MULTIMEDIA LOCALIZATION: WHEN PICTURES DON’T TELL THE WHOLE STORY

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Marie-Claude Messier | Vice President, Business Development

Have you ever wanted to throw up your hands in frustration at an endlessly long set of instructions? Instead, you arm yourself with patience and religiously follow every single step, only to get to the end and realize: “That’s all there was to it?!” 

Surprisingly, the simplest things are sometimes the hardest to describe… simply. On the other hand, they’re very easy to demonstrate and imitate. In these cases, the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” couldn’t be more true. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the lexical value of a video with its 24 frames per second!

That instant “click,” combined with increasingly accessible video production techniques, explains why we can now find videos online about virtually anything—from how to apply eyeliner to how to build a nuclear fallout shelter to how to execute the perfect tennis serve. According to a report by Cisco Systems, a multinational company specializing in networks and information technology, by 2022, 3 trillion minutes of video content will cross the Internet each month. That’s 5 million years’ worth, or 1.1 million minutes of video streamed or downloaded every second!

This craze isn’t limited to the entertainment industry. Businesses are following suit at breakneck speed. According to Wyzowl, a U.S. video creation and production company, 86% of businesses now use video, up from 61% just five years ago. And contrary to popular belief, they don’t use it so much for advertising (41% of corporate videos) as to explain the various aspects of their products and services (71%). This isn’t a bad strategy when you consider Wyzowl’s finding that 96% of consumers watch videos to find out more about potential purchases, and that 84% of them then go on to buy the item in question.

Everything is fine and dandy as long as a company stays within its target market. But when it sets out to conquer foreign markets, it can come up against a language barrier. Yes, it’s true that pictures are priceless; but, paradoxically, they’re more effective when paired with words—otherwise, we’d still be making silent movies!  This is where localization—translation tailored to local audiences—comes into play.

Subtitling or narration?

A business that wants to reach other markets doesn’t have to produce a new video for each new customer. It can easily keep the visual aspects of the original video and modify the audio. But there’s more to it than just translating the script. The new words need to be conveyed in the right format. Subtitling and narration are two of the most common solutions available to businesses.

Subtitling is a relatively economical option, since it’s not very technical. It also preserves the original “flavour” of the video since viewers can still hear the speakers talking. The biggest challenge with subtitling is to synchronize the words on screen with the people talking. And depending on the length and content of the video, audiences can get tired of reading subtitles.

Narration is more expensive, but less disruptive; there are two types of narration. With the first type, viewers hear the speaker talking in their native language for a second or two before a voice-over takes over in the translated language. This creates the impression of simultaneous interpretation, since listeners can still hear the speaker’s voice in the original language like a faint background track. The second type of narration is dubbing A new voice in the translated language is added to the original soundtrack. Both types of localization are quite seamless for the audience, who can concentrate on what’s being said without any distraction.

When it comes to localizing a video, several other factors need to be considered, including:

  • Is the video a tutorial, a training session, a testimonial, an interview, a webinar, or a simulation?
  • Is the content general or highly technical?
  • Is the video animated or does it feature real people in real-life settings?
  • Does it include sound effects that you want to preserve, such as background music or noise?
  • Does it feature several speakers or just one?
  • Who is the target audience? The general public, employees, partners, or associates?
  • Why was video chosen over other forms of communication?

As you can see, in addition to cost and technical considerations, there are a few things to think about!  And just like you’d never wing it as a producer or a director, it’s best to leave your video localization to the experts.

Need advice or guidance to make sure your videos hit all the right notes with your target audiences? Give us a call. We’ll translate your challenges into solutions.

And if you’re looking for more information, don’t hesitate to check out our other blog posts, including What does it mean to work with a translation services partner?