Video localization best practices: unlocking global communication

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In our increasingly interconnected, video-first world, the demand for content that can target different countries and communities has surged. That’s why the art of video localization has become an indispensable tool for companies seeking to reach a global audience.

It just makes good business sense. Let’s say you’re making some kick-ass video content in English—you’ve put a lot of work into creating, designing, and publishing a fantastic online course or marketing campaign. But without localization, you’re missing out on a potentially massive part of your audience!

Your video content can reach a worldwide audience, but most of the world does not speak English. Even non-native English speakers will find content produced in their native language more appealing, engaging, and convincing. You’ll need versions of your content in multiple languages to succeed globally. That’s where video localization comes in.

This guide explains how to translate existing videos for new audiences. We share best practices to streamline the entire process and effectively engage with diverse cultures. Additionally, we’ll explore the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in video localization. This developing technology can help you achieve cost-effective, high-quality audio and video localization.

What is video localization ?

Video localization involves adapting audiovisual content to suit the linguistic, cultural, and contextual preferences of different regions. This ensures that the message resonates with local audiences. You want your viewers to feel like you’re speaking to them.

Localization is more than just translation. It also involves tweaking the messaging to consider the target audience’s culture, sense of humor, and particular quirks.

Some cultures appreciate a more personal, friendly tone in their video content. However, a more formal, professional attitude would perform better in other markets.

Some subjects or words might be taboo or have different meanings in different countries—even within the same language. For example, the word ‘smashing’ can be a great adjective in UK English but sounds silly to US viewers. A motor vehicle can be a ‘carro’ in Latin America but a ‘coche’ in Spain.

Your video should use phrasing and references that the target audience will recognize and appreciate for the best results.

The video localization process

Video localization can be more or less involved depending on the complexity of the production. However, most localization projects follow this basic outline:

  1. Transcribing and translating video

The first step is getting the script translated into the target language of your audience. The transcript serves as the source document for localization. Transcription may happen by means of automatic transcription, i.e., OCR. Transcription is the act of converting the audio of the video to text form, which can be used for creating subtitles to be shown on screen or voice overs, also known as dubbing, in other languages.

  1. Adjusting cultural references

Translation is just the beginning! Culture is also crucial. Even countries that speak the same language, e.g., the USA and the UK, or Mexico and Spain, need different approaches to how you translate the content as their dialects, vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and cultural nuances can strongly differ.

  1. Adding subtitles and closed captions

Not everyone will be watching your video at full volume, or with good speakers. In fact, 92% of people watch videos with the sound turned off. These features also make your video more accessible for people who are hard of hearing and second-language speakers. On a tight budget, subtitles are the minimum you should do for localization. That way, people who don’t understand the speaker or voice-over can follow the subtitles to understand what is happening in the video.

  1. Dubbing 

Good dubbing, or voice over, can improve the video experience for local audiences. You want the spoken audio to sound natural and sync smoothly with the lips of the actors on screen.

  1. Assuring quality and testing

Some video projects will undergo multiple rounds of testing and revisions to catch and correct any mistakes.

All these steps are essential to ensure the content is relevant and relatable to your target audience. In a visual medium like video, this can involve changing colors, sets, background music, and actors to make the video more appealing in certain countries. The goal is to break down language and cultural barriers, making the content more accessible to diverse viewers around the world.

That all sounds like a lot to do, and it is. However, many great tools and techniques are available that make it easier for any company to achieve effective video localization.

Video localization best practices: crafting a seamless experience

You have a great video and want it to be a success with new audiences in diverse global markets. Here are some handy tips to keep in mind for a smooth video localization journey and ensure it hits the mark:

  1. Understand your target audience

The first step is understanding who you are communicating with. Analyze cultural nuances, language preferences, and regional sensitivities. Understanding is the basis of effective localization, ensuring that the final product aligns with the expectations of the intended viewers. Some ways to better understand your target audiences include:

  • Conducting market research

  • Working closely with translation and localization experts, like translators or linguists, who know how to make the content appealing to their audiences

  • Analyzing your company’s internal audience data, if you have this, such as social media analytics.

Collaborate with local experts

Engaging with local experts, whether linguistic professionals or cultural consultants, can significantly enhance the accuracy of video localization. Their insights can guide the adaptation process, ensuring that it aligns with the specific expectations and sensitivities of the target audience.

You can also collaborate with your coworkers who work in the targeted markets or who have a good understanding of their needs and problems, such as local customer service managers

Adapt cultural references and idioms

Cultural references and idioms can be tricky to translate directly. Instead of a word-for-word translation, consult with a native or expert in the target country, as mentioned earlier. They can help you adapt the script to communicate effectively with your audience. This prevents misunderstandings and enhances the overall viewing experience by making the content more authentic and relatable.

Optimize subtitle readability

Subtitles play a vital role in video localization, especially when retaining the original audio. Ensure that subtitles are clear, concise, and easy to read. Consider the pace of on-screen text to allow viewers to follow along comfortably without missing crucial details. Additionally, focus on font size, color, and background contrast to enhance readability.

Maintain visual consistency

While adapting content for different regions, it is essential to maintain visual consistency. Graphics, fonts, and on-screen text should align with the cultural and aesthetic preferences of the target audience. Consistency in visual elements helps create a seamless viewing experience, minimizing distractions that could arise from sudden style changes.

Test locally before launch

Conduct local testing before the official launch to avoid potential pitfalls and ensure that the localized content resonates with the target audience. Gather feedback from individuals within the target demographic to identify any nuances you might have overlooked. This step provides an opportunity to fine-tune the content and make necessary adjustments for optimal impact.

Streamlining video localization with AI

With traditional language service agencies, even simple translation can be a long and expensive process before even going to the lengths to ensure you’ve properly localized the content to meet the cultural intricacies of your local audiences. Projects can often go well over time and budget with multiple revisions and delays. Luckily, there is a better way.

AI has advanced rapidly and even more so with the era of generative AI. It has gotten even better at analyzing and recognizing text and audio. For example, AI models can translate text in a target audience’s preferred dialect and language style. But that’s not all. Deep learning algorithms allow AI to mimic human speech patterns for seamless dubbing. A speaker’s voice can be synthesized and replicated in different language services for a consistent voice across all content. AI eliminates the need for multiple translators and voice actors, making video localization faster and more efficient.

How to translate video with AI

1. Use an easy-to-use generative AI translation tool

You will need an intuitive and user-friendly UI that still gives you a high level of control, where you can simply upload your video onto the platform for translation.

2. Personalize the generative AI translation your needs

Creating allows you to tailor translations to your requirements, such as length or tone of voice, terminology, and more. You can set these prompts and the translations will generate instantly and in line with your needs.

3. Ensure consistent messaging

AI translation remembers your content and preferences from previous videos and draws on them to make new ones. It stores all your content in a translation memory, which enables you to keep a consistent, recognizable tone throughout your content.

4. Get automated transcription, dubbing, and subtitling

Use a tool that automatically provides you with a video/audio transcription with speech-to-text capabilities. It should also offer automatically burned-in subtitles and AI dubbing, which serves to speed up the process tenfold.

5. Use built-in, automatic QA

Always remember to assess the quality of AI translations through automated tools, such as quality assessment and translation quality scoring functions.

Smartcat AI offers accurate AI video subtitling and voice over translation that can deliver accurate video translations in up to 280 languages in just a few seconds. Not only can Smartcat handle automated AI translations, but it also serves as a one-stop platform to streamline the entire localization process.

Make the most of the human element

Even with the help of AI, video localization isn’t a simple machine job. Instead, it’s about using AI to enhance human expertise, saving time and money, and getting the most out of your team’s efforts. Here’s how Smartcat AI helps companies get more value from their language experts:

Work with subject-matter-expert linguists

  • A great deal of linguists today are hyper-specialized on one topic, making them experts in their field and a great asset when it comes to reviewing AI-generated translations. While the AI can render precise and near-human quality, validating that content with human reviewers is an important step in quality control. It will ensure you do not accidentally say something that is culturally inappropriate or off-brand in your multilingual videos. It can be hard to source talent, but using tools such as Smartcat's embedded Marketplace, you can use an AI-matching algorithm to analyze your content against linguist performance and subject expertise to identify the best person for the job. Smartcat houses a vast pool of over 500,000 linguists, but AI sourcing finds you the right linguists instantly.

Work in collaboration

Scale your content review efforts past what’s possible with your in-house team by sourcing language and industry experts who can work collaboratively with you on your translation platform. For example, your team of language experts can use Smartcat Editor to collaborate on projects easily. The platform’s powerful suite of tools, including video previews, editing functions, and translation memory, will help you get the most from your team.

Streamline project management and reduce administrative burden

It’s important to use an automated translation project management system to make it all work seamlessly, especially with many collaborators and steps in the process. Today, AI can serve to facilitate project monitoring through AI-based proactive interventions, ensuring quality, turnaround time, and budget optimization. Some platforms include a linguist procurement solution so that you can pay linguists easily from one place, which helps to reduce the amount of time it takes to process supplier invoices at the end of the month.

Engaging with local audiences: strategies for success

Modern audiences expect personalized communication from brands. The more the viewer feels like you ‘get’ them, the more effective your video will be. Here’s how to go about it.

Localized marketing campaigns

Tailor global marketing campaigns to resonate with the cultural preferences of specific regions. This goes beyond language translation; it involves understanding local trends, customs, and sensitivities.

Think about your target audience. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What are the most popular types of video in my target country?

  • How are these videos different in tone, topic, or structure than the ones I am used to?

  • Who are my biggest competitors in this market, and why are they successful?

  • What parts of local culture do my competitors not understand?

A localized marketing approach demonstrates a commitment to understanding and respecting the target audience. People will respond positively to brands that make the effort to speak to them.

Community collaboration

To help you understand the challenges mentioned above, it helps to work with locals. Collaborate with local influencers, content creators, or community leaders to amplify your reach. Local partnerships can provide valuable insights into audience preferences and help build credibility within the community. This approach establishes a connection with audiences through trusted local voices.

Social media engagement

Leverage social media platforms to connect with local audiences. First, find out the most popular video platforms for your content categories in your target region. Engaging with audiences on platforms they already frequent enhances visibility and fosters a sense of community. Create region-specific content teasers, behind-the-scenes footage, or localized promotional materials.

Interactive elements

Incorporate interactive elements within videos to encourage audience participation. This could include polls, surveys, or calls to action that prompt viewers to share their thoughts. Interactive content captures attention and fosters a sense of involvement, making the viewing experience more memorable.

Continuous feedback loop

Establish a feedback loop with the audience to understand their preferences and expectations. Encourage viewers to provide feedback on the localized content and use this information to refine future adaptations. This can be as simple as monitoring your YouTube comment section or more involved, like having dedicated community management on social media. A continuous feedback loop demonstrates a commitment to improvement and responsiveness to the audience’s needs.

Go global with thoughtful, effective video localization

Video localization is not just a technical process; it is an art that requires a nuanced understanding of culture, language, and audience dynamics. By adhering to best practices, streamlining the localization process, and harnessing the power of AI, content creators can transcend linguistic barriers and connect with audiences on a global scale.

As technology advances, AI’s role in video localization will become even more pronounced. Even if everyone uses AI, staying competitive means working with people who understand how to use it best. To that end, Smartcat is here to help you with localization that is thoughtful, engaging, and efficient.

Ultimately, the key to successful video localization is a balancing act—not just between human and machine, but between preserving the essence of the original content and adapting it to resonate with the rich tapestry of global cultures.

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