“In the end, transcreation amounts to market-focused writing and operates in a gray area between marketing agencies, creative agencies, end customers and providers of translation services.”
Building on this quote from Heike Leinhäuser’s first blog post, today’s entry dives deeper into this gray area, which not only brings forth new translation products, it also demands a novel approach to project management. It creates the need for a solution that allows us to link and align the previously isolated multi-stakeholder workflows of production, translation (though we prefer the term “localization”) and post-production in such a way that ultimately everybody involved can focus on their strengths. Why? To facilitate an interdisciplinary workflow that results in a high-quality end product that hasn’t caused considerable pain or costs due to corrections at any stage of the cycle. We want to solve our clients’ problems and pain points. This means that our service has to start with the right questions. And only once there are no more questions to be asked can the service be considered complete. At many companies, the foundation for an interdisciplinary approach has been developing organically for several years.
Après moi, le déluge?
LSPs have been taking on the graphic localization of print products, for example, for a long time now. This has become an established procedure because it has become clear that this step is best executed by someone with the linguistic know-how. The clients’ creative agencies or communication departments are not always keen on making design resources available for integrating translations into final artwork. The same applies to the digital world, where we language experts are often involved before Web content that needs localizing has been exported from the content-management system. The advantage of involving the LSP early on is that we get the opportunity from the start to identify and raise potential issues that might arise during localization. These issues could be anything from small text boxes that need to be readjusted to fit the translated text to images that will have to be swapped out for more culturally appropriate ones in certain target markets. Sometimes even entire pages won’t work in a language written right to left. Being involved at an early stage also means that we can use our technologies right from the start, that we can avoid media disruption and that we can preprocess and prepare files and text with the end product in mind. Ideally this results in a translation that won’t cause tedious and costly reworking for any of the stakeholders in any of the subsequent steps of the workflow. Another advantage certainly is that after clarifying the pre-identified pitfalls, clients can step out of the process until it comes time for them to approve it.
The LSP as a hub
This means the LSP manages all the steps that lie between localization order and final approval of the individual country versions. He or she acts as the single point of contact among all stakeholders, from the purchasing client and talent and partner networks all the way to the client’s local approval chains. In the context of a multilingual print project, this can easily mean that our project and account managers end up managing up to 50 people. Considering the fact that internationalization has prompted many companies to use an increasing number of communication channels to reach users, an approach like this is gaining even more importance and momentum. Especially since companies have begun turning more frequently to a medium that didn’t carry a lot of weight in the corporate communication of years past – namely, video content.
The complexity of localizing audiovisual content
These days, there are even entirely film-based training modules, and most companies publish some sort of corporate video on their home page. Moving pictures move – and not only the audience. Communication departments and translation industry get caught up in them as well. Videos released by the global head office are frequently relegated to the dusty drawers of local subsidiaries simply because nobody knows how to “translate” a film and what or who is actually needed to kick off its localization. Sometimes it’s even impossible to find out who possesses the original video file. With the well-trodden print and online media we had a lot of time to acquire adequate knowledge to handle a localization project with confidence and foresight. After all, these areas have been slowly developing over the last 15 years. In comparison, however, film landed rather suddenly on the LSP scene, and the know-how needed to understand the various production routes is complex as well as incredibly technical. Depending on the nature of the original film, a number of production routes lend themselves to localization. We can use subtitles, replace voiceovers with a local version or lower the volume of the original audio into the background and layer it with the dominant audio of the localized language in the foreground. Of course, dubbing is also an option. Depending on the original version and its intended purpose, it might even be a mix of all of the above. If we then add on the possibility of captions, perhaps even animated ones that need to flow onto the screen from right to left if the content is to be localized into Hebrew, we end up with a package that requires several specialists. Specialists who, again, won’t be able to deliver a polished, usable end result without engaging the support of language experts.
And we mustn’t forget the fact that every production route requires a specific translation method. The translation of spoken word that will be recorded in a studio can’t be compared to text used for subtitles. In such a scenario, the language-based project-management hub approach gains even more significance. Assuming that this linguistic hub can also handle technical matters, the above-mentioned advantages turn into the solution to a mounting challenge. After all, who is supposed to manage this kind of localization project? Who has the know-how to run an informed inventory analysis on a video and to ask the right questions? Who can identify the individual production processes as well as appropriately brief the translators and approvers to produce a linguistically and stylistically sound translation that remains in sync with the images on the screen? Not mention remains in line with the relevant regulations? Who forwards the translations to the individual technical partners and arranges the audio recording, subtitling and animation in the respective languages? And who delivers what and in which format to whom?
Advice and proactivity as the key to success
To answer these questions, you need to immerse yourself in the technical aspects of the format in which you are working. It is almost impossible to teach yourself the necessary skills to expertly work with audiovisual localization. Furthermore, this new know-how has to sink in and become second nature if you want to draw on it to build an internal and external structure that allows you to confidently manage an entire video localization project throughout the entire production and approval process. At Leinhäuser Language Services, initial case studies have shown that conducting a thorough inventory, being meticulous in the preparations, and running failure predictions go a long way to avoid proliferating errors across multiple languages. Furthermore, taking these steps facilitates sound and extremely efficient implementation. In video projects in particular, overlooked errors or unasked questions can result in the duplication of costs when, for example, audio must be rerecorded from scratch. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that we support and advise our clients to make sure they are aware of the consequences of every single step.
When we receive a corporate video these days we do more than just advise our clients on the different production routes they could take. We also capture the project within a video script that displays the requirements and challenges of all relevant players. The script features time-codes and character counts for each sequence as well as instructions and information for translators, approvers, subtitlers or voice over artists as well as post-production engineers. In short, this means that we as a central partner have found a way to manage a complex video project that touches several external disciplines while taking into consideration the requirements of everyone involved from the very beginning and laying them out clearly in color in a single file. By doing so, we pool the project know-how and flow of information at a single point of contact – the Account Manager. Of course, this approach creates the same value for and is applicable to all other media and disciplines. The same hub approach works for managing the transcreation of a print ad, for example. So, it is legitimate to question whether you’re risking credibility by stepping into a widened service outside your usual box. It’s the willingness to innovate and invest that determines whether an initiative like this will succeed. You must be able to envision the bigger picture and build a core team that designs and manages tailored solutions for a complex, cross-disciplinary project.
About the author:
Nadja Golbov joined what was then Leinhäuser und Partner in 2001 after earning a degree in translation. In 2009, Nadja moved to London, where she worked for a global marketing implementation company and became familiar with the various production and post-production disciplines accompanying the field of translation, localization and transcreation. She has worked along the entire media spectrum for 52 markets. As of October 2014, she is responsible for Global Account Development at Leinhäuser Language Services.