Localizing Legacy Video Projects Best Practices

By Hugh Barford

In the third of a series on Best Practices in Localizing Audio and Video, Hugh looks at the secrets to successfully localizing legacy video content.

451595091When we talk about localizing video content, there are two kinds of typical scenarios: creating source video content with localization in mind and legacy video projects using content created previously (often years previously) and it now needs to be localized.

In my last blog, Creating Source Video with Localization in Mind, I discussed scenario one. In this blog, I’d like to share some tips on localizing legacy video content.

Creating video content with localization in mind is obviously the ideal scenario. If you plan a video with localization in mind, the production process will be that much smoother and the final deliverable much more effective.  Quite often, we are asked to localize video content that has previously been created. In this scenario, you work with what you’ve got and in our experience the following  best practices will give you the best chance of delivering top-quality localized audio.

Translation Fit

By our experience, 95% of problems with both voice-over and subtitling can be avoided if the translated scripts match the timing restrictions of the source (typically English) video. Most languages expand. A sentence in Spanish may have 10-15% more words than the corresponding English. A Russian sentence may have the same number of words; however, 20% more characters than the English. If you translate word-for-word, chances are the translations will overrun your video. Then you are faced with speeding up the audio, stretching the video, or both. There’s only so much of either you can do before you lose control of quality.  The answer is to utilize creative translations that fit the timing restrictions, yet stay true to the meaning and message of the original.

Original Sources

Obtain the high-resolution project files including the video, audio track, music track, sound effects track,  from the producers of the original video. It is so much easier to work with high-resolution source files. Bear in mind that localizing low-resolution video can impair the quality of the end-product.

Voice-Over Considerations

The same considerations apply as for source video localization. Voice-over is not necessarily that much more expensive than subtitles. As we previously recommended, consider using ‘UN-style’ voice-over where the source English audio is playing quietly behind the target-language audio.  This format of voice-over requires only a rough synchronization. Utilize lip-syncing for broadcast-quality only, as it is very time consuming. You can also double-up  your talent for multiple character videos to save time and money.

Subtitling for Legacy Videos

Ensure the video is suitable even to consider subtitles. Those heavy with graphics and on-screen text may not be best for subtitling. Discuss and confirm with your localization vendor the layout of the subtitles, including number of lines and characters per subtitle, and sign off on the translations.

Video is an incredibly powerful tool for communicating a global brand. If we collaborate in making the right decisions about these key factors, then localized video can create real value for global organizations and their consumer.


Hugh_headshotHugh Barford is Managing and Creative Director of HBV Studios – a production and consultancy house specializing in multi-language audio and video content for the localization, e-learning and digital marketing industries. HBV is one of Welocalize’s vendors for multimedia services. Hugh began his career in the industry as Senior Audio Director with Irish localization company Transware, before opening HBV Studios in 2008. Hugh is a professional voice talent himself, whose most recent projects included voicing Standard Chartered Bank’s global TV commercial campaign, and TV and documentary work for HBO and BBC.