Audio and video localization, dubbing, and subtitles: how to make a video clear to a foreign audience

If you need to translate a video, there are at least four ways to do this: localization, creating a new voiceover, dubbing, and subtitles. Let's look at the specifics, advantages, and disadvantages of each option.

Video localization

Localization is the most complete option for translating a video. When a video is localized, changes are made to both the audio (translation of the text, dubbing of the speaker, new editing of the music and background sounds) and video (translation of on-screen text, changing the playback speed of the episodes to match the new voice acting) tracks.

Here is a classic example of video localization: the original English-language video has been fully translated into Russian and Chinese.

This is usually how videos are usually localized at Alconost.

First we transcribe the narration, translate it, and, if necessary, we adapt the translation and record the voiceover track in the new language.

Then we translate and replace all the text elements in the video track and, if necessary, we update the screenshots or video captures and synchronize the video with the new voiceover track.

Then we edit the music and sound effects again, combine both tracks, and the localization is ready!

For best results when localizing a video, the source files are required.

What is the source clip and what is it for

The video source file consists of hundreds, if not thousands, of components: multilayered graphic files, logos, screenshots, 3D models, animated effects, the movement paths of all objects, the voiceover track, the musical accompaniment, and much more.

The contents of one video may be stored in multiple projects. For example, one project may only contain the original graphics, whereas the second one contains only the 3D elements, the third has the animation elements, and the fourth contains music and sound effects. All of these components may be edited and combined in a fifth project. All five projects are required for localization.

In some cases it is possible to localize a video without the source files. But the quality of the result will depend on the particular clip and on what changes you plan to make.

Why you need to replace video elements during localization

Replacing text elements is a relevant step for all types of videos, but it is especially so for video infographics, where most of the video's semantic load is carried by charts and by textual explanations of their significance.

The text must be replaced in video presentations if they contain scenes where the functions or advantages of the products are presented as a list.

Here's an example where the captions that accompany the video clip are critical to understanding the meaning of the video.

When you localize a video clip about an app, service, or site, it is important to consider whether the product itself will be localized into the language of the future video. If so, it is advisable to retake the screenshots or video screen captures that are used to demonstrate the product in use. By doing this, you will be unobtrusively informing viewers of an important fact: the product is available in their native language!

Here is an example of a localized video about a service where the screenshots have been replaced:

And here is a analogous example involving video clips for games. It would be logical if the language of the game interface in the video captures matched the language into which the video has been localized. In addition, it may be necessary to replace the logo in the game video if the game is being released with a localized name in a new market.

Here is an example of a localized video about a game where the logo has been replaced:

Why you need to change the lengths of scenes during localization

When the narration is translated into a foreign language and the native speaker voiceover artist is recorded, one labor-intensive, but important video localization step must be performed: the video and new voiceover tracks must be synchronized.

Synchronization can be done in one of two ways. The first is to adapt the voiceover to the video track. In order to achieve synchronization, the length of each translated line must be limited to a certain number of characters during translation, and the voiceover artist must respect time limits during the recording. Sometimes this produces a good result, and sometimes it is less than satisfactory. If the translated voiceover is shorter than the original, inappropriate pauses may appear in the narration track. But if the translation needs to be cut to fit into the available time, part of the meaning of the text may be lost.

In fact, this first means of synchronization is an example of re-voicing a clip, rather than of complete video localization.

The second method for synchronization is to adjust the video clip to the voiceover. In this case, you need to accelerate or slow down the scenes in the video track, making the localization process more technically complex. But the result is a harmonious video, in which the audio track is perfectly balanced with the visuals. There are no inappropriate pauses, no overlaps, and no distortion of the meaning.

We prefer the second method.

Take a look for yourself: when localizing a clip from English to German the video became 11 seconds longer, but thanks to an adjustment to the length of the scenes, the narration now perfectly coincides with the animation.

To speed up or slow down the scenes in videos with animated graphics, you only need the video project. And for videos with live footage, you may need additional source files for the extended episode (in other words, the version before editing).

Full localization helps make the video seem "native" in the eyes of a foreign audience. But if you don't have the source video, a couple of weeks' time, and a good budget (yes, video localization is not cheap), you can do new voiceovers, dubbing, or subtitles.

Creating a new voiceover or dubbing the video

Creating a new voiceover or dubbing represent simplified options for localizing a video that involve only making changes to the audio track. These options do not require the source files and take less time and money in comparison with localization.

Creating a new voiceover for a video involves completely replacing the entire audio track. When you decide to record a completely new voiceover track for a video, a professional voice artist who is a native speaker of the target language will provide the recording. A new music track and new sound effects will also be added.

Dubbing the video is a more economical version of providing a new voiceover track. When dubbing, the new narrator's audio track will be superimposed over the existing video, and the volume of the original track will be lowered. The original music and sound effects are preserved.

One disadvantage of recording a new voiceover or dubbing a video is that all visible on-screen text remains unchanged and the duration of episodes is not changed, which is why the new voiceover track may not be synchronized completely accurately with the video.

However, if you need your video translated as quickly and cheaply as possible, then there remains another option — subtitles.

Creating subtitles

Subtitles are often sufficient for simple projects or modest budgets. When you create subtitles, then usually only the narrator's lines are translated.

Here is what it takes to create subtitles.

  • Transcribe the text of the clip.

    That is, transform the spoken text into a printed text.

  • Translate the text of the voiceover.

    Sometimes the translation needs to be cut a little, so that the viewer has a chance to read the text accompanying a particular episode.

  • Synchronizing the translation with the video clip.

    To achieve this, the translation is broken into fragments consisting of 5-15 words each; each piece is assigned a time code (the time when each sentence appears and disappears). Synchronization is necessary so that each phrase in the subtitles matches either the "native" voiceover or a corresponding action on the screen.

It is best not to burn the prepared subtitles into the video. Rather, they should be saved as a separate file (for example, with the extension SRT or TXT). After all, Youtube's interface allows you to add subtitles with translations to already published videos: this means that you don't have to re-upload a new version of your clip, and then collect more views and likes for the new video.

Although subtitles distract attention away from the action in your video (the viewer has to read them, preventing them from sitting back and enjoying the video), they mechanically block part of the screen, and they prevent those viewers who are not used to them from getting immersed in the video, they also have their advantages. Subtitles can be produced quickly, are relatively inexpensive, can be easily implemented, and are easy to translate into other languages.

Both the advantages and disadvantages of subtitles can be clearly seen in these English-language videos, in which Russian subtitles have been added (do not forget to click on the gear icon in the bottom right corner and to turn on Russian subtitles).

Calculating the cost and ordering a video translation

The team here at Alconost is ready to work on your localization, new voiceover, dubbing, and subtitle projects in any foreign language. Feel free to contact us!

When requesting a quote for a video localization project, please check whether you have the source clip and exactly what changes you want to make.

The cost of translating the video depends on the project scope, the availability and quality of the source file, and the total duration of the video. The price is calculated individually for each order.

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