The 5 Most Costly Localization Mistakes

“Hindsight is 2020,” as they say, and we have seen many video and film producers suffer from costly mistakes that could have been avoided.

While it’s said that people learn best from making mistakes, we’re doing you one better and helping you learn from the biggest mistakes made by others so they won’t happen on your dime.

Take a look at the five most costly localization mistakes:

  1. Going with the cheapest localization option.

Subtitles tend to be the least expensive way to localize a film or video, and in some cases, subtitling may be suitable —especially for shorter videos, or clips in a larger project. However, subtitles are also the least viewer-friendly for content that requires learning, or in entertainment, full absorption of a storyline. 

CMI worked with a client who had subtitled the company’s training videos only to realize that the trainees were not learning the information at all — they were too focused on reading the screen, and not enough on the mechanics of what they were supposed to be learning to do. Following their so-called learning session, the trainees went on to make multiple mistakes affecting customer satisfaction and service. The client had to move to dubbing after having paid for subtitling — and on top of that, had to retrain the employees with the new videos, and absorb the costs of staff mistakes made.

How do you avoid this costly mistake? Work with your localization partner to discuss your objectives first — and how best to meet them with the available localization options.

  1. Waiting until the footage is produced to consider international technical requirements.

Some post-production details — such as frames-per-second requirements — are not standard across the board, from country to country. Recently, a client attended one of the French film festivals and learned after the fact about some pretty crucial differences in technical specifications between Europe and the U.S. The problem was that while the localization of his film was perfect from a content perspective, the festival rejected the film as it, together with its localized version, fit only American standards. Knowing this up front would have saved time and money, and most importantly, avoided the rejection from the festival.

  1. Equating Localization with Translation; these are two DIFFERENT things

While a script may seem straightforward, your localization partner will be looking for additional requirements and cues — some of which might be incorrect if they were done by a careless vendor or literal translator. A client may provide us with a script done internally or by another vendor, combined with a spotting list, annotations, time containment, time out, and each subtitle. But if it was done by someone on the cheap, who doesn’t have expensive software, your subtitles might be out of sync. Translations of a script made in a vacuum, independent of the rest of the project, often result in costly issues. For one, a translation needs to “fit” the time period of the underlying scene. There might be, say, a scene of dialogue set in a forest of pine trees, followed by a shot inside a cabin. Visually, these are different settings, but the conversation carries through. Timing the subtitles correctly will support the flow of the movie. Mis-timing the subtitles will make the entire project seem amateurish, because you didn’t hire the right vendor to assess the script elements. Localization involves a lot more than just translating the script and slapping it on a video! 

  1. Not evaluating market potential for distributing your content abroad as effectively and extensively as possible.

Localization is usually a fraction of the entire production budget. If your film or video can be watched by millions of new viewers globally, then localization can have an enormous return on investment, whether you are producing a film or distributing a branding video. If you only localize into one additional market, there’s a good chance you are shortchanging your reach by not doing more. The costly mistake here is not considering revenue optimization — because the incremental cost of additional languages might be surprisingly low.

We once had a client whose experience with film translation dated back many decades, to when family members were in the industry, and the studios held all the translation rights. When he learned it would only be about a thousand dollars to add localization in Spanish, he was shocked; he’d assumed it would be many thousands. There’s still a prevailing myth that it’s impossibly expensive to do localization.

  1. Not requesting a new localization vendor's work samples.

Top localization providers will be happy to take your content and create a sample so you can evaluate the quality before making the larger investment of hiring a vendor for the whole project. While it may add time and some cost, it will help you avoid having to redo poorly localized content — or worse, having the poor quality go live. The “sample” experience can also serve as a sort of trial run, working out the kinks in communication and expectations, so things run more smoothly and efficiently once you start the project in earnest. Don’t hesitate to request a sample from your localization provider. 

At CMI, we consider our clients to be our partners, and we work with them from the start of a project — often at strategy phase — until distributing their content securely. These partnerships allow us to offer the best service possible, and to help our clients avoid making costly localization mistakes.

Give us a call today!

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