General Considerations for Easy Video Localization

Are you planning to make a video to promote your product or services, or a ‘how-to’ video, or even an explainer video about your company? If you are, have you thought about localizing it for another market in a different language? For example, if your video is for American audiences, do you think you might also want to tap into the French or Spanish market? If you do, you’ll want to localize your video into French and Spanish. But whether you’re considering localizing your video or not, when you create the original video (what we call the “source video”), there are important factors to consider that will make localization much easier should you decide to target other markets with your video in the future.


When making a video that’s going to be localized into another language for a separate market, take into account that several factors affect the localization process that might be costly and require a longer turnaround time. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consider a few factors before you create a video; considerations that are specific to subtitling and dubbing a video.


At the time of making the source video, whether you plan on dubbing or subtitling, consider the cultural references and visuals in your video when writing the script, recording in the source language, shooting the video as well as what’s being shown on the screen.


Let’s start with these general considerations:


Cultural References – To facilitate the localization process, design content that transfers well across cultures and languages. Some idioms or cultural cues may not translate well for another market such as “Super Bowl” or “He hit a home run with that speech”. These are commonly used analogies in American culture; however, when trying to appeal to a market that is culturally different, it requires you to adapt to concepts or icons that are common to that specific culture. For example, in many parts of the world, soccer or football is the most popular sport and its World Cup is the most well-known sporting event in many other countries. Such references in the script might require extensive revisions of the concepts when translating.




Similarly, if culture-specific or location-specific images, signage or backgrounds are part of the video, it may not be possible to remove them without re-shooting. For example, if you’re shooting your video outside and there are street signs in English, is that sign relevant to the video, or will it cause a distraction for viewers in other countries? It’s best to avoid having it in your video.



Numbers and colors connotate different meanings in various cultures and languages. The number four is considered an unlucky number in Chinese culture since its Chinese pronunciation sounds like the Chinese term for ”death.” Black is the primary color used for death in many Western cultures while death is represented by the color white in many Eastern cultures. Also, avoid including references to information that may change from market to market or over time, such as statistics and data. Although these can be changed in the localization process, the technicalities may incur added costs and time.


Also, the use of animations or other non-regional speakers hold more universal appeal than featuring speakers from a defined region and can mean that fewer video components will need to be localized. In addition, there are many more culture-related issues such as hand gestures, people’s clothing, currencies, measurements, etc., to consider.


Visuals and Other Graphics – Sometimes you will include in your video a screenshot, graphics, diagrams, or any other sort of infographics or visuals. For example, you may include a symbol of Canada when your video is aimed at the Canadian market; but if you want to localize your video for another market, that image may not be suitable.



Ensure that any visuals can be easily modified into the target language if you plan to localize them because they cannot be automatically ‘erased & replaced’ like text on a document. Such localization requires some manual work, and it also affects the script translation, voice recording, and engineering aspects of the entire localization process. If you don’t plan to localize any visuals, make sure they’re generic enough culturally to be understood by all your target audience viewers.


In Conclusion

These are just some examples of general localization factors to consider when making a source video. As you can see from these general considerations, cultural and visual sensitivities can impact your localization plans, not to mention the time and budget required. The specific localization techniques needed will depend on the specifications of the project, how many markets it needs to be localized for, and the type of content that needs to be localized.


To learn more about what cultural and visual factors in video localization, feel free to contact us!