Multimedia localisation is essential for companies who want to expand into new markets and increase customer engagement and loyalty.
In this article, we explore some of the key concepts involved in multimedia localisation, including what kinds of projects need to be adapted, what questions need to be asked, how the process works, and how to choose the best method for your project.
What is multimedia localisation?
Multimedia localisation is the process of adapting multimedia content for use in different regions or cultures.
The process can include translating text, dubbing or subtitling videos, and adjusting existing elements to fit the cultural norms of a particular region or country. This involves making sure that the images, videos, audio files and text used in the project are all culturally appropriate and accessible for each target language or region.
What kinds of multimedia projects need to be localised?
Localisation is an essential part of any media project that is intended for diverse audiences, whether it be film, television, video games or other digital formats.
Some typical projects that require localisation include:
- Web banners
- Social media content
- Television programs
- Advertising campaigns
- Product presentations
- Video games
- Interactive animation
- Virtual reality experiences
- Corporate videos or presentations
- Audio recordings (such as voice-overs)
- Corporate films
- eLearning courses or tutorials
- Software user interfaces (UIs)
- Marketing materials such as brochures, posters and flyers
It’s also important for companies to consider localising internal documents such as employee handbooks and training manuals so that everyone understands them regardless of language or culture.
What aspects of a media project require localisation?
There are several aspects of any media project that may require translation or adaptation for the target market.
These can include visual elements such as images and graphics; audio elements such as music or sound effects; textual elements such as subtitles or menu items; and interactive elements such as tutorials or gameplay mechanics.
Questions to ask when starting any multimedia localisation project
When undertaking any multimedia localisation project several key questions must be asked to ensure accuracy and quality, such as questions about the target market like
- What language do they speak?
- What visuals do they find appealing?
- What kind of content resonates with them?
- What regional cultures must be taken into consideration?
You will also need to ask questions about the technical aspects of the project, including
- Which platforms are supported?
- What format does the audio/visual content need to be for it to work on those platforms?
- What type of media needs to be translated/localised?
- What language(s) will be used?
- Do subtitles need to be added to the video?
- Does the sound need to be done with lip-syncing or a voice-over?
- Which type of voice best fits the project?
- What technological challenges must be addressed?
- How will you keep track of progress throughout the project?
- How will you measure success?
Finally, you should ask questions about the content itself, such as
- Where will it reside (e.g. on the company’s website)?
- How will it be distributed?
How does the multimedia localisation process work?
The exact steps involved in carrying out a multimedia localisation project will vary depending on the content and its intended audience. Generally speaking, however, most projects involve the following steps:
1. Initial translation
Before the actual localisation process beings, you will need to compile the source materials, including a transcription of all of the original content (it helps to work with a native speaker of the target language for this step) This includes subtitles or captions on videos as well as any printed materials associated with the project such as scripts or manuals.
2. Video localisation
This step includes combining the content translation, audio, and all other elements with the visual components to create an accurately localised multimedia product.
3. Audio localisation
Audio localisation involves converting music and various sound effects from one language to another without losing any emotional impact or changing how it sounds overall.
4. Synchronised translation
After all text and audio material is translated and recorded, it’s important to make sure all the elements are properly timed with each other. This includes adjusting subtitles/captions so they appear at exactly the right moment during spoken dialogue scenes, as well as ensuring any background music matches up with the on-screen visuals.
How do you choose the best multimedia translation method?
When it comes to localising multimedia projects, there are three main methods of translation: voiceover, subtitles, and closed captioning. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages that should be considered when deciding which is best for a particular project.
Subtitles are the most common form of localisation used in multimedia projects. They involve translating the dialogue from one language into another while keeping the original audio intact.
The downside of using subtitles is that they can sometimes be difficult to read if there is too much text on the screen at once, making them less suitable for longer pieces of media such as feature films or television series.
Voiceover involves replacing the original audio with a translated version recorded by professional voice actors, usually in one of the following three styles:
- Off-camera narration (commonly used for more substantial content, also known as ‘Morgan Freeman style’)
- UN-style (a translated voiceover that starts a few beats after the on-screen subject)
- Dubbing (re-recording dialogue in the target market’s language and adding it to the already-filmed content)
This method is often used when subtitling would be impractical due to length constraints or technical limitations, but it requires more time and resources than traditional subtitling methods.
Additionally, voiceovers tend to sound artificial compared with natural speech and may not always accurately convey nuances in meaning.
Closed Captioning – a well-known multimedia localisation method
Closed captioning provides an alternative way of displaying translations alongside video content without disrupting its flow. Instead of appearing directly on top of the visuals as regular captions do, closed captions appear below them and usually include additional information such as speaker identification cues.
This type of captioning requires specialised software and hardware which makes it more expensive than other forms of localisation, so it’s typically only used for larger budget productions where cost isn’t as much an issue (e.g. broadcast TV shows).
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