Subtitles for bardic performances, a How-To guide
One of the most popular songs to come out of the Norrskensbard competition we hold each year in Norra Nordmark was Otukt, written by Wilhelm Marsson, the current Norrskens Bard. Princess Jovi so enjoyed the song when he entered it in the competition this year that at the next event she and he were both at, she requested that he perform the song during court. After which, when he went to return to his post behind her throne the herald instead bid him stay, and she presented him an award, the scroll for which, done by the Princess’s own hand, included the song title in the text.
This song is full of double meanings, and archaic words, so, while I got the gist of it, I didn’t really understand it when he first performed it–my Swedish is good, but it isn’t that good. I didn’t really realise just how much more there was in the song until a mid-winter party, where Kjartan prepared a songbook in advance, and Otkut was included. During the party my friend Villiam, who is an English teacher, looked at the song, and begun providing me a very flowery-language translation of the text.
The above incidents combined to inspire me to try something silly for Drachenwald 12th Night: Subtitles! Therefore, with Villiam’s help I first prepared a translation draft for the whole song, then I sat down with Wilhelm and he corrected the translation to better match what he was thinking when he wrote the Swedish lyrics. Then the real work began…
How To Prepare Subtitles for a Live Bardic Performance
- Choose a song in need of subtitles (humorous works well for this sort of project)
- Prepare an amusing translation (for subtitles there is no need for the translation to scan to the music or follow the same rhythm or rhyme scheme)
- Set up a document in landscape orientation with narrow margins (0.5 cm on the left and right)
- Set the font to be 4 or 5 cm tall (190 points if using Times New Roman)
- Check to be certain that this gives you only two rows of text per page
- Starting at the beginning of the document, go through the text and change the spacing by adding a space in the middle of words, as needed, to make the text fill the page to the fullest extent possible (e.g. the line “I speak of only mischief.” wound up becoming ” I speak of o nly mischi ef.” to get the text to go from one edge of the pate to the next). Note: this step is to save paper. Before doing this step this song needed 72 pieces of paper to print, after doing this it was only 67 pages).
- Once you are happy with the spacing you are ready to print. (Do so single-sided!)
- For each page: cut away the excess paper above the first line of text (be careful to keep the pieces of paper in order as you do the cutting!)
- Cut away the excess paper below the second line of text on each page
- Cut in the middle of each page to separate the two rows of text (take care to always match the two rows of text in the correct order after cutting them apart)
- Obtain two pieces of wooden dowel to use for the scrolling sticks (I used pieces that are 2.5 cm in diameter and 35 cm long)
- Obtain four round items to use for stops above and below the scrolled paper (I used plastic yoghurt bucket lids, but cardboard would probably work, too)
- Carefully mark a central circle (the same diameter as your dowel) on each the rounds
- Carefully cut a series of radial slices through the center of each of those small central circle, till you have a bunch of small triangles pointing at each mid-point of the rounds.
- Thread the rounds onto the dowels, one pair on each, oriented so that those small triangles point outwards.
- Measure the width of the paper strips
- Calculate how many cm of dowel should stick out on each end (I chose to do mine with 13.5 cm of dowel below the paper, and 13.0 above)
- Tape the first bit of paper securely onto the dowel (in the correct location calculated above)
- Adjust the stop-end rounds to sit just above and just below the paper, leaving ~2 cm on each for clearance
- Use duct tape to secure the stop-end rounds in place, by taping those little triangles to the dowel
- Tape the second piece of paper to the first, trimming one edge if needed so that the spacing between the letters is correct.
- Tape that seam down in back as well.
- Tape all of the other bits of paper to the one before, in turn, taking care that the words are still in the correct order (scroll the ones that are done onto its dowel as you go)
- When you get to the end of the song carefully tape the end of the final piece of paper to the second dowel (positioned with the same spacing between the dowel ends)
- Set the remaining two stop-end rounds onto the second dowel (small triangles pointing out)
- Adjust their spacing so that they are each ~1 cm from the paper (and confirm that when the two dowels are held closely together the one containing the end of the song fits with its stop-ends nestled in-between the stop-ends of the dowel attached to the beginning of the song)
- Secure the final two stop-ends to their dowel with duct tape.
- Carefully scroll the song backwards onto the second dowel (pulling firmly enough to get it to scroll quite tightly into place)
Congratulations! You are now ready to use the subtitles during a performance. You might want several friends to help with the scrolling…
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