Translating for OTT Platforms: The What, Why, And How of it
Even before the pandemic, over the top (OTT) platforms had it going good. By the end of 2019, the international OTT market was already valued at USD 86 billion. The pandemic in 2020 and beyond has only helped OTT players to gallop strongly into more personal screens, as more and more people stayed at home and avoided movie halls.
The fastest-growing market for OTT is India, and other countries in the Asia Pacific, while the largest market still continues to be North America. And the one trend that is true of almost all markets is the production of content exclusively for streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, and the like. This is because the OTT players want to control and own the content being viewed, rather than just being the online versions of TV shows.
The other strong trend is for OTT companies to translate their movies and television shows into other languages and make them accessible to more audiences. This translation happens through processes such as subtitling, dubbing, or voice-overs. Any one of these approaches is used depending on budget, time, audience preference, and content type.
Why Translation is Important for OTT Players
OTT platforms stand to gain hugely with translation of their content. This is because:
1. Content re-use: With translation and localization, OTT companies can re-use content for different markets without having to produce shows from scratch. This way, they can cater to diaspora viewers who may not be completely fluent in their native tongues, but still want to watch shows made in their home country. It can also make content available to people who have a taste for international programming. Often, it can be surprising how movies and TV shows turn out to be huge hits on distant shores. The Hindi movie Dangal made USD 196 million in China alone.
Without translation, content stays locked in the language it was created in. Translation helps the content travel to different countries, locales, and diverse audiences.
2. Pandemic-friendly: While the pandemic has contributed to the booming growth of OTT companies, it has also posed challenges to the creation of new shows and movies because of social distancing requirements and frequent and recurring lockdowns. So, re-use of media content via subtitling, dubbing, or voice-overs has become an easier way to move content across linguistic and national borders.
3. Gives a competitive edge: International OTT platforms often own large amounts of content. However, in one of the most competitive markets like India, they are up against regional players, who cater to the local demand in local languages. One of the ways the international players deal with this competition is by translating their huge reserves of international content into the regional languages. This way, they get some lead time in producing more tailored content for regional audiences. They can also put their content capital to good use by translating it and engaging new viewers.
For the regional players, too, subtitling and dubbing can take their content from one regional language to another or even to the international arena. So, basically translation acts like a passport for the media content and everyone wins.
4. Accessible. Transcripts and subtitles help everyone watch and enjoy the content. But they are especially helpful to people with hearing difficulties or auditory and comprehension disabilities that they might have. Thus, they bring in inclusivity and show a sensitivity to the needs of all viewers.
5. Localized for an audience. When the dialogue is translated to create a subtitle, an experienced and professional subtitler does not just stop at literal translation. They make sure that the sense of the dialogue carries through. To do so, they often have to go beyond translating word for word. A particular figure of speech may not have an exact equivalent in another language. One has to not only convey the meaning using a different set of words in the target language, but also make sure that they will be of appropriate length. If they are subtitles, they must be of a matching character count so that they fit on the screen. If it’s dubbing or voice-overs, the dialogue must sync with the lip movement. This is not an easy task, but translators are required to do it routinely to localize the script for a particular audience.
6. Suited to different viewing environments. As entertainment content has moved to personal screens, the viewing environments too are not the same as before. One may be watching a TV series in the living room, outdoors in a noisy environment while waiting to finish some tasks, and so on. Subtitles make it easier to follow the conversation in such viewing environments and make sure that the viewer remains engaged for longer periods of time.
The Importance of a Video Localization Strategy
OTT players often find that they must decide on the content to localize and the languages into which they must translate. They also need to choose the right video translation method, such as subtitling or dubbing. In India, a survey found that south Indian audiences are more likely to prefer subtitling, while audiences in the north and east chose dubbed content.
All of these are important decisions and go to form the company’s video localization strategy. Let your strategy be based on solid customer research and an awareness of best practices. Do not hesitate to correct course with constant collection of feedback.
Video Translation Methods And Their Use Cases
You can translate a video through subtitles, dubbing, or voice-overs. However, there’s a preliminary step that needs to be completed, irrespective of your translation choice. And, that is transcription.
Transcriptions convert the dialogue into text. They can be either full or verbatim transcripts that capture all sounds and actions happening on the screen. For example, like a door closing in the background or conversation fillers such as “umms”. Or, they can be edited or clean transcripts which only capture the main dialogue on the screen and nothing else.
Subtitling refers to the process of converting the transcript from one language into another. But translation is just one part of the process. Spotting, time coding, template creation, choosing the font and its size and colour for subtitles, line breaks, and different punctuation marks as specified by the client to denote different speakers, etc., are some of the other aspects that have to be worked upon while subtitling shows and movies.
Subtitlers also have to sometimes create bridges between cultures. There might be a joke in the original script which may fall flat when translated. The subtitler then has to adapt the text to make it relevant, unoffending, and also make sense.
In dubbing, the translated dialogues are spoken by voice actors. This audio clip replaces the original voice clip of the video. It is often the most preferred method of translation for entertainment content such as movies, television shows, etc. It is done by professional voice actors and requires careful timing of dialogue delivery. The words related to one screen must not spill over to another screen. Neither must the dialogue fall very short: this will result in the actors still moving their lips, but no audio is heard.
Voice-overs form the narrative for the video. The original audio may sometimes be heard faintly in the background.
Best Practices to Get Translation for OTT Right
Firstly, work with an experienced multilingual agency that has substantial experience in all aspects of media localization: translation, subtitling, voice-overs, and dubbing. This way, your needs are met in a single window. Do sample projects with the agency to make sure the expectations are set right and confirm the resources and quality the agency can bring to the table.
Secondly, use technology wherever possible. With the volumes of video and audio translation ever-increasing, not all content may need the expertise of a professional subtitler or a voice actor. This brings speed and affordability.
Thirdly, create video and audio content with an eye towards localization. You never know which video asset may need to be translated. So, avoid using overly local themes such as region-specific holidays, untranslatable metaphors, or hard-coded images with text in the video. These typically turn into nightmares at the localization stage.
Translation for streaming media content is only set to grow, as the market expands and becomes deeply multilingual. It will be the game changer not just for movies and TV shows, but also for e-learning, training, gaming, and other sectors as the revenue potential of the same asset can be multiplied with localization and translation.