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How to prepare your video for translation

How to prepare your video for translation
Home » Blog » Multilingual Voiceover » How to prepare your video for translation

Whether your video translation project requires subtitles, voice-overs or dubbing, for a successful outcome you need to be aware of five key elements at the planning stage.


We’ve been providing video translation services for more than two decades now, so we know what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, you want to achieve engaging localisation. These pointers should help.


Towards the end of this blog, we’ll share some exciting new video synthesis technology that is quite literally changing the face of the CEO’s global corporate videos, broadcast videos and e-learning videos.  You’ll see the impact this AI-driven video production will have on how you prepare your videos for translation in the future.


For now, let’s go back to today.

First, translate into all required languages

Before you even think about producing your video in English, we strongly recommend that you work out which languages you’re going to need. Then translate – or transcreate, depending on your requirements – your script into those target languages.

Why translate first? Because then you’ll know how long the text and audio content are going to be for each language. This will save your bacon further down the line, as you’ll find out as you read on.

Allow for text expansion and contraction in all languages

Let’s consider text. Whether you’re translating page titles, subtitles or any superimposed text or graphics (called “video supers” or just “supers”), you need to be aware of text expansion and contraction.

Text expansion is when the target language requires more space than the original English. Text contraction, is when it requires less space.

Some languages can expand by as much as 60%. On the other hand some, such as Asian languages, may contract by as much as 55%. English and Chinese can be particularly problematic as their texts are typically very compact, so text translated from these languages can expand enormously. (Find out more in this W3 article: Text size in translation).

Leave space for subtitles

Julie Fry, senior project manager at Brightlines, said:

“Make sure you leave space for subtitles at the bottom of the screen, too. Some video editors put supers at the bottom of the screen or add diagrams that cover the whole screen. This can make the subtitles hard to read or the subtitles may end up obscuring important information.

“So, if you know you are going to subtitle, take this into account and think about what might be obscured if subtitles are turned on. This doesn’t just apply for language translation – the same principle applies to subtitles for English speakers with accessibility requirements.”

Consider the required timings and pace for multilingual voiceovers

The same point about expansion and contraction goes for translated voiceovers and dubbing. If you’re producing an English language video that you think in the future you may want to translate into other languages, make sure you allow some wiggle room for audio expansion. What starts as a 700-word video script in English, could end up having as many as 900 words in another language. And different languages require different paces, so allow for that in your timing, too.

Be aware that a longer video script requires a longer video

Now this may sound incredibly obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Language volume will, ultimately, affect the length of your video, so allow for this by creating a longer version of the video.

A game-changer: AI-driven video production

But I’ve saved the best till last.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven video production software is disrupting the heck out of video production and planning, and we’re seriously excited about it.

We’ve just finished a translation and transcreation project with charity #MalariaNoMore, when we worked with AI video specialists Synthesia to help make David Beckham appear to speak nine languages in this #MalariaMustDie campaign video.  


What is AI-driven video production and how does it work?

AI-driven video production works pretty much like the tech already used in other creative industries such as CGI in film production and game development.  Basically, Synthesia shot the video, created a 3D model that focused on representing the detailed dynamics of Beckham’s head. Using the foreign language voice actors’ facial movements, Synthesia then re-animated the video so that the lip synching for each language appears correctly on Beckham’s face.

As you can see, the synthesised expressions are virtually indistinguishable from a real video of David Beckham. It’s what tech investors Innovate UK calls “unprecedented levels of realism in video synthesis of human speech”.

Why AI-driven video production is brilliant for global corporates

Once the video is shot, you can change the language or rewrite the script and Synthesia will have a completed video for you within 48 hours, if the conditions are right. There’s no need for subtitles. And no need for normal voiceovers. So, with minimal effort, you get maximum engagement from your audience.

This is seriously exciting for our global corporate and e-learning clients, who rely heavily on global video broadcast… Imagine how employee engagement would increase if your CEO could quickly and easily deliver the latest news to regional teams in Zulu, Hindi or Arabic, for example – all in real time?

If you’d like to chat about your video production requirements, please get in touch. For more pointers on video translation, check out this blog: Essential steps for video translation that resonates.