Seven tips from professionals on localizing videos

Best Practices


A company has an excellent corporate video, but only in Finnish. Market analysis reveals that there is global demand for the product.

How can a company introduce a product or service to a new target market attractively? How can it provide information about the product or service and its functionality? In responding to challenges of this type, video is an increasingly popular form of content.

But how can video content be used in another language or localized for a new target market? We’ve compiled tips from professionals on localizing video content.

How to localize videos successfully

The purpose of localizing videos is to reach the intended target group. Successful localization takes the language, culture and other interests of the target group into account. A localized video serves the new target group as effectively as the original video serves its own target group. It conveys the same message about the company and the product to a new audience. The message remains unchanged across geographical and linguistic boundaries.

Effective localization also includes SEO if the video is intended for public release. A successfully localized video is easy to find – after all, its purpose is to serve the public. Visibility in a new market is reflected in the recognizability of the company, product or service. The better the visibility of the video, the more viewers and, consequently, opportunities the company has to convince customers of the excellence of its product or service.

Localizing a video that has proved to be effective is cheaper and faster than producing a completely new video.

This is how it works:

Phases of video localization

The need for localization is often not discovered until the original video has been completed. A long time may pass between completing the video and realizing the need for its localization. Fortunately, localization is possible even if the original unedited video has disappeared into cyberspace. In other words, it’s also possible to localize videos that have already been edited.

When localizing an edited video, the first phase is to analyze the video and collect all the speech and text that need to be localized. The text is compiled in a separate file, so it can easily be translated into a new target language.  If the video includes an interview, for example, an audiovisual translator is needed. They can spot what is essential and what can be left out without compromising the meaning.

Once the translation has been completed, a narrator is needed if the video is being localized by means of narration or dubbing. To ensure that the message is clear and comprehensible, the narrator should be a native. Native speakers have a natural command of emphases and nuances, which reduces the risk of misinterpretation.

Subtitles are the most common way to localize videos. Subtitles can be added to the video immediately after its translation. Subtitles are often also the most cost-effective option: there are fewer intermediate phases, and subtitles are easier to edit. If a need arises to edit the localized text during iteration, it takes less effort to edit text than a voice track. Editing recorded speech usually means re-recording.

Any further editing required for the video is completed when the translated text is being added to the video as subtitles. Images, animations, music or sound can also be added to reinforce the message. In addition, any elements that the company doesn’t want to be included in the localized video can be removed. These include images or texts that might be regarded as offensive in another culture.


Ideally, localization is taken into account before starting video production. Internationalization should be considered as early as the scriptwriting phase. In internationalization, the requirements of various cultures and languages are taken into account before the production phase. This makes localization much easier, as the content doesn’t need to be adjusted to different cultures retrospectively. The same video can be used as such in different countries. Localization only requires adding text or speech.

“A good script is crucial.”

Titta Rintamäki, Business Development Manager

Localization is no exception: careful planning makes the later phases easier. Determining the target group and key message is vital in planning a video project: Who are the intended recipients of the desired message? How should the message be communicated? When the core idea has been defined, it’s best to make a short synopsis of the content of the video. After that, you can start working on the script: the more detailed content and events of the video, in addition to the dialog or the narrator’s lines. The preconditions for localization are easy to adjust at this stage. The location, the content and duration of the narration, the texts visible in the video and the narrator’s presence, among other aspects, can be chosen to support localization.

After the preproduction and production phases, the process is similar to that of localizing a completed video.

Localization in brief:
  • Analyzing the video and collecting the material to be translated
  • Translating and localizing the texts
  • Producing any voice-overs
  • Completing any edits needed for the video and adding the localized material to the video as subtitles, dubbing or speech.
  • Releasing and distributing the video

Seven-point checklist for video localization

Point 1: Requirements of the target language

When localizing Finnish into another language, for example, expressing the same content in the target language may require more text or speech. This affects the space required for subtitling and, consequently, the duration of the video.

For the viewer, it’s confusing if the video proceeds to the next topic while the subtitles or voice-over is still dealing with the previous topic. In subtitling, longer texts require more space. This is also reflected in the end user’s experience.

When subtitles are translated into a language using Latin characters, around 40 characters per line on two lines is a safe choice. The viewers must be allowed three seconds to read a line. In Asian languages, such as Chinese, the limit is 20 characters per line. That’s what an average reader can handle.

Point 2: The target group’s preferences

The preferences in each target market must also be considered when localizing videos. Subtitles are not commonly used in the English-speaking world, Germany or Russia. Videos are typically dubbed in these areas.

Subtitles are preferred in the Nordic countries, while dubbing and voice-overs are much more common than subtitles in Asia.

In terms of the target groups, you should decide whether you should produce the video in Finnish first and then create a global version with English subtitles. Or would it be better, in terms of the target groups, to make the video in English and add Finnish subtitles?

Point 3: Content and duration of the video

Localization should be taken into account when shooting the video. If you are filming a speaker, for example, you should leave a good amount of empty space around them. Zooming too close may make localizing the video more complicated. If you are using subtitles for localization, it’s important that the subtitles don’t cover too much of the person appearing on the video. The need for space should also be taken into account when text or graphics are being presented on the video.

In terms of localization, you should ensure that the image or the background on the video doesn’t include anything regarded as offensive in the culture in question. It’s good to remember that what we consider normal in our culture may be inappropriate in other cultures.

The duration of the video matters as well. According to the 2019 Video in Business Benchmark report by Vidyard, the average duration of corporate videos has decreased to slightly over four minutes. The duration of more than 70% of corporate videos is 1–2 minutes. This applies to product and company presentation videos, for example. Matters can be discussed in more detail in longer videos. However, the rule of thumb is that the viewer’s interest must be piqued during the first 15 seconds.

Point 4: Editing and localizing

The less the video to be localized has been edited, the easier it will be to produce the final version. An unedited video is ideal for localization, as it will be easier to add subtitles and make other edits. If text or pictures have been added to the video to be localized, it may be difficult to add subtitles. There may not be enough space, or there will too much text on the screen, which makes the video confusing.

It’s always easier to add elements to a video than it is to remove them.

Point 5: Localization method

When planning the localization of a video, you must also choose a method: subtitles, dubbing or voice-over. As mentioned before, different cultures have different preferences, and these should be taken into account.

In dubbing and voice-overs, it’s extremely important that the transcribed speech has time codes – that is, precise time stamps for the start and end of speech. The video will be localized based on these time codes. The video is easier to translate if the time-stamped transcription file (usually an SRT file) can be submitted to the translator as such and they can translate the text with the time stamps.

If the video is localized by means of dubbing, you must choose between lip-sync and phrase-level sync. Lip-syncing follows the speaker’s mouth movements precisely. This is a markedly more demanding and expensive method, as matching the speaker’s mouth movements takes a great deal of time and effort. In phrase-level syncing, the localized dubbing matches the speech on the video at the sentence level. For this reason, phrase-level syncing is a clearly more common and inexpensive option.

The benefits of a voice-over include the fact that the localized speech doesn’t need to match the speaker’s mouth movements. However, in a voice-over, the narrator’s tone must match the matter discussed on the video.

Transcription time codes are also needed for subtitles, and the time stamps determine the length of the localized texts.

Point 6: Well-planned is halfway there

Careful preparatory work is reflected in the final result. This cannot be stressed enough when it comes to making videos. A systematic approach helps you avoid many problems, such as major costs arising from re-recordings. When you have determined the key message and know your target group, you have already come a long way.

If the original video has disappeared, you can still localize your video. However, when localizing an edited video, achieving the desired result may take a little longer. Conveying the key message to the appropriate target group is vital.

Point 7: Findability and SEO

In terms of SEO, it’s a good idea to include the most important keywords in the speech or narration. This is particularly important when English is being spoken on the video. The same keyword should be included in both the title and the description if the video is uploaded to YouTube, for example.

When the video is released, it should be transcribed, and the transcribed narration should be uploaded to the publication platform, if possible. This is an easy way to inform search engines about the content of the video. If you want to localize the video, the time-stamped transcription file (e.g. an SRT file) is easy to translate as such, in addition to creating time-stamped subtitles for various market-specific versions.

Does your company have a video that needs to be localized into a new language?

Acolad has participated in localizing numerous videos. For example, we have  produced an occupational safety video in cooperation with ABB. Read more about Acolad’s video production solutions.

Is your company planning to release a corporate or product video in another language abroad or in your home market? We will help you choose and implement the solutions that best suit your specific needs.

Read more about our video production servives