By Greg Ball, President of Ball Media Innovations

Can I Translate it Myself for Use in Subtitling, Dubbing, or Voice Over? Or Do I Need Professional Film & Video Script Translation Services

Often when clients first come to us to have their film, audio program, or video translated into another language, they're looking for ways to keep their expenses down. I certainly understand that, and we truly want to help. We do help in two ways:

1. By offering our clients the best language translation services solution for their budgets.

2. By providing the most competitive pricing possible while still delivering the highest quality translation services out there.

Even with this, we understand that our clients need to be sure they're spending wisely on their translation services. So when it comes to subtitles, voice-over and dubbing projects, we're often asked the same question by clients:

"Can I translate the script myself, and give it to you to use rather than using you for these translation services?"

It would seem like an easy "Yes" would be in order if they know the languages well, or have someone else they know who speaks the languages they need.

However, I have a surprising answer for them. The reality is that if they provide their own translation, it will usually end up costing them more in the long run than if we do it for them.

This is because of the need for "adaptation" which happens during the translation process. I'll explain.

What is Adaptation for video and film translation?

Adapting the translated scripts means finding the right words that convey the exact same meaning in a shorter time span while timing it perfectly to the English video or film. Adaptation is the process of translating and rewriting the script so that the subtitles, voice-over narration, or dubbing artist's voices comfortably match the speed of the original video/film.

Consider that most languages take approximately 20-30% longer to say the same thing in English. Also, people speak differently than they write, and most languages use a different style for written words as compared to the spoken words. What that means is that although the speed of the voice(s) in your original version is comfortable for English, it’s almost always going to be too fast using other languages. You'll be trying to stuff too many words in, and it won't be pretty.

How Does Adaptation Impact Voice Narration Translation?

If you're using voice narration, and the adaptation is not perfect, your narrator will have to speak unnaturally fast to keep up with the images, and we may not always be able to keep the correct dialogue with the appropriate on-screen images.

Professional quality translation services will always adapt the script so that the wording is accurate, paced properly, and allows the voice to be timed well with the images on-screen.

How Does Adaptation Impact Voice Dubbing Translation?

If you're using voice dubbing, and the adaptation is not perfect, we may not be able to match the voices with the on-screen action, body language, and lip movements.

Again, professional-quality translation services adapt the script so that the wording is accurate, paced properly, and allows the voice to be timed well with the actor's body language, lip movements, and the on-screen action.

How Does Adaptation Impact Subtitle Translation?

If you're using subtitles, remember that people don't read as quickly as they speak. There will only be two lines of text on the screen at a time, and the text will have to move really fast to get it all in. If adaptation is not done (or done well), your viewers won't have time to read it all and to watch the action on-screen at the same time.

Since the viewer needs to also focus on the video itself, reading the overly fast subtitles at the same time will be challenging, distracting, and maybe even impossible.

Think about watching the crawl on the bottom of the news screen. You'll usually be able to focus on either watching the newscaster or the crawl, but not both. Now imagine the crawl is in a different language and its critical that you read it. You're likely to miss most of what's happening on the screen.

So it's essential to have adaptation translation services performed by someone who can make sure the timing will be synched properly and made comfortable for the viewer. They'll also have to keep the meaning and intent of the translation true to the original.

Disney took on the task of translating the movie Frozen into numerous languages. They had to find voices that were appropriate, they had to adapt the song lyrics to fit, and they had to account for language and cultural differences. This was a pretty gigantic task, but of course, they had the means to also change the animation to fit the words. Take a look at their amazing version of the song "Let It Go" adapted into 41 different languages:

So Can I do the Video Adaptation Myself?

Video adaptation is a skill and an art. It takes talent, in-depth knowledge of the language and culture, and years of experience to be able to adapt a script so that it's natural on-screen. At Ball Media Innovations we use only highly experienced video/audio translators who know how to adapt a script so that the timing will be more natural and comfortable for the viewer. This is how we've earned our reputation as a top translation services company.

Be cautious about the translation services company that you choose. Some of them do not understand adaptation or take the time to adapt the script translation properly. Some don't practice it at all, and some practice it poorly. Take a look at their demo samples and observe the speed of the translation. Is it natural and comfortable? Take a look at our video demo translation samples for some examples of well-done adaptation.

The bottom line:

When clients have translated their own scripts in the past rather than using professional translation services for this part of the process, it's inevitably resulted in greater costs down the road. Ultimately we had to have our translators spend time going through the videos to see what was wrong, and we had to have our translators evaluate and fix all the issues. This ended up taking much longer than just having our translators handle the script from the start, and it ended up being more expensive for the clients.

So I strongly suggest to my clients that they allow us to do the actual language translation. This is the most cost-effective way of getting great translation services they'll be happy with, and high-quality results.

Want help with your translation project?

Visit our film and video Translation Services page to see what we offer and why BMI is your best choice, and give us a call! We're happy to talk with you about your project. We can give you a free quote.

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    About The Author and Company: Greg Ball, President of Ball Media Innovations, has over 25 years of leading his film and video translation teams. He started working with international translation when he worked as the Manager of Worldwide Video Communications for Burger King Corporation. He's known for his attention to detail and excellent service.

    Ball Media Innovations is located in Florida, so we're a USA based company. We specialize in video and film translation, dubbing, and subtitles. It's also a full-service video production company. For translation services and video production services call today. We'll be happy to talk with you about your language translation project.

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