VideoLocalize: A Case Study in Innovation
VideoLocalize is a video localization platform that was developed by the Boffin Language Group to address a well-known challenge in the area of video localization. In its current shape, VideoLocalize integrates a synchronization tool with voice-talent and project management capabilities, allowing the end-to-end management of video localization projects. It wasn’t conceived of in this way, however, and the journey that the Boffin Language Group undertook under the leadership of its President, George Zhao, is a case study in innovation.
The Boffin Language Group had for years been working in the area of video localization; at the time, video localization was considered a niche occupation in the multi-billion-dollar localization industry. Localizing videos is cumbersome because the localized audio files are often not the same length as the original audio files, requiring hours of manual work matching localized audio and video files. George Zhao came upon the idea of VideoLocalize through discussions with the engineers at the Boffin Language Group who were dealing with this issue while working on an e-learning localization project under tight time constraints. Curious about the problem and driven by the desire to help his team, Zhao began to investigate and soon discovered that his engineers were not alone: due to its unique nature, there was a lack of efficiency in video localization that had gone unaddressed. And while Zhao could have consoled himself that his engineers were not alone and that his company was using state of the art technology, he saw a challenge and seized the opportunity to address it.
Ever since attending the GALA 2011 Lisbon Conference, where he listened to Jochen Hummel talk about the founding of Trados, Zhao had cultivated an interest in innovation and start-up methodology. Reading widely on this topic, he became convinced that the localization industry was ripe for innovation, but unclear just where he should put his energies and which specific problems to address. Zhao was convinced that true innovation is born out of dealing with concrete, user-specific problems and does not start with a great idea that is conceived of in a vacuum. He was hence looking for a challenge he could solve internally at Boffin Language Group that would benefit the industry at large. When his engineers began to make noise about the tedious task of syncing localized audio and video files, he had an inkling that the time had come.
Though Zhao had little experience with multimedia localization, he was keenly aware of the rise of new visual and interactive media. After doing some research, he decided that a tool which automatically synchronizes audio and video files would fill a gap - thus, VideoLocalize was born. In August 2016 a prototype of the synchronization tool was created that uses a Karaoke-style recording mechanism; within months it was deployed successfully at Boffin Language Group. Zhao also entered the prototype version at the 2016 TAUS Game Changer Innovation Contest in Portland, Oregon, where it won the award for the best innovative solution for Industry Insiders. Not surprisingly, this drew interest from other companies and potential customers which prompted Zhao to make VideoLocalize available to the public as a beta version. The beta version was demoed at the GALA 2017 Amsterdam Conference where it was received positively by attendees, who requested the addition of a subtitling feature, among other things. Given the feedback, Zhao decided to double down on his investment and develop the tool into a platform that combines video and audio synchronization with subtitling, voice-talent and project management. Featured at the 2017 TAUS Game Changer Innovation Contest in San Jose, California, the updated version of VideoLocalize again emerged as the audience favorite and Boffin Language Group once more won the Game Changers Innovation award for Industry Insiders. Through iterative rounds of deployment, reviews and user feedback, a simple insight about an industry need had grown into an innovative platform.
Throughout the entire process, Zhao collaborated closely with his lead developer and engineering team to ensure a sound and viable solution would be built. For Zhao, teamwork is key when it comes to building innovative solutions. So is keeping a clearly defined focus. Said Zhao: “For me, focusing on one problem that needs to be solved, brainstorming for all possible solutions, and then continuously improving the product is the key for successful incremental innovation."