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Video translation: 5 challenges you need to be aware of before shooting

Published on November 26th, 2018

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Video marketing is crucial to international businesses, but creating footage for global audiences is no simple task. In many cases, you simply cannot use the same story for different audiences around the world and expect to get the same results everywhere. There are cultural, historical, geopolitical and all kinds of other factors besides language that can affect the way different audiences interpret the same piece of content.

For this article, though, we are going to focus specifically on translating a single video for multiple audiences – and five challenges you need to keep in mind before shooting. Otherwise, you could find yourself having to re-shoot parts of your video to make translation work.

#1: Text expansion for subtitles

If you are going to use subtitles for video translation, then you need to be aware of something called text expansion. This happens when a translated sentence is longer in your target language and the subtitle text takes up more space on the screen than you might realise.

This can have a number of consequences:

  • The text takes up too much of the screen, potentially blocking important visual elements.
  • You do not have enough space for more than one subtitle string on the screen at any one time (eg: during a conversation).
  • The text is too long for people to read before the next piece of dialogue begins.
  • Syncing subtitles to your video’s audio can become tricky in extreme cases.

Aside from looking unprofessional, bad cases of text expansion could make your video completely unwatchable.

#2: People can only read so much, so fast

As we briefly mentioned in the previous section, subtitles can sometimes be too long for people to read within a given time. Even if you are not dealing with text expansion, you may find long pieces of dialogue or sentences with complex words result in subtitles people simply cannot keep up with.

Bear this in mind when you are writing your scripts, because you do not want to have to go all the way back to this stage of the creative process and have to make changes after you have already shot scenes.

#3: Audio expansion for voice overs

Just as text expansion can be a problem for subtitles, a similar phenomenon can occur when you use voice overs to translate dialogue. If your translated sentences are 10% longer than their originals on average, this might not be a problem if you have only got the occasional piece of dialogue but this deficit will add up if there is a lot of speaking in your footage.

Imagine a translated conversation where every sentence adds another 10% difference between your footage and its translated audio. You are going to end up completely out of sync with people moving their lips in silence and talking with their mouths closed.

If you are going to use voiceovers, consider this during the filming and editing stages, so you can leave sufficient gaps between pieces of dialogue to allow for audio expansion.

#4: Dialogue clashes can kill translation

No matter how you approach video translation, this can be a tricky problem. People naturally talk over each other, interrupt and argue without giving each other the chance to finish what they are saying. So, whether you are including genuine conversations or scripting this into realistic dialogue, clashes are a common feature you will probably have to deal with sooner or later.

This can make issues such as text and audio expansion significantly worse and recreating the natural flow of conversations through voice overs can be tricky. There is no perfect solution to this but it always helps to be aware of the potential issue and consider reducing the risk of dialogue clashes to minimise any negative impact.

#5: Video translation can be distracting

The whole point of video content is to get your viewers watching your footage and engaging with its message. What you do not want is for your translation to get in the way of this and choosing the right method of translation is important here.

You need to decide whether subtitles are going to distract attention from important on-screen elements. If you have spent money on producing strong visuals and they are crucial to the impact of your message, you do not want to take people’s attention away from them. Likewise, if the fact that you are a foreign brand is an important part of your message (think French perfume or wine) then you might want to use subtitles so your native brand voice carries through.

In other cases, technical choices such as text expansion may decide which form of translation you choose.

The key to making video translation cost-effective is planning things in advance. You do not want to have to amend scripts, reshoot footage or cut out parts of your video because of technical issues that could have been avoided. Know which languages you need to translate for, understand the potential implications these could have and plan ahead to overcome these common video translation challenges with ease.

Contact our video translation team, who can help you manage this process and help your product go global.

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Posted on: November 26th, 2018