Collaborative subtitling gives boost to European films

Null Punkt
Neal Romanek
Post Production
January 3rd 2017 at 3:30PM : By Neal Romanek

Working_(SUB)_Titles by VDM and Under the Milky Way was a response to a European Commission call for subtitle crowdsourcing

French audio-visual company VDM and digital distribution specialist Under the Milky Way (UMW) are collaborating in an initiative for crowd-sourced subtitling for European films. 

The project, Working_(SUB)_Titles, aims to reduce the cost of subtitling and has already been used for the Estonian film Nullpunkt, distributed by UMW for VoD platforms. After a successful release in 24 European languages, the film has been distributed in a further 80 countries, including the USA, China and Brazil.

VDM and UMW came together in response to a European Commission call for tenders, Crowdsourcing Subtitling to Increase the Circulation of European Works. The Working_(SUB)_Titles solution relies on both human and digital components and lies in part in crowd-sourcing, using multiple human translators to speed the work. 

“We explored various ways to produce subtitles at a competitive cost,” said Jean-Christophe Coin, general manager at VDM. “We looked at solutions based on machine translation, but we quickly discounted this possibility because the quality was not up to the high standards expected on VoD/OTT platforms...We recruited a community of freelance translators, professionals who were not necessarily in the subtitling industry but who had an interest in it.

“Machines cannot account for the artistic dimension,” Coin said. “We never compromised quality, but through seamless workflows we were able to reduce the final cost and be more responsive.” 

VDM and UMW had also previously collaborated on VDM Connect, a tool for managing assets associated with movie distribution, including alternate languages, subtitles, related artwork and more. Managing these assets effectively is becoming more and more critical. For example, the XML metadata file for iTunes for a major movie could be over 2500 lines long, and any error will result in the package being rejected.

VDM developed a collaborative asset management tool which ensures all required data fields are correctly populated. The data processing engine ensures that the correct information is lodged in each different metadata schema, largely automating the process of dealing with different distribution platforms. VDM Connect is offered as a software-as-a-service. The data archive covers more than 5400 films and 16,000 packages.