What You Need to Know When Considering Video Localisation

By Ray S
February 16, 2016
Are you struggling to keep your multilingual voiceover and subtitling costs within budget? In this article, we’ll take a look at the various options you might consider when you want to localise a video. Be it for an e-learning course, TV commercial, corporate video or a movie. In ascending order of cost, the most common […]

Are you struggling to keep your multilingual voiceover and subtitling costs within budget?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the various options you might consider when you want to localise a video. Be it for an e-learning course, TV commercial, corporate video or a movie.

In ascending order of cost, the most common techniques are:

  • Subtitling – translated text version of the original dialogues
  • Voiceover – a narrator translates what is being said while you can hear the original voices
  • Dubbing – voice artists record in their own language over the original voices

For all of these options, good preparation will help save you time and money. Let’s take a look at them all in a little more detail…How to choose voiceover talent and artists for dubbing It’s important to remember that voiceover artists are not translators. So before getting started on your recording, you’ll first need to get your script translated or transcreated (adapted creatively).

Here are four essential steps to follow in order to ensure your project runs as efficiently as possible:

1) Keep the number of voice talents and recording sessions to a minimum

Voice talents, recording engineers and language directors are highly skilled professionals and recording studios contain sophisticated equipment. Their time is expensive and generally subject to a minimum charge of an hour or more.

You can make your budget go further by recording all your audio in a single session and by limiting the number of different voice talents required.

Consider using the same voice for multiple characters, or use voice talents who can credibly deliver several different voices.

2) Define the voice/s you’re looking for

Writing up a brief which outlines your expectations will make it easier for your vendor to select suitable voices. It will also improve consistency between your colleagues during the casting process.

  • Define your ideal voice. What image and emotions do you want to convey? What tone? Get advice from your language supplier – they will help you determine the tone of voice which should be used to achieve the desired impact for each of your target markets
  • Outline your perfect profile. Are you looking for a male or female voice? Do you require any specific ethnic background or any particular type of accent? Should the voice sound like a child, a teenager, someone in his/her 20s, 40s, 70s etc.?
3) Shortlist the suitable voices
  1. Listen to voice samples. All professional voice talents will have ready-recorded samples that your language vendor can submit for your approval. If you have sufficient budget, you can also have your short-listed voice artists record a short sample of the translated script in your required register in order to confirm your decision.
  2. Select your preferred and back-up voices. We highly recommend that you select back-up voices in case your preferred voice talents are unable to attend the recording session due to changes in your project’s scheduling or illness.
4) Optimise the recording at the studio
  1. Allow room for improvisation. Translated scripts very rarely fit the timing of the original version exactly. To facilitate the synchronisation process – and save your time and money – you should give some flexibility to the voice artists to adapt the script as appropriate.
  2. Annotate the script. Before translation begins you should indicate the pronunciation for acronyms and proper nouns such as people, company and brand names.

Find out more about our voice-over/dubbing services

Subtitling – basic principles Subtitling is the most time and cost-effective way of localising video. Here are three aspects that you should take into consideration:

1) Request the type of subtitling that suits your project

While “closed subtitles” such as pre-rendered or soft subtitles can be turned on and off, “open subtitles” cannot be turned off. Making sure you choose the right type is key.

  • Pre-rendered subtitles are images (bmp or tiff) added to the video stream. These are often used in DVDs.
  • Soft subtitles are text-file based. This file, often in SubRip format (.srt file) contains both the subtitles and position markers based on timecode, which indicate the moment when each subtitle should be displayed. Text encoding friendly format will ensure that different scripts (such as the Latin alphabet or the characters which make up many Asian languages) can be supported simultaneously.
  • Hard subtitles, also known as open subtitles, are implemented during the editing of the video and cannot be removed. Such subtitles – often used when a video contains complex animation or effects – only allow for a single language.

Keep in mind that closed subtitles are most commonly used for multilingual translation subtitles.

2) Be aware of good subtitling practices
  • Subtitles should remain as “invisible” as possible. This is so that they don’t interfere with the viewer’s enjoyment of the video. Subtitles are usually displayed on two lines (rarely three), in line with the speech rhythm and in a font style and size intended to remain discreet. The number of characters that can be comfortably read per line of subtitles varies by language.
  • Good subtitling is not a literal translation! A good subtitle translator will adapt the translation to the target audience and to the technical aspects of subtitling:
    ◦ Idiomatic and cultural nuances will be rendered in the target language
    ◦ Whenever possible, source language and target language will be synchronized
    ◦ To keep the speech rhythm and syntactic units, dialogue may be condensed in the subtitles
    ◦ Repetitions and easily comprehensible phrases may not be subtitled
  • The subtitled video should be checked and edited by a second linguist. If you use different vendors for translation and subtitle production you should ensure that a native speaker of the target language checks the subtitles before broadcast. Changes are invariably needed.
3) Take the time to brief your vendor

A good brief on your expectations will help facilitate the production of foreign language subtitles to achieve your desired effect.

  • Reference material. Ideally, you should provide a copy of the video and the original script before translation starts, along with a glossary of unfamiliar or industry-specific nouns and references.
  • Brief on the target audience. Cultural norms vary and it may not be appropriate to replicate the same tone in the translated subtitles as is used in the original audio. Reading speed is not the same across all demographics and subtitles may need to be displayed on-screen for longer than normal.

Find out more about our subtitling services

A final tip: choose a reliable, cost-effective vendor If you’re thinking of localising video you should get advice from your language service provider, and see what solutions they can offer to help you save time and money.

At Asian Absolute we have the expertise to perform subtitling, voiceover and dubbing for almost all of the languages we can translate into, meaning that we can easily manage the entire localisation process for your videos or movies.