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Steps for Having Your Clients' Videos Translated

COW Library : Business & Career Building Tutorials : Greg Ball : Steps for Having Your Clients' Videos Translated
CreativeCOW presents Steps for Having Your Clients' Videos Translated -- Business & Career Building Tutorial

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Business owner and Creative COW member since 2001 (!!!) Greg Ball has been providing translation services for everything from commercials to children's cartoons to feature films and episodic TV, and seen it make a real difference to these projects' success and his own bottom line.? Greg breaks it all down for you, including the pluses and minuses of subtitling and dubbing, and of outsourcing or managing the process yourself.

By translating a video or film, your clients can reach a global audience. If you don’t already offer video translation services, it’s a good time to start. By offering these services, you can add another stream of income to your business.

Why should you offer this now if you haven’t before? Of course, video translation is not new. I’ve been working with it for over 25 years. When I worked for Burger King World Headquarters, every video I produced had to be translated into multiple languages for worldwide distribution.

Consider that it’s become much easier for your clients to get international distribution. Advertising internationally using a business website and/or social media is a relatively simple process. Examine the stats. Social media is currently used by more than 3.8 billion people all around the world. Think of what this can do to sales for some companies!

For some time now in my company, Ball Media Innovations, I’ve seen a growing trend towards international distribution. We’ve been translating everything from advertising and marketing to children’s animated cartoons.

So, having the ability to offer translation services is really important in today’s business environment.

I’ll cover what you need to know in order to competently offer these services.

Most importantly, you’ll want to know if you can handle the entire process yourself, or if you’ll need to outsource. Outsourcing can make this process easy, and production companies can simply mark-up any of the costs. You’ll be managing the process for your client, rather than doing each step yourself. Or you may be able to do some or all of the steps on your own.

But should you do this yourself? This is a complex question. Before I answer, I’ll talk about the types of video translation, you’ll need to be able to offer to your clients. Then I’ll run through the steps required to perform these styles of translation. As I do this, I’ll discuss doing it yourself vs. hiring support. I’ll also cover what you need to know to hire support if that’s what you choose to do.

Types of video translation techniques
There are two main types of translation: Subtitles or dubbing.

Subtitling is much less expensive than dubbing. This is because it involves fewer steps, equipment, and people to do it.

The basic process of subtitling:
  • Transcription (if you don’t have an actual verbatim script, the video or film must be transcribed)

  • Translation

  • Create and time the subtitles

  • Burn them to the video

Advantages of subtitles:
  • They’re less expensive than dubbing.

  • They can be easy to read and follow.

  • They’re useful for someone who wants to learn a new language.

  • The viewer can watch the video with the volume off.

Disadvantages of subtitles:
  • There’s usually 2 lines of text and around 40 characters per subtitle. So that means the subtitles may have to move very quickly to get all the dialogue in.

  • They can be very distracting. If you have something that’s very technical, such as a training or ‘how to’ video, it can be very difficult to watch the action and read the subtitles at the same time. Viewers are usually able to watch one or the other.

  • It can distract the viewer from appreciating your shots and your detailed editing. So, in a sense, it diminishes the production value.

  • Subtitles can block any of your lower thirds or graphics that you have on the screen that are title safe. This is because subtitles also must be title safe.

To read more about the pros and cons of subtitling, check out this article called Should I Use Subtitles for My Video or Film Translation?

Now let’s talk about dubbing.
There are two main types of dubbing that you should be able to offer your clients.
  • UN-style

  • Lip syncing

UN-style is most often used in documentaries or news style programs. In this style, you start off by hearing the person speaking at full volume in the original language. Then the audio dips down lower, and the new language is brought in at full volume.

Advantages of UN-style dubbing:
  • You can feel and hear the emotion of the people speaking.

  • You can reduce costs by only using one voice, either male or female, for the whole video or film. You’ll end up only paying for one voice talent instead of multiple talents.

  • You can hear the background sounds.

This style of dubbing doesn’t have to be as precisely timed as lip-synching. It’s similar to listening to a live interpreter. It can be slightly delayed or not an exact match.

Disadvantages of UN-style dubbing:
  • It’s distracting to hear different sounds going on at the same time. Especially when there are music tracks and sound effects along with two or more voices.

  • Some people may not want to have a voice of the opposite sex, depending on who is speaking. For example, if you have a male CEO of a company, he may not prefer to have a female voice representing him.

This is more labor-intensive than subtitling. While there can be fewer actors than lip-synching, it’s still the same process.

Lip-sync dubbing is usually the most preferred way to dub, especially for videos or films that have person-to-person dialogue. With lip-synching, the voices are closely matched to the mouth movements of people speaking.

Advantages of lip-sync dubbing:
Because the timing is so close to the original, it will always hit the key marks that need to be hit in the video. If a graphic pops up or a picture changes, the voice will always match the action on the screen. So, for example, if someone on the screen is saying “Next, grab the pliers”, the action on the screen will match and someone will grab the pliers.
  • It’s more realistic than subtitles. When you have high-quality lip-synching, it can seem very natural

  • It’s less distracting than subtitles

  • Instead of watching just the subtitles, the viewer can focus on the video

  • This means your production values remain intact and the viewer will see everything you shot, your editing, etc.

  • The new voice can be mixed with your M/E track, so it sounds just like the original

  • This is also effective for just a single voice narrator and it’s easier to time

Disadvantages of lip-synching:
  • Cost- It can be 5-10 times more expensive than subtitles

  • There are way more steps and people involved

To read more about the advantages and disadvantages of dubbing, and the types of dubbing styles there are, read “Is Dubbing the Best Option For My Video?”.

Dubbing steps for both lip-synching and UN-style:
  • Transcription (if no exact script is provided)

  • Translation (This includes the adaptation process which we’ll discuss below)

  • Recording with voice talent, studio, studio engineers, technicians, editors, audio mixing

Here’s more detail about the process, and I’ll answer the big question. Can you do all of this yourself?

Let’s talk about the first step - The actual translation.

Suppose you or someone you know are fluent in the language you’re translating to. Can you do the translation part of a subtitling or dubbing project yourself?

In my opinion, usually no. That’s because the translation needs to be ‘adapted’ and that requires a special skill that takes years to develop.

Translating video or film is much different than translating the written word. When someone is talking, most languages take about 20% longer to finish each thought than with English. This means that a translator must adapt the script to fit within the timing of the video or film. They need to take the translation and adapt it so it contains the same or less amount of words and syllables. This takes a special skillset developed over many years. It usually requires someone who is highly experienced in translating video or film.

For this reason, I always suggest outsourcing this part of the project.

I discovered early on in my career that it can be disastrous to try and do this part of the translation project yourself, or with a translator that isn’t highly skilled at adaptation. Sometimes a client will insist on doing the translation themselves. Honestly, I try to discourage this. While I understand the desire to save money, it can lead to a poorly timed video/film that looks less than professional. To read more about this question, check out this article called “Can I Translate My Own Script? Or Are Translation Services a Must?”.

The next step is to confirm the accuracy of the translation.
Once the script is translated and adapted, it should be reviewed by someone who speaks the language, and understands the terminology of your video. For example, if you’re producing a medical video that must be translated correctly with technical words or buzz words, it’s important to have it reviewed by someone who understands the medical industry and speaks the language fluently to make sure it’s done correctly.

There are things to check for in this stage. For example:
  • There may be words that should not be translated or changed. This could include the name of a product or company, a bible verse, etc. It’s important to double-check to make sure that words that should remain in the original language are not translated

  • There may be things that must have an exact translation. You’ll want to make sure that they are translated precisely and not altered in the adaptation process

At this point, we request client approval. Usually, the client looks over the translation or has someone on their team who knows the language look it over. This is because once it’s translated, reviewed, and approved by the client, it’s ready for the next stage. Either it will be recorded if voiced, or subtitles will be created.

This is a critical step because if it’s approved and you create the subtitles or record the audio, and then your client says that there’s something wrong, it will cost you more to do it over. It’s important to take time to go back and forth with the translation company to make sure everything is perfect before this step.

Now you’re ready to record the audio or to create the subtitles.
For dubbing, I highly recommend that you outsource. Have professionals who are experienced at dubbing videos or film take this role. Here are the advantages:
  • It’s much faster

  • It’s more precise

  • It’s timed better

  • It won’t look like a bad Japanese movie

When you outsource, the only thing you’ll have to do at the end is lay the new soundtrack back into your editing timeline. Then you’re done.
Subtitling can be done in two ways.

The easy way to do this is to have the translation company provide you with a .srt file. If you’re using a quality service, that will be timed perfectly. You can simply insert that into your video.

The other way to handle this is to create the subtitles yourself. The translation company will give you the transcript with all the subtitles along with time code references so you can insert them yourself. My opinion is that it’s very inexpensive to have the translation company burn the subtitles in, or create a .srt file. It’s not really worth the time to do it manually.

Picking a translation company
When you’re pricing out a translation project, remember, cheaper is not always better. Some translation companies use automated translation similar to dictating into your iPhone. It’s not always accurate. In fact, it’s seldom accurate. This can cause a lot of problems down the line and can lead to an unhappy client. It can also lead to embarrassment for you and your client.

I would never recommend a company that uses automated translation.

With subtitles, especially in Asian languages, one wrong font or typo can change the entire meaning of a sentence and the meaning of your video. So quality control is critical. This means having a translation company that you can trust. It can also help if that company has someone on staff who can review all of the translations and subtitles while watching the video to make sure everything is precise.

I would also use a company that’s highly experienced with video and film translation. Without that experience, you won’t have a good quality translation.

There’s one more issue to cover. Translation of graphics.
Sometimes you’ll need to translate visuals. This is especially true if you’re dubbing a video and you have a lot of on-screen graphics. If your graphics are words on the screen, the translation company can give you the translated document with time codes, and you can insert the translated graphics.

Of course, some graphic translations require a graphic artist. The translation company can translate your graphics and your graphic artist will change the graphics into the correct language. You’ll want to budget for an artist to insert the new language onto the graphics.

That should get you started!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at As I said, I’ve been involved with video translation for over 25 years, and my translation team works with production companies throughout the USA.

About Greg Ball
Greg is the founder and President of Ball Media Innovations, a full-service Miami video production company serving from Miami to Orlando. His company also offers national service for video/film translation (dubbing and subtitles), video editing, and video studio design and building. Prior to starting this company, Greg was the Manager of Worldwide Video Communications for Burger King World Headquarters. He's considered an expert at video production for business purposes. To contact Greg, call 954-432-1274, or email The company website is

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