The 2nd Dimension

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fortune Magazine covers anime and fansubbing

Fortune recently put out an article titled Anime Explosion which mainly discusses the success of anime distribution company ADV. The most interesting thing though (other than the live action Evangelion movie which I'll mention in another post) was the description of the process of fansubbing (although that may also be inaccurate for all I know):

This is open-source TV programming. "Fansubbers," as they're called, can spend more than a dozen hours collectively just to get a half-hour show ready for English speakers. The process is as orderly as an ant farm, with each fansubber having a specialized task. TV watchers in Japan start the process by recording an anime show and uploading it to the Net, typically a few hours after it airs. Bilingual fans around the world download the show and start writing out translations in text documents, which they post online or e-mail around. The first drafts have all kinds of mistakes—words are translated too literally or just wrong—and other translators make refinements. At this stage, self-appointed editors ask questions and make changes, then fan typesetters plug in the subtitles as well as the translations for words that pop up on signs or characters' T-shirts. Finally someone somewhere encodes the completed version—and here there's competition to see who can encode it with the fewest glitches and the best filters—and runs it through BitTorrent, a piece of software that allows large files to be downloaded quickly. Typically the fansubbers organize themselves in teams to make the process move more smoothly. All this is done for free.

It goes on to mention how the anime industry not only tollerates, but takes advantage of this form of piracy by considering it a type of market research. If a series generates a buzz among fansubbers then ADV is more likely to consider it for licensing. So in that way "With anime, almost more than any other medium except maybe music, the hard-core fans drive everyone else's interest."

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