SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

The Basics of Video Localization

[fa icon="calendar"] October 6, 2017 / by Margarita Núñez

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Digital Video is the most effective online marketing tool with nearly 4 billion internet users worldwide. Almost 100 million people watch videos online every day and more than 50% of businesses rate video as the type of content with the best ROI. If you take into account that 80% of YouTube's views are from outside the U.S. then that means a lot of global consumers spending a lot of time browsing for software, products, music, etc. This has led to an increase in the demand for some of those videos to be localized for international consumption.

So, if you need to localize some of the videos your company has produced such as marketing demonstrations, product demos, or computer-based training, first you should get familiar with the terminology used in video localization.

The main thing to understand is that the video remains the same and that it is the audio component that gets localized: first transcribed to get the English script; then time-coded to get the timing correct; then transcreated to make it locally accurate; and finally shortened to fit within the given time in the video or space in each screen. Here is a handy list of the basic terms to get you started!

Audio Voiceover Recording

Basically, the translated script is recorded using a native voice talent and then integrated back into the original video. There are a few options for Audio Voiceover Recording depending on the video and your budget:
  • Dubbing
    This is when an actor's voice in the target language replaces the original English in the video. In this case, lip movements do not match up but the voiceover is time coded so the actor starts and finishes at the same time as the original. This is the most widely used option.
  • Lip synching
    This is short for lip synchronization and it is a technical term for matching lip movements. It is similar to dubbing but in this case lip-synched to the original actor mouth movements. This is very elaborate and time consuming and hence a more costly option.
  • UN style voiceover
    This is when the volume of the English is turned down and replaced with the target language but at a much higher volume. With a UN-style voice-over, the original person can still be heard so it is obvious that the translated voiceover is an interpretation of what is being said. This is used more for programs and interviews

If budget is tight, then you can consider not doing voiceovers at all and go for subtitling instead. 


Basically the original script of the English video gets transcribed so the viewer can read the subtitles easily.

  • Original Subtitles
    The subtitles are integrated into the video and displayed at the bottom of each screen. The subtitles are time coded so each subtitle matches the screen.  With this option, the subtitles are embedded into the video so the user cannot turn them off.
  • Translated Subtitles
    The original script of the English video gets first transcribed, then translated and then shortened. The translated subtitles are subsequently integrated into the video and displayed at the bottom of each screen. The subtitles are time coded so each subtitle matches the screen.  With this option, the subtitles are embedded into the video so the user cannot turn them off.
  • Closed Captioning
    Closed captioning means the subtitles are hidden until selected (this applies to both original English and translated). This is the same as subtitling but sometimes includes descriptions of non-speech elements like music, sounds, etc. However, the user has the option to turn on and off the subtitles.

Using both: audio voiceovers and subtitles

You can opt for both: localized audio voiceovers and subtitles. This works well for marketing videos, for instance, where you might need both so people can hear and see at the same time. It can also be suitable for the hearing impaired.

Need your videos localized? Start by getting your video script translated for free – we'll provide expert video localization and website translation advice to guide you along the way!

Editor's note: This post was originally published April 2016, but it has been updated for completeness and accuracy.

Free  Video Script  Translation

Topics: Marketing Translation, International Business Strategy, Translation Services

Margarita Núñez

Written by Margarita Núñez

Margarita is SimulTrans' Director, Global Marketing. She spearheads SimulTrans' Digital Marketing Strategy by creating, managing, and publishing content for inbound and outbound campaigns across multiple channels. Margarita has more than 25 years of experience in sales and management for the localization industry. She has been involved in many localization organizations, currently also serving as a Program Director for Membership for Women in Localization, a non-profit global organization.