Audio Visual Localization

by | Jul 11, 2019

If you have been in localization for a while, you probably agree that some industries are more challenging than others when it comes to translation and all the processes behind the scenes. One of these industries is Media Localization, so in this article we want to focus specifically on Audiovisual Localization, which deals with media types like commercials, explainer videos, e-learning, corporate films, or visual effects for cinema and TV.

There are many aspects to consider in the localization process of audiovisuals, like a time-coded translation of the script, the talent of the voice-over artist, or cultural nuances. If one component doesn’t go according to plan, it impacts the entire project and can cost the client a lot of money.

So what makes Audiovisual Localization so complicated? Let’s dive in.

Challenges of Audiovisual Localization

Matching length

One of the biggest challenges in Audiovisual Localization is that all translations must match the length of the master. Naturally some languages are longer than others so translators obviously ask for more time, for “just 2 more seconds.” But length is non-negotiable since “just 2 seconds” can mean animations need to be extended and re-rendered. The project has to go back to the motion designer which then changes the whole video. Along with all the extra work obviously comes additional cost and in return probably an angry client as two seconds might amount to €10k.

Cultural understanding

Video production companies have no choice but to fully rely on their language service provider to have a good cultural understanding of the target region. True localization includes more than just translation. You might have to think about whether your voice-over actor should be male or female, whether there are any animations that need to be adapted, like street signs or license plates, or whether background sounds should sound more like “walla, walla” or “rhubarb, rhubarb.”

Technical file formats

From a more technical perspective one issue that service providers in Audio Visual Localization are facing is that there is no framework for file formats. Unlike other industries that use XLIFF, there is no format to standardize the passing of data to and from tools during each step of the process. Animations are adapted in Adobe After Effects which uses XML, for audio engineering tools like Nuendo can be used with CSV files, and the good old subtitles are handled in SRT format. These are only a few, but as you can see there is a lot of converting going on during the localization process of media files.

The key to audiovisual localization: planning ahead!

Although you should never start any work before picture lock, which means the editing phase has been completed, it is essential for translation providers to be involved in planning right from the start. After the picture lock starts the spotting, in which stage time stamps are created to determine where text is located. For every single piece of text the language service provider needs to have a timecode-in and timecode-out, meaning when does the text start and when does it end. Connecting time and text allows for time-coded translations of scripts and saves time in the long term.

In a perfect world, media production companies would think about localization from the get-go. We all know that oftentimes this is not the case but if content was produced with localization in mind most of the above mentioned challenges could be handled accordingly before they turn into problems.

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