Note: This blog post was originally written in Japanese for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate it and post-edit the content in English. The original Japanese post can be found here.

The video content market and value of subtitles

As the size of the video content market expands, the value of information such as subtitles also increases.

According to a survey of the video advertising market in Japan by CyberAgent, Inc., the market has been continuing to grow by 141% year-on-year in 2019 and 114% year-on-year in 2020 to 295.4 billion yen (approx. 2.9 billion USD).

In addition, according to the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the sales of the service industry associated with the video, audio, and text information policy were 271.8 billion yen (approx. 2.7 billion USD) in 2019. The growth from the previous year for 2018 and 2019 was 121.8% and 122.1%, respectively, showing an annual growth rate of 20-25% since 2015.

It is only natural for international companies to add Japanese subtitles to their video content if they are conscious of the Japanese domestic market. Conversely, the fact that Japanese companies add English subtitles to their video content means that they can reach the global market. The importance of video content is expected to increase even more in the future.

Closed captions and subtitles

Let's explain a little bit about the different types of text information in videos.

There are closed captions and subtitles. Originally developed in the United States for deaf and hard of hearing people, closed captioning is a system that displays text and allow it to be turned on and off on the screen. (Those that cannot be turned off are called open captioning). Due to the nature of its origins, the principle of captioning is to put all the spoken words into text. Also, if music is playing, a symbol such as (♬) will be displayed. Moreover, if there is a sound in a scene that is coming from something not shown on the screen, it will be supplemented with text such as "(the door closes)."

Regarding subtitles, it seems that the definition differs depending on the country even in the English-speaking world, and it may be confusing. But basically, it plays the role of what the Japanese call a "telop" — superimposed text. Subtitles refer to text that supplement the audio and text that has been translated from another language.

The value of subtitles

Earlier, we explained that closed captioning was a system developed for deaf and hard of hearing people. However, this system has also become a useful feature for immigrants whose first language is not English. In addition, subtitles are used in many situations, such as for elderly people with age-related hearing loss and for people in general for assisting in an environment where it is difficult to hear.

The history of Japanese subtitles began with adding subtitles to foreign films, while English subtitles started as a supplementary function for the audio of the native language. They both have evolved in each direction. Subtitles have become an essential item for video production due to their convenient functionality of complementing information with text in both foreign and native languages.

Today, when you watch a program, you'll see some kind of superimposed text in many situations. In Japan, it is common for news interviews to have Japanese subtitles with the Japanese audio. Its effect is pervasive in the Japanese culture.

What are the criteria for creating subtitles?

There are various rules when creating subtitles. Some rules are common between English and Japanese, but each has its own rules as well. Here are some representative examples.

Number of lines to display at onceUp to 2 linesUp to 2 lines
Number of characters per line42 characters13 characters
Display time1 to 7 seconds1 to 6.5 seconds
Characters per secondNo rules4 characters

For Japanese:

Up to 2 lines can be displayed at a time, and up to 13 characters per line is the standard. This is a standard that was formed in the film industry. For subtitles for business, increasing the characters per line will enhance its versatility. At Kawamura International, we create subtitles on the basis of 20 characters per line.

For English:

As you can see from the fact that closed captions display the audio in text as they are, English subtitles do not have strict standards for the display of one line. But due to space limitations, it would be limited to 42 characters. The standard of up to two lines is the same as Japanese subtitles. Also, it is almost a common rule for both languages that the display time is 1 second or more and 7 seconds or less.

Relationship between videos and subtitles

Just as the audio needs to be in sync with the action in dubbing, it's important for subtitles to be displayed in sync with the audio so the viewers won't feel uncomfortable. It is important not to extend the display of subtitles in silence. Displaying and continuing the subtitles at a good tempo according to the audio will make it easier for the viewers to follow along.

This "good" tempo is often difficult when translating Japanese into English for subtitles. It's because the English text tends to get longer than Japanese. You should try to convey the meaning of the original text without being too verbose, but not too concise. At Kawamura International, our experienced team members work hard every day to produce better subtitles for our customers.

Kawamura's localization services

Do you have any of the following requests regarding video localization services?

  • "We have a large amount of video content that needs to be translated."
  • "We want to request only the transcription work for subtitles."
  • "We want to request only the translation work for subtitles or audio files because we can do the rest."
  • "We want to optimize the quality, cost and turnaround time according to each project."

Kawamura International provides not only video translation but also all other related tasks that are necessary including transcribing audio to text and putting subtitles onto your video. We take care of all localization needs for your business.

Our team will propose the best solution according to your request and priorities such as lowering the cost, speeding up the turnaround time, and handling various file formats. Please feel free to reach out to us!