It remains a dynamic period for localisation technology providers as streaming services and expectations of customisation continue to develop rapidly, writes David Davies.
In the last IBC 365 overview of localisation, published in 2019, we saw that the need to customise content with local elements had become “significantly more acute” – as had the requirement for this to be achieved with “as little an impact as possible” on already overstretched production centres.
It was also apparent that the adoption of Server Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) and Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) technologies was having an impact on delivery, while it was no surprise to discover that sports remained one of the most significant customers for localisation services.
These trends are very much ongoing in early 2021, although in the interim there has been notable consolidation among some of the key technology providers.
Most prominently, the merger between IYUNO Media Group and BTI Studios – both in the top five largest companies in the localisation industry – was said to have taken place in order to “meet the rapidly growing demand for localised content by enabling worldwide dubbing and subtitling capabilities for streaming, film and television.”
With many media observers now forecasting streaming sector consolidation after a remarkable period of expansion, it’s fair to hypothesise that there will be further business changes among technology providers too. But in the meantime there seems to be a universal emphasis on the further refinement of localisation technologies to support more fluid local licensing and customisation, as well as the overall increase in workload confronting content creators every day.
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The cloud component
For Tedial a key focus now is on leveraging cloud-based operations and IMF (Interoperable File Format) to enable quicker and more efficient localisation. Hence the company’s Evolution MAM, which provides a content localisation workflow that only relies on an external editing tool to generate the few specific fragments that can’t be changed through a transcode assembly operation.
Tedial’s IMF Markup Tool manages the assembly points and editing of the localisation version on a frame-accurate low-resolution proxy, while the workflow exports high-resolution IMF packages natively.
Undertaking these tasks in the cloud brings further efficiencies, explains CTO Julian Fernandez-Campon: “An IMF MAM solution can be deployed in a true cloud-based operation in which all content is received and delivered in the cloud, enabling the creation of new versions in low-resolution proxy form. This is key for the kind of localisation workflows that are distributed across geographically disparate operations and involve external operations – for example, dubbing/subtitling companies – that can access content, upload localised audio tracks/subtitles, and check/QC them.”
As well as facilitating easier access to content for localisation, this kind of workflow can also save content originators significant storage space. Depending on the amount of content earmarked for customisation, “its not uncommon for customers to be able to reduce [related storage demands] by as much as 80%,” says Fernandez-Campon, who adds that with a low-resolution proxy being used for editing, assembly and version validation the transfer times can also be “much, much shorter.”
Meanwhile, Evolution allows content creators to maintain an overall sense of localisation activities by tracking “all the processes and activities” taking place.
Using IMF as a key enabler of localisation makes a lot of sense, indicates Fernandez-Campon, when this kind of approach “is now found in so many places in the content production chain, [from the] major studios to smaller production companies and dubbing operations.” And with enhanced localisation seen as critical “to really engaging the customers” – especially in more mature streaming markets – Fernandez-Campon forecasts “a lot of developments this year… we do think that 2021 will be the ‘year of IMF’.”
Localisation during the pandemic
The need to support localisation services such as dubbing during the pandemic has been among the recent priorities for ZOO Digital, whose cloud-based ZOOstudio system makes it possible to centralise all of a client’s localisation services in one overarching platform with a single point of order and fulfilment. Customers can select the precise services – including dubbing, subtitling (for programmes and commercials) and audio description – they require to create localised content packages.
Playing a huge role in its service delivery is a worldwide network of more than 7,200 native translators who use ZOO Digital’s cloud-based solution to translate and deliver subtitles and captions. During the pandemic, in particular, the company reports that this network has been utilised by producers worldwide when bringing talent into studios has become more problematic.
With demand for OTT streaming services also continuing to rise in 2020, it wasn’t surprising to see more strategic partnerships such as the one announced in September between ZOO Digital and Whip Media Group, which provides integrated services to entertainment organisations geared towards the efficient management, distribution and monetisation of their digital content. The alliance sees ZOO Digital integrating with the Whip Media Group’s Content Value Management platform to provide subtitling and dubbing services to clients as they license content globally. Using the cloud-based, digitally-driven supply chain “removes distribution friction and simplifies the process of managing multiple vendors while delivering workflow transparency and monitoring”.
As ZOO Digital director business development EMEA Mazin Al-Jumaili implies, the collaboration resonates with the increasingly global view required for successful licensing and customisation of content: “We quickly identified a seamless workflow with Whip Media Group which will provide full transparency on localisation order management for their global client portfolio. As worldwide OTT platforms build momentum in local content publishing, both companies are perfectly positioned to offer a global supply chain solution.”
Escalating global demand
Further confirmation of the accelerating demand for localisation services came in the first week of 2021 with the news that OOONA – which provides translation, subtitling, management and captioning tools for the media localisation industry – has established a new searchable online database of audio-visual translation talent. Directly accessible on the OOONA website, The POOOL is a directory of professionals offering services such as subtitling, closed captioning, audio description, linguistic and technical quality control, metadata translation, spotting, transcription and post-production editing.
Underpinning The POOOL is a new ‘quality and competence’ professional qualification initiative, AVT Pro Certification, which will yield endorsement for translators whose linguistic and technical skills mean they can provide ‘fully professional’ language services. This will involve all candidates taking a test in subtitling.
Acknowledging the “rapidly increase demand for media content localisation resources”, OOONA CEO Wayne Garb alludes to a talent-squeeze being in evidence “right across the media industry, accelerated by the ever-growing popularity of video-on-demand services. An industry-specific web portal is essential if you are trying to find media-savvy professionals with the right experience in translating audio-visual productions between specific languages. The POOOL is configured to be that portal; we have always made a point of being attentive to the needs of the AVT industry at every level and will be especially so in ensuring this venture achieves worldwide recognition.”
Despite the growing belief that AI and ML will ultimately play a major role in delivering subtitling and captioning, the developments covered in this article indicate that a carefully calibrated blend of trained personnel and the latest technologies will remain integral to localisation services for many years to come. With demand for OTT/VOD content growing and becoming more complex, it’s also likely to remain an especially dynamic centre of innovation for the foreseeable future.
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