by Pierre Allard, e2f Recording Engineer

Localizing voice over projects can be a daunting task, with multiple steps from conception to completion. After finalizing the script in your language, the first step of localization is to translate the script with professional linguists into the necessary languages.

Then, voice talent must be found, recordings completed, and audio engineered before delivering the voice over for implementation into the final medium. Depending on the project, over 100 different languages may require localization, some with multiple talents for each language.

Multiple languages include a wide variety of different cultures, countries and even different regions within a country. This is why we use the term localization instead of translation.

This complex process requires careful project management. From talent selection, for each language requires the right person to best represent the tone of your project, to scheduling coordination, to on-time deliveries; each step of the process must be monitored. 

VO Artist

Technical Aspects of Voice Over Localization

Decide what languages you want to localize your project

Some languages are easier to localize than others due to popularity and/or the size of the world population they represent.  Selecting languages to localize into is based on several factors, such as where your company has additional offices, where your app is selling well, or what markets you want to break into.

Facts:

  • Asian languages such as Chinese, Korean and Japanese are in high demand
  • Western languages such as French, Italian, German and Spanish (commonly referred to as FIGS) have always been very popular
  • Demand for Portuguese from Brazil is getting stronger.
  • Other languages can be less in demand but might be critical to your project.

Hire a company with a large pool of native-speaking  talent

To accommodate many different languages, all the language recordings needed should, ideally, be completed at one location. This is to reduce the risk of consistency issues, both sonic and technical.

By contracting your voice over needs to one company, you are not only ensuring an easy work flow, but this company can help you define, over different projects, the identity and styles you want to project.

Crowd

Voice over talents need to match the tone of your project

You do not talk about social media tools the same way as you describe airplane safety.

Gender, age and personality matter when it comes to matching the right talent for the project. So again, connecting with a company that has the resources to supply the right talents for your needs is essential to a successful and consistent localization voice over.

Translation and talents need to fit the target culture

You also need someone who is inherently aware of the culture they will represent as a voice over artist. Native speakers best represent their native culture, as they are most familiar with colloquialisms and matters of tone and phrasing.

Ethnic VO 1

Turnaround time 

This element can become a critical issue. Consistency in delivery will ensure that you are in control of the timeline and on time to launch in the appropriate languages. Project managers and a solid team provide the support necessary to meet deadline.

Space according to different languages

Keep in mind that different languages can use more space when translated; in audio this amount to more TIME. Your target audio files might be larger than your source audio files. In some instances 50% should be expected. To help keep time discrepancies low, inform the professional linguists at the beginning of the translation stage if there are timing limitations they should keep in mind.

Ethnic VO 2

Audio format and specifications

As a client, it is important to be aware of the basic different audio formats to select the one that’s right for your project.  

mp3, a well-known format, can take as much as 10 times less space than .wav or .aif. This can be crucial in the total amount of space you want to limit your project. Or, if the project is for phone prompts, 8 bit conversion might be the way to go. Some basic research will help you understand what’s best for you and help you communicate your needs to the voice over contractor.  If you are dealing with mobile apps, bandwidth constraint should be addressed when planning your voice over localization. 

If you are unsure, detail your needs to the voice over studio and they will use their expertise to help you select the best option.

Audio Wave

mp3 or .wav? 8 bit or 16 bit?

Hardware

A common misconception is that audio recording can be done without the appropriate professional equipment.

Not giving proper attention to the way your audio material is recorded will most certainly lead to serious uncontrolled background noise >as well as critical consistency issues.

Working with a tightly controlled audio recording environment will guarantee that from conception to completion, your product will demonstrate the sonic qualities in line with the current market trends. 

Microphone

Make sure your voice over vendor provides:

  • Good quality broadcast microphone(s)
  • Isolation/recording booth
  • Professional headphones
  • Mixer
  • Recording and editing software
  • Stand for script
  • Microphone stand
  • Professional audio engineer

Mixer

In Conclusion

The best way to take control of your localization needs is to work with a single company that can handle the project management, technical engineering, and record multiple languages in a single location for consistency. A single point of contact, a complete understanding of the translation process, a large mix of a broad talent pool, professional recording equipment and the right talent will ensure that your voice over localization will be successful, that the results match your expectations and that your company will be represented the way you want in every language, all over the world.

See also How to Successfully Localize your e-Learning Material