Introduction to Video Localization

Video is the fastest growing medium. Below is your guide to better understand what your options are when taking yours internationally into any language.


According to YouTube, mobile video consumption grows by 100% every year.


By 2020, nearly a million minutes of video content will cross the Internet every second!


A third of all the time people spend online is dedicated to watching videos.

Video Localization Options

When localizing a video, there are a number of services that might be involved and required. A video is only a final composite visualization of a multitude of technologies and files put together and nicely packaged. Here is a list of some of the most common ones: Transcription, Translation, Proofreading/Editing, Script Resizing, Lip-Sync Adaptation, Voice Recording, Audio Editing, Synchronization, Time-Code Creation, Subtitling, On-Screen Text Replacement or Recreation, Animation, Font Management, Rendering… This document will go over the main methods of delivering the content in another language in as much a natural way as budget allows you.

Video Voice Localization Options

When assessing the potential services that will be required on your next video project, there are several crucial variables to keep in mind.  Most importantly, what’s the target audience and expected quality?

Different approaches to localization will have an impact on budget and it’s important to prepare your internal or external client or donors for that.

World Mission Media provides a turnkey video localization service, that is: the post-production process of translating a video into different languages or adapting it for a specific country or region. There are a multitude of potential services and professionals involved in video localization. Below are the three most common methods used to convert video into other languages using voice talents.

Voice Over or UN-Style

Often used in professional documentaries, speeches, interviews and news footage. It retains the authenticity of the source content. For instance, during a speech, the viewer can experience the audience laughter when the speaker tells a joke. A new audio track is mixed with the original sound and together they form the final soundtrack.

The  source language voices of speakers play for a couple seconds and then, as it is faded down to about 20% the original volume, the foreign-language voice is introduced, so the viewer hears the foreign-language voice clearly, while still perceiving the original audio, specifically the emotion and cadence.

Simple Dubbing Without Lip Synchronization

Depending on the kind of video or the client and audience needs, a “dubbing” approach might be more suitable. When a video is dubbed, the original speaker’s audio track is completely replaced by the foreign actor’s voice.

For projects where an on-screen solution is needed (as opposed to UN-Style) we offer Simple Dubbing recording as a more cost-effective alternative. The main difference to lip-sync is that the new voice-over is not matched to the lip movements, it’s simply matched one phrase at a time. 

Read more here.

Full Dubbing With Lip Synchronization

The aim of lip-sync dubbing is to match the lip movements of the actors on a video with the foreign recorded vocal or voice. It’s mostly used to convert full-length films intended for foreign cinema audiences. Also used for TV ads and other high end video requirements.

It’s more expensive because the scripts not only have to be timed and edited but have to be adapted to closely match the lip movements of the actor or presenter. This is time-consuming work which only specialized translators can tackle.

On-Screen Replacement. The Basics.

It’s almost impossible to tell how the OST in a video are created from just the exported video, and the way that those titles are created will dramatically affect how much they cost to localize.

How Things Get Complex

OST localization can also become a source of frustration.

Most video editing programs use a non-linear editing system: Everything is laid out in a single timeline and video elements (sometimes up to several hundred) such as video footage, music and voice-overs, are layered to create a combined product. Using a non-linear editing system and having access to all original source files with the highest possible quality dramatically eases the localization process.

Videos that might look very similar may have been created in radically different ways, in part because different video editing and title compositing programs – like Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro, and Avid Media Composer – have different workflows when it comes to title and text creation.

Even worse, OST in a video timeline can be in editable text boxes (like text boxes in PowerPoint), or they can be imported graphics (like Photoshop or Illustrator), and this is also impossible to know once the final video file is exported. To add to this confusion, once a video is exported from the source file into a format like MP4, MOV, WMV, and FLV; it’s almost impossible to tell in which program it was created. 

All this to reiterate how important it is, in most cases, to get source files in OST replacement projects, but this can be quite difficult, especially for legacy content created many years ago, since editors or companies are loath to keep files, which can run into the hundreds of gigabytes for a relatively short video.

Full Text Replacement

This is the ideal scenario in which World Mission Media has all source files available for a project. The OST are replaced one-by-one in the source files through simple copy and paste. The titles are formatted to fit and look “right” in the video. If the formatting of the localized titles is done properly, this option produces translated videos that are of the same quality as the original language version.

This is the only way to convert animated text. We would need the After Effects source file, which can then be exported and placed in the movie editor software document also provided by the client.

Fonts: You should also provide us with the appropriate and updated fonts to be used. For instance, Adobe can be very sensitive to old fonts and won’t display them correctly. We can also find the fonts for the client but this might increase the cost.

Overlay or Masking

This option is common when source files are not available. Because the titles are “burned” into the picture of the video export, it’s impossible to erase them without affecting the background video. Therefore, localization video editors most commonly will mask the original title with an overlay, usually a black or white one, and then place the translated titles on top of that overlay.

Editors can also blur the original titles heavily on that area and place the translated ones on top of them – we’ve seen this work reasonably well in videos that have movement or live footage, like documentaries.

If the title is over a solid background, the overlay can match that color, and it effectively becomes invisible. However, this is still not an ideal option, since it’s more time-consuming than working with source files, and the quality of the localized videos suffers.


If you’re subtitling your video, you can always add any OST translations to the subtitle track, and time them so that they appear and disappear at the same time. This option is quite cost-effective, since it doesn’t effectively add any cost to the subtitling process – as long as there aren’t very many OST in your video, that is.


Also, keep in mind that if any OST appear at the same time as voice-over audio which would be subtitled, you probably won’t be able to put both of them on the same subtitle, for length and ease-of-use issues. And of course, this option doesn’t look as good as the full text replacement.

Voicing the on-screen titles

Yet another option is to have the voice-over talent read the translation of the on-screen titles as they appear on-screen, providing a kind of “audio subtitle.” This method is quite common in TV and “telenovelas”, so foreign-language audiences are familiar with this kind of title “voicing.” It also is very cost-effective as it’s just part of a voice-over or dubbing project.

However, it can only be used as part of dubbing projects. Also, it won’t work if the title appears over any voice-over or dialogue and the titles have to appear on the screen for long enough so that they can be voiced.

Video Internationalization Best Practices

Our services are mostly requested at the tail end of the creative process from most clients. These are very important things to keep in mind when creating video content that will be taken to international audiences as these can considerably lower production costs and reduce time-to-market.

  • Create content with international appeal that can capture a global audience.
  • Refrain from including references to information that may change from market to market or over time.
  • Keep the rate of speech slow enough to accommodate a viewer reading subtitles.
  • Obtain, preserve, and re-use audio narration scripts.
  • Limit text and important visuals appearing in the bottom third of the frame.
  • Allow for bidirectional scripts when using On-Screen text while you design the video elements
  • Consider using off screen voiceover and/or limiting the use of on-screen speakers.
  • Provide original project files where possible. This will allow for solutions which would otherwise be time consuming and costly.
  • Send the highest possible resolution assets (video, audio track, music track, sound effects). Video can always be scaled down, but not up.

Important Information We Will Need

When we receive a request from a client, we ask these kinds of questions about the project. This speeds up the quote calculation process and ensures smooth sailing once we get started.

  • Are all source files available? This does not just include the main video file (Premiere) but for all text scenes like those originally created with programs like After Effects, Power Point, etc.
  • Total number of videos and total video length in minutes.
  • Target Language/s.
  • Is voice-over needed?
    • Total number of voice talents needed
    • Male and female breakdown
    • UN-Style or Lip Sync
  • If Lip-sync is needed, is there a separate audio channel for voices and background noise?
  • Project file size: It’s also important to know the total size of the available files to provide the client with the best option (via sending hard-drive, dropbox/google drive, ftp, etc) to receive all project files, so our team can start working on them.
  • Ask client to do a screen share session and show you their project to see how well organized are the project source files. This can greatly influence on the speed and costs. See our File Structure Best Practices guide for more details.
  • Deliverables: Our team generally delivers finished localized videos in the requested format (mp4, mov, etc). Separate Voice-Over recording, srt files, localized video project files can also be provided to the client upon request.

Changes: Our objective is to deliver final videos to the client they can be proud to share with their international audiences. But things can happen and we don’t charge for a first round of changes if there’s a problem found with our product (within the first month after delivery).

We do charge if it’s due to client’s change in original specs or if, for instance, translation was provided by the client and they want to change anything to the scripts after they’ve been already recorded.

Video Files Organization

Organization is a common pain point among video editors.  Editors are usually working under intense time constraints and it’s easy to get files misplaced, especially when media often surfaces at different stages of the editing process.

Good media management, file structure, versioning and a dedicated organization system is imperative to successful editing. Files that are saved to the wrong location can go missing, costing time trying to pinpoint them.

If this is important with any video editing process, when it comes to video localization, it’s hard to over-emphasize the importance of keeping all your files in one place and following a standardized structure. Editors know where their files are in their computers, but in our industry, they will need to share their file folders and work efficiently within a cross-cultural and, in many cases, a cross-continental team with multiple people working on the same project. If they can’t quickly and easily make sense of what goes where, the localization costs and time to market will increase unnecessarily.

World Mission Media promotes and helps their clients to edit or deliver source video files following a simple but effective video editing folder structure.

Even if the client does not edit from scratch using this structure, they can also quite easily adapt it after the fact before they send it to us. All the video editor, who knows where everything is more than anyone else, needs to do is import the folder structure into their editing software tool and rearrange their video resources. They can also move the files into their appropriate organized folders and then go back and relink them in your video editing app.

Next, we’ll go over the structure template we propose. You can download from HERE and reuse it for all your projects your company sends over for localization.

Create a main folder for every new project and then dump this folder structure into it. This simple list covers the broad file types that will be associated with most video editing projects. The numerical prefixes help to keep the folders in order.

Keep ONE structure per video. In this case the file structure below would be UNDER this structure:

  • Course Name
    • Video Name

Then, under video name the following structure:

  • 01 Project Files
    • 01 Premiere (save your Premiere Pro Project Files here)
    • 02 After Effects (save your After Effects Project Files here)
    • You can also make a “03 Photoshop” or “04 Illustrator” if you happen to work with additional software as well.
  • 02 Media
    • 01 Video
      • Within this folder might be additional folders like “01 Day 1” or “01 Card 1” etc.
    • 02 Audio
      • 01 Source Recorded Audio
      • 02 Localized Recorded Audio (Voice-Over, Lipsync…)
      • 03 Music
      • 04 Maybe folder for SFX…
    • 03 Pictures & Graphics
      • 01 Source
      • 02 Localized
    • 04 Captions
      • 01 Source Captions files (SRT, VTT…)
      • 02 Localized Captions files
  • 03 Exports
    • 01 Source Exports (For exported After Effects or other comps)
    • 02 Localized Exports (For exported After Effects or other comps)
  • 04 Other Documents
    • 01 Source Scripts
    • 02 Localized Scripts
    • 03 Other
  • 05 Deliverables
    • Final rendered video files to deliver to client.