Aspect ratio

The aspect ratio of video material is related to the shape of the screen used to display the video, i.e. the relation between the height of the projected image and its width. Old Standard Definition TV sets are 4x3, which is the ratio of the screen width to the screen height. Widescreen televisions are most frequent now and their aspect ratio is 16x9. To convert from widescreen to 4x3 aspect ratio the audiovisual material must be letterboxed, which means adding black bars to the top and bottom of the wide screen video so that it fits into a 4x3 screen.


Abbreviation for Audiovisual Translation.


Burnt-In Time Code.


(a) Term used to refer to a subtitle aimed at the D/deaf and the hard-of-hearing audiences, usually in the USA. (b) It can also refer to written text that appears superimposed somewhere on the original picture. See also closed caption and insert.


Term used to refer to the subtitling of programmes aimed at people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Closed captions (CC)

Subtitles aimed primarily at D/deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, although they can also be enjoyed by people learning an additional language, people first learning how to read, and others, in order to read a transcript of the audio portion of a video, film, or other presentation. It is closed because it is not engraved on the film. It is hidden in the video signal and to watch it an external or internal decoder needs to be used, such as teletext. In North America, closed captions are hidden in what is called line 21 of the vertical blanking interval (VBI).

Closed subtitles

The subtitles are encoded into the video signal but are not visible on screen until they are activated by means of a decoder. They are not an integral part of the audiovisual programme and can be added to the original version by the viewer. These are the typical subtitles found on teletext and many DVDs. See open subtitles.

Combined continuity and subtitle/spotting list

Document that contains the combined continuity of a film together with the list of master titles.

Combined continuity

Working document that contains the complete list of dialogues together with additional information on the actors' performance and the camera movements. The most detailed ones also offer information on potential translation problems and annotations on issues that can help translators, such as obscure cultural referents and plays on words.


The process of defining the in and out times of individual subtitles. See also timing and spotting.


Any editing of the programme that involves a change from one image to another. A cut is hard or clear when the difference in images is sharp and noticeable, and it is soft when the change is less pronounced, e.g. one image fades into another. Cuts are usually referred to as scene changes or shot changes.

Dialogue list

Document that compiles the dialogues of a film or audiovisual programme. It is used as a general term that refers to all documents containing the dialogue and any other type of information.

Dialogue subtitle

A subtitle conveying the speech of two people. It covers two lines, one per person, and the second line is preceded by a dash.

Electronic subtitles

These subtitles are produced by a character generator and beamed by a projector onto the screen, without damaging the original copy. Frequently used at film festivals.


Together with the frame is the unit of measurement of a movie picture and equals 30.48 centimetres. A foot contains 16 frames. See also footage.

Forced subtitles

Subtitles of the burnt-in captions of the original film that have to appear in the translated versions of the film, including the dubbed versions. In the case of DVDs, where the viewers are given the option to select the audio, even if the subtitle track is not activated, forced subtitles will still appear.

Full frame

Picture touching both sides, top and bottom of the television screen.


Any written text that appears in the original programme. It may have been recorded by the camera (e.g. letters, road signs, grafitti, banners) or added afterwards during the editing (e.g. text locating the scene, both in terms of time and space). See also narrative title and display.

Interlingual subtitles

Subtitles that imply the translation from a source language into a target language.

Intralingual subtitles

Subtitles in the same language as the dialogue of the audiovisual programme. They are mainly used for subtitling programmes for people who are D/deaf or hard-of- hearing, following conventions that are different to the ones regulating interlingual subtitles. Intralingual subtitles are also used for teaching purposes and for karaoke.


Picture touching both sides of the television screen, but with a black border top and bottom.

Live subtitling

(a) Subtitling produced during the broadcasting of a live programme. a) Subtitling produced during the broadcasting of a live programme. Today live subtitling is often produced with speech recognition technology. It requires a mixture of subtitling and interpreting skills. See real-time subtitling. (b) Subtitling that, although prepared beforehand, is fed manually during transmission or projection of an audiovisual programme, e.g. electronic subtitles at a film festival.

Master list

A script of a film or audiovisual programme containing subtitles of the actors' lines in the original or a pivot language, to be used by subtitlers translating into other languages. The master list gives the essence of what is said as well as suggesting a proper length of the subtitle. See template.

Master (sub)titles

Subtitles that have already been cued in the original or a pivot language, usually English. They usually come accompanied by annotations and comments aimed at helping translators.

Multilingual subtitling

Subtitling an audiovisual programme in several languages to be shown on the screen or distributed simultaneously.

Narrative title

Term used in dialogue lists to indicate that we are dealing with a written text on the screen that offers information about the diegesis (narrative). See also insert.


National Television System Committee, responsible for setting analogue television and video standards mainly in the United States, Canada, Japan and some Latin American countries. In Europe and the rest of the world, the dominant television standards are PAL and SECAM. It uses 525 lines and delivers approximately 30 frames of video per second.

Offline subtitling

Subtitling that is done in advance with no further interference at the time of transmission. See online subtitling.

Online subtitling

Subtitling that is done while the event that is being broadcast and subtitled as actually happening. See offline subtitling.

Open subtitles

Subtitles that are not encoded into the video signals and are instead burned on the images. They are an integral part of the audiovisual programme since they cannot be removed and are always visible on the screen, like the subtitles on a cinema film. See closed subtitles.


subtitling into a target language from a template, including language transfer and timing/segmentation adjustment.


Phase Alternate Line. A commonly used colour TV system, the standard for all TV and video equipment used in most European countries. The PAL system uses 625 lines at 25 frames per second to make up a video or TV picture. See SECAM, NTSC.

Pivot language

An intermediary language, usually English, used in the master list for the preparation of multilingual subtitles of films shot originally in lesser-known languages, e.g. subtitles in English for a film in Farsi used for the translation of the film into French or Italian.

Post-production script

Document based on the pre-production script or screenplay that has been prepared or edited after shooting in order to incorporate any changes made during the shooting of the programme.

Pre-prepared subtitles

Subtitles that have been prepared beforehand and are just cued in manually at the time of transmission.

Pre-production script

Text prepared for the shooting of a film or other audiovisual programme containing information about scenes and actors' dialogue. In most cases it is not suitable for subtitling as dialogue and the order of scenes may have been changed during the actual shooting. Sometimes also referred to as script or screenplay. See post-production script.

Real-time subtitling

Also known as simultaneous subtitling and live subtitling (a).


A (large) portion of a motion picture that contains two smaller units, called also reels, and has a length of some 2,000 feet (600 meters) in total. It lasts for some 20 minutes. Since the reel contains two smaller units of 10 minutes each, it is common to see a reference to reel-5A and reel-5B, (or 5AB) at the top of the dialogue lists. In some countries, it is used as the unit to pay translators working for dubbing.


Converting an already existing file to a different master for another release of the same film, usually the DVD or video release.


Respeaking is a captioning technique that produces captions and transcripts using voice-recognition technology.
In order to create captions, a respeaker will listen to an audio source (for example, a recorded video or a live event) and speak into a microphone, repeating exactly what they hear and adding punctuation and sound effects, as necessary. The respeaker's microphone is connected to specially designed voice-recognition software, which turns the respeaker's output into captions that then become visible on screen.

Safe Area

The term refers to the portion of the television picture that will be displayed on screen. The safe area on a screen is where text is less distorted and graphics do not spill into one another, away from the edges. Picture safe area is defined to be 80% of the screen area. Title safe area is the area within which subtitles need to be placed to make sure that they will appear on screen and will not be cut off at the ends.

Scene change

A cut that moves the plot from one scene to the next. Typical changes are when the story moves to a different location.


Text prepared for the shooting of a film or other audiovisual programme containing information about scenes and actors' dialogue. In most cases it is not suitable for subtitling as dialogue as well as the order of scenes may have been changed during the actual shooting. Often used as a short form of pre-production script or as a synonym for an unpublished screenplay. In screenwriting manuals script and screenplay are sometimes equated with the 'blueprint' of the film.


Subtitles or Subtitling for people who are D/deaf or Hard-of-hearing.

Shot change

A cut between two takes or shots within a scene. A typical shot change is when the camera moves from one speaker to another within the same scene.

Simultaneous subtitling

See real-time subtitling, live subtitling (a).


Based on the timecode, it is the process of dividing the original dialogue into units to be subtitled, taking into consideration both the length of each of the exchanges and the media limitations. It indicates the in and out times of each individual subtitle. See timing and cueing.

Spotting list

See master (sub)titles.


Any of the written projections that appear on screen and represent what is being said on the screen or other information that needs to be conveyed. They are sometimes added to films when they are released in a country that speaks a different language to that used in the film to enable the viewers to understand what is being said. Subtitles can be of one, two or three lines. Depending on the conventions applied, each line of a subtitle can contain from 28 to 41 spaces.


Audiovisual translation practice that consists of presenting a written text, generally in the lower part of the screen, that endeavours to recount the original dialogue of the speakers, as well as the discursive elements that appear in the image (letters, inserts, graffiti, inscriptions, placards, and the like), and the information that is contained in the sound track (songs, voices off).


Coincidence in point of time between the appearance and disappearance of a subtitle and the delivery of the dialogue exchanges.


An old system by means of which written information was superimposed on a television signal and broadcast. It was used in many countries to broadcast intralingual subtitles for D/deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. The signals, concealed in the blanking lines, activate a character generator in the television set, which creates the characters and mixes them into the television picture when a specified teletext page is selected.


A list of master subtitles with the in and out times already spotted. See master list.

Theatrical subtitling

cinema subtitling.


8-digit time ID that locates with exact precision the hour, minute, second and frame in which we are in the programme (e.g. 01:35:29:11). It helps to time the exact length of a scene. Note that the last two digits represent 24 frames/second in a normal film, 25 frames/second for PAL and SECAM video systems and 30 frames/second for NTSC video system. When the recording is played, the signal is read, and the time code information picked up and used by the subtitling equipment. It can be displayed in or outside the image and is indispensable in present day subtitling. BITC, VITC and LTC are all types of timecode.


An instruction for the subtitling equipment as to when to insert or clear a specific subtitle. To timecue is to give the subtitling equipment these instructions. See also spotting and cueing.


The process of defining the in and out times of subtitles. See also spotting, cueing and timecue.


A narration that is played on top of a video segment, usually with the audio for that segment muted or lowered.


Technically, a particularly wide aspect ratio used for some films, but commonly used to describe content (such as appears on many DVDs) that displays at wider aspect ratios than are normally in use, such as on standard televisions. It is a way of shooting and projecting a movie in theatres. The original footage does not get cut off because of the 4x3 aspect ratio. With the advent of high definition video, widescreen 16x9 video is coming into more popular use.


A feature in subtitling programs which automatically takes a word that will not fit onto one line down to the next line.