The use of subtitles

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Due to the lack of the ability to speak English, my grandparents spoke in Farsi throughout the interviews, leading to the majority of the interview conversation audio spoken in Farsi. By everyone speaking Farsi enabled my grandparents- who have the most knowledge about the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979, to participate in conversations in which they could express their opinions and perspective towards the situations they faced as a result. I was always aware of the possibility that the interviews maybe spoken in their first language, which I admired as it conveys a sense of authenticity, adding to to the cultural divide which they experience living in a western society. Furthermore subtitles will be a key feature in my documentary, as Nancy Kalow has highlighted the importance of subtitles in strengthening the bond between the audience and the onscreen subjects, ‘This is true even if a speaker of another language needs subtitles, which are superior to audio dubbing that was typical in the condescending educational documentaries of the past. Many people who watch documentary videos are interested in hearing actual voices and expressions, and they are comfortable reading subtitles’. (Kalow, 2011). Some problems I have encountered since transcribing the interviews from Farsi to English, is that the speed of the interviewee’s conversation is quite fast and therefore the subtitles appear quite quickly meaning that the viewer may be more focused on the subtitles instead of the actual visuals onscreen. However this problem cannot really be fixed, as I cannot slow down the speed of the video, therefore I have decided to really limit the interviews down to the most interesting clips which the audience can extract the maximum amount of information from. By eliminating the footage which tends to potentially go off tangent or perhaps expand or repeat a comment already made, gives the audience more time to actually view and appreciate the framing. The combination of visuals and sound are crucial to the connection that audience builds with the character, furthermore the each element is equally as important as the other in contributing a portraying their personas. Therefore if on is more prevalent that the other, the onscreen character lacks a wholesome representation, leading to the weak connection and interest on the audiences behalf.

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Transcribing the interview’s was quite time consuming, however it massively helped me in the organisation of audio and camera files, whilst helping me to determine what audio was most valuable to my narrative. Having the entire interview typed up- with the file names and times, instead of attempting to memorise certain parts from the Tascam file, allowed me to efficiently link the camera footage with the audio footage and visually review the strongest information provided in the interview. As my aim with the audio was to condense the 80 minutes of interview into around 8 minutes, the visual documentation made it simple to decide what was most beneficial sections were, in order for the audience to understand what the historical, cultural and social situation of the interviewee’s, in the most direct and concise way. However this strategy also had some cons when aligned with footage. Audio manipulation to achieve this furthermore disrupted the continuity of the footage, entailing quite obvious jump cut edits. Although the benefits of shooting off two camera’s enabled me to supplement other footage of the opposite sit of the sofa, presenting reaction shots to cut up the difference in shots. Generally, I feel that using subtitles contributes to the storyline of my documentary or cultural preservation and national identity, in foreign territories, as Egoyan and Balfor argue that ‘the idea of subtitles animates discussions of translation, otherness, representation, national identity and the tasks of cultural interpretation’ (Egoyan and Balfour,, 2004, p.24).

Kalow, N. (2011) Visual storytelling the digital video documentary the center for documentary studies at duke university. Available at: (Accessed: 8 May 2016).
Egoyan, A. and Balfour, I. (eds.) (2004) Subtitles: On the foreignness of film. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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