Did you know that more than six billion hours of video are watched every month on YouTube alone? That’s almost an hour for every person on Earth. Clearly, the love of video is universal. In fact, it’s almost impossible to ignore its meteoric rise in popularity—and it’s easy to see why. Video channels more engagement than any other avenue and has been linked to higher email open rates, increased sales and more.

If you’re ready to take this potential to a global scale, you’ll need to properly localize your videos so your audiences can understand them. Video localization is definitely a complex process, but it doesn’t have to make your head spin. Let’s take a closer look at some best practices for voiceovers and subtitles can help you understand which route is best for your video localization projects.

Freeze Frame: A Closer Look at Voiceover Options

While voiceovers may seem pretty straightforward, you do have some choices on how to go about it. The route you choose depends on your time and budget requirements as well as the intent and structure of your video. For instance, if you are localizing a product demo video and the actor isn’t speaking directly at the camera, it’s pretty easy to dub over that original actor’s voice in the target language. In this case, you don’t have to worry about mouth movements matching up.

But what if the actor is speaking directly to the camera, and you do need to conform to his or her mouth movements? Essentially, you have three options with audio voiceovers for video localization:

#1. UN style voiceover is when the volume of the video’s original audio recording is turned down and replaced with the speech of the actor in the target language at a much higher volume. The translated voiceover is not an attempt to lip-sync, but rather narrate what is being said. This format is often seen on news shows, documentaries and filmed interviews.

#2. Simple dubbing, on the other hand, is when the source language is completely stripped from the video and it’s replaced with the target language so as to match up mouth and lip movements as best as possible. It will not be exact.


#3. Synchronized dubbing is an even more sophisticated process where—like simple dubbing—the speaker’s source language is removed and replaced with the native speaker’s words. In this case, however, the translated recording is highly synced to match the video actor’s phonetic, semantic and dramatic voice inflections. As you can imagine, this method entails more time and cost.
You can even choose to skip voiceovers and re-record your training module, marketing promo, etc. with a voice actor who’s native to the target country. A language service provider can guide you on which option will work best for you.

No matter how you decide to go about it, I recommend that you do a final review, where another linguist looks over your translated script to ensure it is top notch. This is important because recording your audio in studio can be expensive, and some studios require at least a week’s notice to book a time slot. You don’t want to have to go through that whole process again just to alter a sentence—whether it’s for style or word choice reasons. This extra quality assurance step can keep your project on track and on budget and save you some potential hassle.

Read Between the Lines: Tips for Subtitles and Closed Captions

You may decide to skip voiceovers and stick with subtitles. You generally have two options for translated subtitles:

1. With closed captions, you have the option to turn on and off the subtitles at the bottom of your video.

2. Alternatively, open captions, like closed captions, appear at the bottom of your video. Open captions are actually embedded into the video, so you can’t turn them off.

If you go with closed captions, be sure to tell your translation team which type of video player you use so they can ensure that the completed files they send you are compatible with your player.

Can you use both subtitles AND closed captions?

Yes! You can have the best of both worlds and use subtitles and voiceovers. You see, once script files are translated for the actor to record, it only takes a little more time and budget to simply add those files into your video as closed captions. This video localization method gives your audiences the ability to choose whether or not to view it with sound and can also be extra support for the hearing impaired.

Fast Forward to Global Video Success

Of course, this is just one aspect to consider with video localization. But hopefully these tips have you thinking about how you want to go about your next video localization project. Have you translated your videos for global audiences? Did you go with voiceovers, subtitles or both? I’d love to hear about your experiences!