The Multimedia Agency
UK +44 (0)1792 450979

The Multimedia Agency - UK +44 (0)1792 450979

People who deal with multilingual voice over on a daily basis will understand the difficulties of fitting numerous languages into a video timeline. It’s the editors on the front line who deal with the difficult task of text expansion and contraction, which is rarely taken into consideration when creating a video intended for translation or dubbing.

So here are our top tips on creating multi-lingual videos, and making the life of a voice over artist and video editor easier!

Allow for language expansion/contraction in your multilingual video by leaving space

In the original English language video, leave enough space between sentences and sequences so there’s room to fit longer voice over in the video timeline.

Text expansion happens when a language is translated from one language to another, and the new version is longer than the original. Text contraction works the opposite way, when a text is shorter after being translated.mThe problem with text expansion is that when you have transcreate it (edit the script so that it’s shorter) to fit the video’s original timeline, it’s difficult to keep the exact meaning as the English version.

Consider the timing and pace of the required voice over

The original English voice over should be suitably paced so the translated speech fits the video as naturally as possible. If the text is a lot shorter or longer than the original it can sound unnatural when dubbed.

Having good knowledge of what text expansion and contraction is before producing a video that’s going to be voiced over in other languages is beneficial to the client as well as the studio engineer.

If you’re considering making a multilingual video, we’d be happy to advise you on the overall timing for the English version to allow for script expansion/contraction. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 Multilingual Video: A man looking at a computer screen

Try and be flexible with the video’s timeline

Take a typical 3 minute corporate video originally produced for an English market, that is spoken at a mid to fast pace and the script has a word count of 400, for example. The client wants the video translated into the 10 most popular languages for maximum global reach which could include, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Hindi. When the script is translated it could be as long as 600 words or as little as 200 words.  This would significantly affect the spoken length of the script.

Written text can contract/expand to as little or as much as -55% to +60% depending on the language. This level of variation can cause difficulty for the video editor and in these circumstances transcreators would be required to meet the 3 minute timeline for the best results. This can be a costly option and is always a compromise on the overall outcome.

However, if you have flexibility on editing a variety of video timelines, then you should consider the following option:

Create a longer version of the video

If you take a look at the table below you can see that European languages tend to expand when translated from English, with French expanding as much as 30%.  Asian languages tend to contract when translated from English, by as much as 60%.

There are many factors which can affect the length of a translated script for voice over (such as the terminology, sentence structure, subject matter, the speed of language, and the written style).

Taking these tips into consideration and following the guidelines provided will produce the best possible results for your target audience

Again feel free to talk to us if you have any queries.

Plan ahead

In a best case scenario you would take your English script and get it translated into all target languages.

The script in the target languages can then be timed by a translator to allow you to calculate the timings of all your multilingual videos.

Then we pass this information back to the client so they can plan how long the video timeline needs to be for each language.