What is video localization, when should you use it and how to get started?

In today’s increasingly global age, more than 55% of surveyed internet shoppers say accessing information in their native tongue before making a purchase is more important than cost. Combined with the fact that 75% of the world’s population doesn’t speak English, it’s no wonder that most successful global companies – be them media companies, education providers, consumer brands, or B2B tech companies – have embraced a content and communication localization strategy for capturing new markets worldwide.

Localization goes beyond translations. It’s essentially the process of making your communication and content relevant to a local audience – and adapting the language of your content is one of those ways. Content localization is all about making sure your audience can understand your content in the right context.

Video localization in a nutshell

Essentially, this is the process of taking your video content produced in a specific language for a specific audience and transforming it to be understandable by other relevant or new markets. Localization is often confused or used interchangeably with translation, but in practice, translation is only a part of a good localization strategy.

Translation takes your content from one language and makes it available in another. However, to truly localize it you may need to rewrite part of the script (if there’s speech) or change some of the visual references to make it understandable for a new audience.

In this article, we’ll go through the different steps of localization and map out everything you need to know about the localization processes, best practices, and when to apply these practices to your content strategy.

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1 - How to come up with a video localization strategy

Understanding your audience is probably the most important element. Analyze your international markets, see where you’re gaining traction and define the biggest opportunities. Through some basic research and analysis, you might be surprised at the places people engage with your services, product, and content.

2 - Map out which content to localize

With today’s technology, all of your content can be localized. But you wanted to hedge your bets that your investment in localization is going to pay off. So start slow, experiment, and scale localization where you’re gaining traction. For example, if you’re creating DIY videos and publishing them on YouTube but also have educational courses on Udemy, you might want to start with short videos with subtitles or voice-over in Spanish and see if that gains traction before looking at localizing all your other video content en masse.

3 - Pick the right tools and services

Now that you’ve mapped out what pieces of content and which videos you’re going to localize for which markets and audience, you can start to pick out the right tools and services to start you off and then scale your video localization. In the section below we go through your options and which ones are to be used, at what time, and for what expected results.

Different methods of video localization?
(and which one is right for you)

As we’ve learned by now, different types of localization serve different purposes. When it comes to video localization there are 5 key methods that we’ll run through in detail.

Creating subtitles -
different types of subtitles, when and how to create them for your videos

Captions vs. subtitles

Captions (both open and closed) are rather different from subtitles. Mainly in that, they are designed to make sure the viewer can understand all the essential parts of the video (audio and visual elements) — not just the spoken audio or speech. Non-speech sounds or music which are necessary to the understanding of the video are also considered a critical element of good captioning and are normally shown in brackets. The main use of subtitling is to translate spoken audio or speech into the viewer’s language.

Often, subtitles are not an appropriate tool for deaf and hard of hearing viewers because they  don’t include non-speech sounds and proper descriptions that provide a good or even just adequate viewing experience for people who cannot hear.

When to create video subtitles

The future of the internet and especially social media is in video. But many social media platforms mute their videos by default. So in order to hear the video, as a user, you must either turn on the volume or have subtitles attached. Also you should consider if your content is suited to have subtitles or would dubbing be a better option.

Subtitles are also a low-cost method of localizing your video content for audiences that speak other languages. There are a number of automated or semi-automated tools that help you create subtitles pretty quickly in multiple languages. You can then test out which languages and what type of content is gaining traction for the new territory you’re looking to break into before you look at more professional localization methods.

How to create subtitles

Manual subtitles
There are lots of free software and tools (such as Aegisub or Subtitle Workshop), that help you to type the subtitles yourself and attach them to a specific time code so it matches the visual elements. It's good to remember that when adding the subtitles manually, it can be a very time-consuming process.

Automated subtitles
Video content producers or owners who already have a YouTube channel can use the platform’s speech recognition technology to generate subtitles automatically after a video has been uploaded. Currently, this option is available only for Russian, Japanese, English, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Korean, French, Italian, and Dutch languages. You have to use more manual methods of making subtitles for your YouTube videos if your language is not currently supported there.

Here’s a quick guide to help you add subtitles to your videos using YouTube:


There are also a tonne of other speech-to-text solutions out there like rev.com that can help you automate your subtitle or caption creation. Most will also do this for you in multiple languages!

How to create voiceovers and go about dubbing

When it comes to dubbing and creating voiceovers in other languages, this process can either be a standalone solution for localizing your videos for new audiences or it can be part of a larger localization process of versioning or transcreation.

Voiceover and dubbing are both techniques for conveying a message or speech to a new audience. The main difference is that, while voiceover is narrative by nature and can lack the emotion and tones of the original audio, dubbing is considered much more precise as it usually maintains the tonal, emotive, and richness of the voice track.

Voice-over versus dubbing is considered as two sides of the same coin. However, they are more like two levels on the same scale. The higher you go up the scale, the more organic your content sounds. That's why you should ask yourself this:

To what level do I want to localize my content?

How to create voiceovers in other languages

When it comes to creating voiceovers or dubbing there are usually three processes involved. Translation of the original speech into the target language, creating a new voiceover in the new language, and then editing the new speech or voiceover on top of the original video.

Traditional voiceover processes

Traditional voiceover and dubbing means working with an external agency to either take care of all three steps (translation, voiceover, and editing) or at least the voiceover section.

Choosing the right voiceover artist in your target language and commissioning them to create a new voice track for your video can be quite costly and time-consuming.

That is why traditional voiceover and dubbing methods are usually reserved for very high-value content or companies that have large budgets.

Synthetic voice-over using AI

Thanks to the latest technology in AI, there are now platforms available that can help automate your voiceover and dubbing process. Papercup is one of them.

Papercup uses machine-learning to train its text-to-speech system that is capable of isolating the voices in a video, translating them into the target language, and creating a synthetic voiceover that sounds like a human speaking in the native tongue of the target language.

This is how it works:

Versioning (or reversioning) video for different regions

The process of localizing movies or TV shows for overseas audiences doesn’t always stop at language or even cultural translation. In some cases, the show is totally redone from the ground-up with new cast members, sets, script, and even scenarios within the original concept. Look at the original British version of 'The Office' versus its American counterpart.

Reversioning tends to be more efficient than redoing an entire TV show, as you get to pick and choose what part of the content needs to be reversioned, rather than creating everything from scratch for the new audience.

In a world outside TV and media, versioning could be simply a cost-effective way to update marketing campaigns, adverts, and video content. This term is often used in video post-production and can mean for example working on digital video adverts and cutting them into different versions. For example, a post-production team can take the production masters from the ad agency and re-edit them to make two versions from one 60 second spot.

What is video transcreation and how to go about it

Transcreation is the process of adapting video content from one language or region to another while maintaining the existing message, intent, tone, and style.

While translation or versioning will generally include some of your original content (audio, visual, on-screen text, set etc.), transcreation will often be a complete reimagining, and the creation, of your content so that it better resonates with the targeted territory and culture.
Unlike translation and reversioning, which starts with the original script, audio or video, transcreation starts with a creative brief, just like other creative projects do in your main language. You are basically going back to the drawing board.

Transcreation encompasses far more than just swapping the images on your video, some of your visual content, or changing the speech track on your video. Instead, transcreation is about creating new components that capture the brand voice and message in an entirely new language. And as we all know this can end up looking very different to the original content. Imagine a shampoo ad for the same product in the US vs. its South Korean version.

Transcreation is usually utilized for highly strategic content, like marketing campaigns and adverts.