A Guide to Video Localisation

By Ray S
August 16, 2021

More than 82% of all internet traffic will be video content by the end of 2022. But only around 25% of internet users speak English.

If your organisation uses video content, that’s a big discrepancy. And it’s going to start impacting your ability to reach your audience in the next few years.

It’s even more of a concern when you consider that, for over half of internet users, being able to access information in their native language is more important than price.

That’s why most of the biggest and most successful companies in the world use video localisation to reach their audiences. Because whatever industry you are in, if you want to reach your online audience with video content, you need to speak their language.

Luckily, the process of localising your videos is more accessible and cost-effective than it has ever been before.

What is video localisation?

Video localisation is the process of adapting video and multimedia content for the different cultural norms and expectations of specific regions or countries.

Localisation is much more than straightforward translation. Localising content involves adapting every aspect of it. The result should appear to have been designed for someone from a specific audience.

Local norms. Cultural touchstones. History. Customs. Etiquette. Regulations. Traditions. For effective localisation, all of these and more need to be considered.

Because most modern internet users – over 72% – spend all or most of their time online in their own language. If they can’t access content in the language they prefer, they don’t access it. Organisations around the world have begun to realise just how much this limits the reach of their expensive video content.

The process of video localisation can involve:

  • Providing localised subtitles, following local language and dialect preferences
  • Localising the audio with dubbing or voice-overs
  • Replacing idioms, colloquialisms, humour and other elements with local equivalents
  • Changing units of measurement to meet local norms
  • Adapting images and imagery to be more suitable for local audiences

Truly effective video localisation considers every aspect of a video. What is being seen on the screen. What is being heard. Even the cultural appropriateness and effectiveness of the underlying message.

Why is video localisation important?

1) Hail the all-conquering video

Video content is now seen as the leading conversion tool, leading consumers just discovering a brand to buy its goods or services.

That prevalence of video content – remember that well over four-fifths of all internet traffic will be video content by the end of 2022 – means that localising video is vital for all international brands.

It is slightly mind-blowing to consider that:

  1. 500+ hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  2. 14 billion video views occur every day on Facebook and Snapchat
  3. 2 billion YouTube users are active on the platform in any given month

2) Localised content will always be more effective

Videos have long proven themselves the most effective marketing channel. But that effectiveness drops away entirely when the language used in the video doesn’t match the preferences of your audience.

The best way to increase return on investment in video content is to localise it. This can massively expand a single video’s reach to huge new audiences – even when you only localise for one or two more languages.

3) It’s a winning combination

Over 87% of all businesses use video for either marketing or communications.

Multimedia advertising like this works because it appeals to the tastes of modern internet users. It overcomes attention spans that can be shorter. It starts and retains engagement. It cuts through the often overwhelming amount of chatter and options in the online space.

Whether you are an international brand, a start-up, an SME, or a non-profit, video content – and localising that video for specific global audiences – is a winning combination.

What are the different types of multimedia localisation?

There are several different ways that the audio parts of video content can be localised. Each has its advantages and shortcomings:

1) Subtitles

Subtitles are almost always a good idea when localising videos. Even if you also intend to have your content dubbed, transcreated or produce a voice-over, subtitles are a proven part of the best video marketing campaigns. Subtitles have numerous benefits when it comes to:

  1. SEO – allowing search engine spiders to find your video content.
  2. Message retention – several studies have shown that seeing your message in written form can reinforce it and cause your audience to retain it for longer.
  3. Time on video – subtitles have also been shown to increase the amount of time a viewer will watch a video for. Especially if it is in their first language. More than 40% of people will watch a subtitled video for longer. 80% more will watch it right the way through to the end.

The one potential downside of subtitles is that they can distract from the images being shown on the screen.

2) Captions

Subtitles are a written record of all of the spoken parts of a video audio track. Open and closed captions usually record all of the sounds present on an audio track. This might include referencing what music is playing, the song lyrics, background noises, sound effects, coughs, sneezes and more.

This is particularly useful for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. But captions can be great for all audiences. Especially when you consider that videos that autoplay on platforms like Facebook are often set to do so silently. Captions give a silent viewer a real taste of what they are missing out on.

3) Voice-over

If you’ve ever heard a news report with someone speaking in a foreign language and an interpretation being provided over the top at a slightly louder volume, you know what a voice-over sounds like.

A voice-over won’t match an actor’s on-screen performance. This is when dubbing should be used. But when the spoken voice is an off-screen narrator, a new voice-over in the target language is a key part of localising the content for a new audience. The original spoken performance can then be removed.

A voice-over can play an important role in content intended for audiences with a wider range of reading comprehension – places where reading subtitles may not be within reach of your entire viewership. The script for a new voice-over itself needs to be localised with a high degree of care.

4) Dubbing

Fully dubbing an audio performance replaces the original audio track with a new one. Like a voice-over, the dubbed track follows a carefully localised script.

Unlike a voice-over, that script is designed so that the new audio matches the performance of the actors on the screen. With lip-synced dubbing, this matching goes to the level of the lip movements the actors make.

Professionally dubbed content is highly effective. But it can also be the most expensive, requiring as it does potentially a whole new cast of vocal talent as well as the artful creation of a script that matches words in two different languages with one set of lip movements.

Major issues to consider when localising video content

1) Market research

In any localisation project, in-depth research and knowledge of your target market are vital. You need to know who your audience is. You need to know the language and dialect they speak. You need to know the sales and marketing strategies that work. You need to know about their culture.

This is the reason why Language Service Providers like Asian Absolute use native-speaking, often in-country specialists in all of our localisation projects. Because only someone who knows your target culture intimately can properly judge how natural the new version of your materials will appear to a native audience.

Proceeding without this kind of native-level knowledge is an easy way to waste your time and money.

2) A total or piecemeal approach

It’s not just the words on the screen or audio performance that need to be localised if you want your video content to properly connect with your new target audience.

Every aspect of your video – the colours you use, images and imagery in general, the tone, and much more – all need to be properly adapted for your new audience.

Trying to save by only localising certain aspects often results in a project that wastes money in the long run by failing to properly convert or inform.

3) Budget

Your budget will have a major role to play in what you can achieve with your localisation campaign. A fully dubbed – or even transcreated – performance, where scenes are re-shot and different imagery used, may not be within reach of every budget.

However, there may be smart ways to make your content more suitable for a given audience without that. Some content may be more suited to localising using only subtitles or subtitles and replacement voice-over.

The best solution is always to check that your Language Service Provider is a localisation expert and then ask them for advice as to the best approach with your budget in mind.

All video localisation costs also need to be measured against the huge benefits of extending your reach to a massive new audience of potentially millions of people.

4) Text or audio expansion

When materials are translated into a new language, it’s common for a given phrase to take up less or more space than before. For instance, when translating from English to German, it’s not uncommon for text to require 30% more space.

This can be a serious problem when text only has a certain amount of screen time before it disappears in order to match the video and audio performance. It can also be a problem when the words in a localised voice-over take longer to pronounce than the original.

This requires some careful adjustment. Either the new audio needs to be adapted to the pace of the video, or vice versa. Usually the latter.

This involves manipulating the speed of the scenes in the video track and calls for some additional expertise on the part of your LSP. Asian Absolute has this kind of expertise in-house. But not all translation companies do.

What is video transcreation?

There are times when your video content is completely unsuitable for your target audience. Sometimes the entire concept of a marketing campaign would fall flat. Sometimes it would be actively offensive to your new target audience.

In television and other forms of entertainment, a show can be re-written almost entirely for a new region – new cast, new setting, completely new script. This is sometimes referred to as “reversioning”.

In shorter video content and other forms of translation, it is often called transcreation – a mash-up of “translation” and “creation”, sometimes called creative translation.

The goal in transcreation is to retain the original message, tone, and intent while re-imagining every aspect of the delivery to be specifically designed for this target audience. Entirely new scripts, performances, and other aspects of content are created from fresh.

The process usually begins with a creative brief rather than the source content. Strategic marketing campaigns are the most common type of video content that needs to be transcreated. At least, if you want yours to make a real impact.

Successful video localisation best practices

1) Choose your target markets carefully

Some markets make excellent targets for localisation. They may have already demonstrated a demand for your content, services, or products. They may have no competitor presence.

Others are less attractive targets. They may have a limited spread of mobile devices capable of playing your video content, for instance. Or they might have a culture that your product or service is incompatible with.

Without proper research though, you will never know. Again, this makes working with local experts a priority for any localisation project.

2) Segment and target

Some types of video content may prove themselves to be particularly effective or in demand in certain regions. In these cases, it’s usually best to double down on this kind of video.

The alternative – trying to increase the penetration of other videos or products in these markets – is not always as successful.

Leverage your target audience’s touch-points to maximise your Return On Investment.

3) Have an optimised, cohesive strategy

Make sure that your approach – and your localisation efforts – are cohesive in each market you target. Your video content, website, and each of the marketing channels you use need to tell the same story.

To achieve this, you should use technology like Translation Memories – essentially automatically-referred-to databases of already-translated terms – as well as things like style guides and glossaries of terms.

Each aspect needs to have been carefully researched and localised so that it will properly reach and appeal to your local target audience.

4) Have clear objectives

What do you want your freshly localised video content to do for you? It’s always best to create a specific international multimedia strategy before you start.

Whatever your goals, understanding who your new target audience is and what you want from them is vital. Explore how they fit in with your goals. See what their preferred channels are and the ways they prefer to interact with your brand.

Outlining clear objectives and then properly researching the best ways to connect with your audience will maximise your ROI on your video localisation efforts.

5) Go beyond the video (with support, search, and social)

Don’t localise your video and expect it to do its work alone. The bare minimum of additional support you need to provide is:

  1. Search and social – proper SEO localisation is critical if you want your video to be found online. You can’t just directly translate your original keywords and expect them to work. You need to understand how social media works locally too – it’s bound to be different from your domestic market.
  2. Support – having no customer support available for new languages or cultures you are targeting is always a mistake. Imagine contacting a company and being replied to in broken or Google Translated English. Your confidence would not be high. Nor will that of your consumers.

But armed with this support, a proper strategy, clear objectives and a carefully chosen and segmented target market, you are on your way to getting the most from any video localisation project you need to start.

Not sure the best approach to localise your video content?

Let’s talk. Asian Absolute works with some of the biggest organisations in the world to target specific global audiences.

Contact us for a commitment-free chat. About your videos. And the audiences you want them to reach.