Let’s talk serious business!
When I tell people that I work with film subtitling, my hardest task is to explain that most of the time I translate business, institutional or technical videos. This was a choice I made and it’s a market I cherish.
People –translators or not– tend to think that the best niche for a film translator is the entertainment business, like cinema or cable TV, because that’s what most people watch and enjoy. I agree that entertainment is fun; in fact, I worked almost exclusively in that sector for many years and I still love to come across fictional material to develop my creative or poetic or comic skills as a translator.
However, professionally speaking, working in the corporate field of audiovisual translation has some great rewards. I’ve developed a long-term relationship with most of my current clients, which are the companies themselves –this means there are no middlemen involved, which means much, much higher rates. This also means that I can dedicate more of my time and attention to their needs and play a bigger role in their accomplishments.
The field of corporate videos is huge, and keeps growing. Producing, editing and distributing videos is getting cheaper, and it’s a highly effective means to communicate. Not only do I translate videos intended for my clients’ customers –such as corporate messages, marketing, etc.– or for training purposes, but also internal videos for multinationals, for instance. Think about it: it’s much more effective and nicer for people to communicate audiovisually throughout the company than by means of tedious memos.
From the corporate perspective, this awesome article published by Branding Magazine, written by Dagmar Dolatschko and Bernard J. Putz, talks about the impact of online videos for businesses, and the importance of planning not only the audiovisual aspects of the production but also the means to take the video to the international arena. This text is so good (and so short) it can’t be summarized without missing some important points, so please read it!
The key words to keep in mind are: planning, researching, communicating, and allotting time and budget. They apply to video production as well as to the translation process, which simply cannot be an afterthought. So often we see lots of time and work and money going to waste because of a bad translation. There are many different ways to make a video be understood effectively in a different culture, and the translator needs to be familiar with both the subject matter of the video and the technical aspects of any given form of translation.
Now looking at this issue from the perspective of the relationship between translation buyers and service providers, the most important recommendations I can think of to assure a happy ending to everyone involved in the multimedia translation project are published in Translation Client Zone, a blog by my business partner Bianca Bold. I collaborated with her on these three posts:
One with an overview of audiovisual translation
Two focusing on subtitling, with part 1 and part 2
It should be no surprise that our recommendations converge with those from the Branding article, as obviously companies and their translators want to achieve the same thing: seamless and effective communication across borders.
And (better late than never) here’s wishing excellent business for everyone in 2013!
I have translated some corporate videos myself, but most of my production is related to entertainment. You are right, translating corporate videos is more profitable, but translating movies is definitely funnier and, at least for me, comforting. What is more, whenever I have translated corporate videos I have had moral and ethic issues. If I translate a corporate video for a fashion brand and clothes shops international chain, am I contributing to the wealth of some evil, greedy tycoons who have no qualms in manufacturing their goods in horrid factories with almost-slave workers in Bangladesh? I feel more at ease earning less money and working with little films that talk about great things.
Just to clarify: I’m not talking against entertainment at all. I love it and it’s part of my job too. My main point is that people are simply not aware of how big and interesting the corporate/technical/educational etc. –i.e. non-entertainment– industry is. Usually, when I say that is what I do most, people think of it as some dark, boring, probably underpaid field. Especially as a subtitling instructor: most of my students dream about translating their favorite sitcoms, but that is not necessarily the best niche or the top of the career, from the professional perspective (quite the contrary).
Now, of course each of us have to feel good about what we do and not work on something that is against our ethical values. But not all non-entertainment translation is meant to fill the pockets of evil tycoons. I do tons of educational, science and health-related translations, lots of internal communication, and many translations for honest companies — the only difference is that these translations are in the form of videos rather than texts, manuals or websites. Don’t many respectful translators make a living localizing software for Microsoft or Apple, or oil & gas documents, or contracts for big banks or law firms? Maybe some of them have ethical issues with that, but I’ve never met any 😉
Plus, entertainment *is* business too, and it also has its dark sides… It’s not that simple.
I particularly enjoy working directly with (Brazilian, in my case) independent producers or directors. I have seen some of them grow from film students finishing their first short film into well-known directors. I love that side of the industry and I love to be involved with a film since its inception. But I also love to help my regular corporate clients in their various businesses. They value my work and my input, they pay me well, they recommend me, and I honestly don’t think any of them are evil 🙂