Video Production

A Guide To Translating Video Content

James Ritchie 07.18.2017

Companies today have not only a globally distributed customer base but a globally distributed workforce too. With such a broad swath of demographics to cover, it can be hard for businesses to reach an audience with so many different backgrounds while keeping the same level of engagement. With only 27% of web users speaking English, translating video content into another language – or multiple – is a smart way to reach a more global audience.

Translating your video can also further improve your SEO. While there is substantial competition for the most popular keywords in English, it takes less effort to climb the foreign language SEO rankings.

Video translation can be an important part of maintaining your company’s global presence, so let’s take a look at a few ways to go about it.

Translating Your Video Using Subtitles

Subtitles are the easiest way to translate your video. They allow you to put captions at the bottom of the screen in any desired language without having to change the audio. Subtitles can also increase viewership and engagement. Studies show that 80% more people watched videos to completion when subtitles appeared.

First, make sure you have a full transcript of your video in its primary language. Once that’s ready, you can start translating.

Here at IdeaRocket, we work with several partners – LanguageTran, CaptionMax, LingPerfect, StudioCenter – to translate scripts that fit our clients wants and needs. It’s important to work closely with a translator so that they understand the voice and context of the video. This ensures your message doesn’t get lost in translation – so to speak.

Once you have your translated script, the next step is to begin adding subtitles. Some video hosting platforms make this a breeze by providing an easy to use captioning feature.

On YouTube, you can upload your script and use that file to create your subtitles. The feature does a great job of allowing you to set the timing of each line of text so that you can control when and for how long it’s on the screen.

If you haven’t already translated your script, you can also use the Google translate feature, but that isn’t always the best option.

Google translate uses context words and phrases to choose the most probable translation, not the most natural or poetic. This means that although the translation may be accurate, it can come across as clunky and robotic. If you aren’t familiar with the language you’re translating into, this can lead to embarrassing mistakes that will make your video stick out like a sore thumb to native speakers.

At IdeaRocket, we provide our clients with .srt files that are compatible with their video hosting platform. A .srt file is a subtitle file extension that contains the start and end time codes of the text. They are stand alone text files that work in conjunction with the video data and have a simple to use format:

.srt subtitle file

You can go back into the file at any time to adjust the time codes to make sure the timing of the subtitles is to your liking. This is easy to do but can get monotonous to change the information in the file manually.

The fact that it’s a separate text file enables your viewers to turn closed captions on and off as they please. You can also have your video provider burn the subtitles onto the video file itself. This ensures that the subtitles are definitely on the video, but takes away the ability to turn them on and off.

Translating Your Video Using Voice Over

If you want to invest more resources in providing a more user-friendly translation, replacing the voice over is the next step. It takes more time and effort than subtitling, but in the end, it gives a nice polished touch to your video.

voice over recording mic

When replacing your voice over with another language, it’s best to get a native speaker as your voice actor. Native speakers know all the nuances and idioms that can be hard for non-native speakers to master when learning a new language. We use the voice acting casting service Voice123 to find voice actors that fit a project perfectly.

You should also account for different strains of languages when hiring a voice actor. The Spanish spoken in Mexico differs from the Spanish spoken in Spain. So if you are creating a video targeted toward the Mexican market, you would want to be sure to hire a Mexican voice actor rather than a Spanish one.

Like with subtitles, it’s again important to communicate with your voice actor to makes sure they know what your brand’s voice is. This helps recapture the same style from the original voice over.

It’s also good practice to get someone fluent in the language from your organization to look over the translation. This is advisable because organizations sometimes have their own customs that would be better represented when translated into certain words. Having someone who understands both the language you’re translating, and the culture of your organization is a major bonus.

Another aspect to consider is timing. You want the timing of the new voice over to be as close as possible to the original. Different languages don’t usually translate exactly word for word. Depending on the languages involved, the length might expand or contract, forcing the voice over actor to speak too quickly or leave long pauses of silence.

Translating Your Video’s On-Screen Visuals

When replacing the voice over, if your video incorporates on-screen text, you may want to think about changing those visuals. If you know that you want your video translated during pre-production, it’s best to limit any on-screen text, but often translation comes months after production has concluded.

The easiest and most cost-efficient answer is to provide subtitles at the bottom of the screen with the translated version of the text. This is easy and is only a matter of translating and making sure the timing is right.

translating video content chalkboard

The costlier option would be to update the artwork. This requires a lot more time and effort to translate the on-screen text and then go back and entirely replace it with the new translation. While this may seem easy enough, it can pose design problems.

When translating from English to Spanish or any other language that uses the Roman alphabet, the same artist that produced the original text can go back and use hand-lettering. However, translating to languages with alphabets that the artist isn’t familiar with is harder.

Drawing these characters (especially Asian letters) requires cultural fluency that non-native speakers can’t reproduce authentically. This is why we at IdeaRocket usually recommend replacing hand-lettering with type.

So What’s The Best Option for Translating Video Content?

Well, that all depends on your budget. If you have a small budget, it’s probably best to just stick to translating your script and making subtitles.

Prices of subtitles can also vary depending on the language. Captioning and Transcription services – like 3Play Media – can bill you $12.00 a minute for translating English to Spanish and $20.00 a minute for English to Chinese.

Replacing the voice over is more expensive due to the added charge of having to cast a voice actor on top of translating your script. It can get even more costly if you need to spend more time on lip syncing, but if done well, your video will look more professional.

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James Ritchie

Marketing Intern at Idea Rocket
James Ritchie is a rising junior at Tulane University and is currently an intern at IdeaRocket
James Ritchie

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