When preparing video content for a foreign audience, there is much to consider beyond providing an accurate translation of the dialogue. Whilst VSI is renowned for its Dubbing, Subtitling and Voice-Over services, our in-house Post-Production and Creative Services teams also play a fundamental role in the process.
In this article, the first of a two-part series, we look at some of the tasks they regularly undertake to ensure that the final material is ready for broadcast.
Visual media, particularly documentaries and other factual entertainment shows, often relies on graphics-based text elements to enhance branding and convey supplementary information. Whilst like subtitles they deliver text-based information, their purpose and application is different.
Subtitles provide a written translation of dialogue in a video. Their primary purpose is to ensure the dialogue is understandable, for example, for audiences who do not speak the show’s original language (foreign-language subtitling), or for viewers who cannot follow the dialogue due to a hearing impairment (known as SDH subtitling or closed captioning).
Subtitles almost always appear at the bottom of the screen, whilst graphics may appear anywhere within the frame. In addition to subtitles, graphics may also need to be adapted or created from scratch to create a comprehensible show for its new audience. Common examples include adding speaker IDs, statistics and factual information, channel identifiers and in-show indents.
The process of adapting these graphics ranges from being relatively straightforward to extremely challenging. In an ideal scenario, VSI’s Post-Production teams will be supplied with clean versions of the programme’s video file, minus any graphics, which are later overlaid. These graphic-free clips are known as “clean beds” or “textless elements”.
The teams will also be provided with the original artwork files used to create the graphical elements (in Adobe After Effects or Premiere) and a final version of the programme, with graphics included to compare with. In this scenario, the process involves replicating the placement and format of the original graphics with new versions in the target language, ensuring they appear in the right place at the right time, and replicating any tracking or effects found in the original version. Often, modifications to graphical elements have to be implemented to account for the different lengths of phrases and titles in different languages.
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, it is impossible to work with a clean version of a video, and VSI’s editors must work with a copy in which the original graphics cannot be removed. Here, the teams must be more creative; they will use a variety of techniques to hide the original graphics and overlay local language versions. This can include covering existing graphics with still graphics or animations, introducing additional elements to obscure them, or re-editing entire sequences to remove graphics.
It can be a complex and time-consuming process, which involves skilled editors and graphic designers who have the imagination and technical ability to render new graphics and match the style and tone of the original. They will often work without a style guide, but nonetheless, it is essential work to ensure a consistent and high quality viewing experience.
Cigarrettes are a common item to be obscurred from view, for complicance purposes.
VSI edits content on behalf of a number of broadcasters and distributors for a variety of purposes, most commonly to conform to regional tastes or local legislation. Within the broadcast industry, this work is often referred to as Standards & Practice or Compliance editing.
What is acceptable varies considerably between territories. For example, in some countries, all nudity must be cut, whilst in others blurring part of the shot is deemed sufficient. In some regions, nudity is permitted, but cigarettes must be obscured. Aside from nudity, violence, swearing, drug-taking, drinking, smoking and blasphemy may also require editing.
Sometimes VSI’s editing teams are given clear lists of scenes which must be cut, whilst for certain clients it is at our discretion to choose what is or is not included, before the final version is approved by the client.
Blurring, where part of a shot is obscured to cover an offending object (a cigarette, for example) is more commonly known as “pixelisation”. This effect is achieved by significantly reducing the resolution of the pixels displaying the item, producing a blocky effect that obscures detail, but retains much of the original hue and contour information of the offending object. The advantage of this technique is that the remainder of the shot can stay intact, so the film itself does not need to be edited down.
An alternative method to blurring is for the editor to zoom in on the offending shot, cutting unwanted objects out of the frame entirely. An example would be cropping out a particularly bloody wound inflicted during a fight, or nudity in the background of a scene.
However, at times there is no option but to cut a scene in its entirety, presenting editors with the challenge of ensuring the film continues to makes sense without it. On occasion, it may be possible to use other shots from the film to fill in the empty space, whilst in other situations a scene has to be removed entirely, with careful editing taking place to ensure shot changes remain seamless. All decisions made will ensure that the cuts do not leave any holes in the plot.
Once all final edits have been completed, our teams will provide the final running time and a comprehensive list of sequences which have been cut, with the end client having the final say in what will be broadcast.
If you would like to learn more about our post-production or creative services, or receive a quote from VSI, please drop us an email. We’re always happy to help.
Look out for part two of this series, coming soon, where we will take an in-depth look at some of the technical services VSI provides its clients.