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Video in two languages

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clyde v
Video in two languages
on Jan 20, 2008 at 1:07:03 am

Just finished a corporate video in English. Part of our agreement was to produce the video in two languages. The new voice-over (which he recorded to a CD) does not match the timing of the finished video. So I added, removed, replaced, stretched, and repositioned most of the clips and typed in the new subtitles to match the new VO. I actually finished it. But my questions are, what is the standard way of doing this? I think the finished video should be left alone. The new voice-over should be recorded to fit the timing of the finished video. That was actually the agreement: that we are not making any editing or adjusting of the clips in the time line for the foreign language; that the foreign language will be recorded to fit the original English video. Now that the agreement was not met, my next question is: is it fair to put additional charges for doing what I just did? Thanks guys.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Video in two languages
on Jan 22, 2008 at 5:45:50 pm

You didn't say what the extra language was. I will guess Spanish. Spanish is hard to jam into the same time limit as English because of its construction; it just takes longer to say certain things in Spanish. If you press the voiceover artist to speed up their reading to fit the English time, it often becomes either unintelligible or cartoony, like the old John Fuschida Fedex commercials, or Hong Kong Giant Monster/Kung-Fu movies.

I have had this problem myself, doing 30-second spots as well as longer-form training videos. The best strategy is to decide on additional languages in pre-production. Then shoot and edit with more deliberate space, strategic pauses, and interstitial scenes like cut-aways to non-person views or objects with variable lengths to create a "pocket" in the running time where a Spanish translation can "catch up" to the English content. So don't perform or edit the dialog too tight, and that may be all you need.

If I get this extra language requirement after the fact, I set up ADR sessions where I run one scene at a time in a loop and let the translator hear and see it as they read their Spanish script, and we keep re-doing each looped set of thirty or so seconds at a time until we're happy with the timing, expression, and accuracy.

You sometimes run into controversy doing Spanish tracks because there is no clear prefferred standard as far as I know; some clients want a "pure" European/Castillian Spanish, some want Puerto Rican Spanish, Some want Cuban-Spanish or Columbian-Spanish, etc. The same as there are many choices of British and American dialects, where a Bronx sound is not the same as an Appalachian twang or Texas drawl or Valley girl lilt. There's more that goes into this than many folks know or appreciate.

Using audio DAW's like Adobe Audition, you can artificially accellerate the foreign dialog a few percent while keeping the pitch normal, and this may also buy you just enough margin to fit. Otherwise, and I have had this happen, the translator has to re-write it shorter, on the spot, usually without client approval, to make the time. This is extra work and basically you are asking someone to do script writing for no extra pay, with possibly questionable results. Not the best or most cost-efficient approach.

The next thing to do, which I what I have started telling my clients to do, is just buckle down and hire bilingual actors and just shoot each scene both ways from the beginning. You get a much higher quality and no timing issues. This also avoids the very troubling issue of having one translator do all the characters in a video regardless of gender. Imagine how you'd like an English translation of a movie done like that. Mel Blanc could do it, but he's dead. If you want to show you respect that audience and want to connect with them, the translation should be accessible and not an insulting afterthought. A crummy job might do more harm than not translating at all.

This bilingual shooting technique is actually a very old concept: I tell my clients that Laurel & Hardy HATED the idea of foreign voice translators interpreting their work and their voices, so they budgeted extra time to re-shoot a few of their movies in Spanish, with them reading their own lines phonetically off cue cards. Some Bela Lugosi vampire movies were also shot like this: an entire second cast came in overnight to use the same standing sets and shoot a Spanish version simultaneous with the English production. Keeping this organized is not that hard if you use even simple slates and two scripts. I can handle it, and my language experience consists of a barely-passing "D" in high school Spanish. Which somehow makes ME the office translation expert, go figure!:-) I can follow enough to find and keep my place in the script, and if you edit long enough, and have a musical ear, it's actually not that hard to work in a Spanish, for me, anyway.

Your final option is skip bad voice-over and go with closed-captioning in Spanish instead. No accent or dialect issues, no timing problems, easy to add to existing programming.

As far as you being handed a CD of the language reads and told to "make it fit", this is the most unprofessional and technically difficult way of going about the project and I'm sorry you got stuck with that. The only way that really works is if the translator sat with a copy of the master video and read to fit in the first place. Just reading Spanish into a mic without seeing the timing is a recipe for disaster, as you've probably experienced. Try the time-compression features of a DAW to make that easier, but next time insist on one of the other alternatives I mentioned.

Buena Suerte, Amigo. :-)

"Oh, you wanted to RECORD that?"

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Chuck Reti
Re: Video in two languages
on Jan 23, 2008 at 6:31:11 am

An issue I have run into, at least with Spanish-language translations (I barely passed my Spanish courses, too) is that the translators (who may also be the VO talent) believed that they were to provide an exact word-for-word version of the English copy. The result is transliteration, not translation. Many English-language idoms and phrasing just do not sensibly translate to other languages. The translator/talent should have some leeway to re-phrase an expression into a more colloquial form that an audience in that language won't laugh at as awkward speech, or worse, misunderstand the meaning, if not the words. This approach can frequently lead to expressions of an idea that might fit into the original time slot.
Mark's suggestions for purposely doing a slightly slower-paced English reading to accommodate translation, or shooting alternate versions in production are really the best ways to work this.
Not sure that you can recoup costs for all your time spent in a re-edit, although in this case it looks like there really wasn't another way out.
While subtitling and captioning are another solution, some of the dual language material I had worked on was for training of people who were assumed to not have great reading abilities in either language.

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Philip Howells
Re: Video in two languages
on Mar 28, 2008 at 10:54:53 pm

As others have said this is not the way to go about making a dual language programme.

There are two elements, the narration and the interviews.

The narration must be translated by a professional who can translate to time, ie so that the foreign language narration fits the inage edit. Inevitably this may involve some compromise but if the writer's a pro it should work.

The interviews can be transcribed and translated to time as the narration or subtitled. The choice will depend on the acceptability of subtitling to the audience and budget eg English-speaking audiences are relatively unused to subtitles, whilst French audiences have got used to subtitles since so much of the material they see originates elsewhere.

Having said that the majority of films that reach the cinemas in France these days are overdubbed in French.

Finally, if the programme is to genuinely appear to have been made for the foreign language audience there should be budget to re-edit the images to suit a translation to "quality" (ie without compromise) not to time.

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