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Matinee Blog

Why should video producers and animators give any thought to translation?

Q&A by Alistair Langfield, a Senior Producer at Matinée Sound & Vision Ltd for Imagine Magazine 

Why should animators or video producers give any thought to translation?

For your animation to achieve any kind of impact overseas,it’s important to communicate with your audience in their language. Always ask your client where the animation will be shown, because if you can offer translation, and plan for it at the very start, you will be able to produce a better global product. And if you use the right supplier, you can also make a good margin on this work and save your customer a large chunk of budget further down the line.

How can animators offer translation services if they don’t speak another language?

If you don’t offer to translate the animation then your client will go to their favoured translation vendor and your labour of love probably won’t get the attention it deserves. Most translation agencies don’t understand how to translate video, and will sub-contract the voice over,
subtitling and on-screen text work to a specialist studio like Matinée.

It makes more sense to plan for translation right from the start, And with the support of a studio like Matinée, it will be very straightforward. We have a dedicated project management team who completely understand the process involved in translating video projects and we can translate video in over 80 languages.

How can you best prepare video for translations?

English is one of the shortest spoken and written languages, so text expansion will be your number one concern when preparing for translation. For example, German can be as much as 40% longer than the same text in English. This will play havoc with your beautifully timed animation or edit, so it’s important to allow enough time on screen for these expanded languages whether as subtitles or voiceover.

We work for a lot of translation companies who simply don’t understand this process, and they often provide us with translations that have not been timed to the existing time constraints. But you can’t fit a quart into a pint pot! So we have to speed up the voiceover which is unnatural, or have the subtitles flying across the screen at an unreadable speed. All this can be avoided with a bit of pre-planning and by using a studio that understands the process from start to finish.

Key considerations:

Voice over

  • Don’t narrate / present quickly
  • Allow for expansion – a different edit would be ideal if the video is fast paced
  • Prepare and encode videos specifically for studio recording (low-res Quicktime MOV)

On screen text and captions

  • Use editable text
  • Use popular video editing software
  • Allow for text expansion
  • Don’t use big captions in the lower half of the screen


  • Always supply a time-coded English transcript for reference
  • Don’t narrate / present quickly
  • Don’t put important information in the lower half of the screen