E.g., 11/20/2019
E.g., 11/20/2019

Is Green Screen Transcreation Right for Your eLearning or Presentation Videos?

The 4 Questions

This blog post is a follow-on to the webinar Green Screen Transcreation for eLearning, from May 22, 2014. In it, we discussed the rise of green-screen eLearning content in video, the benefits of transcreating that content, and went over the process.

Our clients have one main question when considering green screen transcreation – are the benefits worth the costs? Green screen shoots are expensive, and if the production isn’t managed effectively, costs can escalate quickly. However, for the right kind of content, it can be a particularly effective localization method.

With that in mind, how do you know if transcreation is right for your video content? Following are the four questions that you should ask yourself before committing to transcreation.

1. Is your source content a green-screen video?

This may seem obvious, but it’s not very easy to tell if a video uses green-screen. It’s easier when a presentation video has a shifting background – for example:

Final Video Source Green-Screen Footage

With scenario videos, it may be harder to tell – for example:

Final Video Source Green-Screen Footage

If your video isn’t created using green screen, there are still ways to transcreate it into other languages using green-screen technology, but your localization team will have to be more creative.

2. Will your video benefit from for transcreation?

Traditional video localization methods (dubbing, voice replacement and subtitles) are still the best solution for product tutorials, most marketing videos, or any video that has a well-known personality.

So what content benefits from transcreation?

It helps to think of the ultimate goal of the video, or how it engages with the audience – does it need to immerse the audience into its world? A commercial, marketing video, or eLearning scenario will need to do that to succeed. Informational videos or CEO communiqués, on the other hand, usually communicate information or call the audience to action, but don’t need to immerse the audience in the same way.

More specifically, videos that contain culturally immersive content benefit the most from transcreation. What does this mean? Videos are culturally immersive if the way in which characters interact with each other (and their surroundings) is crucial to understanding what’s happening in the video, and to engaging the audience.

For example, in a scenario on workplace interactions, subtle cues – eye contact, personal space, hand motions, body movements or even loudness – will mean something to the audience watching that situation. A scenario in which an employee is frustrated with his/her colleague would look different in México and Japan, for example. In each context, the viewer has to understand the subtle cues well enough to be immersed in the scene, empathize with the character’s frustration, and internalize that information as part of the course. This is why transcreation is crucial to the effectiveness of foreign-language eLearning scenarios – those videos require complete cultural immersion, and if the subtle cues are “off,” that’s impossible.

3. What is your budget?

There’s no way to get past this – transcreation is generally more costly than traditional localization methods like dubbing, voice replacement, and subtitles. However, lip-sync dubbing is sometimes quite labor-intensive, so much so that there are situations in which transcreation may be more cost-effective:

  • Large amounts of content: Recording costs can add up rapidly – remember that for lip-sync dubbing, translations have to be edited for number of syllables and to match major vocalizations (like vowels, or the letters m, b, and p, which are most visible on the lips).
  • Simple set-ups, and few of them: A “set-up” is a combination of actors, lighting, and set dressing (i.e., furniture). Each one requires time to set up (thus the name), so content with few and simple set-ups is more cost-effective to shoot.
  • Multiple languages: Since the fixed costs for a shoot (stage rental, camera, crew, etc.) are high and inescapable, being able to complete multiple languages in as few days as possible will also bring down costs.
  • English hasn’t been finalized: This is the best-case scenario – not only can you try to shoot the English and target languages on the same day, but you can also make small adjustments to the English source, to minimize number and complexity of set-ups in your target videos.

They key to making transcreation cost-effective is to maximize the amount of content created each shoot day – if you’re able to do that, transcreation may fall nicely within your product budget.

If possible, prepare a localization budget before you finalize the English, so that:

  • You know whether or not transcreation is viable – if it is, you may even be able to add it to the English-language shoot, for example.
  • If transcreation is not viable, you can re-work your source content for localization – for example, by relying less on on-screen speakers, making the images generic and re-usable, and cutting down on culturally-immersive content.

In general, try to review your budgets in depth, as early in the process as possible, and to think creatively about the transcreation process, adjusting the English if necessary.

4. What locales do I need to cover with my transcreation?

Thinking about this early on can also save you costs, and reduce the amount of transcreation work. Think about the following:

  • Do target locales differ greatly from the source locale? If you’re going into Canada, for example, you may be able to re-use the US English talents if you trend toward more generic accents.
  • What exactly do you need to localize for each one? The Scrabble scenario from the GALA webinar on Transcreation (at 47:20 min.) by Miguel Martinez of Hogarth Worldwide is a good example – by changing out just a few key shots in the video, the marketing company was able to transcreate successfully while minimizing costs. Also, if you do this before shooting the English, you can shoot it to minimize transcreation needed.
Original Video Transcreated Video - Spanish
  • What can you re-use from the original locale? This is the other side of the previous question. However, it’s good to send your original English (whether the edited final, or the storyboards/scripts) to your locales for input on what you can re-use, or even what you can tweak in the English for full re-use.
  • Do you have “super-locales”? For example, if you’re going to México, shooting dialogue in the standard Neutral Spanish will help you cover most of Latin America, which would be your super-locale. Likewise, if you’re going to multiple European countries, you may be able to re-use many of the visuals (as long as they don’t contain text).

Once you’ve answered these four questions, you should have a clear picture of whether or not your content will benefit from transcreation. Moreover, you should have a few ideas for how to keep your costs down, tweak your English content for best re-use, and even possibly cut down on your target locales.

Remember that while transcreation is a powerful (and even potentially cost-effective) method to produce foreign-language content, it also needs to be planned and budgeted thoroughly. As with all localization, the only way to avoid cost overruns and timeline delays is to get it right the first time.

Will Brown has been at JBI Studios since 2010, and has extensive experience in audio and video localization. He has worked as a freelance Trados Engineer in Portland, Oregon, and as a Localization Technologist for Xerox Corporation (2004-2007). He is a graduate of the American Film Institute (AFI) (MFA, Directing ’09) and Reed College (BA, History ’99), and speaks fluent English and Spanish, and conversational French.   NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of GALA.

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