The end of fansubbing?


One thing I’ve noticed over the years as Viki gained speed is the gradual disappearance of fansubbing groups or individuals. Viki’s platform makes it easy for fans to help time (or segment, as they say on Viki) and translate whatever they can, whenever they can, which causes the work to get done faster since there are so many to help out at one time, unlike fansubbing groups — and this is especially true of lakorn subbers — where, if they’re fortunate, each role is normally filled by one or two people (or if they work alone, they have to fulfill all the roles themselves).

Viki subbing is still fansubbing, so technically, it’s not the end of fansubbing as I dramatically titled this post, but what I was referring to was the slow death of official fansubbing groups/individuals. Their number has dwindled considerably over the years. Some of the reasons have to do with real life, but I think the main reason is that there are other means and venues of obtaining faster English subtitles elsewhere, especially from Viki. Viki makes it possible for subtitles to be available within hours of the episode’s upload, whereas subtitles usually take official fansubbing groups or individuals a week, give or take. And although drama/lakorn addicts appreciate any kind of subtitling, everyone can agree faster is better (though not always best).

There are still some fansubbers hanging on, myself included, but it’s dawned on me that perhaps it’s time to abandon my singular pursuit and either join the Viki bandwagon (I’ve joined The Bride Team on Viki, but I haven’t done anything there in weeks, which I feel really bad about) or focus my efforts elsewhere. To put it succinctly, perhaps it’s time to move on and I’ve just been stubbornly holding on.

I don’t speak for all fansubbers out there because they’re more active than I am, and maybe I’m just in a slump, but I find it harder and harder to sit down and focus on my subbing. I’ve been staring at the subtitles for JSS/MB for weeks, and every time I settle down to work on them, I literally fall asleep. So while I’m working on them, I’m also not working on them. I don’t know if it’s the lakorn itself. It’s true the sheer length and number of episodes is daunting (22 — only 19 more episodes to go!), but I know part of it is the development of the lakorn as well. They could have seriously done away with the majority of the lakorn and ended it at 13 (and that’s being generous). Kwan and Om had great chemistry, but the storyline meandered so much and there were so many unnecessary subplots added that working on it — or just thinking about it — tires me out. One of my biggest pet peeves is doing unnecessary work, and that’s how I see all those subplots that had nothing to do with the original premise of the lakorn.

But I digress. I didn’t mean to rant here. I guess my main point is that these two projects may be my last ones. After this, I’ll work on re-uploading previous projects, and once that’s done, I’ll have to see where I stand. I think fansubbing is in my blood so I might not give it up completely, but I don’t think I can focus on it like I used to (when I was in the mood to sub, anyway). Or perhaps I’ll join Jasmin’s team in re-doing old projects and uploading them to better video quality. Or maybe I’ll help out a little more on Viki (although to be honest, I’m not a big fan of working online). I guess the sky’s the limit — at least as soon as I’m done with all my obligations.

12 thoughts on “The end of fansubbing?

  1. unnichan says:

    First, thank you Chobling for taking the time to fansub!!!
    And as a fan of Lakorns and dramas as a whole, I don’t prefer Viki to other outlets (it’s always my last resort). I do think it’s a great medium for those new to drama watching but as a “veteran” if you will, I still prefer downloads and soft subs. Also with a single subber or groups/squads, I find that more (lakorn) projects actually get completed and linking longevity more prevalent, where that isn’t always the case with Viki. There’s drawbacks to everything and ultimately, I suppose, it comes down to preference. Easy access isn’t always the best access.
    I do understand your predicament as a subber and fans are demanding. I hope you make the choice that is best and most fulfilling for you, your goals and energy levels. We’re grateful not matter what you choose!!

    • chobling says:

      Same here. As a viewer, my preferred method of watching dramas/lakorns is to download the raws and subtitles and watch it on my TV. Viki is great for people who don’t mind streaming (although YouTube is still the best place to stream if you’re going to stream any shows), but like you stated, it all boils down to personal preference. I normally go through these subbing slumps, so maybe things will pick up again soon (hopefully). It’s just that in recent years, the slumps occur more and more often, so it leads me to question whether my motivation and passion for subbing is still there every time I go through one of these subber’s block, as AnothaiDara and I like to refer to it.

  2. nsuhailaj says:

    Eventhough I know that it’s hard for you, but I really hope that you can finish your project for MB. I’m waiting for your next update 🙂

    • chobling says:

      Don’t worry, I will finish it. However, I am considering whether I should switch my video files over to the DooTV version (the ones KitKat from Alwaysmeena uses). The only drawback is that the video size is twice the size I use now — and that’s in mp4 format. I need to decide soon because it’s also hindering my subbing progress since I don’t want to sync the translations to one video only to decide to go with the other one after all and have to re-sync it.

  3. asl says:

    There are still a load of fansubbers/fansubbing groups out there but not in the Thai lakorn community. It is accurate to say Thai to English fansubber/fansubbing groups is near extinct. I believe the decline in fangroup/fansub is due to resource availability. It is difficult to find crispy clear HD even when the more popular lakorns get released in DVD format. Btwn, majority of lakorn viewers does not understand Thai and are non Thais… of course I am excluding Thailand when referring to non Thais.

    I personally do not like watching lakorns on Viki but it is the fastest and easiest way to access them. It makes communication easier for groups. The thing I dislike is having broken links and having to fix them. Once the link is broken, you seem to have to work on it all over again. Khun Nu Chantana, I helped 1/3rd through the project, segmenting all 20 something episode and partial subbing with what I can understand is all put to waste as most links were broken. I am slowly reworking on it and it has helped me improve my Thai (I guess there’s some kind of benefit)

    Whatever you decide, susu na.

    • chobling says:

      The number of Thai fansubbers/fansubbing groups has always been low. That’s one reason why I’ve continued to sub, even if I’m not that active nor very fast (although I think I’d be so much faster if I stopped spending so much time trying to find the best wording or phrase for my translations, which is the main hold-up of all my releases). For lakorns, video resources have always been a major hindrance in subbing. The video quality has gotten better in recent years, but they’re still below Korean and Japanese standards. I’m waiting to see if the video quality will be true HD in 2017 like they’re claiming it will be when Thailand goes completely digital.

      As for other languages, the majority of the fansubbing groups I used to frequent have bade their farewells, which is why I said the number has dwindled down. There are still a few around but not as many as before. However, I’m only referring to Korean and Chinese/Taiwanese fansubbing groups. I’ve noticed that the majority of the English subtitles for Korean and Chinese/Taiwanese dramas nowadays seem to either be from Viki or Dramafever, which is probably also why it appears like fansubbing groups have gone down, but that may be because I’m unaware of new fansubbing groups. If there are new groups that replaced the old ones, then I’m sorry I’m not aware of them. Japanese fansubbing groups, on the other hand, are still very active and quite numerous. I think it’s because there aren’t that many Japanese dramas (if any) subbed on Viki. I noticed there were a few animes, but I don’t know if they were actually re-subbed on Viki or they’re just the hardsubs from other fansub groups. I wonder if it’s because Japanese dramas have so many active fansubbing groups that they don’t need Viki, or if it’s because Viki hardly ever gets them licensed/approved that Japanese fansubbers/fansubbing groups still exist. I guess what I should have said in my post is that there are still a lot of fansubbers/fansubbing groups out there, but it depends on the language, genre, and/or country.

      For me, I don’t stream anything from Viki at all because I don’t stream, period. If I can’t find soft subs or hardsubs for a certain drama, I just won’t watch it, even if I’m dying to watch it. But I do go to the site to check out the subtitle availability of a drama. Broken links are one of the biggest reasons why Viki is annoying. They should just allow people to upload videos directly to their site and perhaps that problem will go away. It’s not like they don’t already pre-screen the drama/lakorn before they approve of the channel.

      Sorry I wrote wrote so much. I really need to work on being less verbose.

  4. asl says:

    I honestly don’t know how the whole Viki licensing thing works. I wonder if there are any Thai Viki staff willing to negotiate with Thai lakorn company to allow licensing. Maybe the production itself will provide legit video for Viki to stream.

    I too prefer to download but streaming is not bad. Sometimes it is convenient for me. I save space considering Korean and Japanese dramas are HUGE in size. I download everything via my phone (my poor phone) and if I have time I would transfer it over to my computer/laptop or just delete it. I think I open my laptop once every other week.

    • chobling says:

      I don’t know how that whole licensing thing works either, but that would be something to look forward to if it ever actually happens.

      I guess I shouldn’t have said I don’t stream because I stream short clips and things like that. I just don’t stream dramas or lakorns. I have nothing against streaming. Even though my bandwidth is fast enough to do it, I prefer to do other things with it, like download, surf the web, etc. I figure it takes the same amount of bandwidth to stream it as to download it, so I might as well download it and watch it on my own time. Also I don’t like sitting in front of my laptop for too long unless it’s to sub. I do everything on my laptop (except stream dramas/lakorns). I can’t imagine downloading everything through my phone. You must have a phone with a lot of space. My laptop’s 1 TB and I’m constantly running out of room so I always have to transfer the files to my passports. I can’t imagine being without my laptop (though I don’t take it to work).

      You mentioned you did Khun Nu Chantana on Viki? Ah, so you’re the one who subbed it. Years ago, it was one of the lakorns I considered picking up. I even ripped a couple of episodes, but aside from translating the first 10 minutes, I never got around to working on it. Then I saw it being subbed on Viki so I decided not to pick it up. And now you have to redo all the videos? That must be annoying.

  5. jamieguo says:

    I think you raised a valid point here, a lot of the big fansubbing groups for Asian dramas have vanished. Wishboniko for Thai lakorns, With S2 for Korean dramas, and Sublime, among others, for Taiwanese and Chinese dramas.

    On the whole, I prefer fansubbing groups to viki, Dramafever or whatever other group.. Fansubbers seem to take more time with their subs, and put more effort into it. With viki subbing, I’ve noticed a whole range of quality of subs, from the semi coherent ones with little to no grammar to very good subs.

    Unlike with Korean, or even Chinese, Taiwanese dramas, the number of subbers for any project on viki is usually very small, with one or two people contributing almost all the subs. I actually prefer watching Korean dramas on viki because their subs are usually edited and more coherent then the ones on Dramafever.

    This is due to the larger audience and greater attention the Korean dramas automatically receive, while lakorns are still not on the same level as other Asian dramas, especially Korean ones. But I do think the gap is closing as I see lakorns being released in HD and lakorns gaining an increasing interest in fans (Full House Thai version got a lot of people talking).

    I’ve also noticed, and this is true of Korean, Taiwanese, etc. dramas as well, is that the most popular dramas with the well known names or explosive dramas tend to get subbed (I expect any Yaya and Nadech drama to be subbed for example), while other dramas of even better quality might not be subbed at all. And here’s where I think fansubbers could really make a different, bringing attention to little known gems by subbing them.

    As a fan of your subs, (I consider you along with Kudalakorn some of the best subbers out there as you both have high quality subs), I do hope you continue. Maybe you should just be more careful about the projects you pick, wait until a lakorn really grabs you so you’ll be more likely to keep up with it and be extra motivated to finish subbing it.

    • chobling says:

      I’m a fan of fansubbing over all other choices as well, though, like you pointed out, the Korean Viki groups do a pretty good job. I prefer theirs over Dramafever’s as well (most of the time anyway). I complained about JSS/MB, but it’s actually not that bad. It isn’t that much worse than most lakorns out there. I believe it’s important to be careful of the projects you pick, which is why I usually decide on a project after I’ve seen a few episodes. This time around, I wanted to try something different, but it didn’t work out as well as I would have liked. I think it’s good to do projects you like, but it’s also good to challenge yourself with projects you normally wouldn’t sub because not everyone shares your taste. I haven’t done as many of these “challenging projects,” but I want to believe that some day I will. While liking a lakorn might actually help a fansubber sub faster, in my case, it’s not always true. I liked Learm Prai Lai Rak, but that one took AnothaiDara and I three years to finish. For me, it depends on my mood more than the lakorn itself (though the lakorn does play a bit into it).

  6. nzltt says:

    I agree with you. I was a follower to start with when Taiwanese and Korean dramas just gained their popularity. The fansubbing groups were so rare at that time. It took months to complete a project but everyone’s effort was appreciated. I was in fansubbing groups but I gave up as it was a demanding job. And now watching how many volunteering fansubbing groups disbanded especially WITHS2, just broke my heart. I appreciate Viki and Dramafever, however, I can feel due to the fast sub release, the quality is not as good as the fansubbing. I still prefer to be able to download raw + subs files or hardsubbed videos to watch on my laptop even my Internet is fast enough for streaming. The videos on viki and other streaming websites are annoying me as 60 min eps has been broken down into 6-9 parts. It is just annoying to watch. However I am still respecting and appreciating those fan contribution on Viki as they spend time to complete series for us who do not understand the language.

    I appreciate that you are still around for Thai lakorn subbing, as it is already rare Thai subbers, not mentioned how many fansubbers have given up over last 10 years. 🙂

    • chobling says:

      I know what you mean. I prefer each episode to consist of only one video, too. I don’t know why, but when an episode is broken into smaller parts, the episode seems so much longer. You don’t get an overall feel for the episode; it just becomes one continuous show that lasts 20+ hours. I usually cut my episodes into parts on YT (even though it’s more work) because I don’t know the speed of other people’s internet connection (I can’t even play a 4-minute clip with my workplace’s internet speed). Like you, I appreciate any kind of sharing, but I’ll be honest and confess that when faced with a 9-part episode, I usually opt not to watch it.

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