What You Must Know About Voice-Over & Video Localization for Podcasts

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You probably listen to them while commuting, working out or washing the dishes. You may even “binge” them, or devour new episodes the minute they drop. Of course, we’re talking about podcasts, which have experienced a huge boom in the last few years – and are quickly becoming a common request for voice-over & video localization. What do you need to know to produce high-quality localized podcasts?

This post details what producers and multimedia localization professionals must know for podcast localization.

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How prevalent are podcasts in voice-over and video localization?

Podcast localization isn’t a huge segment of the industry yet. But professional post-production localization studios are seeing a marked increase in requests. And this, of course, just mirrors the huge rise in the number of podcasts, and podcast listeners, during the past decade.

According to the 2018 Infinite Dial Study co-authored by Edison Research and Triton Digital, approximately 48 million Americans listen to podcasts every week. That’s a 14% rise from 2017 alone. And the number of monthly listeners is even higher – approximately 73 million.

And of course, ad revenues from podcasting are seeing an increase as well. According to the IAB/PwC Podcast Advertising Revenue Study, ad revenues went up 86% from 2016 to 2017. Moreover, the study predicts that they’ll go up 110% from 2017 to 2020.

This is precisely why multimedia localization professionals and producers should expect a corresponding rise in podcast requests. In fact, we’re seeing the first signs of it. Here’s how to prepare.

Voice-over localization options for podcasts

Most podcasts are audio-only, and that’s part of what makes them so accessible. Listeners can consume them in situations that wouldn’t lend themselves to other kinds of media. For example, you can listen to a podcast while driving to work, but certainly not watch an episode of a TV show. Correspondingly, the three main options for podcasts are standard audio translation services.

Close-up of desktop microphone used for podcast voice-over localization.

1. Re-recording the voice-over audio with UN-Style.

UN-style voice-over is generally associated with video dubbing, but it’s also a great voice-over localization option for audio that features real people in interviews or in discussions of current affairs, or which features subject-matter experts. Why? Because this format retains the authenticity of the source content, since it leaves the English-language audio low in the background. In fact, it’s already the standard for radio news broadcasts.

It’s also a cost-effective option, since most UN-Style is done with 2 talents – 1 female talent for all female speakers in the source audio, and 1 male for all male speakers. Keep in mind, however, that because audio podcasts don’t have any visual reference to separate speakers, you may want to use multiple foreign-language voice talents for content that features many speakers interacting with each other, like a current events show with panelists.

Finally, remember that many podcasts are recorded in the field, or by patching in speakers via Skype or another web-based communications tool. For this reason, editors may not have voice tracks with full separation, nor stand-alone music & effects tracks. Make sure to take this into account in any podcast localization post-production workflow.

2. Re-creating the voice-over audio from scratch.

This is a good choice for podcasts that don’t revolve around a particular speaker or personality, like educational or informational shows – for example, a math lessons podcast, or a corporate update podcast that doesn’t include interviews. Both of these could be re-recorded from scratch – without retaining any of the original English audio – and not lose what makes them valuable to their respective audiences. Moreover, because the audio in this workflow is untimed, the studio sessions are generally more cost-effective, and script translation accuracy is higher since no editing for timing is required. Keep in mind, however, that this option is limited since such a large number of podcasts do rely on hosts, interviews and panels.

3. In-studio interpretation.

In-studio interpretation is a cost-effective option for large suites of audio or video. It also has a very rapid workflow since it doesn’t require script translation. That makes it particularly suitable for time-sensitive content like current events or news podcasts, especially ones that have longer episodes. However, keep three things in mind with this service. First, the translation accuracy won’t be as high as on a standard workflow since this service uses on-the-spot interpretation. Second, it’s generally limited to one talent per production, which may be an issue for podcasts with many interacting voices. And third, this service is most cost-effective for large suites of content, and may require episode bundling to be truly beneficial.

For more information on this service, see our previous blog post, In-Studio Interpretation: Quick, Cost-Effective Audio & Video Localization.

What to do for video podcasts?

Some podcasts also have a video component, though this is not very common because it makes these shows less accessible than audio-only content. If you have a video podcast, the standard video localization options are available, including dubbing, subtitling and in-studio interpretation. Keep in mind, though, that most video podcasts won’t have the same production processes as corporate or entertainment videos – as with audio podcasts, you may not get separate music & effects files for dubbing, for example. In short, make sure you understand what components are available for the final mix and integration to video before starting localization.

Customized quoting is critical for podcasts

Finally, remember that despite its prevalence, podcasting is still relatively new. There aren’t set best practices or production workflows for this content. And, more to the point, the rise of podcasting has been accompanied by an explosion of creativity in audio production. Shows vary in terms of content, sound design and approaches to narrative – sometimes in radical ways. So make sure to create a customized localization plan for each project, one that takes into account your podcast’s format, voice audio needs, budget and audience expectations. JBI Studios can help with this, of course. A customized approach is the best way to make sure you deliver high-quality, accurate podcast content that will thrill your target audience.