We love it when our friends at WGBH, the local PBS station, come to us with a project, and their latest was a doozy… in the best way possible. They asked us to help them localize 60 (as in 6-0) short science videos to Spanish.

What is localization? It’s when you dub, subtitle, and reanimate the onscreen text of an existing video into another language. It was a big job, to say the least, but as always, we were up for the challenge, especially since it meant we not only got to work with WGBH, but with NASA(!), who is funding this initiative as part of the Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms program. Plus we got to brush up on our Spanish while learning some really cool science. We call that a win-win-win-win.

With so many videos to keep track of, we knew the key to success would be setting up a clever production pipeline right from the jump. Here’s how we did it: 

Step 1: Script Translation

The client provided us with time-coded scripts for all of the episodes in English. We then filled in the corresponding Spanish. This process depended on the commenting feature in Google Docs so everyone could weigh in on the edits and approvals.

Step 2: Voiceover

The second step, recording the new Spanish voiceover, actually was made of several sub-steps. Firstly, casting the right voice. Or rather, the right voices, seeing as we had to cast for over 100 voice parts across the 60 videos. Luckily, a talented group of 10 voice actors were able to read for all 100 parts. Next came the actual recording. Since we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we made sure to cast talent that has their own home recording studios. We edited the voiceovers in Premiere, roughly timing them out with the videos with the English voiceovers as a guide. After that, we uploaded the voiceovers to Vimeo Review so the client could make timecode specific notes and request voiceover pickups. Once the client approved the pickups, we could move onto editing.

Step 3: Editing

With the approved voiceovers in hand, we dove back into Premiere to sync the Spanish voiceover with the English video footage. This involved a lot of tweaking as the Spanish voiceover would frequently be shorter or longer than the English voiceover. To make it sync, we’d cut or slow down footage as needed. With the synced audio and tweaked video, we could layer on the music and sound effects and send the videos along for client approval.

Step 4: Text on Screen

Armed with a time-coded list of English text on screen in English as well as its Spanish translation, we opened up the footage in After Effects to mask and replace that English text with Spanish. To accomplish this required a lot of creative problem solving, figuring out the best ways to match existing texts, fonts, movements, colors and textures. Thanks to the wonder that is Adobe, our After Effects files linked directly back into Premiere for a seamless import of new Spanish graphics over the existing video.

Step 5: Video Client Review

We exported the full videos (with the brand-new, totally synced Spanish voiceover… and music… and sound effects… and shiny new Spanish text-on-screen… ) and posted to Vimeo Review so the client could again provide timecode specific notes. Then we made any necessary changes and locked the video!

Step 6: Subtitles & Captions

To ensure accessibility for all students, we used the final scripts and final videos to create the subtitle and caption files. We quality checked them in VLC and sent them along for client approval.

Step 7: Final Delivery

It took 6 months of hard and careful work, but we were able to provide the Client with the final videos localized to Spanish, along with the subtitle and caption files. And of course, the PN team (remotely) celebrated a job well done.

Here is one of our favorites, Himalayan Earthquake: Future Earthquake Potential. Just click on the link and it will bring you to the PBS Learning Media page. Toggle from English to Spanish and enjoy!

Media Credits:

Excerpted from NOVA: Himalayan Megaquake.

Third Party Materials: AP Archive, Paul Devaney, ESRI World Imagery, Getty Images, ITN Source, Kathmandu Today, Daniel Lins, NBC Universal, Nepal Police, Newsflare, Pond5, Kishor Rana, RYOT News, Storyful, Teton Gravity Research, Viral Hog. © 2016 Educational Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Source: NOVA | Himalayan Megaquake. Visit the program page here.