person watching an online video on their mobile phone
By: Patrick On: September 01, 2016 In: Technology, Voice Overs & Subtitling Comments: 0

Are professional subtitle providers still relevant when sites like YouTube offer automated subtitle generators for uploaded videos? Absolutely, I say.

Though used primarily for personal and viral clips, the percentage of non-recreational videos on YouTube, such as news streaming and corporate communications, is steadily on the rise. Subtitles add a lot of value to these videos, and one feature of YouTube that seems to have caught on is the option to have the site automatically generate subtitles or captions for you. At first glance, the feature is convenient, cost-effective (usually free) and fast.

But before you go running to hit the “upload” button, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

1) “Automated” Doesn’t Automatically Mean “Good”

Using an automated caption generator may be acceptable for certain projects, but the Internet is rife with examples of horrible captioning. Even clearly enunciated words can come out mistranslated or garbled. Add in ambient noise or music, and you might end up with a completely unintelligible set of captions. This may lead to your video going viral, but for all the wrong reasons.

Professional subtitle services give you reliable, high-quality subtitles and captions that account for all the nuances of a person’s speech, while keeping sync with what’s happening on-screen.

2) Audio Isn’t Always Available

There are times when your video has to rely solely on its subtitles, and not on the audio track. If your viewer is hearing-impaired, for example, or if the video is being played in locations where audio is inconvenient or impossible, your audience won’t have the benefit of an audio track to help them decipher erroneous subtitles. In those cases, it is doubly important that you employ professional quality subtitles.

3) YouTube Isn’t an Expert — or Multilingual

If you can forgive the occasional mistake, automated captioning programs can do passable work for videos that use plain, standard English. But what if you’re trying to explain the inner workings of your latest data protection product? Or reporting on the different factions of a foreign country’s civil war? Will the online captioning program be able to tell the difference between technical jargon and garbled speech on the fly? Not likely.

Professional subtitle services have real people at the keyboard, each of whom will be able to properly encode acronyms, buzzwords and proper names with great accuracy. And if your video happens to include foreign-language segments, or needs to be translated into another language entirely, they can help with that, too.

4) Professional Is as Professional Does

Let’s say you hired a film crew with decent camera equipment to shoot the video. Then you cast a suitable host or narrator to give your video personality. And then you sourced a talented video editor to put it all together and add some flashy graphics to the final cut. The end product is attractive, informative and professional, except for one detail — the automated subtitles read like an ‘80’s Chinese movie.

Inconsistencies like these can mar the final product and hurt your brand image. It’s not wise to gamble on feckless automated programs when you can hire professional subtitle providers with an actual stake in the project.

At the end of the day, it’s all about maintaining standards. Chances are, your video is representing something — a business, an organization or a cause. Taking the easy way out and relying on inconsistent automated subtitle or caption generators does them all a disservice. When your video uses professional subtitles, you show that you pay attention to every detail — and that reflects directly on your business.

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