• PRESCOTT STUDIO
    Surtitling
    & multilingual titling
    for the live performing arts.

Glossary

Surtitling / Surtitles

«Surtitling» or «surtitles» (see also «theatre captioning»; «supertitles» or «supertitling» more obsolete; «subtitles» or «subtitling» inappropriate) refer to the transcription or adaptation in one or (more rarely) two languages other than the original, of a text sung or recited live during a theatrical performance and projected or electronically transmitted on one or more screens (wireless or wired ) the main of which is usually located above the proscenium. In musical theatre, in order to make a text understandable to a larger audience, the surtitling service sometimes repeats the same text of the performance. # The objective of surtitles is to promote understanding of the sung or spoken text for all audiences. In particular, it is useful for hearing-impaired users, or for those who are unable to understand the original language of the performance. # The term sur-titles derives from the sub-titles used in cinema or in a broader audiovisual context (employed since 1917, at the dawn of cinema) and indicates (in the live performance) the different spatial location of the language mediation service than in cinema or in video electronic media. # Surtitles were born in January 1983 in a production of Richard Strauss’s Elektra of the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. In September 1983 they were introduced in the United States, in a production of Cendrillon by Jules Massenet at New York State Theatre. # In Europe, the first surtitles were created by Sergio Sablich in June 1986 at the Florence Opera Theatre, for a production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner conducted by Zubin Mehta, as part of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Titling / Captioning

«Titling» or «captioning», in the performing arts (opera, drama, audiovisual productions), defines the work of linguistic mediation encompassing subtitling and surtitling. # Subtitling developed starting from 1917, during the silent film era, whereas surtitling has been used in the live performing arts since 1983 (at the dawning of digital systems). # With the appearance of new information systems, which opened the door to multilingual titling (DVD was launched on the market in 1986) terminological debate started, too. # In the audiovisual system, even when more than one language was used, subtitles maintained their position unchanged for many years. The newest software technologies for mobile devices, which came out as an alternative to subtitling in cinemas, or the possibilities opened up by head-mounted displays, such as subtitle glasses, have made a revision of the technical terminology necessary also in the field of those performing arts that are reproducible on electronic devices. # Even more so, in the live performing arts, the presence of multilingual options on custom individual devices (installed the first time in 1998 at the Santa Fe Opera by Figaro System) or on mobile consumer devices (experimented in 2011 at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino by OperVoice) or on hybrid solutions (realized in 2012 at the Royal Opera House Muscat by Radio Marconi), makes the spatial connotation of the term «sur-titles» inappropriate. # In both cases (performing arts that are reproducible on electronic devices and live performing arts), for a scientific approach the term «titling», broader and all-embracing, is preferable to define the work of linguistic mediation, without specifying whether the visualization is to be above (sur-titles) or below (sub-titles).

Multilingual titling

«Multilingual titling» defines, in the field of titling for the performing arts (musical theatre, drama, audiovisual productions), the chance for the audience to follow more than one linguistic option. # In the audiovisual field, multilingual titling was made possible by the introduction of DVD (Warner Home Video, 1996) in which an integrated data-base gives access to several language channels dedicated to titling. # In the live performing arts, multilingual options (with possibility of individual choice) were introduced in 1998 at Santa Fe Opera (by Figaro System) through custom individual displays set mainly on the back of the seats, as in airplanes. # The introduction, at the end of the 1900s, of Web 2.0 and of the new mobile device technologies caused deep changes also in this field. In Europe, in 2011, a significant innovation was provided by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Theatre in Florence, which started the testing of a new multilingual transmission system for mobile consumer devices (by OperaVoice in partnership with Prescott Studio), that can be integrated to monolingual surtitles. # In the same year, another multilingual software for mobile consumer devices was developed, as an alternative to the use of subtitles in cinemas and, the following year (2012), a new head-mounted display system (multimedia glasses) was introduced, serving the same function (both enterprises by MovieReading). # In 2011-2012, the Royal Opera House Muscat carried out the most advanced multilingual custom display system to date, interactive and integrated to surtitles screened on a central LED panel (by Radio Marconi, with the text editing support of Prescott Studio). The simultaneous presentation of two languages was quite unusual within the more traditional surtitling system, which is used in most cases with monolingual function, but this formula (promoted in Italy by Prescott Studio) is recently increasing.

Multimedia translation / Audiovisual translation

«Multimedia translation», or «audiovisual translation», is a specialized branch of translation which implies the presence of any kind of multimedia (or audiovisual) electronic system in the translation or in the transmission process. # This kind of translation is strongly influenced, both in the form and in the substance of its creative process, by the type of device employed. Specific limits are imposed by digital graphics, and by timing and mode of use. # Multimedia translation concerns various fields, such as cinema, television, theatre, advertisement, audiovisual and mobile device communication. # The following specializations of multimedia translation can be identified: dubbing, subtitling, surtitling, cinema and TV adaptation, respeaking, audio description, mobile translation, translation for video games. # Since the late 1990s, multimedia translation has achieved a role in education. B. A and M. A. classes on this subject have been established at several universities across Europe and the United States (Boston, Dallas, Forlì, Genoa, Leeds, London, Pisa, Pittsburgh, Torino, Udine, Vigo). Prescott Studio has given a significant contribution to this educational activities.