Television standards for subtitles in the UK

In Archive by Fredy Ore

I was watching Catch me if you can on DVD over the weekend with subtitles on and I noticed that at certain parts of the movie (about half way) titles were added when no dialogue was being spoken.

It made me think of some of the standards associated with subtitling in movies, television, etc. After a little search I found some standard guidelines for UK television.

The standard covered topics such as readability, for example, 1.5 line spacing, type of foreground & background of text, font styles to use, same punctuation printed english, as well as the colours to use such as combinations of colours for text and background.

For example, black background with either white, yellow, cyan and green text is allowed. Use of magenta, red and blue should be avoided. Of the combinations with coloured background, the most legible are blue on white, white on blue (preferred), red on white (preferred), white on red, cyan on blue (preferred) and blue on cyan.

Some other interesting standards include, timing, spacing, positioning on screen, leading and lagging (pauses), subtitling for emphasis and phrasing, tone of voices, music and sound effects.

The research to the standards of subtitling was co-funded for the UK by ITC and BBC as well as by the Centre for Deaf Studies at Bristol University. There is further research available which also looks at the subtitling for children’s programming as well as news and sign language.

Most of the research, reports and publications are available from ITC.

Other resources:
NCAM – The National Center for Accessible Media, International Captioning Project
RNDI – Subtitles for TV, DVD and Video Tapes