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How LSFF created a fully accessible online film festival with Subly

Curated short films
Transcribed films
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"Our creative team and our filmmakers found Subly really easy and quick to use. It's been crucial in streamlining our whole content process."
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Philip Ilson
Artistic Director

About London Short Film Festival (LSFF)

Before a 10-day film festival, event organisers at London Short Film Festival (LSFF) work hard to create accessible and inclusive content that everyone can enjoy. But until recently they had no way to make SRT files quickly and easily.

Camera projecting light on right, text on left, about LSFF’s process
About London Short Film Festival's Process when going digital for the first time

After all, the BAFTA-affiliated festival is renowned for its unique focus on diverse and multidisciplinary short films, regardless of geography or language. So subtitles were a must.

About LSFF's process

London Short Film Festival was founded in 2003 by Philip Ilson, now Artistic Director, and Kate Taylor. LSFF exists to spotlight a multiplicity of filmmakers, visual artists and creatives, across intersections and with a commitment to peripheral voices. They pride themselves on an 18-year ethos of giving screen space and visibility to unconventional and thoroughly independent filmmaking.

"We consider LSFF both a platform where filmmakers can cut their teeth and define their careers, and a celebrator of the archival treasures and talent that got us here."

While hosted across locations in London, the festival has enjoyed global recognition for years.

lsff trophies lined up
Trophies from LSFF festival events from previous years

Boasting visitors from around the globe, the festival features a curation of over 500 short films, events, and discussions. Their programming seeks to situate the contemporary in dialogue with its history and the world at large. And their commitment to accessibility is a large part of this mission.

Live audiences at previous in-person LSFF festivals

It has also been a crucial stepping stone for the thousands of budding filmmakers eager to qualify for the BAFTA awards someday.

What are LSFF's goals?

Each year, the festival organisers process over 5,000 short film submissions with SRT files and ensure that every selected film meets their criteria.

They require their filmmakers to create an SRT file for each film and submit the SRT files alongside their work to ensure accessibility. And, if you’re an international filmmaker, being able to create an SRT file in English is a must!

"We want to ensure audiences at the London Short Film Festival (LSFF) feel comfortable and welcomed, and are committed to making audience experiences, online and off, as easy and enjoyable as possible," said Philip.

Thousands of creators submit their work with the SRT file for consideration, and hundreds are selected for screenings.

How have they ensured accessibility in the past?

LSFF’s intention is always to create a safe and inclusive environment in which all cinema-goers, regardless of ability, race, gender or background, feel welcomed and respected. 

The whole festival highlights the importance of having access to film, and even their website has an entire section focused on accessibility. They appreciate the importance of the smaller details like digital accessibility of text and images, to full festival accessibility like wheelchair access and subtitle provision.

"When we asked the staff to put the subtitles on, which it was supposed to have, and the answer is always “No, we can’t.” This spoils our plans and ruins our evening," said Rinkoo Barpaga, curator of Deaf short cinema for LSFF's 2021 festival. "This led to me feeling disappointed, depressed, and withdrawn from a world I can’t access. Adding subtitles makes a very small difference to the film, and an enormous difference to me, and others."

Even their filmmakers understand the importance of subtitled content, sharing personal experiences with festival hosts about the disappointment of inaccessibility within the film industry. Especially in cinemas, and online events.

camera screening a film people in background
Audiences watching live screening at LSFF festival from previous years

After all, why should anyone miss out on a good film?

"As we are hosting LSFF 2021 online, we have taken steps to make our online screenings accessible to Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences," states their website. "We will endeavour to provide subtitles and closed captions for the majority of films and pre-recorded Q&As hosted through our Eventive platform."

The challenge–to make SRT files and go online

LSFF didn’t always have a streamlined and cost-efficient solution to support filmmakers that would help them to create an SRT file alongside their submission.

It was difficult for them to meet the strict accessibility standards of the festival such as creating an SRT file alongside their work. They needed this both because of what they aim to represent as an organisation, and because of different regulations in place globally.

text on purple image, the challenge of going online
The Challenge LSFF faced when going online in 2021

Qualifying for submissions and attempting to manually create SRT files was complicated, time-consuming and sometimes expensive for their filmmakers. Until now. 

Accessibility and the use of the SRT file was a key focus for LSFF as they hosted their first online festival in January 2021. 

“LSFF is committed to making short cinema as accessible as possible to all,” said Philip. “Now that we’re going online, creating an SRT file with each film and subtitling is critical for us to make sure we’re serving our Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, as well as other audiences who require that support.”

After a conversation with Philip Ilson, Artistic Director at LSFF, it became apparent that for a film festival seeking to create an accessible experience for all with the use of SRT files, there was rarely an opportunity to do so easily– if at all. 

Colourful projection on wall people walking in background
LSFF logo projected onto a wall at a past event

Why did they seek out a solution?

Philip and his team sought out SRT solutions that would set their filmmakers up for success by providing all the necessary tools to create accessible films for their filmmakers.

"For our first digital edition, we were humbled to be screening 59 works of short cinema in our 2021 UK and International competition from across the world," they wrote in their blog post.

With so many works being screened online, they needed an easy solution to ensure accessibility during their first-ever digital event. A smooth workflow to create SRT files and upload SRT files was essential for his team.

To alleviate some of the streaming challenges they partnered with Cinebox to produce the festival and sought a solution to create SRT files easily.

What were they looking for in an SRT solution?

They needed a solution that would support multi-team collaborations and help to create SRT files for each filmmaker to submit alongside their work.

“The challenge is getting people to engage with the content online,” says Philip. “But the plus side is that we’ve discovered that we've gone even more global now, partly because we add captions with SRT files to our films and our social media content!”

They found themselves on the market searching for ways to transcribe and subtitle with the SRT file format over 200 film titles

man reading a book
Philip Ilson reading a book before the event

Why was SRT file subtitling their priority?

As with many other festivals going online this year, their global audiences needed an easy way to access the content they were screening. Both to get the film up and running and to follow along with the screening. And their filmmakers needed to have access to the right SRT subtitling tools to submit their work to Cinebox.

Tools that could help them to create an SRT file regardless of the original language of the film. So finding an accurate SRT solution with multi-language support which supported the SRT file format was also essential. 

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The solution

Simple and secure solutions to ensure full accessibility with SRT files for each submission aren’t easy to come by for filmmakers.

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The Solution Philip and his team at LSFF found with Subly

So it was crucial to create a collaborative workflow where it was easy to:

  • Create SRT files
  • Edit the SRT file
  • And export the SRT files straight into Google Drive or their computer
  • Upload SRT  files to the submission portal

When looking for solutions they knew that this would be the easiest way for LSFF to collaborate with their filmmakers and Cinebox.

How did Subly help?

Partnering with Subly, LSFF implemented a streamlined workflow that would allow each filmmaker to transcribe and create a subtitle file for their work through Subly. A subtitle file which they could then upload as SRT directly to Cinebox.

What tools did their process need the most?

Their process made use of the high accuracy rate of transcriptions and the SRT files available at export. The team prioritised access to SRT files to ensure the accuracy of subtitles. They also prioritised access to SRT files for their subtitles on-screen.

Why? Because this allowed them to add captions to the films without compromising the high resolution of the submissions.

Subly gave LSFF's filmmakers the power to add and edit captions to meet submission requirements.

Did they use Subly to only create SRT files?

They didn't just enjoy the ease of creating SRT files. LSFF also enjoyed the ability to use other features like resizing videos in Subly. This helped them promote their festival online through short social media posts with subtitles.

Philip said: “The process was exciting because it meant that we could also resize certain works all in the same editor to help our filmmakers spread the word on social media!” 

This meant they could post promotional teasers and SRT subtitled snippets across their channels to increase brand awareness.

screenshot of lsff website events page
Some of the films featured at their online event in 2021

With Subly, LSFF worked to create a simple workflow for all filmmakers to use SRT files. This, all while, ensuring full security for each piece of work during the editing process. This way, LSFF was able to provide SRT subtitling solutions to their filmmakers at no extra cost for them and meet all accessibility standards with SRT captions before their online event.

The result–“Subly has been crucial in streamlining our whole process online.”

On 15 January 2021, LSFF hosted their first-ever online-only film festival, fully subtitled for an accessible and inclusive experience. 

text, The Result, Subly has been crucial in streamlining our whole process online
The Result LSFF saw on their content after implementing Subly in their workflow

The attendance was in the hundreds, and the festival had been a positive experience for all their audiences, including the Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences. Almost as LSFF  would expect for an in-person event, and the feedback–very positive.

“To move the whole festival online has been quite a challenge since we’ve never had much of an online presence,” says Philip. "Subly was intuitive to figure out. Both the team and our filmmakers have found it easy and quick to use, and it's been crucial in streamlining our whole process.”

LSFF ensured full accessibility because they could use SRT files for every short film featured all while saving time by implementing an easy to use subtitling tool.

What are they happiest about now that they use Subly?

It was the ideal SRT solution for LSFF, who needed to ensure accuracy, security, and a smooth process,  with a quick turnaround time to make sure their audiences were their happiest when watching!

three people sitting on chairs on a panel talking
In-person panel discussion at LSFF event from past years

What's next?

LSFF is now considering ways to expand its digital reach even further thanks to the success that the newly established SRT workflow brought them. They are excited about the potential for not just exporting SRT format files but also, the opportunity to translate subtitles for more audiences.

“What is exciting about this period is that there is no reason why we can't continue to do the festival this way alongside being in the physical space,” says Philip. “We’d like to maintain that wider audience that we found this year.”

An opportunity like this means that LSFF can retain the new audiences they have found thanks to being online.

people sitting on chairs on stage on a panel in front of audience
An LSFF panel discussion with a live audience from previous years

And, they can make their festival even more global than it already is. All with simple translated SRT format files.

“Despite this being the first year of online-only film festivals, LSFF is open to the idea of looking further into creating more digitally inclusive content,” says Philip. “Therefore, the longer-term opportunity for integration, translation, and live subtitling services made Subly stand out to us amongst other competitors.”

LSFF completed their latest 2021 Festival in February.

Want to discover how subtitling can help save your organisation time with automatic SRT files?

Try Subly today

Try full features for 7 days.

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