Video translation: how to create a localization-friendly source

Video translation: how to create a localization-friendly source

Do you use video to educate and inform your international audiences? According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast, the shift to video will continue to accelerate. Video makes up 82% of all website traffic. Currently, YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world after Google. The benefits of video for demonstration and training purposes are obvious. Video shows processes in a way that still images and text simply cannot. To reach an international audience, video translation and localization are musts.

Video that has been created with localization in mind creates fewer headaches during the translation process. For successful video translation, take culture, visual design, audio, and pacing into account to create a localization-friendly source. If you treat localization as an afterthought, you will run into trouble.

Step 1: Take culture into account

Always start from a finished, vetted script and storyboardin your source language. Keep in mind that these elements will be used when your localization partner syncs the audio and the visuals.

  • Submit storyboard and script for cultural review BEFORE you start shooting. Certain images, jokes, and concepts might fall flat with the target audience. The goal of a cultural review is to identify and remove or replace offensive or confusing elements to create a “culture-neutral” source video. Unless you are a member of a culture, you can’t always predict what is going to look or sound bad! A good cultural reviewer will be conservative in flagging problems.

Did you know?

Korean newscaster pointing out Bill Gates’ faux pas

Step 2: Design for localization

  • Limit onscreen text. Use icons instead of words whenever you can.
  • Keep the bottom of the screen clear and uncluttered. If you plan to use subtitles, this is where they will appear, and you don’t want to obscure them.
  • For truly translation-friendly video, try to limit the use of words overall, if you can. Fewer words = easier localization. However, you want to be absolutely sure that the images you use to convey meaning have universal appeal.

Step 3: Voiceovers or subtitles?

  • Subtitles are less expensive than voice-overs, because voice-overs require professional recording by voice talent. However, as TTS (text to speech) technology improves, it may be appropriate for some types of videos.
  • Voice-over can be the better choice if you want the viewer to focus closely on the screen images. This is especially true of “how-to” or training videos.
  • If you plan to use voice-overs, limit the amount of on-screen speech by characters or talking heads. Lip-synching (dubbing) is expensive and time-consuming. Offscreen narration is easier to localize.
  • If you use voice-overs, be prepared to provide guidance on pronunciation of names and acronyms.

Step 4: Pacing and syncing for localization

  • Don’t include too many sync points (places where words and visuals need to align perfectly). Sentences in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese are structured differently than English.  If you get too fancy with your animation you will need lots of sync points. More sync points mean more time and expense to line up the voice-overs (or subtitles) with the on-screen animation. This will increase your video translation costs. If it’s absolutely necessary, consider a slower pace and use onscreen images/icons to make the point.
  • If you use voice-overs, slow down the pacing of the source video. It takes longer to say something in most western European languages than it does in English. Don’t make the voiceover talent “speed read” the narration in order to keep up with the images. Slowing the pace is particularly important for demonstrations of equipment or machines. You may want to keep the pace lively, to hold the viewer’s attention, but speed WILL throw a wrench into the translation process.

In conclusion,

It’s always best to have a conversation with your localization team before you start a video translation project, and keep the lines of communication open as the process unfolds. Creating a localization-friendly source video will ease translation and localization, saving time and money.