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Languages & The Media

November 2–4, 2016, Berlin, Germany

Interviews & Articles 2016

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Localisation – Taking an Upstream View

By David Millar

Once the production of a movie or TV program has been funded and completed, one of the biggest expenses incurred by the content owner is the cost of localising that content, in order that it can generate a revenue stream from international distribution.

Content Localisation is a huge and complex business, and one that relatively few people fully appreciate.

First let us understand what Localisation is. At its most basic level it is creating a local language dub or subtitles, often both. It is also about translating the opening and closing credits.

Editing the content for local markets is also part of the process. This may be to comply with national regulations, guidelines and cultural preferences, or it may be to do with the rules of a particular carrier or distributor. Then there may be localisation of some of the images themselves as a shopfront or sign in a workplace setting needs to be ‘localised’, again for any one of a number of reasons already outlined.

So in broad terms, that is what Localisation is, but language translation, which needs to be both current and accurate, is just the start of the complexity.

For dubbed titles, the translators have to be actors in their own right, to professionally deliver the joke or punchline for example, and very often they need to be engaged for the series or the life of the franchise. This requires contracts and expensive fees.

The descriptions above merely scratch at the surface of this huge global industry, where both security and quality are of paramount importance.

Security, because advance copies of a programme or title have to be shipped to the multiple organisations and people involved in the process, many of which may reside outside the more established markets where security procedures and processes are better adhered to.

Quality, because content rights have been acquired and paid for and programme distributors do not want to be heavily criticised on Social Media for a poor quality dub, which does immense damage to the companies and brands involved.

Localisation is a business crying out for standards, better technology and best practice guidelines” was one of the key conclusions emerging from a MESA Europe Content Localisation Workshop, held earlier this year. “It is a global industry that just keeps getting bigger and bigger, as new markets open up and demand for content continues to proliferate and therefore the business needs to be taken more seriously”, was another overriding comment.

It is also a sector that needs a higher profile and a greater appreciation as windows continue to shrink and the whole process has to be delivered in a shorter and shorter timeframe, whilst still meeting the quality and security requirements outlined above.

It is a process that impacts on the audio, video, text and metadata elements of programme production and distribution.

To reflect the growing importance of this sector and adequately support its members involved in this business, MESA Europe launched a Content Localisation Council earlier in 2016, in order to provide a platform for the content and media community and its industry partners to ensure that the industry needs are met in full.

Participants in this group include many leading broadcasters and content owners together with their service provider and technology partners.

At the upcoming Languages & Media Conference in Berlin in November, representatives from the Localisation Council will share their insights during a panel discussion. Participants will include senior executives from Viacom, Discovery Channel, BBC Worldwide, BTI Studios and Cognizant. They will be discussing a range of topics, including security, the role of machine translation, new industry needs and technologies, among other areas. Throughout this discussion, they will share insightful real life commercial perspectives on the current day to day nature of content localisation and how this will evolve in the future.