What’s the most important thing in a fansub? | Part 2 – Abstract Point of View

6 November, 2009 (19:15) | Articles | By: jama

In part 1 I covered the classic point of view. Things like translation, editing, timing, quality checking or encoding are regarded to as important. But let’s look at the situation from a different point of view. Let’s “Think outside the box.” Is it really just the “classic” things that make a group good in your opinion?

Many people actually rate groups higher on AniDB when they release anime shortly after the episode aired (with “reasonably” good translation, timing, and all that stuff). People are more forgiving about inconsistencies or errors they spot in such releases “because they’re fast”.

So if you’re fast, you’re allowed to have some errors in your release and (nearly) nobody will blame you. On the other hand, if you’re slow, people just expect high quality subs. The rating of that group will go below the one of the speedsub, even if the quality would be the same. Shouldn’t the groups have the same rating then? Apparently speed matters. (Rating. There are rating systems like the one on AniDB of course, or it could also be just your personal rating of a specific group. The above statement is confirmed by Kalessin’s comment.)

This is actually regarded to as really important by many, many people. Consistency simply means that you stay consistent with editing, timing, etc. throughout the whole episode, the whole season, or even all anime the group has ever worked on.

Let me show you a few examples. Consistency means…

…you watch out that particular people in the anime always use the same particular phrases when they say the same phrase in Japanese.
…the styling is the same across all episodes.
…to always use the same timing style, even if different timers work on the project.

People can be more forgiving about strange translations if they’re just consistent. For example, some group translates Nee-san, Onee-san and Onee-sama all as just “Sis” (Nobue-oneechan –> Sis Nobue) — while this may not be perceived as the proper way to translate them, if the group always sticks to “Sis” many people will not care since it’s at least consistent.

Reputation / Market Dominance / Prominence
. Many groups have a high rating on sites like AniDB, people commonly acknowledge them as quality groups, but in reality they’re not really that good. Especially people who have been involved in fansubbing know that plenty groups which fit that profile do exist. The point is, they do not produce quality (nearly) as high as people say they do, but they have a large fanbase thanks to e.g. releasing fast with seemingly good quality while it’s not really quality (simplification of the translation etc.), and so the group will get praised for doing average releases.
The same goes for “quality groups” (when they take too much time). For example, a group was a quality group some years ago, but now most of the core staff disappeared and the rest of the staff desperately tries to keep the group alive, even though if that means that the releases would be “just” average or subpar.

Underrated. Reputation can mean something else too. If your group is known for fast releases you’ll be called a speedsubber and many people will avoid you because they have that common attitude that speedsubs equal bad sub quality. Even if your releases are close to or already considered quality subs, there’s a high chance it won’t get acknowledged (any time soon at least).

Quite a lot of people don’t even compare groups and just go with the one that has the best “reputation” or rating on AniDB.

A more up-to-date example would be a.f.k. subbing Haruhi S2. Approximately half the people who were watching Haruhi when it was airing waited for a.f.k. to release their sub because they did S1 and they were reliable. This also leads me to the next term:

Doesn’t matter if the group is the best or the fastest. Many groups just drop anime out of the blue, promise to pick up anime and then release the first episode 2 months later just to tell everyone that they lost interest in working on it and are going to drop it… So reliability can indeed be something very important. When you know that a group promises to not drop any anime and finish it no matter what, like Yabai, that’s a big plus for some people (like Hamlon).

But mainly people understand under the term “reliability” groups that release at the same time every week in the usual quality.

When a group does a single genre of anime, they earn an image of doing only that genre. Others, who select a variety of anime from different sources, such as shoujo, mecha, or even sport, can develop and expand the group’s fanbase. Is it only the responsibility of those on staff to choose the series? And what about the series that fall through the cracks? Should we cooperate more as fansubbers? How important is it to offer a variety of different anime?

Softsubs VS Hardsubs (Hardsubs meaning that karaoke and TS is hardsubbed, dialogue being softsubbed, though!)
“They’re no good cause they hardsub their TS and karaoke.”
“Even though they’re better, they hardsub, so I’m gonna choose this other group which does full softsubs.”

These and other arguments are often mentioned. Doing softsubs has become a new trend. Quite a few groups switched from hardsubs to softsubs, new groups often do only softsubs right from the start. Surely one positive thing to mention is that you can skip some parts in the subbing workflow which ultimately results in the group releasing the anime faster.

Viewers often state they prefer softsubs because they can e.g.
– change the subs if there’s something they don’t like
– manually fix editing errors or timing errors

There’s are some big buts too, though.
– softsubbed typesetting is very limited compared to After Effects (e.g. smoothly moving signs and zooming, 3d effects, special effects)
– softsubs can be very CPU-intense, dragging down the overall performance and making the video unplayable in the worst case

I’m not intending to start a flamewar Softsub VS Hardsubs here. It’s just another factor many people  regard to as very important. Softsubs? Hardsubs? Or a mix? What’s the best solution to make as many people as possible happy?

I guess just as you can hype movies or more recently even computer games, the same can apply to anime — and fansubbing groups. Though sometimes the hype turns out to be true, too. My question to you is quite simple,

What do YOU think is most important in a fansub from the abstract point of view? What’s maybe equally important or the 2nd most important thing?


Comment from skystrife
Time November 6, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Speed. If it’s taking years to get done, I’ll probably either lose interest or not watch it at all. (Sort of how my slow-moving encoding projects begin lose their relevance to me…)

If you argue from the “Good Archival Quality” standpoint, it’s completely moot if I don’t watch the series or opt to watch someone else’s release because of the speed difference. Let’s face it–unless you’re doing DVDs or something, I want to watch the show somewhat quickly after it airs. If I’m interested in the show, I want to see it quickly. It’s no different than watching your favorite TV show on TV as opposed to waiting for the complete remastered boxset years later–you’re going to watch it on TV first.

With speedsubs, sure, you see some errors here and there. Take for example BSS’ release of DTB RnG 3–the whole lack of fonts/styling issue. But stuff like that happens when you’re releasing at 5am after several hours of work early-morning work. Now, the reason this is acceptable from my standpoint is because it was so quick (right now getting the raw is the longest part of the whole process because of the lack of a dedicated MBS capper). With speedsubs, having a mistake here and there is fine–if there are any deal-breakers most groups will either release a v2 or have a patch to fix the errors. BSS did this in the case of ep3, within a day of the release (as soon as a staff member woke up, actually).

However, on the whole, speedsubs have gotten a LOT better. Take a look at the most prominent speedsubbers at the moment (gg, Eclipse, and BSS to name a few) and you’ll also see some of the better fansub releases. Just because they do it quickly doesn’t mean they’re doing it poorly–and because of this, the quality difference comparing to another, slower group is barely noticeable (in fact, often times the slower groups may have just as many errors as the speedsub. Take YuS and the ‘giving birth’ line for my DtB RnG example).

With DVD rips, the speed is slightly less of a factor since I’ve probably already watched the series or will just batch it when the DVDs are done. But those should at least be somewhat timely–within a few months of the DVD release.

Now, the second most important issue to me is the debacle with hardsubs vs softsubs.

It really depends for me. One thing that is absolutely certain is that dialogue be softsubbed. If you’re not at least doing that by now, I just won’t even bother with your release.

For typesetting and signs, it’s hit or miss. If you hardsub, that’s ok with me–but only to a certain degree. If you do a half-assed job in aegisub and then hardsub it, and it looks bad (motion is off), doesn’t fit in, or covers text that shouldn’t be covered, then it’s a Very Bad Thing in my book. However, if you’re like Menclave and have phenomenal typesetting, it’s acceptable to me because it fits in so well I can ignore it if I want to. It’s when I notice “wow, that sign was bad” that it becomes an issue to me.

Personally, I don’t even care if you even DO signs. I’d be willing to bet 70% or more of the signs done are irrelevant or have their text spoken to you or inferred (I think the only real exception to this rule would be a lot of jc staff shit where the signs are unspoken and plot-relevant). For example, if there is some stereotypical white location text at the beginning of the scene from the outside of a building and it cuts to inside and it’s a bunch of police officers talking, I can infer that the sign said “Police Headquarters” or something near that. I don’t need you to tell me this in the first place–it’s redundant and wasting my video space. However, if you do, that’s fine, just don’t have it look like garbage. Get the fade right, get the motion right, match the font well, and make it just blend in, and I’m ok with it.

Comment from RDS
Time November 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm



if a group is reliable then CONSISTENCY is a natural result and SPEED is not important – if I know they WILL release new episode, say, within a given period after airing/dvd (even if its a month!) – then I am not looking for anything else.

on the other hand if we are talking about YABAI
(Himawari!! Episodes: 11/13, Last release: 26th July 2009,
To LOVE-Ru Episodes: 11/26, Last release: 10th July 2009,
To LOVE-Ru OVA, Episodes: 2/6, Last release: 1st September 2009)
– then forget it! – I am switching to another group (what I did with To Love-Ru)
– and then forget about CONSISTENCY, or one has to re-download everything again, etc….

Please understand – I am not sticking with un-reliable groups like yours because if I do that I am risking to NOT GET the series I want AT ALL! ( I cannot use p2p, so I have to xdcc or dll – and after a time a serie often disappear – example : try to find DVD based subs of Sky Girls…)


and #2 … err, I mean #1b is SOFTSUB.


If you really want show your skills in kara – by all means! just release it as separate OP/ED kara files.

Simple as that.

my 2c

Comment from IcyVisionz
Time November 6, 2009 at 10:05 pm

“example : try to find DVD based subs of Sky Girls…”

Sky Girls subs 1-26 DVD with Specials 1-9 (9.27 GiB) found. Took me 10 seconds to find =D

Comment from RDS
Time November 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm

yeah, torrent…

Comment from Arc
Time November 7, 2009 at 4:40 am

#1 Consistency
I don’t feel like sticking with a group that regularly change its editing. For example, some groups will use both “Onee-chan” and “Sis” in the same serie, depending of the episode, or even in the same episode => WTF ? … Well, in that case, it doesn’t really matter, but some are doing bigger changes.

#2 Speed & Reliability
Well, it’s not like I’d go with a speed-subs group just because they’re fast, but, when a group takes several months to release 1 episode, I’ll just lose interest. It’s even worse if the group announce months later that they’ll drop the serie because they’ve also lost interest in it.


Following your logic, they shouldn’t even sub the anime : they’re not the OFFICIAL subbers, they have by no means got the rights from the authors or studio or whatever legal claimants, and they didn’t CREATE the ORIGINAL SCRIPT.

That being said, I do prefer softsubbed animes. If the group feels like using hardsubs for TS or Karaoke, then they have to make it looks good.

Comment from RDS
Time November 7, 2009 at 7:37 am

@arc – “following your logic”…

I am NOT going to argue with you,

but I must warn you that that’s not math we are talking about, when it comes to human affairs (simple) logic doesn’t work: because what seems “logical” for one person (you, in this case) isn’t guaranteed to be “logical” for another person (me, in this case). And vice versa.

Comment from wat
Time November 19, 2009 at 4:06 am

I guess ultimately it’s all about speed in a way, as it directly affects the expectations (and leniency) people will have in most other regards. Speed is the key to how people will perceive your fansub group. It decides whether your target audience expects your releases to be as flawless as possible or as fast as possible. Actually there’s barely a middle ground, be mediocre in both speed and quality and nobody is going to care about your subs if there are alternatives, unless those are faster but significantly worse, or better but much slower.

Which brings me directly to reputation / market dominance / prominence. Speed gives you a certain prominence in the market, which in turn will get people interested into joining your group to help out. Slower groups will invariably suffer loss of personal unless they sub special interest material or deliver extremely high quality. Ratings will also reflect this, as they depend a lot on whether you fulfill the expectations of your audience.

As for reliability, in fact it DOES matter if the group is the best or the fastest – if you’re neither, people aren’t going to care all much whether you keep subbing a show. The slower and worse you are, the less they’re going to give a shit if you drop the show, unless you’re the only group subbing the show at hand. Basically I expect a steady and reasonable release rate, be it weekly or monthly.

By the way. Current Yabai SetoHana release rate: Once every 6 months. Estimated date of completion: March 2020. I’m not sure what to think of that, regarding “reliability” and “speed” (But I’ll make sure to enjoy “My Bride Is A Mermaid” as released by Funimation in 2010 while waiting for your subs. Maybe.)

Selection should be up to the fansubbers in my opinion – within reason. While there’s no point in having 6 groups sub the same show, neither is there a point in working on a show you dislike and consequently doing a less than optimal job at it. That aside, selection is hardly important to the fans (as they’re usually fans of certain genres, rather than being fans of certain fansub group.) Though sticking to a certain genre may help you bring new people aboard more easily if you need to do so. See reputation etc above.

The last two points really belong to part 1 of your post in my opinion.

Consistency is in my opinion just a part of every single job you listed, and largely depends on how well all participants (or a project manager) define the parameters of the project when starting out, and how well the individual project members stick to them afterwards.

Softsub/hardsub: See my comment on part 1 as well – as for signs, do it RIGHT or don’t do it at all. Applies for hardsubs even more than for softsubs. Readability and unobtrusiveness are paramount, everything else is secondary. Softsubbed karaoke should be as simple as possible, especially on HD video, or preferably not there at all. Also, hardsub karaoke can go screw itself. Hard. With a cactus.

In the end, speed is the one thing that will affect my own choice the most – however, depending on how badly I want to watch the show RIGHT NOW. If I’m following an ongoin shows, I don’t mind that much if a group releases a couple days or a week after a given episode airs, as long as I do get my weekly fix and they don’t fall behind much. For older shows I hardly care about speed as I normally don’t pick up older shows if my group of choice isn’t way ahead of me.

Comment from wat
Time November 19, 2009 at 4:19 am

tl;dr edition:

from a fansubbing group’s point of view: reputation / notability (possibly through selection), because it’s what keeps your group alive and thriving and motivated in the long run.

from a fansubbing individual’s point of view: consistency, as it is one defining quality of your own work.

from a consumer’s point of view: speed and reliability, and to a lesser extent reputation and consistency (and soft/hardsubs), as they help you pick a fansub that matches your expectations. the latter two “to a lesser extent” because they are less obvious, less explicit qualities, as they require you to do some research on the group in general and the release in particular to form an opinion on them.

Comment from JackBassV
Time November 21, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Personally, I prefer accurate translations, with the honourifics left intact. For example, in japanese, you say “I’ll bring you home.” where as in english it’s more normal to say “I’ll take you home.” I prefer the latter, but don’t mind if the translator uses the former – so long as they’re consistent.

The thing I really hate though is getting the English wrong. Using there (as in over there), when they should be using they’re (they are) or their (it’s their ball.) We get this in scanlations too (another bane.) So accurate translations, but using grammatically correct english are my main deciding factor. Speed is nice, but I prefer accuracy (I’ll grab a speed sub and replace it later.)

Finally, quality of image and sound. Poor image or sound can kill your enjoyment. HD is preferred for new series, DVD rips for the older ones. Uncensored is a must where fan-service is involved. mkv with h264 and acc is a must for the latest series, while xvid and mp3 is fine for older ones. Just remember, not everyone has a high-end pc capable of handling the former (my old x1950pro had some problems with the former, while the new h4770 plays full 1080hd without problem), so releasing in both formats is the ideal.

Everything else in your poll is inconsequential.


Comment from kyrio
Time December 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Excellent encoding quality, consistent (and correct) translation and speed are all equally important. There are groups who are consistently good even though they speedsub. They speedsub because they are good at what they do.

Releasing anime with the correct quality is important. Releasing HD media in SD or the same in reverse is retarded, it lowers the quality overall and in the latter situation makes filesize bigger while doing it. Don’t give in to people who are too lazy to work an extra 5 hours a week in order to build a computer capable of handling tiny little HD anime subs; 5 year old hardware can manage them.

Picking up good anime, that you like to sub, that you think other people need to see, especially if no one else is doing it, is what you should do. Don’t sub something 5 other groups are doing or 15 have done before. Unless there is a new source to work with (where the quality is better) it will be a pointless exercise.

Hardsub or softsub? Use whichever type is needed for the action you are attempting to perform.

Comment from Serac
Time December 22, 2009 at 12:05 am

who cares about speed.. meh.. i’d rather wait a few days/week for better fonts/translation/consistency than get the first released episode.. example for y’all.. i’m waiting for the mjn crossgame eps because i found them better quality than anbu and central, even tho mjn are miiiiiiiles behind on the ep count i consider it worth waiting for. so yeah… speed is the last thing i consider important, unless of course it happens to be a fan-spankin-tastic group that has S rank translations/fonts/timing so on and so forth

i guess to sum it all up.. quality over quantity any day of the week, cept maybe wednesdays cos it’s my day off and i like to catch up on my anime >_> no no no.. quality first.. yeah.. believe it!

Comment from Fruechti
Time December 22, 2009 at 10:30 pm

i think, there isn’t one thing which is really the most important. the interaction of all jobs counts. but if i have to choose one, it would be the translation, which has to be correct. for my side, i don’t like localisation. it should be as true to original as possible.
but a good fansub must have more. besides the translation of the talking, also all necessary signs should be translated and well typed.
edit: no mistakes in the editing should be possible. else also no gross mistakes.
styling: good choice of font and so on.
timing should be also good, things like scenetiming should be followed. the subs mustn’t be flashy like a blinking light.
karaoke: something that suits the op/ed/insert. it doesn’t have to be very complex or funny. also simple karas are fine.
encoding has to be the best as possible. several versions should be available. like a xvid and a h264. it depends on the raw, what’s possible and meaningful. (i’m also fansubber, but not in the english scene. “my” encoder produced for an anime 3 versions: sd hardsub mp3 avi, 720p hardsub aac mp4, and 1080p softsub flac mkv. the raw was a BD, otherwise there wouldn’t be three.)
last but not least the speed. i know, it takes time to make a qualitysub. but from time to time there should be a release. once a month should be possible. but there are animes which could take more time. and the people also have a rl ^-^. but the others have to see that the group isn’t dead. the faster the better, but the quality mustn’t suffer.

well, maybe i wrote too much XD.

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