Natalia Shuhman
Posted by Natalia Shuhman
on 9/23/20 11:54 AM

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Video Localization, Voice Dubbing and Subtitling: Know the Difference

One of the most common requests for multimedia localization services is video translation.
When you need to translate a video, there are at least four ways to do this: video localization, creating a new voiceover, dubbing, and subtitling. Let's look at the specifics, advantages, and disadvantages of each option.

Video localization services

Localization is the most complete video translation option. When a video is fully localized, changes are made to both the audio sequence (translation of the narration and voiceover recording in a new language, new editing of the music and background sounds) and video sequence (translation of on-screen text, changing the playback speed of the episodes to match the new voice acting).

Here is a classic example of video localization: the original English-language video has been fully translated into Japanese.



This is how videos are usually localized at Alconost.

  1. First we translate audio from video: transcribe the narration text, translate it (if necessary, we adapt the translation) and record the voiceover track in the new language. 

  2. Then we translate and replace all the text elements in the video sequence. If necessary, we update the screenshots or video captures. Next, we synchronize the video sequence with the new voiceover track.

  3. Then we edit the music and sound effects, put it all together, and the localized video is ready!


And here's another example of a video localized from English, this time to Chinese. Note that it has more than voice dubbing. In different language versions of the video, we have different languages shown of the UI of the app, and animated taglines are translated, too.




For best results when doing the full video translation, the source files are required.

What is the source file and what is it for

The video source file consists of hundreds, if not thousands, of components: multilayered graphic files, logos, screenshots, 3D models, animated effects, the movement paths of all objects, the voiceover track, the background music, and much more.

The contents of one video may be stored in multiple projects. For example, one project may only contain the original graphics, whereas the second one contains only the 3D elements, the third has the animation elements, and the fourth contains music and sound effects. All of these components may be edited and combined in a fifth project.

All five projects are required for a seamless video localization.

However, in some cases it is possible to localize a video without the source files. But the quality of the video localized this way will depend on the particular clip and on what changes you plan to make.

Why you need to replace video elements during localization

Replacing text elements is a relevant step for all types of videos, but it is especially so for video infographics, where most of the video's semantic load is carried by charts and by textual explanations of their significance.

The text must be replaced in video presentations if they contain scenes where the functions or advantages of the products are presented as a list.

Here's an example where the captions that accompany the video clip are critical to understanding the meaning of the video. So that it was crucial to translate captions during the video localization process.


When you localize a video clip about an app, service, or site, it is important to consider whether the product itself will be localized into the language of the future video. If so, it is advisable to retake the screenshots or video screen captures that are used to demonstrate the product in use. By doing this, you will be unobtrusively informing viewers of an important fact: the product is available in their native language!

Here is an example of a localized video about a service where the screenshots have been replaced:




And here is an example involving video clips for games. It would be logical if the language of the interface visilble in the game trailer matched the language into which the video has been localized, wouldn't it?

In addition, it may be necessary to replace the logo in the game video if the game is being released with a localized name in a new market.

Here is an example of a localized video about a game where the logo has been replaced:



Why you need to change the lengths of scenes during localization

When the narration is translated into a foreign language and the native speaker voiceover artist is recorded, one labor-intensive, but important video localization step must be performed: the video and new voiceover tracks must be synchronized.

Synchronization can be done in one of two ways.

The first is to adapt the voiceover to the video sequence. In order to achieve synchronization, the length of each translated line must be limited to a certain number of characters during translation, and the voiceover artist must respect time limits during the recording. Sometimes this produces a good result, and sometimes it is less than satisfactory. If the translated voiceover is shorter than the original, inappropriate pauses may appear in the narration track. But if the translation needs to be cut to fit into the available time, part of the meaning of the text may be lost.

In fact, this first means of synchronization is an example of re-voicing a clip, or a kind of a video voice dubbing, rather than of complete video localization.

The second method for synchronization is to adjust the video to the voiceover. In this case, you need to accelerate or slow down the scenes in the video part, making the localization process more technically complex. But the result is a harmonious video, in which the audio track is perfectly balanced with the visuals. There are no inappropriate pauses, no overlaps, and no distortion of the meaning.

When providing video localization services, we prefer the second method.

Take a look for yourself: when localizing a clip from English to German the video became 15 seconds longer, but thanks to an adjustment to the length of the scenes, the narration now perfectly coincides with the animation.




German isn't the only language that may lead to an extended duration of the video. For instance, an animated explainer video production for Apifonica required not only an English version but a Dutch one, too. And affter localization the video became, again, 15 seconds longer. 




To speed up or slow down the scenes in videos with animated graphics, you only need the video project. And for videos with live footage, you may need additional source files for the extended episode (in other words, the version before editing).

Full video localization helps make the video seem "native" in the eyes of a foreign audience. But if you don't have the source video, a couple of weeks' time, and a good budget (yes, video localization is not cheap), you can do new voiceovers, dubbing, or subtitles.

Creating a new voiceover or dubbing the video

Creating a new voiceover or dubbing represent simplified options for localizing a video that involve only making changes to the audio track. These options do not require the source files and take less time and money in comparison with localization.

Creating a new voiceover for a video involves completely replacing the entire audio track. When you decide to record a completely new voiceover track for a video, a professional voice artist who is a native speaker of the target language will provide the recording. A new music track and new sound effects will also be added.

Voice dubbing a more economical version of providing a new voiceover track. When dubbing, the new narrator's audio track will be superimposed over the existing video, and the volume of the original track will be lowered. The original music and sound effects are preserved.

One disadvantage of recording a new voiceover or dubbing a video is that all visible on-screen text remains unchanged and the duration of episodes is not changed, which is why the new voiceover track may not be synchronized completely accurately with the video.

However, if you need your video translated as quickly and cheaply as possible, then there remains another option — subtitling.

Creating subtitles

Subtitling services come in handy for simple projects or modest budgets. When you create subtitles, then usually only the narrator's lines are translated.

Use our hint: Before you translate subtitles, create them in the original language and only then proceed to the subtitle localization.

  1. Transcribe the text of the video.

    That is, transform the spoken text into a printed text.

  2. Synchronize the original voiceover text with the video.

    To achieve this, the voiceover text is broken into fragments consisting of 5-15 words each; each piece is assigned a time code (the time when each sentence appears and disappears). Synchronization is necessary so that each phrase in the subtitles matches either the "native" voiceover or a corresponding action on the screen.

  3. Translate subtitles on video into a foreign language.

    Sometimes the translation needs to be cut a little, so that the viewer has a chance to read the text accompanying a particular scene.

It is best not to 'burn' the prepared subtitles into the video. Rather, they should be saved as a separate file (for example, with the extension SRT or TXT). It's always easier to translate SRT subtitles rather than changing any text that's inseparable from the video sequence!

After all, Youtube's interface allows you to add translated subtitles to already published videos. This means that you don't have to re-upload a new version of your clip, and then collect views and likes for the 'translated' video from scratch.

Subtitles have some disadvantages:

  1. They distract attention away from the action in your video (the viewer has to read them, preventing them from sitting back and enjoying the video).

  2. They mechanically block part of the screen.

  3. They prevent those viewers who are not used to them from getting immersed in the video. 

At the same time, subtitles have their advantages. Subtitles can be produced quickly, are relatively inexpensive, can be easily implemented, and are easy to translate into other languages. Indeed, in comparison with other video localization options, SRT translations are that simple!

On top of that, if you already have subtitles in the original language, subtitle localization becomes even easier, as you don't have to make transcribing & synchronizing again. So that you can translate subtitles on video into as many languages as you need having transcribing & synchronizing made only once.

Both the upsides & downsides of subtitles can be clearly seen in this English-language video, in which French subtitles have been added. 


Calculating the cost and ordering a video translation

The team here at Alconost is ready to work on your localization, new voiceover, dubbing, and subtitle projects in any foreign language. Feel free to contact us!

When requesting a quote for a video localization project, please check whether you have the source clip and exactly what changes you want to make.

The video translation services cost depends on the project complexity, the availability and quality of the source file, and the total duration of the video. The price is calculated individually for each order.


More on multimedia localization

Sometimes you need to translate not only video content but audio as well. This includes app voice-overs, voice notifications, etc. This is one of the many aspects of multimedia localization that we cover here at Alconost.

Apart from using native speakers to produce the voice-over recordings, we also do everything possible to make the localized voice-over sound as though it was initially created in these languages. Our additional audio localization services include narrative text translation or proofreading, synchronization or duration control, audio post-processing, and file slicing & naming to simplify the insertion of the localized audio into the finished product.

Want some examples? Listen to the voice-overs we recorded in 10 different languages for WRD Learn Words, a language-learning app. We recorded more than 2,000 audio files with a native-speaking voice-over actress in each language.

Regardless of the exact format or type of multimedia content you need to localize, contact Alconost to get a free consultation and preliminary quote from our localization experts.


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