Keynote speaker

Jan-Louis Kruger, Macquarie University in Sydney (Australia)



The world of audiovisual media has changed on a scale last seen with the shift away from print to digital photography. VOD has moved from an expensive concept limited by technology and bandwidth, to the norm in most of not only the developed world, but also as an accelerated equaliser in developing countries. In the age of media accessibility the field of AVT has moved from being the ultimate expression of creativity in providing an audience with idiomatic, localised, aesthetic and equivalent access to film, to being a standard feature created more and more automatically in increasingly unregulated formats, but also in mindboggling volumes. In the process the emphasis seems to have shifted away from giving viewers the opportunity to experience the AV text in a similar way to those who have full access to all the channels, to increasing the volume of material available to the biggest common denominator, through legal and not-so-legal ways.

While the skills required to create AVT have come within reach of a large groups of practitioners due to advances in editing software and technology, with many processes from transcription to cuing being automated, research on the reception and processing of multimodal texts has also developed rapidly. This has given us new insights into the way viewers, for example, process the text of subtitles while also attending to auditory input as well as the rich visual code of film. This multimodality of film, although being acknowledged as one of the unique qualities of translation in this context, is also often overlooked in technological advances. When the emphasis is on the cheapest and simplest way of transferring spoken dialogue to written text, or visual scenes to auditory descriptions, the complex interplay between language and other signs is often overlooked.

The presentation speed of subtitles is a highly controversial topic in AVT. Recent research tends to be concerned with the question of what presentation speed viewers can handle. Less work has been done on the impact of high presentation rates on viewer experience, or more specifically, on the ability of viewers to access the multimodal richness of a subtitled film.

I will present the findings of a recent experiment designed explicitly to determine the impact of presentation speed not only on viewer comprehension and attention distribution, but also on the very act of reading. In this experiment we investigated global and local measures of reading using eye tracking to determine whether a difference can be observed in the processing of subtitles at 12, 20 and 28 characters per second in the presence or absence of video. We found a range of significant effects of presentation rate on comprehension, reading time, number of fixations, mean fixation duration and other measures, as well as significant effects of the presence of video on subtitle reading. Our findings confirm the fact that subtitle presentation rate does in fact impact significantly on the processing depth of both the subtitles and the film as a whole.