Preparing Your Video for Localization

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Localization is the process of adapting media for a particular target audience. That usually means subtitling/captioning or voice-over/dubbing the content to the target audience’s language, but also means shaping the content to the local cultural norms. For example, as mentioned in our localizing animation blog, a child not wanting to eat broccoli in the U.S. market is turned into a child not wanting to eat green bell peppers in Japan (children in Japan generally detest green bell peppers).

In this blog we will explore why it’s important to localize your video and how to best prepare your video for voice-over/dubbing and other general localization considerations.

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photo by Kelsey Knight

Why Localize?

Video localization is a great way to take your video and expand its outreach to a global community. If your content is only in English, you’re reaching only about 20% of the world’s population. For many international companies, localizing their videos is an essential part of their employee training and marketing strategy. Here are just a few types of video content that would greatly benefit from localization:

  • Corporate videos for internal use: year-end reports or announcements, employee and product training, etc…
  • Marketing videos: videos on a company’s website or YouTube channel highlighting products or services or providing product tutorials…
  • Commercials: videos promoting your products or services on TV and other paid advertising platforms…
  • Entertainment: animation, movies, TV shows, web series, etc…
  • E-learning programs: particularly popular during these times–educational videos or interactive learning software that can be accessed online.

As mentioned before, by adding subtitles/captions to your video, it will improve your video engagement and the likelihood that the video will show up on search engine results (search engine optimization). Voice-over and dubbing is great for child content and for making your content accessible to countries that prefer videos with voice-over/dubbing–Germany, Italy, China, and more–as opposed to subtitling.

black and silver microphone on black and white photography

photo by Gene Jeter

General Localization Considerations

Planning your video for localization as early on in the source video’s pre-production or production process will help make sure that when making the localized video, the transition goes more smoothly. Here are some more general best practices to prepare a video for localization–whether it’s subtitling/captioning or voice-over/dubbing:

  • Transcription: a transcript of all the dialogue in the video should be provided by the client or transcribed by the localization provider. This is then translated (unless translation is provided) to the target language(s).
  • Style guide (for subtitling & captioning): a client’s style guide includes what font style, font size, and character limits per line to use. This guide can also discuss how to approach acronyms, units of measurement, and other considerations.
  • On-screen titles: words that appear in the video (as a title, graphic, animated text, etc…) should be transcribed/translated as well unless they will be left in the original language.
  • Text expansion/contraction: when translating from one language to another, the text may get longer (expansion) or shorter (contraction). For e-learning programs, it’s important to allow space for text to expand when translating to another language. For videos, this may mean shortening the translation so that the meaning is still conveyed but adapted so that the text does not appear too quickly and is not visually too long (for subtitles) or fits the timing of the audio (for video).
  • Censorship: the target country may have particular censorship laws that require your content to change. For example, in Russia, vulgar language is censored for videos and as such, you may need to adapt the language in your video to something more culturally acceptable.

white chairs inside white room

photo by Juli Kosolapova

Getting Your Video Ready for Voice-over & Dubbing

Voice-over and dubbing are extremely popular forms of localization and the preferred methods for many countries. To get your video ready, here are some key tips:

  • Special terms: prepare a list of professional or industry-related words, non-translated terms, slang or any other terms that may have ambiguous pronunciation and provide a corresponding pronunciation guide. This list should also detail if non-translated terms should be spoken with the local accent.
  • Audio & video stems: provide audio and video files that are separated in categories like video, dialogue, music, sound effects, etc… Providing the separate stems allows the localization provider to replace the original language dialogue with the new target language voice-over/dubbing. In the case of UN-Style voice-over, the volume of the original dialogue track can be lowered to allow the translated voice-over to take precedent.  If the on-screen text titles will be translated, either provide editable source files or a clean video with no text.
  • Accents: consider and discuss how to cast people that are speaking in particular accents. Many times for corporate videos, a standard accent for the target country is perfectly fine (standard Chinese Mandarin accent for China, standard Latin American Spanish accent for Latin America, etc…). However, for entertainment, the original speaker may have a particular accent that adds character to the person speaking and as such, a voice actor with a culturally equivalent accent can be casted.
  • Choosing the right style of voice-over/dubbing: depending on your content and your audience, you can choose off-screen voice-over, UN-style voice-over, voice & dialogue replacement, or lip-sync dubbing. You can see examples here to see what works best for you.

In addition to the above considerations, you want to make sure that your project timeline allows for voice-over/dubbing. Transcription, translation, casting, voice-recording sessions, post-production, and quality assurance are all integral parts of the voice-over/dubbing production process and each step takes time to do well. As such, it’s important that you have the budget and time available to make sure that you have a successful voice-over/dubbed video.

As you can see from the above, video localization has a great deal of benefits: viewer engagement, SEO, and reaching a global audience. Having the mindset and preparation to localize your video early on will greatly affect how smoothly the localization process will be later down the road.


Download our free checklist below to make sure you get an accurate video localization quote!

Click to download JBI Studio’s Captioning, Subtitling & Video Localization Quote Checklist.

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