Editing in a foreign language

Posted by David A 
Editing in a foreign language
October 03, 2013 02:42PM
Hello group

I have a general query about editors who've had experiences cutting features in a foreign language. What solutions did you arrive upon? The feature I'm up for will be shot on Alexa & I most likely, ideally, will be on location with the film (in Brazil). But I may have to stay stateside due to other scheduling issues. So there are two areas of concern 1) how to edit in a foreign tongue, and 2) how to cut with a remote solution.

I thought for the language differential, the best approach would be to have all dailies translated & VO recorded with the native audio the primary channels, then the translation on channel 3&4. This seems to be the most natural solution for cutting quickly & instinctively. Subtitling might be cumbersome and requires either 1) a burn in of the subtitle (extra render step), or 2) an XML/2nd layer with subtitles. Obviously, selecting an editor who edits in the native language is an advantage for many reasons.

Seems like there are a lot of "cloud solutions," like Kollaborate, but with the potential for production in Brazil to have a slower connection to push files and do any interactive collaboration, the cloud approach seems ripe for potential difficulty.

I'd be interested in hearing experiences from editors who've tried this kind of thing.


Re: Editing in a foreign language
October 04, 2013 08:09AM
It's hard to muddle through in another language, even with a translation. Even with a translator sitting right beside you. I haven't done any features, but I've done a few jobs where the entire product was in languages I didn't speak a word of.

I had one interview job where a translator was telling me the guy was talking about something, but when a second translator checked the subtitles over, she told me it was completely wrong, and that he had misunderstood one word which skewed the entire sentence.

For drama I imagine it might even be harder, since it's impossible to judge how well each performance fits in relation to the next and previous lines. Does the inflection work well? Is the reaction too big? Is there a funny semi-hidden cultural reference to be taken advantage of in there? No idea.

Which is not to say that it's impossible, just that there's often more to it than just knowing what each word means.

Re: Editing in a foreign language
October 04, 2013 08:44AM
I would use subtitles. I haven't done long-form in other languages, but I've done spots that have Vietnamese, Spanish and Korean dialogue. Dubbed voices take out your ability to judge performance. I always find it's better to watch in the original language even if you don't speak it. With subtitles, you can mesh the subtitles with the lines to create a sense of the performance. With overdubs, the performance is crippled.

Re: Editing in a foreign language
October 04, 2013 11:15PM
I've never done drama in a language that I didn't understand, but I've edited interviews done in a foreign language. For those, I need transcripts that are transcribed by the sentence, as opposed to a loosely timecoded transcript. And whenever I need to use a line, I'll subtitle it and insert it into the edit. What can be tricky is when you are trying to figure out the exact spot to make an edit, and you would need a translator at the end of the edit to verify the edits.

Re: Editing in a foreign language
October 05, 2013 05:26AM
i've edited a couple of documentaries with lot of forgone language, a dramatic feature with subtitled sections, and (last year) an entire feature in Laotian.

Subtitles are the way i've gone in the past.
although your guide audio track idea seems interesting.

after a while you sort of get to know what people are saying so you can switch the subs (or guide audio) off.
but i think subs are just easier to ignore once they are on screen.

on a similar note, as far as performance goes, i think you can pretty much gauge when someone is truthful or not.

for subs you cant go burnt in, as it restricts what you do with reaction shots, wides, etc, etc.
plus you will want to be editing the text quite a lot as go go, anyway.
the first pass is generally full of errors!

I had one interview job where a translator was telling me the guy was talking about something, but when a second translator checked the subtitles over, she told me it was completely wrong, and that he had misunderstood one word which skewed the entire sentence.

this is a good point.
the translators have to be honest with what they translate.
if they don't know the meaning of something they should confer with each other.
i once had an experience where my translator was too modest to tell me about the awful swearing going on.
and this nearly went to air!

you need a team of at least two people doing subtitles work. it is a FUL TIME JOB that ideally takes place during the shoot,
and is part of the dailies process: you cant get behind!

we used FCP to do the subtitling work,
but a friend has been working on a Cambodian film, pretty much using my system,
and they opted for InqScribe, as it seemed to be faster.

i asked my team to NOT just copy / paste from the script.
at first they were, but i could tell there were more phrases being said than i was reading on screen.
the actors were adding things which were great, and i was missing them!

i also asked for more of a transcription than a translation.
i wanted the text to follow what was being said quite literally,
following all the pauses and phrasing.
that way i got to understand what was being said better.
the wording is clunky, but as i say, you refine it as you edit the film.

in FCP use one of the 3rd party dedicated subtitle generators.
i like Text Up Pro, from Spherico filmtools
Digital Heaven also make one.

what you are looking for here is bottom justified text,
plus auto wrapping.

in FCP we run processes via QuicKeys, the macro program, which adds the text to the generator name,
plus adds a marker, also with the text, to the clip indicating where each subtitle starts.
this is so you can recover if your subs go out of sync.
plus, if you cant be bothered with cutting with them, (occasionally i would cut like this, but not often) you can add them back later.

i preferred an extended marker which indicated the subtitle duration, which that takes longer to do.
my friends just have a marker at the head of the sub.

all this is done before you start cutting.
the marked clips are copied from he timeline into bins where they become master clips,
this way you get your subtitle markers on your viewer clips,
and don't lose them when you match frame.

it's safer if this coping is done in the edit project,
and you should check master / affiliate relationships before you start cutting.

as for your point 2 "how to cut with a remote solution."
i dont think you can very effectively.
you defneitly need to be there during the shoot, for all the obvious reasons,

plus as far as subs go you need to be part of the process
there were many occasions when the sub team and i would be conferring with on meanings of words,
better translations, etc

my friend had a time after the shoot where she was cutting in her home town,
and trying to work via Skype etc, with the director,
but it just drew out the whole thing interminably.

it really is a creative collaboration.

good luck with it all, it sounds like quite an adventure

Re: Editing in a foreign language
October 05, 2013 04:40PM
AWEsome rundown, Nick. Almost makes me think I could do it...

I should think translation to be more dynamic than subtitles with regard to pacing cuts emotionally. Love the marker region idea.

QuicKeys forever!

- Loren

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Re: Editing in a foreign language
October 05, 2013 04:44PM
You all might be interested in this. Great service and they do it all for you. Of course this is not editing in a foreign language but automates the process of timing subtitles to video and audio by generating the text and timing.


Michael Horton
Re: Editing in a foreign language
October 07, 2013 10:47AM
wow, looks interesting.

one other important technical point:

i found if i had my rushes at 1920 x1080 i would not get a lot of subtitles playing back smoothly in FCP.
maybe 30 or so before it got kludgy.

so we worked at 1280x720.
then we got a hundred or so at a go.

1280x720 still screens very nicely, we there it up on a big screen, and it looked great.

i was cutting ProresLT. the RT ratio might be a bit different with other formats

as FCP can only play a certain amount smoothly, you need to be able to "switch off" ones you aren't currently working with.

a great tip from Andreas Keil (Mr. Spherico Filmtools) was to have a blank track in your timeline, as a place to store non-current subtitles.

this is SO much better than un-enabling and re-anabling clips.

Re: Editing in a foreign language
October 15, 2013 06:18AM
did i talk about subclips / merged clips?

we found that we got better, more stable, behaviour from our clip markers if we had sub-clipped our merged / linked clips.
this trims the overhanging audio to the length of the picture.
we stil had a few clips that misbehaved, (markers wold go out of sync),
but on the whole we had better luck if we sub-clipped.
if we didn't, more clips would have markers that would go out of sync.


-------------- edit 22 Oct -------------------

a solution to the subclip / slipping markers issue is to sync your rushes in your transcode software.
this will give you married files, so no nasty overhangs of any sort.

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