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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Subtitles - Why Bother!

What a shame subtitle companies don’t seem to get it right. Almost every film I screened at Filmfest Hamburg (FF HH) had readability issues. Subtitles that were too fast, white on white/light backgrounds, too small; how did they think audiences would be able to understand? Subtitling isn’t free. Don’t companies test subtitles on larger screens? Don’t the filmmaker/producers bother to check subtitles? Schneider vs. Bax and Off Course had the worst readability issues, which is a pity considering they’re both good films. The documentary Every Face Has A Name impressed by using a slightly larger font, and a soft drop-shadow guaranteeing readability throughout the film. Personal choices for my films were: easy-to-read type fonts, and shades of yellow. These I tested at various points throughout the film, and on larger screens with a number of individuals providing feedback. A few years ago, while screening a FF HH film that altered between white and yellow subtitles depending on the background, I remember thinking, why not? It was a good, creative solution. In this area of filmmaking, there are no hard rules, other than in people’s minds.

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