For the last post of the year, we’ll look at the trends that drove the multimedia localization industry. 2017 was a disruptive year for audio and video, and that affected the way that voice-over is recorded, videos are dubbed and subtitled, and media is processed for foreign markets. In fact, the changes this year were so marked that they also affected how media – in particular videos – are created to begin with.
This post will list the four top audio, video and multimedia localization trends of 2017.
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Consolidation & disruption in audio & video localization
How strong were the trends that upended old modes of distribution? The platforms that started to take primacy this year were doing so over platforms that disrupted the industry relatively recently – as recently as two years ago. New approaches to online learning redefined the way training courses are made, and how they’re localized. And new technologies promised multimedia that was even more interactive – creating challenges that the localization industry is still working to solve.
Without further ado – here are the top trends in multimedia localization this year.
1. Streaming still drove audio & video distribution – and localization.
It’s hard to overstate just how completely streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and smaller players like Fandor and FilmStruck have changed dubbing, captioning and subtitles. The access that these services grant worldwide audiences to entire media catalogs is unlike anything seen before, and this has translated into a huge increase in demand for foreign-language versions of films and TV shows. That demand has also required post-production localization studios to develop workflows that are more cost-effective, and even more importantly, that can process large amounts of content simultaneously, in multiple languages.
Streaming has also completely revolutionized delivery, making it much easier to distribute dubbed and subtitled videos, and even add languages as demand grows. To wit – before streaming, subtitling a movie for the home video market required adding a subs track to a DVD, duplicating and shipping thousands of media units, and then stocking them at local video stores or retailers. With streaming, adding a subtitles track for any market just requires uploading an encoded text file to a video stream – and that’s it. Note the SRT files in the following folder – that’s all the assets necessary to subtitle a feature film file into 13 languages.
Once an SRT file is created for a specific language, those subtitles are available to anyone with a strong internet connection – within seconds.
For more on this topic, see our previous post, What online streaming (Netflix, Hulu) means for subtitles & captions.
2. Social media became a dominant driver of multimedia and video localization.
Yes, social media platforms had severe growing pains this year, mainly issues with reporting and market analysis, as well as with trolls and fake news. But that space is still where content is going. And naturally, marketing collateral is following.
Because users can customize their social media experience so fully, they also expect any content they come across to be localized. This localization drive has affected pricing models, service and workflow specifications, and of course, turn-around times for voice-over and subtitles. But social media has also affected how videos are created – in particular, the rise of videos that can “work” with the sound off, since many users consume them in public spaces. That’s led to an increase in on-screen titles replacement projects, and it’s also re-defined how videos are subtitled, since a lot of VO text is already covered by the titling.
For more on this topic, see our previous post 5 Crucial Tips for Captioning & Subtitles for Social Media Videos.
3. Gamification re-defined e-Learning localization workflows.
Gamification – adding elements like score-keeping, rewards, risk, narrative and characters into a course to increase learner engagement – is not new idea, including in e-Learning localization. But 2017 saw the first big wave of gamified courses getting translated, challenging production workflows. E-Learning localization providers had to create workflows for the more personalized content (particularly difficult for gendered languages), an increase in multimedia elements, and more labor-intensive content.
For more on this topic, see our previous post What Gamification Means for E-Learning & Voice-Over Localization.
4. Virtual reality created challenges for dubbing & subtitling.
Virtual reality (VR) is the next big thing in video. VR videos re-create the experience of being able to look around in the middle of a room, a field, a forest – anywhere, really. But this particular interactivity creates some serious issues for captioning, subtitling and dubbing. For example, videos may feature different speakers on each “side” of the frame, so that viewers can navigate to one of them – how do you caption a situation like that?
The technology also doesn’t generally support captions and subtitles that stay in frame, meaning that deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, as well as foreign-language viewers, risk navigating away from accessibility text if they explore the frame. YouTube recently enabled a captioning and subtitling feature for VR videos that keeps any text in frame, even as users scroll through it, but so far this is the only option that supports them at all, and it doesn’t really deal with the different experiences that a user may have. Achieving accessibility for VR videos – both in terms of developing standards, as well as solving the technical challenges involved – will be the biggest challenge to localization in 2018.
Challenges in the year ahead
But that won’t be all. The dominance of social media will mean developing optimized workflows for on-screen title replacement, as well as captioning & subtitling processes that don’t create “double-text” on screen. As you may imagine, this will impact the development of English-language content as well. A similar dynamic is developing in the training world – gamification has increased the complexity of most courses, so that implementing small tweaks during development is crucial to cost-effective e-Learning localization. In fact, as the sheer number of foreign-language content rises overall – as well as their complexity – it’ll be essential for producers and developers, as well multimedia localization professionals, to collaborate on post-production workflows that allow for cost-effective, scalable and rapid internationalization.