background image

Translating Audio and Video Projects – What Should I Know?

"Let's get this translated quickly" – easy to say, but if you want high quality results, there are a few things to bear in mind, particularly when it comes to audio or video projects that are not "just" translated, but also require voice-over work or subtitles. This article explains what you can do to make sure your project is a success.


Translating Audio and Video Content – So What's So Special About That?

Unlike a "normal" translation, where written content is rendered from one language and culture to another, here we are dealing with spoken language. For recordings of audio or video content without a script, first a transcription needs to be created before the translation can begin. Creating this transcript comes with its own unique challenges, one of which is the time factor: manually typing out dialog takes a relatively long time because of the need for breaks and from repeatedly rewinding sections that are difficult to understand.

Even when using special speech-to-text software that converts spoken language into written text, repeated re-listening and correction is often necessary when compiling the transcription. Depending on the intended use of the material, different editing steps may also be necessary, for example optimizing specific line breaks or text smoothing. We would be happy to take care of this for you.

Free-spoken language generally differs significantly from written language – it is often less formal, the language may be pitched at a different level, and there may be broken sentences, fillers such as "er", "um" and so on, slips of the tongue, and interruptions. When there are conversations or discussions involving two or more people, rendering the to and from of the dialog is not always an easy task.

When we compile the transcription, we therefore aim to produce a structure that best fits the intended use. For example, for subtitles, time codes are essential. These are time stamps that are used in subtitling to indicate to the tenth of a second precisely when and for how long each subtitle should be displayed.

Another consideration in audio or video projects is the time and length factor: German, for example, is often longer than other languages. For subtitles, there are reader-friendly specifications governing the number of characters per line, how long individual subtitles should be displayed, and syntax separation within lines. This may require text to be changed or truncated to ensure that the meaning, images and length all match up. 

It is a similar situation with voice-over work, where the length of the target text should roughly match that of the source text to ensure the synchronicity of voice and image is retained even after translation.

Hopefully you now have a clearer idea as to why audio or video projects require a little more preparation and coordination when it comes to translation.


First Comes the Project Analysis

In order for us to successfully complete your project and deliver the required end product, we need some important information from you. To this end, we always use a checklist to record and save the key information.

Firstly, let's determine what sort of product you have. Do you have a professionally produced, dubbed video? An audio recording of a market research interview? Next: What do you need? Do you want to have subtitles added to your dubbed video? Do you need a speaker for professional voice-over work? Or do you need a simple transcription and a written translation?

Your project will involve different preparation steps, processes and experts depending on your material and your desired outcome. Preferably, you will provide us with this information at the start of the project.


Note: Processing costs increase with the number of individual files. For example, the processing time required for a single one hour video recording is usually different to the time required for the same video recording split into six 10 minute clips.


Other Points that Need to be Considered:

What is the file format of your material? Is it an audio file, video file, or a transcription with or without time codes? What is the file format (mp3, wav, mp4, SRT, VTT, etc.)? How many files are there?

Does a transcription need to be created? If it does, consider whether the fillers and similar words that do not contribute to meaning can be omitted. Are you happy for us to correct the grammatical errors in the spoken dialog, repeated words, and so on? May the text be truncated by omitting irrelevant filler words?


Creating Subtitles



Tip: A good transcript considerably eases translation and can minimize downstream editing work. We will gladly take care of this for you.


Considering these points before the start of the project makes the next steps simpler for you and for us. At the start of the project, please contact us to discuss your source material, what you want as your final product (subtitling, voice-over, etc.) and, of course, your expected delivery and project completion dates. As with so many other things, good preparation of your audio or video project pays off in every respect.



Each subtitling project begins with the transcript of the spoken text, which forms the basis of the translation. Once the transcription has been completed, our specialist translators get to work.


Subtitles including live preview during the translation in Trados Studio



Subtitles with sequential numbers and time stamps,
typical for formats like SRT and VTT

Tip: For subtitles, time codes are vital, as these specify to the tenth of a second precisely when each subtitle is displayed.


Once the transcription and the translation are complete, the texts are converted into subtitles, voice-over scripts, and so on. Depending on what has been agreed for the project, we will send you the texts before or after specific project steps. These can then be reviewed and approved.

The most important thing with subtitles is that the content is simple to understand and easy to read. Texts need to be brief and split into segments that match the meaning of the spoken words. Thus, with a normal display time of 2-7 seconds, subtitles usually comprise a maximum of one to two lines, each consisting of 35 42 characters so that the eye can scan them easily.


Tip: If we produce the transcript for you, we will ensure this is done from the start.

Multiple Languages? Other Features?

Do you require subtitles in multiple languages? In this case, we will usually provide you with a separate video for each language, although other solutions are possible. We will be happy to discuss your requirements.

Do you have any specific requirements for how subtitles are displayed in your videos? Do they need to be displayed in a certain color, with or without a background, with a certain font type, or with a specific maximum length? We can also take care of this for you.


Workflow of a Subtitling Project

You provide us with a transcription or have us create one for you. The text is optimized for the subsequent translation. Convoluted sentences are untangled, slips of the tongue are removed, syntax separators are added to the individual subtitles, and so on. Only then is a translation produced, always bearing in mind the correct length, legibility, and structure. On-screen text elements can also be rendered at this stage, if required.

Next, the subtitles are added to the video. Depending on what has been agreed, we will ask you to approve the content between the individual project steps before we move onto the next one.



The first steps are similar to those for subtitles: You provide us with a transcription or have us create one for you. If necessary the text is edited, we translate it for you and then it is used for the voice-over. Unlike subtitling, however, time stamps and the complex line splitting with harmonious syntax are relatively straightforward.

We send you the text for review. The script is then sent to the recording studio. Depending on what has been agreed at the beginning, the translation is integrated as a voice-over, or we perform complete dubbing.


You will also receive audio samples for voice-over work so that you can choose the right voice for your project. As an additional service, we create a pronunciation guide for our professional speakers to assist them with names, specialist terminology and unusual terms. This pronunciation guide is always checked by our native speaker translators in advance and can also be viewed and approved by you beforehand.

Once approved, they are recorded by your chosen voice artist in the recording studio and integrated into the actual video or delivered to you separately.


Tip: In the case of voice over, the original speaker can still be heard quietly in the background of the video. This is not the case with full dubbing, which is considerably more complex and hence more cost-intensive.

On-Screen Text

If your video contains text elements that are displayed as graphics – on-screen text – it is often a good idea to have these translated into the respective language as well. The best way of doing this is for you to provide us with all the open-source data. In addition to the actual video, this also includes the embedded image, text, and animation data. This will enable us to determine the best possible and most cost-efficient workflow for your project.


Ready for Your Next Project?

At the start, please provide us with the material and information outlined in the above description to ensure the best possible collaboration. We look forward to discussing all the details of your project with you personally.