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Found in Translation: How to Stream Video in Multiple Languages

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Steele gives the example of a promotional video that a client, real estate contractor CGL, wanted Sovee to translate into Spanish and Arabic. The original English video was 2 minutes long, but went to 2:36 in Spanish and 2:45 in Arabic. (Both videos can be viewed at etheatershowcase.sovee.com.)

The different lengths were not an issue for the company’s website. However, CGL wanted to use them as commercials, fitting a slot of exactly 2 minutes. Ultimately, they offered to edit content “without disrupting the message,” or speed up the speaker a bit, and ended up using a combination of the two strategies.

Beninatto says that for “artistic videos” with significant investment in production value—such as commercials—Moravia will edit the script to fit the length and pacing. In some cases, particularly with animated or slide-based instructional and elearning content, Moravia will produce the video itself, along with all language versions.

On-screen text is another thing to consider in editing. If that text is relevant to understanding the video content, then it should be translated, too. Some vendors will help with this, too.

Quality Matters

When having a video translated it’s best to provide the vendor with a master file. Steele says Sovee “will take any file they have. There has not been a format that we cannot use.” Nevertheless, he still recommends providing the highest-quality file, “because you can never have output that’s higher quality than the input.”

Although it seems obvious, to get a good transcript it’s very important that the voice track have clear and comprehensible audio. If the video contains background music or sound effects, Steele also suggests providing them as separate tracks so that they can be mixed back in with the final translated voice track.

Because translating videos requires so many steps, most vendors like to work closely with clients to make sure that the workflow, cost, and the final translated video meet the client’s goals.

Translation services like Moravia typically offer a wealth of languages from which to choose, and often offer a choice between human and synthetic voices. 

Services such as Sovee and Ramp offer their own video management and streaming platforms into which their translation technology is integrated. In most cases that means once a client has developed a workflow with the vendor, each translation job can be ordered and completed quickly.

Moravia takes a very hands-on approach, providing a great deal of customization, as well as consultation on local preferences for the target audiences, and choosing appropriate voice talent. That’s why Beninatto says the company “works with large programs and projects, not one-offs.”

Turnaround times can vary based upon the complexity and length of the video itself, along with the number of languages. For instance, Steele says a 3-minute, 17-second video for the Masters golf tournament, which required a full English transcription, was translated into nine languages in 2 1/2 days. This included editing for time synchronization in all nine finished videos.

Due to differences in length and on-screen text, each translated video is produced and delivered as a separate asset. Generally, you won’t find a video with selectable language soundtracks, since the videos themselves will have been edited to fit each language. However, that means translated videos will work with nearly every video platform or CDN.

What About Live?

Providing multiple languages in a live streaming environment requires a workflow that still relies heavily on human talent. U.K.-based Groovy Gecko specializes in translating live events for internal and external audiences.

According to Jake Ward, Groovy Gecko’s business development director, the company uses a team of translators for an event, each of whom is able to speak with the correct dialect and accent for the target market. Two translators are required for each language.

Because live translation is inherently in sync, viewers can switch language tracks on the fly. “We always give the option to select languages, even when we know the locations where people are coming from,” Ward says.

Ward says Groovy Gecko works with many CDNs. It does, however, have a software layer for Akamai that uses the Flow player. After the event is over, Groovy Gecko is able to provide an on-demand version within 5 minutes.

With the kind of manpower and complexity involved, live translations services are not something to order up just a few days ahead. Ward says clients should contact the vendor at least 4 weeks in advance if the only thing needed is live video translation. However, when other materials, like PowerPoint slides or localized websites, also require translation, this requires more time, a minimum of 6 weeks.

Aside from choosing the languages and voices, Ward says another consideration is being ready to deal with technical support questions in the same languages. Also, since one of the reasons to provide multiple-language streams is to grow audience, a client should also be prepared for the increased demand for their stream.

Ward says the cost for a typical, single-language live webcast starts at about £6,000 (about $9,560). “When you you’re talking about multilanguage with five languages, it's more like £20,000 (about $31,889).” While adding translation basically triples the cost, Ward notes that the value comes from potentially serving five times the audience.

Final Considerations

Translating videos into multiple languages opens them up to wider audiences. Thanks to advances in computerized transcription and translation, the cost and turnaround time for on-demand videos are both going down. Still, multilanguage is an investment that merits planning and consideration.

When evaluating a vendor be sure to see examples of their work. Ask what edits or changes were made to produce the final, translated versions, and how long the process took. Especially if you’re translating into languages you don’t speak, get the opinion of a native speaker on the quality of the translation itself, along with the accent, style, and dialect of the voice, whether human or synthesized.

The vendor should want to know about your workflow and what your goals are. The company should be able to discuss how the tradeoffs involved to get a lower cost might not be acceptable for your application.

Even though computers have become much better at translation, they still are not very good at helping you figure out the cultural considerations that go along with working in other languages. That’s something to keep in mind, too.

Now, allez, seguir adelante, and go forth!

This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Found in Translation."

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