A day in the life of subtitles

A day in the life of subtitles

Updated 30th April

Riviera


Working as a pre-recorded subtitler for Sky

Working as a pre-recorded subtitler for Sky is certainly a very rewarding role. Covering everything from top-flight football to Hollywood films and sell-out gigs to The Sopranos, it genuinely is an enormously enjoyable career.

We provide a vitally important service, of course, ensuring all manner of content is accessible to our audience, and take great pride in knowing that what we do truly benefits the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Each project commands the same degree of care and attention, whenever it airs, whatever the platform, and a meticulous eye for detail is always required to properly prepare and polish a file for transmission.

Timecodes, caption colouring and screen position are just a few examples of the elements that help form a programme. There can even be some discussion over exactly what constitutes a (CHUCKLING) or (CHORTLING) label, (GRIMACING) or (GROANING).

Recently, I've been fortunate to work on American election coverage and subtitle Russell Crowe's Unhinged, the first major theatrical release for many months following the Covid shutdown. Other allocations include Pacino and De Niro’s 1995 classic Heat and the absorbing My Name Is Francesco Totti.

Jamie Kempton

Francesca Bussey's story...

My name is Francesca Bussey, I am part of the Media Management team who get all Sky’s programmes ready to air, and I focus specifically on our subtitles provision. I can hear but British sign Language is my first language as my parents are both profoundly deaf and I grew up within the Deaf community, so I love that my job involves working on our subtitles provision, and making TV accessible for deaf and Hard of Hearing people.

Last year, we provided subtitles on 85% of the content on average across 26 Sky linear channels, that's a lot of files to get right. And I'm delighted we launched subtitles on demand in September 2016 and now provide subtitles on 91% of Sky Catch-up, 91% of Sky Cinema, and 81% of Sky Box Sets. As a team, we prioritise what content gets subtitled to make sure we cover our most popular and iconic programmes, even when this involves very tight timescales to turn them around.

My role mainly involves checking and editing subtitles for all our platforms. I watch everything from Supermarket Sweep to Game of Thrones. Whatever I’m watching, I’m always thinking of the best way to let subtitles make the viewing experience better – never intrusive, but always accurate, informative and reflecting the mood of the programme. When programmes like NCIS or Criminal Minds are cut to make them suitable for daytime viewing, the subtitles also have to be cut, so a large part of my job is making sure that the subtitles stay in sync with the edited programme and that no bad language makes it through. I may view around 20 programmes a day so I have a very sharp eye to catch everything!

I’m very proud to be part of a team that delivers such a vital service, one that I feel personally passionate about. And of course, as ever, we welcome the conversation with our customers about subtitles, and always strive to improve.

Francesca Bussey