Video localization: to subtitle or to voice-over?

Video localization: to subtitle or to voice-over?

Does your website have video content yet? Some studies indicate that over half of interviewed marketing professionals believe video to be the content type with the highest return on investment. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that YouTube is high on the list of content strategy improvements for many a marketer.

How to manage video localization on your international website?

If you manage a corporate site with more than one localized version, and you want to make sure your visitors have a great user experience no matter the language version they are watching, what is the best approach for video localization? Even though not doing anything is an option that I still see on some sites, I am going to narrow the options down to two: creating subtitles for your video on the one hand, and creating a voice-over recording for your video on the other.

Subtitles are a visual support that make sure the viewer (and reader!) understands what is being said. As the attention is divided between the subtitles and what’s going on on screen, subtitles need to comply with several rules in order for the video to still be “watchable”. The BBC has some very thorough guidelines here. As for the format, subtitles can be burnt in (they will always be visible, even if a viewer doesn’t want to see them) or be made available on-demand.

Voice-over allows for full attention of the viewer to what is happening on-screen, as the message is delivered in his/her own language. There are several types of voice-over recordings, with the most elaborate being dubbing (of movies and TV shows, for instance), where not only the message but also the intonation – and the original lip movements – of the speaker are imitated.

So, for the videos on your specific website – what’s my suggestion? It all depends on the nature of your video and the place(s) you are going to use it. And – let’s be honest – on your budget. Voice-over involves a lot more work and effort, and therefore is a lot pricier than subtitling.

What to consider when localizing your video content? 

To help you get on the right track, you could start by asking your self the following questions:

  1. Does your video have on-screen graphics and text? In that case, adding subtitles may be too distracting for the viewer. Voice-over recording is preferred. Also, keep in mind that you might want to translate the graphics and text.
  2. How many different voices are there in your original video? The more there are, the harder it will be to distinguish between the speakers when using subtitles. Voice-over recordings can be the better alternative here, especially when using skilled actors that can “do” different voices.
  3. Will your video be used at industry events or broadcast on TV? We would suggest creating voice-over recordings for those target markets that have a long history of dubbing (Germany, France, Italy and Spain, to name the big European examples), as viewers in those markets are not used to reading subtitles. For subtitling markets, it is best to create one burnt-in version per language as the visual quality is a lot higher, especially on larger screens.
  4. Are you planning to make your video only available on your site, and your YouTube channel? In that case, consider having just the original video up there, and add on-demand subtitles. No matter where your visitors are, they have the option to select and de-select any of the subtitle languages. Of all the options listed here, this is the less expensive one. And, if you’re interested in boosting your social rankings, it has the added benefit that all views will go to the same video. You can further improve your video’s ranking by applying video-specific SEO practices. This is a topic I will dive into later this year.

I hope you find this information useful. If I had had the time, a talented voice and the budget, I would have created a nice video about this topic. If you do have a nice video available, you can always share it with me so we can look into your options together.

If you would like to receive a concise set of subtitling guidelines, get in contact with us!

By | 2018-08-07T10:59:54+00:00 August 7th, 2018|Blog, Translation Industry Explained|

About the Author:

Key Account Manager Having studied functional linguistics and translation, it should come as no surprise that Adriaan has dedicated most of his professional life to languages, whether as a translator, a publishing assistant or, covering various in-house roles at language service providers. As Key Account Manager at Arancho Doc, Adriaan aims to optimize processes and develop new services for various multinationals. Outside the office, he spends most of his time cooking, listening to his vinyl collection or trying to serve his A game on the tennis court.

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