Generally, DVDs have an option for what are mostly audio commentaries, i.e. someone talks while the movie plays on-screen. Some of the commentaries are well-scripted, others contain more or less useless extemporizing. In my opinion, they are rarely worth watching.
I just delivered the translation of an audio commentary for a big animated movie. The translation process was extremely painful. The commentary amounted to roughly 14,000 discernible words. A lot of times, the commentators (there were five) talked all over each other and it was impossible to understand what they were saying. The pain was exacerbated by the fact that these weren’t really subtitles in the classical sense – it was actually a transcript of the commentary divided into subtitle-shaped chunks.
You probably can imagine the run-on sentences that were spanning easily six, seven or more subtitles. German syntax being what it is, the order of words needed to be reversed in many cases. While in regular subtitling the German version is never that far off the English template, here we had some serious discrepancies. All it takes is a nitpicking client, and I will have to supply long explanations why the subtitles in the English templates have their German equivalents further up or down the time line.
What I learned from this experience is, that
- if you gather the two producers, the two screenwriters and the director of an animated movie and give them 90 non-scripted minutes to ramble on while they see the movie on a screen, they come up with an enormous amount of BS. They are also incapable of finishing a sentence. Instead, they switch mid-stream to another thought, and then to another…
- repetitions don’t seem to matter that much in English (and least as far as commentaries are concerned), whereas for any German text this side of acceptable they are definitely not cool. Words like “great” and “fun” were used in almost every sentence, sometimes more than once. It was a major effort to defuse this in German.
- even though I started out with an already low opinion of the audio commentary option on DVDs, it is actually much worse than I thought.
I will not mention the title of the film to give it a fighting chance.