosis - two heads are better.

    Sometimes the editor offers the translator obvious solutions that, for some reason, the specialist did not see. This helps to avoid stupid situations when communicating with the customer.

    And now, when the draft went to the distributor, the era of revisions begins. Their number depends on the meticulousness of the host. As experience shows, the more global and expensive the film, the longer the discussion and approval of edits. Direct transfer lasts a maximum of 10 days. This is with a very thoughtful attitude. All the rest of the time is edits.
    Typically, the dialogue is something like this:
    Distributor: Replace the word "1", it is too coarse.
    Translator: But it emphasizes the emotional state of the hero.
    Projector: Perhaps there are more options?
    Translator: “1”, “2”, “3”.
    Rider: The word "3" is suitable, we leave.
    And so on EVERY edit, even the smallest. That is why in large projects, owners try to lay at least a month on localization, or better, two.

    After a month (or several), when the text is approved, the work of the translator is almost finished and voice actors take up the matter. Why is it "almost finished"? Because there is often a situation where a phrase that normally looked on paper sounds idiotic in a dub. Therefore, the dealer sometimes makes the decision to finalize certain moments and rewrite dubbing.

    Of course, sometimes it happens when the translator underestimated or overestimated the mental abilities of the audience and the film fails at the box office, but this is a completely different story. is an online school that inspires you to learn English through innovation and human care.

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