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Old 2010-02-19, 08:15   Link #1
SHiN-gx
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Basic Guide to Readable Subtitles

This is a very simple (yet obvious) guide on how make your subtitles easy to read and less straining to viewer's eyes as well. Now, this is all basic stuff but I noticed some fansubbers totally ignored them. This guide will also serve to refresh your memories as fansubbers.

FONT

The first step is to choose a good font. Fonts are available in your computer and you can get additional fonts for free in the Internet. Fonts with odd strokes, with frilly ornaments are not recommended. They tend to be messy, distracting and intrusive. The goal is to for the viewer to read the subs and not appreciate its styling. Then, what are the qualities of a good font? A font must be:

- Plain
- Readable
- No excessive ornaments
- Thick
- Supports special characters (Will come in handy in case the characters started calling someone as "Seņor" or someone calculates using the famous equation - "E=mcē")

FONT VISIBILITY

Next is to make the font stand out during playback. Typesetters usually go for the white color fill with black borders like this:



While some add shadows like this:



Just like the Light vs Dark Rule, you can use any color you want but be sure the color doesn't blend in the background or otherwise the viewers will have a hard time reading it. You can use a different technique by making a 3D illusion like this:



READING EFFICIENCY & PRESENTATION

You have a good font and you know how to make your font stand out but it's totally useless if you don't present it properly and efficiently. In order for the viewer to catch the subs, it must must be big, and occupy at least 15-20% of the screen, the alignment should be at the bottom center with a good space between the subs and the bottom edge of the screen and a good distance away from the left and right sides.

INCORRECT:



CORRECT:



There are reasons for this: All important things going on in an anime are on the center of the screen and while the viewer reads the subs, they will also catch the important parts of the show. There's no reason for the subs to be small and are at the very bottom of the screen with no spacing between the sides. What you're doing is you are guiding the viewers to look down, straining them of reading the tiny subs and distract them from catching the important parts that's happening in the episode. Guide them to the center of the screen - where the action is at.

This ends my first guide on how to make your subtitles easy to read and presented nicely and efficiently. Feel free to correct me and ask questions!
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Old 2010-02-19, 10:08   Link #2
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Another thing that tends to improve readability of fonts for subtitles is having a large x-height.
Determining the X-height is simple: You write an uppercase X and a lowercase x next to each other in the font, and compare how high they are to each other.



All of these are at size 36.
Also notice how Haettenschweiler has extremely narrow letters: That's called a condensed style, and that's also very annoying to read.
Of these three fonts, Haettenschweiler and Estrangelo Edessa are best suited for eyecatching headlines in print, usually at large sizes, while Franklin Gothic is much better suited for running text while it wouldn't make for a very interesting headline!
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Old 2010-02-19, 12:38   Link #3
Daiz
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I've had a guide on the subject up at my site for quite a while:
http://underwater.nyaatorrents.org/?...ail-at-styling

More specific link to the actual guide:
http://underwater.nyaatorrents.org/?...le-styling-101

Also that style in samplecap01.png is horrible. The samplesubs02.png style could be improved as well, that whole "3D illusion" thing looks nothing but disturbing in my opinion.
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Old 2010-02-19, 14:28   Link #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daiz View Post
Also that style in samplecap01.png is horrible. The samplesubs02.png style could be improved as well, that whole "3D illusion" thing looks nothing but disturbing in my opinion.
I agree, I recommend staying away from serif fonts (fonts like Times New Roman).
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Old 2010-02-19, 20:45   Link #5
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@jfs:

Nice tip. Thanks!

@Daiz:

Those are just examples of white color fill with black borders. I was going for a font from the Arial Family but that would be too common. And as for the 3D-ish thing, when I made that a year ago, the style I used tend to blend in some of the scenes. I wanted it to look like it'll stick out of your screen and at the same time nice to look at as well. It works for me, at least. Yes, I know, simple style is the best but sometimes you can't help but touch it up a bit.

Anyway, I will make better examples a little later.
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Old 2010-02-19, 23:15   Link #6
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Sample 1 seems like a tautology, sample 2 could use some reordering. Good English is a part of readable subtitles too, no?

I generally find having a shadow improves readability a lot, and having it in a lighter shade than the border seems more effective.

Vertical padding is another pet peeve of mine. Viewers spend most of the time looking at the subtitles, so I like to have them as high up as possible, such that more of the screen is in view, and there'd be less distance from the subs to where people look at: characters' eyes.
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Old 2010-02-19, 23:17   Link #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Free View Post
Sample 1 seems like a tautology, sample 2 could use some reordering. Good English is a part of readable subtitles too, no?

I generally find having shadows improve readability a lot, and having them in a lighter shade than the border seems to be more effective.

Vertical padding is another pet peeve of mine. Viewers spend most of the time looking at the subtitles, so I like to have them as high up as possible, such that more of the screen is in view, and there'd be less distance from the subs to where people look at: characters' eyes.
Let's put them in the middle of the screen then. lol - just kidding
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Old 2010-02-19, 23:19   Link #8
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I'm slowly getting there. Might be more of a problem for 4:3 screens, but thankfully most people have evolved to have wide-screens.

PS. For the few special characters that do pop up, just switch font for those, no need to restrict yarself because of these special cases.
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Old 2010-02-20, 00:38   Link #9
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Vertical margin is your friend; always keep that number above 10 at the minimum.

If all else fails, rely on the Tahoma/Arial/Trebuchet MS triple combo. These three are some of the best readable fonts out there.
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Old 2010-02-20, 01:09   Link #10
yindesu
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Anyone who's recently been through school should have been told to use Sans Serif (eg, Verdana, Calibri) over Serif (eg, Times New Roman) fonts when putting text on a screen. If you didn't know that, you should now.
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Old 2010-02-20, 01:56   Link #11
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I have seen subs that use serif fonts. Provided that they are big enough, the effect is not entirely unpleasant.

What fonts are the most widely used in dialogue for fansubs? I stick to Gill Sans MT, and I'm curious how many others do.
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Old 2010-02-20, 02:35   Link #12
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I've used Arial Rounded MT, modded DF*MaruGothic-LT, and DF*Leisho-SB. Generally whatever I can find that the show uses itself, be it in the credits, or the game it's based from, etc.
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Old 2010-02-20, 04:41   Link #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maceart View Post
Vertical margin is your friend; always keep that number above 10 at the minimum.

If all else fails, rely on the Tahoma/Arial/Trebuchet MS triple combo. These three are some of the best readable fonts out there.
^This.

10 is quite low, obviously depending on ResY. I'd say 30 as a minimum.

Also something most people forget to do is set sane left/right margins. I recommend 80 or higher and to use a different style or overrides when they turn to three lines.

Having lines spanning all the way from the left side of the screen to the right affects readability quite a bit.

Less is more when it comes to typesetting.

Of course, when it comes to karaoke effects, go crazy and have fun. There are a million and one places to get clean versions of the OP/EDs. ^^;

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Old 2010-02-20, 13:41   Link #14
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I would also like to stress the importance of vertical margin and margins in general since it's the thing most fansubbers constantly fail at. Same for horizontal margins.

As I stated in my guide, using the overscan mask as your guideline for padding works generally perfectly. For 848x480, you'd have at least 24 of vertical margin and 55 for left/right margin. For 1280x720, you should have at least 35 for vertical margin and 80 for left/right margin.
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Old 2010-02-20, 14:22   Link #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daiz View Post
I would also like to stress the importance of vertical margin and margins in general since it's the thing most fansubbers constantly fail at. Same for horizontal margins.

As I stated in my guide, using the overscan mask as your guideline for padding works generally perfectly. For 848x480, you'd have at least 24 of vertical margin and 55 for left/right margin. For 1280x720, you should have at least 35 for vertical margin and 80 for left/right margin.
To put it more simply, margins should be between 5-10% of the height and width.

That's the proper location.
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Old 2010-02-20, 14:43   Link #16
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Last I checked, CrunchyRoll also fails when it comes to margins and since you can't do anything about the styling at all it's even more annoying than with fansubs. Quarkboy, make them do something about it okay?
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Old 2010-02-21, 02:13   Link #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daiz View Post
Last I checked, CrunchyRoll also fails when it comes to margins and since you can't do anything about the styling at all it's even more annoying than with fansubs. Quarkboy, make them do something about it okay?
The margins on the subs I submit are set properly. Anything else is out of my hands.
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Old 2010-02-21, 09:31   Link #18
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Which is the lesser evil for an especially long phrase? Completely fill up two lines from left to right, or provide looser margins and make it three lines?
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Old 2010-02-21, 09:46   Link #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zergrinch View Post
Which is the lesser evil for an especially long phrase? Completely fill up two lines from left to right, or provide looser margins and make it three lines?
None of the above: Split the sentence into two different subs at a break.

If your sentence has no decent break points in 2 whole lines or the total time is too short to break into two, then you have an editing problem, not a typesetting problem.
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Old 2010-02-22, 12:54   Link #20
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I don't really agree with the correct version. There is way too much padding to the point where it starts to be subs with anime instead of anime with subs. In addition, the shadow is a bit too opaque, and the outline a bit too thick.

I mean, to me, a good style is a dark blue outline of about edge 2 with a white inside, a shadow of 2 at 160 opacity, padding of 60 left/right, 30 vertical, plain font, and large enough to read at 2 feet away from a computer screen without difficulty (All this for 720p). Otherwise the subs just get plain intrusive.
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