Our new publication on language tech and business. Check it out

What Unbabel’s Translation as a Service can do for the media industry

Your video content has the potential to be global. And you want it to go global. You want it to go global from day one. What’s stopping you?

Just like businesses should try to speak their clients’ language, video works best in a language tailored for its audience.

Of course, video translation is a traditionally slow process. To see why, the math is easy enough for anyone to follow along. According to industry standards:

  • There are about 150 words in a minute of video or audio
  • Audio transcription professionals estimate 15 minutes speech (2,2250 words) take about 60 minutes to transcribe to text
  • A professional translator can translate about 2000 words in a day

So, the best case scenario for say, the average TED Talk, is an hour to transcribe, and then a full day for translation (per language!).

To do the same for an Apple iPhone launch, it would take 6 days.

And half a month to do the same for the movie Titanic.

With that kind of manpower, time and cost required, it’s no wonder that traditional means of transcription and translation are a huge barrier to entry.

No longer.

Why slow transcription and translation services weren’t really a problem

Everything changed on February 14th. Valentine’s Day. Chocolates, roses, postcards and overpriced dinners. It is also, and not a lot of people know this, YouTube’s birthday. February 14, 2005. A day that would change the world… wide web.

Before 2005, the distribution of video was particularly well centralised. Big movie studios, documentary makers etc have partners in every country that handle distribution, subtitling and dubbing. Different launch dates allowed for the timely (and costly) process involved in video translation. The number of people involved was ridiculously high.

Suddenly, the internet allows video content to reach everybody in the world. Make the video, upload it and that’s it. With the almost simultaneous rise of Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006), videos started getting shared on a mass scale that had never been seen before.

What changed in video translation?

When NowThis and AJ+ discovered the secret formula of news content for the age of social media, they stumbled upon a few key elements. More than just relying on subtitles, key phrases started appearing directly in the video. This took advantage of a rising trend we’ve seen on another post: 85% of users on social media watch videos without any sound.

Instant access to freelancers all around the world also helped. Websites like Upwork, Fiverr and Remote allow you as a company or department to find individual translators for most languages. It’s practical on paper, but not so much in real life.

I had to rely on one of these websites to help me translate a blog into 8 different languages. The blog had some 300 posts. The time spent finding the right people, chasing after them to meet deadlines, and then getting someone to quality-check their work… we ended up having to hire 8 different quality checkers full-time to cope with the stress. And when the finance department realised the amount of individual receipts they had to validate and pay — they could have reenacted the Red Wedding.

YouTube started their automatic subtitling program as far back as 2013. But it was never really great: as soon as it launched, it turned into a meme called YouTube Caption Fail. It’s still so bad, YouTube has admitted it doesn’t scan automatically translated subtitles for keywords.

Facebook is struggling with this, too. Just last year, Facebook’s own closed captioning system helped making a speech by Mark Zuckerberg’s go viral.

There seem to be no easy answers. Unlike Russia, you can’t trust YouTube or Facebook to do the dirty work for you. Freelancers can create as many problems as they solve. And you don’t want to hire a team of translators full-time (ain’t nobody got the space for that).

Who you gonna call?

The pros. It’s time to let the pros take over.

A one stop shop for video transcription and translation as a service. AI-powered. With a network of 50,000 translators ready to be tapped in. Everything quality checked by professionals. If this sounds too good to be true, you can check it for yourself: just turn on the subtitles and pick your language.

It’s accurate. It’s fast. It’s scalable.

It’s the sort of thing that makes the Financial Times name us as one of the 50 ideas that will change the world.

So now I ask again: if your video content has the potential to be global, and you want it to go global, what’s stopping you? Probably, you just haven’t given the pros a chance: Unbabel for video.

The Unbabel Newsletter

Witty, informative and intensely curated, The Unbabel Newsletter is a fine addition to any inbox, dispatched every other Wednesday.

Facebook iconInstagram iconLinkedIn iconTwitter iconYouTube icon