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4 Steps to Making Video Accessible to Foreign Audiences

Earlier this week, we spoke to Voquent about how businesses of all types can appeal to a global audience by making their video content available in multiple languages. We felt this valuable information had to be shared with our streaming customers so we put it all together below...


Everyone wants a bigger audience for their products or services, but to garner a global audience and to be successful you must first succeed at localisation

Successfully operating in a foreign market will require the careful localisation of the product or service itself, along with the key marketing, sales and supporting materials – which is frequently video content.

Whether you’re localising a product explainer for the German market, a video game in multiple languages or translating an animation from Japanese to English, the two most common methods used are captions or voice-over.

Captioning/subtitling is generally less expensive than voice-over because there is no need to hire or record acting talent. Arguably, voice-over is preferable because the audience is required to do less work (they don’t have to read lots of text). However according to MEC North America, 85% of Facebook video is watched without sound – so it’s still wise to subtitle video content in multiple languages, whether you choose to localise the voice-over or not. Subtitles are the most reliable and successful way to make your video accessible to foreign audiences. 

Here are the 4 steps required to subtitle your video in any foreign language:

1. Transcription

Transcription is normally the process of converting speech into text. If there is no speech, the on-screen text can be transcribed instead. At the transcription stage, it’s important to note the speaker names and to get clarification on the spelling of acronyms or technical terminology. Transcription can be sped up with Automatic Transcription Tools such as Happy Scribe, but the transcript will still need to be thoroughly proof-read and edited by a person. Technology isn’t quite there yet!

2. Spotting / Timestamping

Spotting or timestamping the transcript is the process of synchronising the transcript with the audio.

This requires breaking the transcript down into smaller sections between 2-6 seconds in duration. A verbatim transcript can often be too long to use as subtitles and will need condensing or summarising carefully to fit within character restrictions, whilst ensuring the meaning is the same.  

Character restrictions for subtitles can depend on where it’s being published. It’s important to check what the video player supports where it will be published/viewed. If the subtitles are ‘burned-in’ (i.e. permanently encoded into the video file), this can also make a difference. At Voquent, we don’t recommend going above 40 characters per line in Latin languages and 20 characters per line for Asian/Cyrillic languages. 

After the spotting work is complete it’s possible to create a caption file, such as an SRT. It’s always worth checking the captions against the video in a program like Subtitle Edit or just by adding the captions to the video on your video hosting platform. This way you can make any final amends before the translation work begins.

3. Translation

It’s important to give the translation agency the video file for reference. Don’t just send the caption file.

The video file gives context, and this is vitally important for an accurate translation. It’s also good to give the translation agency some creative freedom. Most written languages are 15% – 40% longer than English, and this means the foreign captions will require breaking down into smaller captions and/or some further condensing of the message. This applies even if it’s already been condensed from a verbatim transcript for subtitling!

The translation agency will be able to provide you with a translated caption file for approval, but it is also recommended that you get a video file with the captions burned-in as well. This will make it much easier to check and approve the subtitles at your side, particularly the timing.

4. Encoding / Delivery

After the subtitles have been approved, how they will be encoded and delivered will depend on your requirements, and whether open or closed captions are required. 

Open Captions: when subtitles are burned-in i.e. encoded into the video file itself and can’t be turned off.  Open Captions give you much more creative freedom to choose the font, colour and placement of the subtitles. 

Closed Captions: when the subtitles are in a text file format and can be turned off in the video player. 

With open captions, the subtitles will now be synced to the video using either subtitling software or video editing software, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Adobe After Effects. The video will then be encoded out with the subtitles burned-in in the preferred subtitling style. 

If you’re going with closed captions, you’ll get a subtitle document in a format such as SRT, STL or WebVTT. It’s important to check which file formats the video player supports, but SRT is the most widely used and is supported by most of the popular web players.

Voquent : Any Language. Any Accent.

This article was a collaboration with Voquent.
We recommend you visit their website for more information on their language & translation services.

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