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You’ve made a video in one language (source language) and now you want to localize it into other languages (target languages). This process of localization can be quite smooth or time-consuming and complicated. It depends on many factors and how well prepared you are before you begin.

A few best-practices to keep in mind when localizing videos:

Access to the Source files 

To avoid delaying the project schedule, it’s better to make sure the source files are available easily and that any music and voice tracks are separated into individual files.  Also, if the video has on-screen text or any editable images, please have that content available in an editable format.

Build a Glossary or Term Base to Ensure Consistency

Building a multi-lingual glossary or termbase is extremely useful to maintain consistency in the translation, especially if these terms appear in multiple videos. This eliminates inconsistency and confusion.

Translate the Metadata

YouTube, like all video sharing sites, requires metadata for videos that are uploaded. Translated descriptions enable searches of video content to be found and also give users more information about a video. Gaining higher search engine visibility will bring more viewers and enable marketing opportunities. It’s therefore recommended that metadata be translated as well.

Adjust the Script Translation

As the translated script will be read out loud, it’s best to translate the text using oral language so that it sounds more natural and will be easier for the voiceover talent to read aloud (e.g. use contractions, “can’t” vs “cannot”).  If the translated script is significantly longer (or shorter) than the source script, then the voiceover length will be too long (or too short). This could complicate the process of synchronizing the voiceover into the video.

For subtitles, the translation of a sentence or group of words should not be much longer or shorter than the source language as the translated subtitle needs to still be in sync with the original audio. Additionally, the translator should keep in mind that each language has a general limit of how many words can be read on the screen for a duration of one-to-six seconds.

On-Screen Text (OST) & Subtitles Don’t Play Well Together

Having minimal translated OST on the screen with subtitles is preferred because it allows the viewer to focus on reading the subtitles, and it doesn’t add extra text to read, which would increase the read time of that screen.  The read time per screen should match the audio length of the same screen as taking more time to read one screen will affect the timing of the rest of the video.

Localizing Software User Interface (UI) Within a Video

If your video contains a dynamic web interface or software UI and you want to localize it into the target language, you will need to re-record the video using the localized/translated UI. When it’s time to do the visual recording of the UI, it’s important to ensure that the original/source UI hasn’t been changed from what’s shown on the source video.  This can happen when the localization process takes place sometime after the original video was made. Consistency is therefore hard to maintain and this type of content change affects all components of the whole localization process.

Keep Changes to a Minimum

Ensure the source video is the final version; otherwise, any changes after certain tasks of the localization process have begun will affect the script translation, recording, and screen recording and/or engineering.  Keeping changes to a minimum will ensure the project is completed on time and on budget.


Translating videos may seem like a complicated, time-consuming, and costly effort. But it doesn’t have to be. Keep these best practices in mind as you create the original video, and also check out these tips for easy video localization to help you navigate the video localization process. They’ll make the process much smoother and less costly than expected. Check out Part 2 of this series: Best Practices for Localizing Videos.

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