The Categories of Subtitles
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
There are different categories of subtitles used, regardless of the language , here are the most prominent :
Hearing Impaired subtitles are intended for people who are hearing impaired (people who are partially or totally deaf), providing information about music, environmental sounds and off-screen speakers (for example when a doorbell rings or a gunshot is heard). They are indicators of what sorts of sounds and from where those sounds are coming. Usually, this information is put inside brackets to separate it from actors' dialogs (for example: [mysterious music], [glass breaks], [woman screaming]).
Narrative subtitles the most common type of subtitle, where spoken dialogue is displayed on the screen. These are most commonly used to translate a film in a different language as the one spoke by the actors.
Forced subtitles are used when the character speaks a foreign or alien language, or any other text in a scene that is not translated in the localisation and/or dubbing process. In some cases, foreign dialogue will be left untranslated if the movie in question is supposed to be experienced from a particular point of view of someone who does not speak this specific language.
Titles only are usually used by dubbed programs and will provide only the text for any untranslated on-screen text.
Bonus subtitles are an additional set of text added to DVDs. They are similar to Blu-ray Discs' in-movie content. They usually point out background, behind-the-scenes information relative to what is appearing on screen, often indicating filming and performance mistakes in continuity or consistency.
Localised subtitles are a separate subtitle track that uses references ("The sake [a Japanese Wine] was excellent as was the Wasabi") or are used to replace the standardised subtitle track with a localised form, thus replacing references to local custom ("The wine (the sake) was excellent as was the spicy dip (the wasabi)").
The future of subtitles is looking bright, new categories will emerge and automated subtitles, who are today still mostly underused and (unfortunately) inaccurate will have a prominent role in the subtitles landscape.