Translating videos, films and interactive slideshows is an exciting and effective way to connect with potential customers. Our first ever client here at TSI was Kodak in the 1980’s. We created English to Spanish voice over translations for their commercials and promotional videos. We have decades of experience producing voiceover translations and all sorts of other documents.
There are 3 ways to accomplish the production:
1. Voiceover Translation
2. Subtitle Translation
3. A combination of the two
There are several reasons to choose one version over another. I will delve into each separately.
Whenever possible and applicable, voiceover translation is the preferred method, because many people dislike subtitles. Actually, they hate them. I’ve had what I thought were sophisticated and curious friends who would never go to a movie if it were subtitled. Unfortunately for them, they’re missing many great foreign films. There’s no doubt that having to read subtitles takes away some of the enjoyment of viewing the images on the screen. But when you’re dealing with potential clients who would be interested in purchasing your product or services, you should look into the advantages of subtitles.
If the video, film or slideshow is in pre-production stage, you’ll have an advantage, because you have control over the timing of the production. As I have mentioned in earlier articles, many of the languages we deal with on a daily basis are longer than English; up to 30% in some cases. What this means is that if you have a 10 minute video in English, a Spanish narration might require 12 to 13 minutes to record the translation. This can be very problematic and costly. There are 3 ways to deal with this dilemma.
1. Read the translated text faster. Well, this is almost never a good solution unless the English was recorded very slowly, as if the voice talent was about to fall asleep at the microphone. Besides, when the speed of the narration is increased over 5%, the voice starts to sound unnatural and even annoying. Then when the speed of the narration is increased over 10% and even as much as 20%, it’s not only annoying, it becomes impossible to understand. It sounds like Jerry the Mouse running away from Tom the Cat as he’s yelling “don’t catch me; don’t catch me”. Seriously, it’s a poor way to solve the problem.
2. Make the video scenes longer. In some situations, this is an acceptable solution, except that now you’ll wind up with an 11 or 12 minute video. And somebody will have to pay for the additional video editing time. This will only work if there’s nobody speaking on-screen. Still pictures can be lengthened on-screen. Even moving pictures can be lengthened or slowed down to increase their time on the screen. However a person looking directly into the camera would appear silly and even disturbing, because the moving lips would not sync up with the foreign language voice.
3. If you have the opportunity to get involved at the pre-production stage, you should be able to edit the translation to make it conform to the length of the English. This is how we prefer to work. Whenever possible, we encourage our clients to let us make the original translation. Our translators understand the intricacies of working with video and film and can adapt the recording script to the allotted time.
Choosing the Right Voice Translator Talent
When we started translating videos and recording foreign language narrations more than 25 years ago, over 90% of our clients used male narrators. Many of the videos dealt with technical products, heavy duty machinery and construction equipment. They were made to sell products and create safety training programs for issues relating to OSHA. Our clients requested male narrators to match the style and feeling of the English versions. About ten years ago companies started using more female narrators. I prefer the sound and tone of a female voice. Female voices appear sharper and clearer on videos and films.
A final thing to consider with voiceovers is the accent of the narrator. If a video were meant to be used in Mexico or some of the other Latin American countries, I would advise a client not to use a narrator from Argentina, Uruguay or Spain. Because there are many countries that have Spanish as their official language, we typically suggest a Spanish speaking narrator with a neutral accent, perhaps someone from Colombia or Peru. The same can be said for other languages such as French, Italian, German and Russian. It’s best to choose a voice that is suitable to the location where the video or film will be used.
When Video Translation and Subtitling are Better than Voiceovers
At TSI, we do more than just voice dubbing - we are also a subtitle translation services company. There are specific occasions whereby voiceovers should not be used whenever possible. I advise clients to avoid voiceovers when the talent is talking on-screen. It’s almost impossible to sync an audio track to the movement of a person’s lips when using another language. The results range from being funny to annoying. Our mind wants us to think that the person is speaking the foreign language, but no matter how hard we try, it just doesn’t work, especially when the target language has a different etymology from the source. Imagine trying to sync Chinese, Hindi or Swahili to English. The languages are so vastly different that the viewer will not feel comfortable listening awww.tsi.world/contact.htmlnd viewing at the same time. There is a solution however, when a customer really wants this option. This means finding the right translation and subtitling services company.
With almost 30 years as voice language translators, TSI has the experience to ensure your videos are done on time and on budget. Our portfolio offers great examples of some of our clients who return year after year thanks to our professionalism. If your company is looking for a translation agency offering voiceover translation services or subtitle translations, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free quote.
Francis Semmens is the founder of TSI and author of all blog posts with a focus on translation for clients and translators alike.