Video translation: 5 questions to ask before you start shooting

Published on July 14th, 2017

With any kind of translation project, you want to create the most cost-effective process. This is especially true for video translation, where poor planning can force you back into the recording studio for reshooting – an expensive way to go about things.

In an ideal world, you should know what your video translation requirements are before the film starts rolling. This way you can shoot your video with these needs in mind, ensuring that your footage is compatible the first time around.

To give you a better idea of why this is important, here are five video translation questions you should ask before you start shooting.

Question #1: Which languages are we targeting?

By knowing which languages you’re targeting before shooting (or, better yet, before writing your script) you can avoid a number of potential problems:

  • Using language that’s difficult to translate
  • Subtitles that change too rapidly
  • Subtitles that don’t fit on the screen
  • Voiceovers that sound unnaturally fast
  • Subtitles or voiceovers that overrun cuts/scenes

Most of this comes down to two things: translation complexity and language expansion/contraction. In some cases, you might find tweaking your script before shooting saves a lot of extra work later on in your project.

Question #2: Voiceover, subtitles or captions?

Once you know which languages you’re targeting, you’re in a better position to answer this question. This isn’t simply a stylistic choice, though, and there are various things to consider before making this call.

  • How much dialogue is there?
  • How important is the voice and acting of original cast members?
  • How many people are speaking at any one time?
  • Is there any in-story audio that also needs translating (eg: TV, radio shows, etc. in the background)?
  • Where will people see this video (eg: TV, online, in the workplace, etc.)?
  • Are we catering for deaf/hard-of-hearing audiences as well?

The goal with video translation is to make your footage as engaging and easy-to-understand as possible – for every target audience. Whether you go for voiceovers, subtitles or captions, your translation method should enhance the experience, not detract from it.

Question #3: Are there any cultural implications in our storyline?

This takes us outside the realm of video translation and into localisation. However, overlooking this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make with video campaigns for international audiences.

You want to be sure your footage is culturally sensitive to every target market. Which means scrutinising everything in your storyline, script and storyboard for any potential friction points. It could be an unintentional stereotype, historical reference or simply the wrong football shirt hanging on a wall.

Make the wrong call on video localisation and some audiences could write you off before they even notice how good or bad your translation is.

Question #4: Are there visual elements that also need translating?

A common trap many brands fall into is relying on visual elements that later prove tricky to translate. For example, showing a letter on-screen while a character/narrator reads it out. In most cases, the translations from English into other languages tend to be much longer, so the letter disappears and the scene moves on before the subtitles or voiceover have finished.

The same thing goes for quotes that appear on-screen – in text or extracts – from books, documents and other sources. Once again, giving these things too little screen time can cause problems. Likewise, having audio dialogue while text is on-screen can also make translation difficult. Do you translate the audio or the text? People can’t read two subtitles or listen to two voiceovers at once.

As always, planning ahead can avoid such problems.

Question #5: Do we remove or reshoot?

This is the big question. When you’re trying to create a video that appeals to multiple audiences, you have some decisions to make. Do you create one single video that caters to every audience or do you adapt different versions that resonate with each audience more directly?

There’s no perfect answer to this question but understanding the implications before you start means you can make the best decision for you. One video is certainly the cheaper option but you might find it’s worth investing extra to film certain scenes more than once to cater for different crowds.

Again, it’s the planning that’s key here. Choosing to film a few scenes multiple times is a far cry from being forced to reshoot them. Or worse, having to bin certain scenes entirely because they simply aren’t compatible with your translation needs.

Thinking about translation and localisation before any kind of project can save a whole bunch of time and money. Video production can be expensive as it is and adding unnecessary costs always hurts. Of course, we get plenty of businesses coming to us with completed footage, in need of our video translation services. This is fine, but we’re all about creating the best workflow here at translate plus and this is why we advise all our clients to think ahead on future projects.

If you need any advice on how to go about this, reach out to us on social media or pick up the phone and speak to one of our experts.

Posted on: July 14th, 2017