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Q: I’m suprised it costs so much to produce foreign language versions of videos.

We have a number of health safety videos we’d like to produce in Arabic and Indian languages, but the cost seems higher than the original cost of producing the video in English.

Why does it cost so much? Can’t I use subtitles instead to keep the cost down?

Corporate Communications Manager
International Construction Group
Middle East & North Africa Region

A: Foreign language production costs is a headache for many managers. Here’s an explanation as what these costs comprise, and the relative benefits of voiceover versus subtitles.

Part 2 follows tomorrow.

The problem from the client’s point of view

Translation is too expensive.

They’ve paid for the video and now they have to pay, what can often amount to double or more, to get the video translated into the necessary foreign languages.

What is actually required

It is essential the foreign audience understand the video message without difficulty or hindrance.

The main problem to avoid is poor translation

Here’s a useful primer for foreign language video production

How do we ensure the script is accurately translated?

When a script contains translation errors the video becomes a joke.

Yet poor translation is common in foreignspeak production.

For example, the “fire station” becomes the “house on fire”

Or even worse “disposing safely of waste oil so it doesn’t run into the river” becomes “pour the waste oil in the river”.

To avoid this, it is important to engage a professional translation agency with experience in the required languages.

Many clients use local people to do their translation and save money.

But I know from experience that these translations are often flawed. And fixing the flaws ends up costing more.

So be certain when you use your own people, as you will have to underwrite any mistakes they make.

Even a professional translation still needs to be backed up by the client checking the scripts for accuracy, such as the correct use of idioms and professional terminology.

And it’s my experience that many mistakes still creep through.

To avoid this, you need to engage a foreignspeak voiceover studio that uses an experienced Director to guide the Voiceover Artist during the recording session.

This ensures the Voiceover (often only a part-timer) has professional guidance in both the style of delivering the speech, and speaking the correct text.

The recording session acts as a failsafe in case there are still any translation errors.

For example, in voiceover recording sessions as recent as this Summer it was noticed that, from client-supplied scripts, half the texts had small errors, and one (the Japanese) had serious errors with cost over-run implications.

Fortunately these problems were corrected on the spot.

These three steps will ensure voiceover errors are avoided:

> Use a quality agency

> Ensure a thorough client script check

> Use an experienced foreign language voiceover director

Why not use sub-titles instead of voiceover?

Many clients initially prefer sub-titles to voiceover as they cost a lot less to produce, and they’re generally easier to make from the client point of view.

While it shouldn’t be especially difficult for a video producer to produce either, it’s my experience that no one really reads sub-titles.

There are a number of reasons why audiences dislike sub-titles:

> Semi-literate audiences can’t read quickly enough to follow the text.

> The audiences’ eyes are kept following the text, and not on the onscreen action, increasing the risk of missing important events.

> Sentences have to be chopped up small to fit on the screen, so the content loses its richness and becomes tedious.

This implies that while a client may produce in sub-titles, the video is probably not half as effective as it would have been if it had been professionally produced with foreign voiceover.

If there is still doubt over the use of sub-titles, look at the following questions:

> How many DVDs do you watch twice?

> How many DVDs with sub-titles do you watch twice?


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