Localizing Multimedia Learning Content: 6 Best Practices for Quality Audio Recordings

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.

In the first of a monthly series on best practices in localizing audio and video, Hugh looks at how to deliver quality audio recordings to clients.

Audio content (voiceover) has always been an integral piece of the localization solution. Many moons ago when I first started directing multi-language voiceovers, e-learning was the new frontier. Content creators were designing highly interactive course content, with any number of characters acting out role-plays and simulations. It is fun to work on; however, labour-intensive, cumbersome and expensive for the client.

Then the backlash… E-learning audio content was pared back to the basics. Gone were the multi-character role-play and in came a single voice to narrate the course content. Video content was nowhere to be seen.

164471532Since then, the wheel has turned again. Vastly increased bandwidth, new delivery platforms and the explosion in social media is resulting in a demand for media-rich content across a wider range of markets: digital advertising and marketing as well as traditional e-learning. And a lot of video. So in 2014, what are the best practices for developing quality multilingual audio?

Best Practice #1 – Start by Listening.  Determine exactly what is required in terms of quality expectations and budget. E-learning content for an internal audience may have different budgetary and production requirements to, say, sales and marketing content. A top-end advertising piece for TV will require very high production values and will have a budget to match. From these discussions, a suitable solution can be arrived at.

Best Practice #2 – Voice Samples. To get the right quality, all candidates must undergo a stringent audition process, at which they must demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively with different types of audience. A tough sight-reading test will identify those who have the ability to deal with large volumes of unseen script.  The client can review a selection of voice samples, and choose which voice(s) they feel work best for their product. It’s also an opportunity to sign off on a voice talent’s accent.

Best Practice #3 – Creative Quality Assurance. New voice talents should record first sessions under the direction of an experienced audio directors who can direct sessions where delivery style and tone are key – for example a marketing piece.

Best practice #4 – Linguistic Quality Assurance. A second native-speaker – the Language Monitor – should be present at every recording, to monitor the quality of the target language recording and to catch any errors that the talent may make.

Best practice #5 – Linguistic Accuracy. How many different ways are there to voice ‘HBV Studios’ in French? How does the client want it voiced? Prepare a pronunciation glossary for the client to review and sign off on, before the script ever gets into the studio for recording. A thorough glossary can prevent time and money being spent on avoidable re-records.

Best practice #6 – Directions. For scripts in which talents must communicate particular emotions (e.g. a role-play dialogue), work with the client to identify the required delivery, and then add a note to the script so that the talent can capture the right read in the studio. If necessary, an audio director can be scheduled to direct the session.

If you follow these best practices, you should have multilingual audio content that fits the budget and quality requirements. And if the client’s happy, then everyone is happy.

Next time out – best practices in localizing video content.