Global Subtitles Style Guide Reference

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Welcome to the Subtitles Style Guide!

This guide explains Rev’s expectations for subtitling quality. We trust you to deliver high-quality work. Customers rely on your accurate and timely translations as a crucial part of their daily work. The goal of subtitles is to help non-English-speaking viewers understand the content of a video.


Browser Compatibility

Rev Recommends that you use the most up-to-date version of Google Chrome when working in the Atlas editor



Capturing Content

Introduction and Expectations

As a subtitler, you have 5 main responsibilities:

  • Listen to the audio/ video and translate all required video content, so that the meaning of the video is understood in the new target language. 
    • Subtitling a video is more than just translating what is said; it also includes translating on-screen text and ensuring the timing of the subtitles matches the spoken audio. Another way to think of this is, if the video were in a language that you don’t speak, do the subtitles provided allow you to easily follow along and understand what is happening?
  • Submitted translation should be based on the language spoken in the audio/video.
    • Provided English captions or other resources should be used as a tool to assist with accuracy. Do not overly rely on the accuracy of these outside resources. 
  • Format the subtitles so they meet national subtitle formatting standards.
  • Adjust subtitle group timing for best possible accuracy.
  • Complete all correction requests in a timely manner for a project to be completed.


Note: Incomplete submissions, unedited/poorly edited machine translation, failure to review the audio in full, submissions not in the target language, and/or submissions that do not match the audio are subject to pay removal and may result in immediate account closure.




Unworkable Projects

Certain types of projects are considered “unworkable” and should not be completed. If you submit a project that is classed as unworkable, you will not be paid for the job and the project will be scored as not customer-ready.


IF... THEN...
There is no spoken or sung English speech  But there is foreign language (non-English) speech

Project is unworkable

Unclaim the project as “No English audio present”

But there are unspoken English captions shown on-screen

Project is unworkable

Unclaim the project as “No English audio present”

But there are valuable sounds present along with foreign language

Project is unworkable

Unclaim the project as “No English audio present”

Project is entirely silent  

Project is unworkable

Unclaim the project as “No English audio present”

There is no spoken dialogue (English or foreign language) but sounds are present. Project is workable if the sounds/atmospherics qualify as an atmospherics-only project.





Translating into subtitles is different than other translation work because most of the time it is not a word for word translation. 

  • Always keep in mind that the viewer cannot understand the English video, and the subtitles should capture the video meaning. 
  • This means that idioms and other figurative speech should NOT be translated literally
  • You are expected to research proper nouns and industry specific terminology for representation and proper spelling. Watch for on-screen cues, and use publicly available web-searches to research.

Subtitles should capture ALL of the following content:

  1. Spoken English Content 
  2. Existing On-screen Text (OST)
  3. Atmospherics


You are expected to produce high quality and accurate customer-ready subtitles. 

Ensure you do your own proofreading and editing before you submit a finished project.


NOTE: Incomplete submissions, unedited/poorly edited machine translation, failure to review the audio in full, submissions not in the target language, and/or submissions that do not match the audio are subject to pay removal and may result in immediate account closure.





Subtitles need to indicate sounds heard on screen, including non-English content. We call these identifiers atmospherics.

  • In some instances, there may already be English atmospherics present which then require the appropriate translation. In instances where there is no English atmospheric present for a sound, you are responsible for creating appropriate atmospherics for the sounds heard.

How to create atmospherics:   

Do Don’t
  • Use parentheses ( ) and lowercase unless a proper noun is used
  • Describe the sound or sounds heard on screen by following this convention:
    • noun + descriptor/verb in present tense form
      • (water boiling), (door slams)
    • The noun lets viewers know who or what is making the sound, while the descriptor/verb lets them know what the sound is
  • Always use present tense, e.g. (Erin coughs)
  • Don’t use a dash or speaker label in a caption group containing only atmospherics
  • Don’t use onomatopoeia e.g.             (ribbit ribbit)
Instead, describe what’s creating the sound, e.g. (frog croaking)

Tip: Parentheses are only permitted for atmospherics, and cannot be used for anything other than atmospherics when translating in Atlas.



Existing On-Screen Text

If text appears on screen that has not been spoken/translated in the subtitles and it carries significant meaning, it must be translated. 


If both speech and an atmospheric are present, the on-screen text (OST) takes priority over the atmospheric and should replace it.  If the on-screen text is too lengthy, some paraphrasing may be required.


Some exemptions to this requirement apply. Some examples include:

  • The spoken content already matches the information in the OST
  • There is no room to add a new subtitle group, such as at the end of the video
  • A software presentation, such as a slideshow, where the content is lengthy and doesn’t require translation


To add existing on-screen text:

  1. Add a new line within the existing subtitle group
  2. Translate the on-screen text
  3. Adjust the timing of the subtitle group to  appear at the same time as the on-screen text




Speaker Identification

Indicate speaker changes by using a dash and a space at the beginning of each speaker’s dialogue. This includes the first speaker.

When the speaker cannot be obviously identified, include a bracketed identifier after the dash and space, also called a speaker ID. Always use appropriate language for speaker IDs.


When the speaker CAN be visually identified:

Use a dash and space, or speaker label, at the beginning of the speaker’s dialogue.



When the speaker CANNOT be visually identified:

Use a dash, space, and bracketed identifier, or speaker ID, at the beginning of the speaker’s dialogue.



EXCEPTION For audio-only projects, only a dash and space is needed for speaker changes.


Tip: Proper nouns are never translated, but IDs such as as roles (Narrator, Instructor) should be translated.



Lyrics and Music


Lyrics should be translated when present and when they do not have overlapping dialogue.

  • To signify musical lyrics or singing, use a music note at the beginning of each subtitle group.
  • When the lyrics end, add a music note to the end of the last lyric subtitle group. 


Add a music note by typing ## and a space 


Music Atmospherics

When a project also contains spoken words, include a background music atmospheric if there’s a significant time gap  and it would benefit the viewer to include.


  • A common format is a descriptor followed by the word “music” in the target language. You can indicate the progression of music with words like begins and continues in the target language. E.g. (orchestral music begins)
  • Introductory music is a common use case. E.g. (bells chiming)



Subtitle Group Length

A subtitle group is the unit of text that is shown on-screen at any one time. Individual subtitle groups must always contain 60 or fewer characters, as groups that fall within these character limits are easier to read quickly. This ensures that viewers do not miss the translated content.

If the subtitle group is too long, it will be highlighted in red. In these instances, the subtitle grouping must be adjusted/rearranged with the other surrounding groups prior to submitting a project.

Subtitle groups should be split into individual groups such that whole phrases, nouns, sentences, and flow of dialogue is interrupted as minimally as possible, while abiding by the 60-character limit.

  • Begin a new subtitle group whenever there is a speaker change. Two speakers are not permitted in one line.
  • If a speaker has a long pause, it’s likely you’ll need a new subtitle group to maintain proper timing with speech.
  • You cannot exceed 60 characters in a subtitle group. If the subtitle group is too long, it will be highlighted in red.



Subtitle Timing

Subtitle groups that appear on-screen need to be timed so that the beginning and the end of each group match where the speaking begins and ends.

  • Often, you will be able to use the timing already included from the caption groups for the start times. End times will still need to be adjusted
  • Any time subtitle content is rearranged for length and grouping, or when adding content such as OST, start and ending times will require adjustment. 

Tip: Use Advanced Caption Formatting (ACF) for simultaneous content to enable proper subtitle timing.



Moving Subtitles Up

Videos sometimes have pre-existing text in the lower ⅓ of the screen. If the subtitles  could overlap with that text at all, even for only a split second, we need move the subtitles up.  We call this inserting an up-arrow caret (^). There are some exceptions to this when there is also qualifying text in other sections on screen as well.


Existing caption groups will only have carets present if they were for a premium-service caption project. Other caption projects will not have carets added. You are expected to ensure all carets are added as required in subtitle groups.


The example below demonstrates the following:

  • The caret symbol in the subtitle group (^) 
  • How the subtitle appears at the top of the video screen after inserting the caret for the qualifying text in the bottom third.




Special Instructions

Some projects may have Special Instructions attached. These instructions are located in Atlas in the yellow box, per the example shown here.


There may also be  a link to a Help Center Article. These links provide clarifying information along with additional information/instructions, or an added glossary.  


NOTE: Customers are expecting these approved instructions to be followed. Failing to do so will result in a project being assessed as not client-ready.


Review & Project Resources

Watch the video

After you complete the translation, watch the video to double check the timing and translations.  This will help to minimize errors. 


Project Resources

Always check the Project Details page to see if the customer has added a resource such as a script or glossary terms/speaker labels.  A file may have to be redone if you ignore these pieces of information. 

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