5 Questions to ask before you Translate and Localise a Video into a Foreign Language

1. Is My Video Suitable For Localisation?

Some video content produced for a US or UK market will not be suitable for distribution in some EMEA (European, Middle East and Africa) regions, but will be fine in Western Europe and most parts of Asia.

Localising the narrative of a script will need to ensure cultural idiosyncrasies for language nuances are translated in a sensitive manner to ensure the content is culturally correct for the target audience.

Consideration of the visual interpretation is as important as the narrative and you should always consider cultural, lifestyle differences and traditions in respect of the target language audience.

What’s my advice
If you are unsure about localising your video to certain regions, you should always ask a company who specialises in translation and localisation for advice.


2. Who Should I Contract To Translate And Localise The Script?

Localisation of media projects which will be shown in the public domain require qualified AVT (Audio Visual Translators) to not only translate and localise the script, but to also check the suitability of the visuals from an in-country perspective.

AVT translators are specialists in translating for the 3 modes of localisation which include, dubbing, voiceover and subtitling.

There are plenty of high quality translation agencies available to transcribe and translate the narrative, however, you should always check with your agency to ensure AVT qualified translators are commissioned to undertake both the translation and proof reading.

A professional AVT translation service will cost on average around 16-20 pence a word to include translation and independent proof reading. This rate is higher than a normal text based translation service which would partially use Machine Translation in the workflow.

What’s my advice
If you are happy with your localisation company, stay with them as you will have probably built up a solid working relationship and put in place workflows and quality procedures that work for you.

If not, source a new company by using a competitive tendering process and request 3 quotations to include detailed workflows to ensure you get the best deal.


3. What AVT Mode Do I Use For My Target Language – Dubs or Subs?

This option really depends on your content, target country and distribution channels.

For broadcasters using long form programmes there is an established code of practice of where and when to use the 3 AVT Modes: Dubbing, Voice Over and Subtitling.

In general, dubbing countries have larger populations including Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Smaller EMEA and Nordic countries favour subtitling.

Dubbing replaces the source language dialogue and soundtrack with a target language soundtrack, voiceover replaces the soundtrack with a single narrator voicing the translation as opposed to a whole cast of actors in dubbing. Subtitling will keep the original soundtrack and superimpose open captions onto the visual image.

For short form localisation, the jury is out on what AVT mode to use, with the prevalence of TV spots and promos now being distributed on-line there is a tendency to use a mix of both voiceover and subtitling.

Voiceover.Cafe has also seen a rapid increase in the use of multiple closed caption subtitling files being embedded into short form on-line marketing videos. The translated text included in the closed caption files is used as meta data to drive SEO, monitisation and harvest valuable analytics.

Companies like YouTube and Ooyala provide a marriage made in heaven for top marketers who specialise in video content.

Typically, a 30 second or 2 minute promo with subtitle files translated into the Top 10 on-line Languages can reach a potential audience of 3.4 Billion users if tagged correctly.

What’s my advice
Talk to your marketing experts and see what AVT modes have worked best for you in the past and maybe try some split testing. All media projects and content are different and for on-line campaigns, try to think out of the box.


4. Do I Need A ‘Transcreation’ Service?

‘Transcreation’ is a relatively new marketing term which relates to the process of translating and adapting a message from one language to another whilst maintaining it’s style, tone, intent and context.

There are many similarities between the terms Translation, Localisation & Transcreation when it comes to reversioning media content from a source to a target language.

In this post I use the term ‘Transcreation’ as a creative solution which is used by high end agencies to guarantee that a translation is not just text based, but will look at the design, style and feel of a media product to ensure it has the required impact, calls to action and subliminal messages needed to engage with each in-country target audience.

Major brands who use transcreation agencies will often start with a creative brief as opposed to a text based wish list when creating a multilingual marketing campaign.

Some companies I have worked with provide a transcreation service to shorten or adapt text based translations where language expansion is a problem for projects with a fixed timeline. As an example, if you translate a 3 minute English video with a fast paced Voiceover, a German translation of the voiceover recorded at the same pace would run between 4-5 minutes. Therefore, if the video has a fixed duration, the script will need shortening or adapting to match the 3 minute timing.

What’s my advice
If you need a transcreation service for a global campaign with a realistic budget, go to a high end creative agency in London and be prepared to pay by the hour for a quality service which will in all probability return excellent ROI.

If you just need a script shortened and adapted, then use a localisation or translation service who provide AVT qualified translators who will charge by the word count.


5. Is It Cost Effective To localise A Video Project?

I would always advise clients and production companies to build in a localisation strategy during the pre-production phases of a project.

By planning ahead it can be really cost effective to localise short form content as the only additional costs during post-production are for the script translation/transcreation, QA and generation of multi-lingual subtitles or voiceover recordings.

If the timings need to be consistent for TV Spots or fixed duration projects, then AVT translators need to work off a timed EMT (English Master Template) document, so all the subtitles and voiceover sequences for each language will be ‘timed to picture’ and relatively straight forward for editing.

Online video editors will only need to import each voiceover or subtitles into the project timeline with minimal visual trimming for creating each localised master version.

Editors should always save and back up the English or source master programme with a clean video version without dialogue and a separate M+E track so that if the client wanted to localise the video into a new language at a later date, the costs would be minimal as the clean assets are available.

What’s my advice
Costs for translating short form video projects should be in the region of around £300.00 per language to include transcription, translation, proofreading, voiceover recording and a final QA.  A ‘timed to picture’ transcreation service if required for dealing with target languages where text expansion becomes problematic would be around 20% more expensive.

Subtitles would be in the region of £100.00 per language as this would be the minimum fee for most companies.


If you found this post interesting, please feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues.

All comments are always appreciated and I am really interested in your personal interpretation of the term ‘Transcreation’

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