Considering tools for audiovisual translation

In his 2014 article, “How (Not) to Fail as a Multimedia Translator,” applied linguistics professor Attila Imre identified the challenge of multimedia localization for language services professionals these days. He observed a major shift in translation work from text-to-be-translated to “whatever”-to-be-translated. The “whatever” is multimedia — text, images, audio, video and animation.

The growing popularity of video streaming, online gaming and interactive educational programs (eLearning) has made audiovisual translation (AVT) the fastest growing segment of multimedia translation work. AVT includes subtitling, dubbing, voiceover, closed captioning, apps and video games.

To give you an idea of how popular video is, consider these 2017 YouTube statistics: almost five billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day, and of that five billion, 80% of YouTube’s views are from outside of the United States. As a result, business, education and governmental sectors are dedicating more resources to creating subtitles and captions for their audiovisual content.

Government regulatory requirements are also increasing the need for more closed captioning and subtitling. Worldwide, there are almost 400 million people who are hard of hearing or deaf. Because this portion of the population is so largely underserved, both the US and the UK have passed regulatory measures to increase the availability of closed captioning and subtitling for digital programming.

The globalization and localization industry will need to place a greater number of resources into education, training and tools to match the growing demand that is a consequence of these wide-reaching regulations.

An article in The Journal of Specialised Translation, “Challenges for the Audiovisual Industry in the Digital Age: The Ever-changing Needs of Subtitle Production,” traced the rise of AVT as a translation genre and the educational and training opportunities that have been created for linguists in the last 25 years:

“At university level, AVT was not recognised as an official translation genre until very recently, with research and a comprehensive theoretical framework being set up towards the end of the 20th century. Universities picked up on the gap in the market in the late ‘90s and recognised the need for educating and training prospective subtitlers. We now have many universities offering modules and courses on subtitling and audiovisual translation in general, but also specialised courses for particular subtitling types, such as intralingual hard-of-hearing subtitling (SDH), as well as audio description (AD) or video game localisation.”

Subtitling and closed captioning are similar, and often thought of as interchangeable — and in fact, as in the quote, closed captioning is sometimes referred to as “hard-of-hearing subtitling.” Normally, however, there is a distinct difference. Both display text on a television, video screen or other visual display to provide information. Subtitling is for those who do not speak the source language of the audiovisual content, closed captioning is for those who cannot hear the audio. Subtitles usually appear on the bottom third of a video frame. Subtitles can be white or yellow and do not have background; the script is placed directly over the video.

Closed captions can indicate background sounds, such as “[horn honking]” or “[laughs],” or indicate who is speaking. Unlike subtitles, captions aren’t limited to placement at the bottom third of the screen; they can be placed anywhere they are needed. In front of the person speaking, for example. Another difference from subtitles: captions usually appear as white script on a black background.

Tool tips

To meet the escalating demand for AVT many have turned to machine translation (MT). But at this point, MT is not able to deliver the quality that customers are demanding for their AVT. One audiovisual services vendor in Will Brown’s October 2015 post “7 Myths of Video Dubbing & Audio Translation” warns against MT and the added expense to correct errors in translation. “Machine translations actually drive up the cost of voiceover because sessions take longer and clients are never satisfied with the final content.”

While computer-aided translation (CAT) tools are not ideally suited for AVT, there are solutions that offer integrated, high-quality translation of multimedia projects. Any must-have localization tools for AVT include an advanced, cloud-based translation management system (TMS) with CAT tools that enable the creation and leveraging of translation memory (TM), in-context review, customizable workflows and automated quality checks.

In a recent GALA webinar, “Subtitling and Closed Captioning — Success for Language Agencies and Freelancers,” industry expert Aida Martirosyan identified the software for subtitling and closed captioning translation services that her vendors prefer. The most popular platforms were freeware like Subtitle Editor or Subtitle Workshop; commercially available apps like Spot, EZTitles® Basic; and for professional use, FAB Subtitler and CaptionMaker or MacCaption.

While there is a lack of subtitling software with translation memory tools, cloud-based translation platforms have the ability to load subtitle files and link them to the audiovisual content, create translation memories and use machine translation using API keys. Cloud-hosted and offered on a software-as-a-service basis, a browser-based translation workflow and publishing platform is fully integrated and interoperable with third-party applications for audiovisual content management.

These tools can be used to translate subtitles and captions for webinars, product videos and the most popular AVT content, eLearning courses. Cloud-based translation management technology has several advantages: the ability to create TM, continuous change management and version control, easy file uploading, in-context review and customizable workflows that can be specifically tailored for AVT.

TM can be a critical tool that helps linguists deliver more consistent, accurate and cost-efficient translation. In the 2015 article “Applications Of Machine Translation And Translation Memory Tools In Audiovisual Translation: A New Era?” it was reported that, when asked which tool they prefer for subtitling software, an integrated TM or MT, more than half (56.8%) chose TM. 

However, creating TMs during AVT can be difficult. Usually translation is saved sentence by sentence as a unit, but in AVT, the sentence may be cut off between one subtitle and the next. You cannot log in a half sentence in a traditional TM, but a cloud platform lets you create a separate TM vault — a subtitling or segmented vault — that lets you store those unique AVT pairs. TM that is centrally stored and managed on a cloud TMS gives AVT teams access to multiple TM vaults, glossaries traditional TMs so they can be leveraged to ensure the consistency and quality of translations.

Today, most AVT projects are delivered as videos, transcripts with time codes, or in a text-deliverable format like Word, Excel, PDF, SRT, SCC or MCC, so it is important to have tools that will work with a variety of file formats for both importing and exporting. Most document importers aren’t able to pull out time codes in context, but if you’re using a TMS, an SRT file can be uploaded and time stamps will automatically be added.

A TMS workbench that offers in-context review puts your AVT resources at your fingertips. With an in-context workbench, timestamps for each video subtitle can be passed through as a segment note in an SRT file. Translators can then open a YouTube video in the in-context workbench, preview the video, and then use the segment notes to see where in the video they need to jump to in order to see a given subtitle. An in-context workbench that displays both text and time codes also ensures that the translation length will match the length of the source language. This is particularly useful with European languages that have a 20-30% expansion rate.

Because only one-third of video viewers speak English, more and more companies are turning to AVT to increase their global views and engagement. To take advantage of this growing demand, language services professionals need the latest web-based platforms and enhanced software solutions to successfully enter the AVT market.