The Film Localization Processes


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Filmmakers across the globe use different film processes that promise to take their businesses to the next level. One of these processes is film localization. In this article, we will look at all things film localization. We will look at:

  1. What film localization?
  2. The different film localization processes.
  3. Limitations of film localization.
  4. Some benefits of film localization.

1. What is film localization?

It is very important to note that film localization is a fancier way of saying film translation. Localization as a normal word is making something local. If something is international and you localize it, then you have made it local to make it more applicable in a local set up or relatable to a local audience.

So film localization is making a foreign film more local linguistically and culturally to make it relatable to a local audience through translation. There is no other way to localize a film or anything without using translation. 

Translation, in this case, is creating new language scripts from one source language to another target language.

In film translation, there are different categories where translation applies. There is a translation for written materials which usually includes scripts and articles which eventually end up being used in film production. Then there is translation for dubbing and subtitles where audio and video files are translated for film production. The last category is translation for marketing materials, reviews, and synopsis. When translation is done for all these processes, then we term it as localization in the film industry. 

When in need of localization services, filmmakers and documentary makers always ensure to work with professional translators whose expertise is incredible? Now that we understand what localization is and what it entails, we will look at the different localization processes in film production.

2. Types of film localization processes.

There are two main film localization processes in film production, and these are dubbing and subtitling. These two processes are not new processes, so it means that since time immemorial filmmakers have been dubbing their films and creating subtitles on them to localize them to meet the needs of their local audiences.

These two processes are now globally used to support marketing agendas for foreign audiences, which create a passive income for film producers. So what is dubbing and what is subtitling you may ask?.

Dubbing is film localization, where the original film audio is translated or localized into another foreign language to make the film relatable to the people of a particular region who speak a different language to the original one. In dubbing, the film’s audio track is changed so you will hear the characters “speaking” in a foreign language.

Film localization is not the easiest form of translation. It takes so much work and dedication to translate for film, and filmmakers and translators are very aware of this factor. Translators who work in the dubbing field have to create scripts that are 100% based on the original film script used in the source language, which must also be synchronized with the movements of the character’s lips. The translators must also do their translations under the linguistical and cultural factors of the target language to avoid offending the audience of the target language.

Subtitling is also a film localization process where a film is localized by providing translated or localized texts at the bottom of the screen of the whole film to make the film relatable to a specific target audience who speak a different language to that of the original film. Subtitling means that written captions in another language are shown at the bottom of the film, which must be synchronized with the film’s dialogue for each scene.

Many people might argue that subtitling is more straightforward when compared to dubbing. It might be, but it’s very important to note that translation for dubbing also requires a translator who has an in-depth understanding of the many aspects of the cultures and how different words convey different meanings in different languages.  Just like in dubbing, this is very important for a translator to look at.

It is important to note that, regardless of the fact that both these processes are film dubbing processes, one deals strictly with an audio format while the other deals with a text format.

Have you ever wondered how filmmakers decide which films should be dubbed or subtitled? This always depends on the different countries they localizing films for. 

Every country has a different requirement in localizing films. We are all aware that the main localization modes are dubbing and subtitling. Filmmakers look at factors like status of the source and target cultures, the cost expenditure, which is more accepted by the audience and finally the traditional circumstances related to the history of the country or language.

Most films shown internationally come from English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States. Since these countries seldom import films, whatever foreign films shown in their theaters use subtitles rather than dubbing. In the United Kingdom, most of the imported films shown are from the United States, therefore film translation is not such an important issue.

As much as this is the reality for most English-speaking countries, there are other countries where dubbing is the mainly used localization process. These are countries that speak Spanish, German, Italian and French. A huge number of films shown in these countries are dubbed. Historically, dubbing has been their preferred method of film translation since the 1930s. While there are dubbing countries, there are subtitling countries, where most of the imported films require subtitles. Countries included in this category are Portugal, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. There are also countries that require double subtitles, as most of the population speaks two languages, such as Finland and Belgium. Poland and Russia are more used to voice-overs because it is too costly for these markets to have the films dubbed. But despite dubbing being expensive, it is the preferred mode in Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

3. Limitations of Film localization.

Before we look at some benefits of localizing films, we will look at some main limitations that are experienced when localizing films. 

  • Translation for localizing films is incredibly the hardest thing. Ensuring that simple conversations satisfy the target language’s colloquialisms and terms standard to the industry always proves to be a challenge. 
  • Making sure that the linguistical and cultural factors of the target language are taken into consideration is often challenging for translators who are not Native speakers of the target language. Therefore, it is important to get translators who are Native speakers. 
  • The limitations of the number of words or characters that must be translated in order for them to be in line with the original film’s is also another challenge because different phrases have more words or fewer words when translated to other languages.
  •  At the same time, the subtitles must likewise be in synch with sound and picture seen on screen. The texts to be used when dubbing must be of the same length as the original. Which is also difficult to achieve unless you are a fantastic dubbing and subtitling translator?

4. Benefits of film Localization.

There are a couple of benefits that film localization presents to filmmakers and producers and I believe they might be the main reason they feel the need to use these processes more than any other.

  • Localization helps filmmakers globalize their work. In a time where everyone has an internet connection, it is very easy for them to have access to any content across the globe. If you are a filmmaker who’s keen on localizing their films, then you are assured of making it accessible to other people across the world who would enjoy and appreciate it.
  • It makes the films versatile. Unlike filmmakers who prefer producing their films in one particular language, Localization allows their films to provide the aspect of versatility where everyone and anyone can enjoy them without having a feeling of being left out.  
  • Passive income. Localizing your films as a filmmaker will ensure that you make passive income every time people access your film and watch it. This is highly recommended for filmmakers who put their film on public platforms where the audience can access them. 

As you have seen, film localization is a process that is very beneficial to the audience and also to the filmmakers. If you ask me, using this process is a win-win situation for both parties. One can either work with dubbing or subtitling. As much as dubbing might be an expensive process, filmmakers have the choice of settling for subtitling.

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