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5 Tips to Make Your Video Localization Project Go Smoothly

With the rise of digital video over the past few decades, the ability for almost anyone to create a high-quality, broadcast-ready video on any topic they’re passionate about has increased, to the point where digitally recording nearly every aspect—no matter how mundane—of one’s day to day life has gone from a hobby shared by a select few to a full blown career for many around the world.

One thing that has remained challenging through to the current day, however, is translating videos into other languages. Sure, being able to view and repeat the video itself has become much simpler when dealing with computers, rather than video tape. But the process itself has stayed fairly unchanged:

  1. Transcribe the video’s audio track(s)
  2. Translate the transcription into whichever languages are needed
  3. Reintegrate the translation back into the original video (e.g., through subtitles) using timestamps to match the translations up with the original spoken text

Additional challenges come from the fact that text transcribed from a video, unlike text written as pure text (such as literature) requires constantly checking the original source video for context. Translators may need to know the gender of a person being spoken to in order to use the correct pronouns, articles, and so on in their translation, and this information may not be included as part of the transcribed, spoken words. This means in addition to translating the text, the translator will need to have access to the source video as well in order to check for these context clues.

Is there anything that can be done to make video localization go more smoothly?

The good news is, yes, there are a few things you can do to save yourself time (and money) when ordering video translation services. You can make your translators’ lives easier, and your own as well, but keeping in mind a few simple guidelines to ensure your translation goes quickly and smoothly.

Tip #1: Keep the medium in mind.

Today, there are so many platforms available for people to view your video on, it will be good to keep them in mind when preparing the translations. For example:

  • If your video will be available on DVD or Blu-ray, you will need to include subtitles in a special, time-coded format so that they can be decoded and displayed properly on television.
  • If your video will be projected at a festival or other public space, you may want to “burn in” the subtitles so that you don’t have to rely on the projectionist to set it up properly on your behalf.
  • And if your video will appear on the internet, you’ll want a “blank slate” version available so that you can upload the subtitles to be displayed by whichever platform it’s viewed on.

Tip #2: Consider voiceover and dubbing, where appropriate.

While dubbing an entire video may be seem like the most straight-forward way to keep things simple for your audience, it can quickly get expensive as it requires hiring multiple voice over artists and then editing their audio into the original video—and editing the original video’s audio to accommodate the change in room noise, music levels, and so on.

You may want to consider doing a half-and-half route: if your video has narration, you can get good results by having the voice over rerecorded in additional languages, and providing subtitles for all other speakers and translated text in your video. This will also save the amount of information your viewers have to take in themselves, leading to better overall comprehension.

Tip #3: Don’t forget to translate the “meta” information.

No matter where your video ultimately ends up, chances are there will be some peripheral information you’ll want to have translated as well. If you have these translations done at the same time, and by the same translators, that work on your video’s translation, you’ll end up with a better, more cohesive completed translation.

For videos posted to the internet, include the following text as part of your translation project:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Keywords

For videos released on DVD or Blu-ray, or videos that will be broadcast on television or played in theaters, include the following text as part of your translation project:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Reviews/comments
  • Promotional/marketing materials

Think about anything else relate to your video you may wanted translated, and be sure to include it the first time to save yourself money and additional headaches down the road.

Tip #4: Be consistent in your text placement.

Viewers reading your translated text will have a better chance of getting your message if their brains don’t have to think too hard. This means that by using simple patterns that the brain can come to rely on, your viewers will have a better chance of internalizing your translated text.

One of the best ways to do this is through consistency in the placement of subtitles and other translated text. If you always display translations in the bottom third of the screen, viewers won’t constantly have to dart their eyes around the screen in order to catch the next bit of text.

And while it can be tempting to add translated versions of text displayed in the video (i.e., signage, names of interviewees, etc.), this can quickly lead to information overload for your viewers, who have to make split-second decisions on what information to read first—and hope they have enough time to take it all in. Keep all translated text in the same section and you can avoid these issues entirely.

Tip #5: Make sure speech in your video is slow enough to accommodate reading subtitles.

Not everyone is a speed reader, and being able to both read and comprehend text that’s flashing by quickly can be challenging for almost anyone. And the fact is, it’s simply faster to process and understand information that’s spoken to us than it is to read it.

Combine fast-talking speakers with the need to interpret the images on screen at the same time, and you could quickly have a recipe for disaster when it comes to video translation.

To get around this, do everything you can to keep the rate of spoken words to a minimum, and build in some extra padding where possible during the editing process to make sure that your viewers have enough time to read and linger on screen a bit so your translated text can not only be read, but understood.

And that’s it! So the next time you need to have your video content localized, keep these five simple steps in mind and be amazed at what a difference it will make!

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