The Video Translation Process Has Never Been Easier

Written by
Tiffani Bauer
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6
min read

Your films and videos do not need to be siloed by geographic region—the world needs to see them. Global audiences gobble up English language content filmed in the United States and Britain, while American audiences appreciate cinema from all over the world, with films from all over the world— including Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and India—showing in US theaters. Of course, international films must transcend language and cultural barriers, and that’s where the translation process comes in. By translating films into a local language, you gain access to new audiences and can share your art with more of the world.

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What is video translation and localization? 

When you think about video translation, your mind immediately goes to subtitles and awkwardly dubbed audio. For filmmakers, however, the first part of video translation is a nuanced process called localization which may end in either subtitles or voiceover. In localization, your existing script is translated not simply into another language word-for-word, but with care to make culturally appropriate changes to the dialogue and to fit the idioms of your target language. For instance, an idiomatic figure of speech in one language may translate to nonsense in another language—or they may be taken too literally. (We’re talking about phrases like “at the end of the day” and “giving someone the cold shoulder.”) After those cultural nuances are addressed in the script, it can be turned into subtitles or a script for dubbing the film.

Subtitles vs. dubbing: Learn the difference 

There are two principal ways to translate your original video to a new language so your work can be enjoyed by people from different countries and cultural backgrounds. Your options are creating subtitles in the target language or overdubbing the audio using voice actors. Here is a rundown of the two options.

Subtitles 

The simplest way to handle the translation process is to place translated subtitles on an otherwise unchanged video. By opting for closed caption translation, you allow audiences to hear the voices of the original actors—with their emotional inflections and cadence —rather than those of voice actors. You also don’t have to hire a team to record new audio.

Dubbing

Dubbing involves hiring voice actors to record new audio in the target language, which then replaces the film’s original audio. The dubbing process happens after the original film production is wrapped. In fact, dubbing sessions often take place in the country where the dubbed language is spoken. So if an American film was dubbed in Castilian Spanish for a Spanish audience, the dubbed audio would likely be recorded in Spain using Spanish actors.

Thanks to advances in digital technology, you can also opt for a machine-based digital overdub, where a computer will read your translated text using audio samples from real speech recordings. 

How to translate videos into another language

Whether you opt for professionally translated videos or you handle all translation yourself, you will need to proceed through the following steps to get your video understood by international audiences

  1. Transcribe your video. The first step in translating video content is transcribing the existing audio. You can do this manually by carefully listening to the audio track while typing, or you can use an automatic transcription service like Descript.
  2. Translate your transcription. Once your audio is transcribed, you will need to translate it into your target language. The simplest and cheapest way to do this is with an automatic translation service like Google Translate. For a clearer and more culturally nuanced final product, you may need to enlist professional video translation services, where your transcript will be analyzed and translated by a native speaker. Professional translators can also help with localization, the process where your script is adjusted to clear up odd idioms and adopt local vernacular.
  3. Crosscheck with artistic collaborators. In the event that your film’s original screenwriter speaks the language you’re translating to, ask them to review the translation draft. If the writer does not speak the new language, find other artists who do to ensure that the translated draft is accurate and true to the original script. The original script passed through many sets of eyes before filming began. Your translated script should do the same.
  4. Create your chosen translation formats. You are now at the point where you will create translations in your format of choice. If you opt for closed caption translation, you’ll need text files containing the subtitles and timestamps for each piece of text. If you choose to overdub, you will have a professional voice actor record audio tracks.
  5. Hire talent and set them in motion. Voice dubbing is real acting. Use the same rigor in hiring voice actors for dubbing that you’d use for hiring on-screen actors in the original language. While creating subtitles isn’t the same as voice acting, you still want to hire a professional who can make text look elegant and professional on-screen—easily read without being distracting. Once you’ve hired the right people, trust them to do their work in a thorough and professional manner. For a voice dubbing session, however, plan to have a director in the studio to guide the recording process.
  6. Timestamp your video. With your subtitles or overdub tracks (or both) now in hand, you will need to ensure they line up with the right moments in your video. This requires careful timestamping. A professional video editor should know about the timestamping process and have software tools to speed the process along.
  7. Polish it up. At long last, you are ready to integrate your translation files with the original video content. This will again require the services of a competent video editor. If properly handled, your translated audio and closed captions will perfectly sync with the visual content, making it easy for new audiences to consume your work.

How to use Descript’s automatic transcription tools to jumpstart your video translation

The first step in translating videos is getting a top-notch transcription of your original audio content. Descript’s software tools are the gold standard when it comes to transcription. Here’s how to create automatic transcriptions using Descript.

  1. Drag and drop your files. Get your transcription started by dragging an audio or video file into a blank Composition. Once your file has been added to the Composition, it will automatically begin transcribing.
  2. Add speaker labels. While the file transcribes, a window will appear prompting you to add Speaker Labels. If there is more than one speaker on a single file, click Enter Speaker Name, hover over Detect speakers and then select the correct number of speakers to start Speaker Detective.
  3. Correct your text. When you've located a portion of the script that you would like to correct, highlight the text and then press the Correct button in the popover dialog. Make your corrections in the text box then press Correct or the Enter key to apply the changes. Even better, Descript will pause when you correct a word during playback and then automatically resume from the point of correction once you're done.

Voilà! With an accurate transcript, you can now go out and get your video translated into any language you wish so that the world can enjoy your masterpiece.

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Written by
Tiffani Bauer

Video Producer at Descript. Accomplished editor and videographer. Fan of hibachi and women's basketball and knit hats.

Descript is a collaborative audio/video editor that works like a doc. It includes transcription, a screen recorder, publishing, and some mind-bendingly useful AI tools.
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Tiffani Bauer

Video Producer at Descript. Accomplished editor and videographer. Fan of hibachi and women's basketball and knit hats.

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