Translation tech goes media Subtitling and dubbing won’t stay uncontested for long
Four out of the five fastest-growing language services companies in 2018 are media localization specialists. The media business has seen a boom over the last two years, and traditional translation companies are taking notice. Media localization won’t stay an uncontested insular niche for long. In fact, conventional LSPs and technology providers are moving into this sector and expanding their technical capabilities this year.
Here are a few examples, with more to follow…
Omniscien launched an automated subtitling tool
Omniscien, previously Asia Online, is best known for its trainable machine translation software, but now they are going into a new area – video subtitling. Omniscien has just started selling Media Studio, which was built based on product requirements from iflix, a Malaysian competitor to Netflix.
Under the hood Media Studio has machine learning components: audio transcription, dialog extraction, and neural MT engines pre-trained for subtitles in more than 40 language combinations. The technology is able to create a subtitle draft out of a raw video already in the target language. It can even adjust timings and split long sentences into multiple subtitles where necessary. And it’s learning all the time.
For the human part of the work, Media Studio includes a web-based subtitle editor and a management system, both including a significant range of features right from the start. Translators can edit time codes in a drag-and-drop fashion, skip parts of the video without speech, customize keyboard shortcuts, and more. Project managers can assign jobs and automatically send job notifications, track productivity, and MT leverage.
The video is hosted remotely and is streamed to linguists instead of sending complete films and episodes. This adds a security layer for the intellectual property. No one in the biz wants the next episode of the Game of Thrones to end up on thepiratebay.org faster than it would on a streaming service. Linguists in low-bandwidth countries can download videos in low quality and with a watermark.
On the downside, this new tool does not integrate with existing CAT and business management systems for LSPs out of the box, doesn’t have translation memory support or anything else that would make it fit as one of the blades in the Swiss army knife of LSP technology.
According to Omniscien’s CEO Dion Wiggins, iflix has processed hundreds of thousands of video hours through the system since its inception in late 2016. By now, three more large OTT providers have started with Media Studio. Content distribution companies are the main target for the tool, but it will be available for LSPs as well once the pricing is finalized.
GlobalLink deployed subtitle and home dubbing software
At a user conference in Amsterdam this June, TransPerfect unveiled a new media localization platform called Media.Next. The platform has three components:
The subtitle editor is a CAT-tool with an embedded video player. Translators using this platform can watch videos and transcribe them with timings, possibly with integrated speech recognition to automatically create the first pass. As they translate using translation memory and termbase, they are able to see the subtitles appear on the screen.
The home dubbing is all about the setup on the voice-actor side. TransPerfect sends them mics and soundproofing so that recording can happen at home rather than at a local audio studio.
A media asset management platform stores videos at a single location and proxies them to the translator applications instead of sending complete files over the Internet, similar to Omniscien’s approach.
The official launch of TransPerfect’s Media.NEXT is scheduled for mid-August.
Proprietary tech launched earlier this year
TransPerfect’s tech is proprietary, meant to create a competitive advantage. Media localization companies such as Zoo Digital and Lylo took a similar approach. They have launched cloud subtitling and dubbing platforms, but continue to keep technology under the radar of other LSPs.
The idea of “dubbing in the cloud” is that it gives the client visibility into the actual stage of the process, and flexibility with early-stage review and collaboration with the vendor. The same idea permeates Deluxe Media’s platform Deluxe One unveiled in April this year. It’s a customer portal that provides clients with access to multiple services and APIs.
MemoQ and Wordbee add view video preview for subtitling
At the same time, subtitling capabilities are beginning to make their way into tools that are available to hundreds of LSPs around the world.
Popular translation editor memoQ has added a video player with a preview in their July release. The editor now opens the video file at the point that is being translated and displays the translated text so that translators can check it live. It can also show the number of words per minute, characters per second, or characters per line.
A similar preview appears in Wordbee. The embedded video player can open videos from an URL, or play clips that are uploaded to the editor directly. The initial release includes a character limitation feature to keep subtitles concise, and anchoring: clicking on the segment with the text rewinds the video to that text.
This is a step showing memoQ’s and Wordbee’s move deeper into media, and differentiating them from other TMS.
So far, few TMS had video previews, one of them was Smartcat. Subtitling functionality in Smartcat has been developed in 2013 for a special project, crowdsourced localization of e-learning platform Courserra. Today, users need to enable subtitling functionality on request. The feature set available includes a video player, timecode parsing, and anchoring. Subtitling user numbers in Smartcat are rising, according to product manager Pavel Doronin.
Back to memoQ and Wordbee, their development teams probably will need to expand the list subtitling features over time: first of all, timecode editing. Moreover, memoQ and Wordbee support .SRT extension, whereas Omniscien’s tool supports TTML as well: a more advanced format that allows manipulating subtitle colors, position on screen and formatting. TTML might become more important for video on demand work and streaming platforms, for instance, it is the format that Netflix uses.
Future “luxury” features could include character tracking with descriptions explaining their voice and preferred vocabulary, support for the speech-to-text technology, audio recording, etc.
Subtitling commoditization looms
Subtitling is not new to the translation industry, and almost every mature CAT/TMS supports .srt SubRip text files. However, linguists have to run a third-party video player in a separate window to see their work. They also have to reload and rewind every time to see changes in the subtitles.
That’s why in professional scenarios, subtitlers often use Amara, Subtitle Workshop, Oona captions manager, CaptionHub or similar specialized tools. These tools came from outside the language industry and didn’t support translation memories, term bases, and embedded MT.
Previous attempts to create tools that combine the best of two worlds didn’t quite meet with commercial success. Years following the launch, user numbers for dotsub.com, hakromedia SoundCloud, and videolocalize.com stayed limited. So far, most language industry professionals viewed media localization as a niche service rather than as a growth area. As a result, they didn’t invest in specialized departments and software. But with video content increasing in share, and with media companies demonstrating record revenues, this might eventually change.
However, by the time it does change, translation tools may achieve a “good enough” capability. Fast-forward 1-2 years – most LSPs might be able to subtitle without extra investment or training. It will become even easier to enter into subtitling and compete, leading to price pressure. Subtitling may turn into an even more crowded and low-margin space before you can say “commoditization”.
Dubbing: Home studio vs studio M&A strategy
Dubbing, on the other hand, is a different kind of deal.
So far, the dubbing market has been dominated by larger companies such as Deluxe and SDI Media that provide voice talent in physical sound studios located in multiple countries. Perhaps one of the best examples of this would be Disney’s Let It Go which has been translated into at least 74 languages.
Infrastructure for such projects is costly to build and maintain. Brick-and-mortar studios have high bills and need a constant flow of work to stay profitable. Projects might be hard to find for second-tier language outlets. To have a French studio overloaded and a Croatian studio suffering losses year after year is a realistic scenario for a network company.
The virtual/home studio approach being used by newer players in this field such as TransPerfect, Zoo Digital and Lylo Media, is more scalable and provides acceptable quality for most clients. But will it be enough for high-profile content owners that award the largest contracts?
If the home studio approach produces sustainable growth, commercial software vendors will jump in and replicate the technology, leading to lower entry to dubbing. However, if it fails over 2018-2019, instead M&A will become the go-to-market strategy in the media localization space. Watch out for smaller studio acquisition frenzy!