Text Expansion: Planning For Audio-Visual Projects

Languages, Voiceover & Multimedia11 June 20153.9k

English is one of the most dominant languages in the world, with recent surveys suggesting up to 790 million people are able to speak it to some degree. 

It is also the international language of business, so will typically be involved in branding materials. However, when translating from English to another language for a specific audio-visual project, one of the biggest issues can be text expansion. 

During the translation process, a lot of languages will expand due to a number of factors, including grammar, syntax, word usage and terminology. For example, German increases by upwards of 20 per cent, Spanish by around 15 per cent and Danish by roughly ten per cent. 

The last thing you want to happen is that the voiceover track doesn’t fit the video, as this could mean that the video will need to be edited – both a costly and time consuming process!

Plan for text expansion
The easiest way to avoid this problem is to consider text expansion during the development phase of your video. Typically marketing videos have to be fast moving and snappy in order to engage an audience, with many lasting less than two minutes and tasked with delivering a message in a highly condensed setting. Because of the amount of information that needs to be included, issues can develop if the audio starts to fall out of sync with the video, which will make the project look amateurish and could ultimately lead to project derailment.

The easiest way to prevent this problem from occurring is to create your source English video with a high-expansion language such as German in mind. As a general rule, if the video fits German, it will accommodate most other major languages. It is also much easier to reduce scene lengths at a late stage to fit the language, rather than add additional footage. 

Consider the time constraints of the source video
Of course, text expansion may not always have been considered earlier on in the project. In this case, a skilled linguist can be tasked with re-versioning a voiceover script to make sure the audio and visuals match. Remember, the most important thing is that cultural nuances, humor and idiomatic phrases are in keeping with the original script, but there is scope for shorter/different words to be used. 

It is not only the world count that has to be factored in at this stage, however, as you also need to consider how long it actually takes to say a certain word or phrase. For example, the German compound word for ‘partner’ or ‘lover’ is ‘Lebensabschnittpartner’, which actually translates as ‘the person I am with today’. The bottom line is that the script may have to be adapted or paraphrased in order to adhere to the video’s time constraints, which demonstrates just how important it is to use a translator with significant experience in voice over work if you want to achieve a high-quality final version. 

Ensure that you add time-code to your script
Lastly, whichever route you take, before you hand-off your transcript in English for translation, ensure that a time-code is created within the script for each and every scene in the video. If you are unable to do this yourself, all professional voiceover and multimedia localization specialists will be able to help. This way, during translation, your translator can translate in accordance with the space available.

Complemented by the video as reference, and a video that has sufficient space, a translator with good voiceover translation experience can actually act out the script as they translate, to ensure a perfect translation and a perfect fit – scene or lip-synched.

Posted by By failing to properly consider text expansion, brands are running the risk of producing a substandard video.


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