We get a lot of questions on how long it takes to sub an episode and why there are blank subs, etc. So rather than answering the same question over and over again, I’ve created a Q & A here so we can direct any future questions to this link.
How long does it take to sub/translate an episode?
It really depends on each drama as Viki depends on volunteer work of segmenters/subbers, etc. The more popular the drama, the faster it will be translated as there will be more people working on it at the same time. The quick answer is minimum of 4 hours to maximum of many days or never getting subbed completely. A very popular drama can be subbed within a few hours. But normally a moderately popular drama gets subbed within a day or two.
Here’s more detailed info.
After Viki uploads an episode, it gets divided into 5-6 parts.
Then segmenters create segments (the little boxes where subbers can place subtitles). It can take 30 minutes to an hour to create segments in each of 6 parts. Usually there are several segmenters working on an episode at the same time.
As for the actual translation, there are a lot of factors that can contribute to the speed of subbing: The number of subbers signed up for that drama, fluency of the subbers, availability of the subbers, etc.
In order not to overwrite other people’s sub, each subber usually takes one part at a time.
For a fluent subber, it could take between 30 minutes to an hour to sub a part (about 10 minutes of viewing time). For other subbers, it could take 3-5 hours to sub a part. For a more challenging dramas such as medical, legal or historical (sageuk), it could take a lot longer, even for a fluent subber.
So if there are 6 or more subbers, the whole episode could potentially be subbed anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours. However, this is only if all 6 subbers are 100% fluent subbers. Most Viki subbers are not 100% fluent subbers. Some can only sub about 20% and other can do 40%, while other can do 80%-90% or so. There are only very few subbers who can actually sub 100%. Remember that the subbers are not professional translators but they are just like regular viewers who happen to know 2 or more languages.
Also remember that all subbers are volunteers who have their regular jobs, schools, family life and other personal obligations. So for instance, the only time I can sub is starting 11pm when my regular work and family obligations are completed.
Once an episode is fully subbed in English, then it gets edited (usually by at least 2 people) and then released to the other language subtitle teams. It normally takes another 4-6 hours to 1 or 2 days to get it translated into the other languages such as Spanish. If there are only few translators in that particular language, it could take many days to complete an episode.
Why do I see missing/blank subs and the see more subs and then see blanks again?
The simple answer is that the episode has not been completely subbed yet.
When one subber finishes all she/he can do, she moves on. Then another more fluent subber can come in to fill in the section that the other subbers couldn’t.
Also, keep in mind that not all subbers know about everything. For example, some subbers may be more proficient in medical terms, while others in business transactions translations, and others more on the slangs or regional dialects.
Why is episode 2 subbed before episode 1 is completed?
Most subbers are not fluent 100% translators. Remember that all subbers are volunteers and not paid professional translators. So they sub as much as they can and move on. There are very few fluent subbers and there is a very high demand for them. Whenever they are available they will come in and fill in the remaining lines.
Why are some dramas subbed more quickly than others?
Subbers are volunteers who happen to know more than 1 language. So they will want to sub whichever drama that they are interested in watching. So for a popular drama, a lot more people would be interested in watching and subbing.