15 Years… and not Once Has Anyone Ever Asked for the Video

A lot of the work we do at Eclectic Translations is audiovisual. Working on a corporate video for a client recently, we received the following email:


So here I am wondering again – why do you need it? Why did you ask for the video, for the storyboard?


I’ve been making videos for 15 years, I’ve booked hundreds of voiceover artists, ordered translations, and not once has anyone ever asked for the video or storyboard to translate the text, or to voice it. A general description has always been enough.


So I just spent two hours on a screencast with the programmers, then another 40 minutes making you a storyboard – you’ll find it attached. And now, please, at least out of respect for the time I spent, can you tell me how this storyboard will help?


Really, I’m very interested to know.


Always one to encourage learning and understanding, Olga, one of our Project Managers, wrote the following response:


Thanks for the storyboard, and I’m so sorry it took you so long. We didn’t want to cause you any trouble.


I can’t comment on how others do their work, but the results are evident; the quality is not good enough. There are many reasons why we like to get the video/storyboard; in brief, we strive to fully understand everything that you are trying to tell your viewer, and deliver that same message as accurately as possible in the new language.


A large part of our work is audiovisual; we translate subtitles for films, and dialogue for dubbing. We translate scripts for voiceover, and so on. Experience shows that without the video for visual context, the translation can never be considered a finished product.


Imagine you’re watching a short: there’s a man and a woman in shot. But the dialogue they have been given (a translation from English to Russian) is written as if it’s two women speaking – all the endings are feminine; but in English there’s no such thing as gender for verbs. So the translator, not having seen the video, made the erroneous decision that it was two women talking – which could lead to all manner of other mistakes. This is just a basic example.
The video gives us context to work within. It narrows the potential word choice for the translator, and helps to select the more appropriate term, from a list of potential options.


Sometimes of course the text is quite far removed from what’s happening on-screen. Perhaps we have large, sweeping shots of scenery, and the text is about corporate achievements and growth. In other instances, the text describes exactly what’s happening on-screen, in which case the translator needs to precisely understand when she can freely change word order or sentence structure, and when she has to stick closely to the original. If it’s a children’s animation which introduces words to the children, and a chicken, a flower, and an egg appear in turn, you have to stick to that order, no matter how much you may want to put the egg before the chicken.


If the video is describing some software, the translator needs to understand how the software works, to see the interface, in order to be able to offer any kind of accurate translation.


Perhaps the video will have a visual joke taking place – which can only be understood by the translator seeing it.


So the video helps with the accuracy of the translation.


And we at Eclectic assume that, if a company has gone to the considerable expense and cost of getting a video made, they’re going to want the translation to be as accurate as it can be, to ensure the video has maximum impact.


In translation, it’s safe to assume that the more context the translators can get, the better.

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Will Hackett-Jones

Co-Founder & Partner

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