Video translation: How to translate video content the right way

Published on February 22nd, 2018

video translation

In the modern days of auto-generated subtitles on YouTube, it’s easy to think video translation is a simple enough task. If you’ve ever relied on technology to translate your content, though, you’ll know it fails to deliver the kind of accuracy you need as a reputable business.

This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, either. Video translation is a complex process that normally requires an entire team of language, audio and video experts to turn your footage into a video suitable for multilingual audiences. In this article, we’re going to summarise this process as briefly as we can so you can understand what it takes to translate video content the right way.


Get professional translators

There’s not much room for compromise on this one. The first thing you should do with any video translation project is get a team of language pros on your side. Every language you’re targeting will bring unique challenges to your project so you’ll need a dedicated translator for each of them.

What you’re looking for is translators that are both fluent in the language of your source material and your target language. So if you’re translating from English into various languages, each translator will translate from English into one of your chosen languages. You’ll never translate your content from English into French and then from French into Spanish.


Choose your format

Next, you need to decide how you’re going to format your video translation: voice overs, subtitles, captions or a combination of them. There’s quite a lot to consider here, too. The reason subtitles work so well with cinema is because they don’t get in the way of actors’ performances – something you might want to consider if characters or speakers’ personalities need to come through in your footage.

On the other hand, voice overs allow viewers to focus on the footage of your video instead of reading text on the screen, which can be important for visually-orientated videos.

There are various other factors to consider when making this choice

video translation

The video translation process

Different agencies may have their own different processes for translating video content but the priority should always be ensuring 100% accuracy.


  1. Transcribe: The first stage of translating video is to transcribe all the dialogue and relevant on-screen text in your footage. This will be used to create your voice over scripts or subtitle/closed caption files.
  2. Translate: This is where the transcription of your video is translated into each target language. These translations will also be in text format
  3. Create your translation files: For subtitles or closed captions, this is where your translations are hard-coded into subtitle files that media players will display as your footage plays. For voice overs, your voice actors will be hitting the recording studio to turn your translated scripts into engaging dialogue.
  4. Timestamp: Once your video translation files are finished, it’s time for your video editors to timestamp your footage. This ensures your voice overs, subtitles and captions are in sync with your video.
  5. Video editing: Finally, your translated files are integrated into your video file. This might result in separate videos for each target language or involve a language selection menu similar to the kind of thing you see on Blu-rays, depending on your needs.


That’s a drastic oversimplification of the process but it gives you an idea of what’s involved. Something we didn’t include of that list is quality check because this should happen at the end of every stage. The only way to guarantee video translation quality is a multi-step quality check at the end of every stage of the process, especially when you have multiple teams handling different stages of your project.

There are other potential steps that could be needed for any given project, too. In some cases, your video footage might need to be localised so that units, monetary values, dates and other details are relevant to local audiences.

You could even find your video needs to be culturalised to make it more relevant to certain audiences. For example, those Brexit references you keep making might not have the same impact on overseas audiences, or – more to the point – you could be overlooking topics that are more important to your target audience.

If you’re translating video advertisements, there’s a good chance video translation won’t be enough to capture the same kind of meaning or impact in another language. With creative content and marketing material you’ll often need to use transcreation instead, which takes a more flexible approach to translation with the aim of recreating the impact of your video in another language, even if the specific meaning might change.


That’s about as quickly as we can summarise the video translation process. Luckily, each project gets easier the more you work with a team of language pros or an agency. This will speed up the process and help you maintain brand voice in every project that follows. If you need any more details on how to translate video content, get in touch with our team of language and media experts today.

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018