Marketing materials. eLearning modules. Technical support videos. Product tutorials. When your company goes global, these types of content will require multimedia localization to succeed in your target markets. When it comes to customer conversion and employee education, video is king. Unfortunately, multimedia content is also incredibly complicated to localize.
From translated scripts to voiceover management to screen capture, the multimedia localization process involves more steps than any other translation-related activity. In order for localization to succeed, you need to be aware of the following seven facts:
1. Not everything can (or should) be localized.
Before you begin thinking about localization, you need to do a thorough assessment of each piece of content to judge its adaptability. We’d be willing to bet that a good number of videos in your library might not be suitable for localization. If the content in your video would be culturally inappropriate or technically difficult to localize, there’s no reason to waste time and money on that process.
Unless you’ve worked in multimedia localization before, it might be hard to determine which videos are good candidates for localization and which ones are not. Where do you draw the line? In most cases, we’d advise against localizing content that contains:
- Images or videos of people in a personal, economic, or professional setting that could alienate your target audience in a new locale.
- Animations that clearly wouldn’t function in a language with a different grammatical system (i.e., animating each letter in a word or each word in a sentence).
- Iconography that’s not universal enough to convey your message cross-culturally.
From a technical perspective, it’s also imperative that your multimedia content contains text in a separate layer that can be easily extracted, exported, and translated. If you can’t pull up an XML or XLIFF file for each piece of content, you would spend untold hours manually extracting and copy-pasting all of that text.
2. You must prioritize terminology management.
Every localization best practices list should include term base technology front and center– especially when your content happens to involve multimedia elements. Terminology management is the foundation for consistent communication and comprehension in each of your target languages. Before you begin the highly complex process of multimedia localization, set aside the time to get your terminology straight.
You need to know which brand names must stay in English. You need to populate a list of key terms that relate to your product or service and specify how they’re used in each target language. And you need to have all of these branded, technical, and product-related terms approved by in-market reviewers before using them in any of your content. Leading localization partners have efficient ways of helping you to organize these critical knowledge bases.
3. Script and subtitle translations need to be bulletproof.
The first step in localizing a video is translating the script—or creating subtitles based on the original English words. Send your scripts through whatever localization engine you’re working with, and don’t skimp on the approval stage. Every single sentence of those files needs to earn the stamp of approval from a native speaker or in-market reviewer before moving on.
The reason script translation matters so much is because, after this step, you’d have to spend huge amounts of time and money to make alterations. Now is your opportunity to make changes to each script based on cultural norms or time constraints. It’s also a good opportunity to note any emotional underpinnings and tone objectives present in the original video, so your translators can infuse the new content with this same texture. No matter what, your scripts need to be fully finalized before you start the voiceover process.
Once your scripts are translated, note the total maximum duration of each clip using clear timecodes. This will help your voice actors stay on target when it comes time to record.
4. Voiceover management can make or break your process.
Many localization projects crash and burn due to poor voiceover management. Start early, choose a really experienced vendor, and plan ahead so that you can navigate this inherently chaotic process more smoothly. Above all, do not base your entire voiceover strategy on one or two superstar voice actors. Having a pool of talent available at all times will ensure that your multimedia localization project moves forward in a timely fashion without significant delay.
Of course, your audio engineers will perform any cleanup and equalization necessary at this stage in the process. But you also need to be prepared to perform QA by syncing the tracks with video and evaluating for fit. It’s much easier to re-record segments now than to engage your voice talent a second time later in the localization process.
5. Engineering will be more time-consuming than you expect.
The main reason multimedia localization is so time consuming and expensive is because it relies so heavily on engineers. They’re going to spend countless hours syncing voice tracks to video, implementing on-screen text translations and subtitles, and troubleshooting layouts and timing. You need to have really fantastic audiovisual engineers on staff or hire a good vendor who can handle all the heavy lifting in order for localization to work. And you’ll want to figure out some way to simplify your management of these localization tasks so you don’t waste time yourself.
Some engineering tasks will end up being way trickier than you might expect. Take screen captures, for example. If you’re creating a Korean-version support video for your software, your engineers will need to capture images and video of the Korean user interface for your content to make sense. Can they navigate the system successfully in Korean? Or could they automate that work to eliminate the complexity of navigating the system in a language they don’t speak? If you have killer engineers on hand, this relatively small problem won’t end up being more than a minor task on their to-do list.
6. Native-speaking reviewers are your saving grace.
At the end of the day, even if you have incredible translators, voice actors, and engineers working on your content, it’s likely that a few errors will emerge in the finished product. Murphy’s law always seems to apply more to multimedia localization than any other language-related project. One of the best ways to save your company from publishing sub-par content is to hire really capable in-market reviewers and allow them the time necessary to approve each piece of content. When you have a centralized localization management platform, it’s possible to connect all collaborators in one place to minimize unnecessary administration and to maximize content consistency.
Before rendering your video for distribution, make sure you leave enough time for QA. Your reviewers will tell you if the audio in your target language is getting cut off with each video clip. Or if a syncing issue is making a hilarious audio/visual pun that wasn’t supposed to be there. Use your reviewers to do a thorough QA review before publication, and you’ll avoid some of the biggest and most common localization mistakes.
7. Everything is easier with a good multimedia localization partner.
You need to know that not every vendor can cover everything you need for multimedia localization. Whether you’re working with an LSP, a voice talent vendor, a video editing team, or all three, be sure to clarify which steps in the localization process will be covered by your vendors. All told, the multimedia localization process can involve upwards of 10 unique steps for each piece of video content. If your established team can’t handle all of those interactions easily and smoothly, you might want to partner with a localization team who can.
When you work with a full-scale localization powerhouse that’s experienced in multimedia, you’ll reap the benefits of their best practices. You’ll also get to use the most advanced content localization management technology on the market. Building the right partnership can take the headache out of multimedia localization and leave you with a superior end product that converts users all over the world.
At Bureau Works, we see multimedia localization as the way of the future. Our industry-leading localization platform was built specifically with these types of complex projects in mind. We embedded tools for video QA and in-line review that make localization much faster and much more successful. Looking for 100% transparency and trackability with your multimedia localization process? Contact our team.
Written by Aaron Schliem
Aaron is the chief marketing officer for Bureau Works. He also loves to tickle the ivories and is a wiz at designing cocktails.