10 Factors that Affect the Pricing of Multilingual Subtitling Services

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We use them in public spaces; we turn them on while watching foreign movies, we ensure their presence for visual assistance. When it comes to video, subtitles are everywhere. Whether you’re mandated by law, social pressure or another reason altogether, subtitling your video is an excellent means to reach a larger audience. Now make those subtitles multilingual, and your reach grows exponentially! 

However, creating multilingual subtitles comes with a price – one that needs some explanation. In the past, we’ve talked about the factors that affect translation pricing. Here, we help you understand what goes into determining the price of creating subtitles in multiple languages. Let’s begin with understanding the basic process:

Subtitling Process

Factors that Affect Subtitling Pricing

Machine Vs. Human Translation and Subtitling

As a first time customer on the market for multilingual subtitles, you may find yourself tempted to take the machine translation route. While there are many things that machines can do better than humans, translating languages is not one of them! 

Automated subtitles may be priced lower or can even be free, but they bear a high cost in terms of accuracy, relevance, and at times, your reputation! 

Human vs machine translation

Humans can follow preferential guidelines or instructions and ensure that the content is accurately translated and localised for your target audience. This not only makes subtitles more engaging but also more culturally appropriate. 

Always choose a language service provider (LSP) that provides human translation by native language experts for multilingual subtitles.

subtitling file formats and time stamps

File Format

Some simpler subtitling formats like the SubRip text format (SRT) are less expensive than their more complex counterparts. They are popular, with fewer text code elements and are easy to work with as they are compatible with most subtitle processing programs. Finding the right match of linguists to work with relatively less complex formats is also easier, and the time consumed to create the subtitles is low. 

This isn’t to say that other formats aren’t worth considering. The format you choose is dependent on many factors including, the platforms or video players you intend your subtitles to be displayed on. 


Before creating the actual subtitles, the transcription of the audio needs to be divided by time markers or, timestamps. This helps the linguist to navigate through audio and video files that are long and can otherwise be very confusing! Complimentary timestamps are added at regular, predefined intervals, for example, every 30 seconds. However, they can also be added either at customised or exact intervals (time codes) or when certain events occur, for example, when the language changes or a character enters the frame. For customised timestamps, there is generally an additional cost involved.

A good service provider will keep in mind the average reading rate and dialogue speed to ensure that viewers can comfortably read the subtitles before they disappear. 

Note: Timestamps are often confused with time-codes, which essentially represent the exact time of an event or dialogue that is accurate to the frame or millisecond. This information can be beneficial while spotting, the process of ensuring that the final file is as per the subtitle format required by the client. The spotted file also contains time-codes for when the subtitles should appear on the screen and when they should disappear.

Subtitling audio quality and no. of speakers

Audio Quality

The first step of subtitling is the transcription of the audio. If the audio is not clear, often the case in old videotapes, or if there is background noise, it can take much longer to finish that step. Imagine an interview conducted in a soundproof booth with state of the art recording devices vs a war film with bullets, bombs and other loud sounds in multiple shots. It’s easy to guess which one would be the more challenging subtitling project.

The more time that a subtitling expert invests on deciphering what is being said in the audio, the higher would be the price charged. 

Number of Speakers

When the number of speakers increases in a video, so does the complexity of subtitling it. For starters, the linguist must keep track of the different speakers during the transcription process. Often in cases like a fight scene or a debate, multiple characters may even speak at once. Sorting through the audio, translating multiple people and eventually maintaining the appropriate reading pace in the finished format, is both time-consuming and challenging compared to subtitling videos with just one or two speakers.

subtitling language pairs

Language Pairs

The language pair that you want the LSP to work with is an essential factor in price determination. Since there are fewer experts who create multilingual subtitles for rare language combinations, the price of such language pairs is generally higher. For example, Spanish (source) to English (target) is a common language pair to work with and therefore, it is easier to find subtitling experts that meet the requirements. Spanish to Hebrew, on the other hand, is not as common. Some unusual language pairs may even require two experts to work on them. One would first translate from the source to a common language that both linguists understand after which the second linguist would translate the subtitles to the actual target language specified by the client.

Video Category

For industry-specific projects, subtitling experts usually need to have an educational background and certifications related to their subject area in addition to their language expertise. For example, a medical emergency video would need to be subtitled by an individual who is not only a professional subtitling expert but also someone who understands medical terms and can accurately translate them.

For this reason, subtitling for general videos is less expensive than specialised ones.

Subtitling multilingual source files

Multilingual Source Files

When the source audio file has multiple languages, more human resources are employed in carrying out the project. For instance, let’s take the example of a project where the source audio file has speakers talking in English, French and German, and the target language for subtitles is Italian. Here, LSP would need to employ three native language specialists, each for one pair, thereby driving up the cost.


An LSP can process a certain number of minutes of video per working day. To ensure expedited delivery, everyone working on the order does what it takes by going beyond their regular responsibilities and working hours. This is why urgent orders are usually charged at a premium rate.

Subtitling Expert's Credentials

Country’s Economy

Reputed LSPs make it a point to source translations for multilingual subtitles from native language experts. These experts spend a significant amount of time in the country where the language originates. The economic climate and standard of living in the country play a role in deciding the price of the service.

Although it may seem like a more cost-effective idea to work with a non-native translator for your subtitles, he or she will lack the cultural essence and accuracy of a native language expert.

Subtitling Experts’ Credentials

You know what they say about good wine 🙂 Subtitling experts too, improve with time. Experienced professionals have spent sufficient time in the industry to know all the tricks of the trade. They are faster, better equipped and less likely to make mistakes or require external proofreading.

You can safely bet that the linguist’s experience, educational background, and track record do influence the price of the project, and rightfully so! 

Ending Notes

Now that we’ve gone over the different factors that affect pricing for subtitling services, discussing the cost of projects with an LSP should be a much easier task. Have an open discussion that acknowledges all the factors that contribute to the price quote you’re given. If you’re on a budget, the LSP may be able to help bring costs down by altering one or more of the contributing factors. Download the subtitling pricing infographic for easy reference any time you may need it!

Remember, each requirement of multilingual subtitling is unique and should be reviewed by a qualified project manager before starting a project. As always, please write to us with any questions regarding pricing for subtitling services. 

Ruju Patel

Ruju Patel

Ruju Patel is a Content Marketing Specialist and the former Content Manager at Translate By Humans. She has a background in Psychology and Business and previous experience as an HR professional. She is a people’s person and a pro at drafting contracts, policies, and articles. When she’s not creating digital marketing strategies, you’ll find her reading with her cats or combining her love for food and culture by traveling around the world!
Ruju Patel

Ruju Patel

Ruju Patel is a Content Marketing Specialist and the former Content Manager at Translate By Humans. She has a background in Psychology and Business and previous experience as an HR professional. She is a people’s person and a pro at drafting contracts, policies, and articles. When she’s not creating digital marketing strategies, you’ll find her reading with her cats or combining her love for food and culture by traveling around the world!

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