Commentary

What Do You Know? How Users Translate Video

Netflix has expanded around the world except China and some other closed-off regimes, but it appears that in a lot of those places, becoming a film translator was not considered a good career option.  

Probably because Netflix has noticed its happiest subscribers actually understand the movies they are watching, it’s looking for some interpreters.

TheNextWeb.com (TNW) says Netflix created a program called Hermes that quizzes would-be subtitlers, first determining their familiarity with colloquial phrases and their knowledge of the English language, though there are opportunities in which the interpreter is taking a foreign film and translating it into another foreign language.

I don’t think I could do this job unless there was a very short hospital film in which the total dialogue consisted of translating, “Wie gehts! Wo is das Krankenhaus?” Three years of high school German, and that’s what’s stuck.

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There’s are Netflix rate cards explaining how much you can make doing this, though unfortunately, not an explanation of how to read the rate card which is written in the internationally-recognized legal language (gibberish).  

YouTube is ahead of the curve. In 2015, it started a translation marketplace linking translators with YouTube creators, a pretty necessary ingredient because YouTube says two-thirds of the people who watch its videos watch them in a different language and YouTube is “available” in 76 languages.  (Do advertisers know this?)

Just a couple days ago, it also began publicizing a way for rank-and-file users to just translate for the rest of the viewers out there via its “community contributions” operation. That seems to be creating quite an opportunity for malicious “translators” to really screw up content but a YouTube explanatory videos says it has built in “certain safeguards” to limit that, and that as a general rule, it really doesn’t happen anyway. (At a time advertisers are getting antsy about some content on YouTube, it’s useful to recall how well the overwhelming majority of YouTube works without adult supervision.)

It’s clearly more difficult than just ordinary translating because subtitlers are required to be mindful of some peculiar demands, like, for example, keeping their subtitled text concise enough that it can be conveyed before the scene changes.  And there are different rules for translating to Japanese because there, you’re going vertical and it's trickier.

No doubt about the need, or how film (and Netflix and the Internet) can unify the world, as long as everybody understands, and as long as people in the world want to try to understand. There are big gaps. TNW says Netflix estimates  “that there are only about 100 – 150 professional Dutch subtitlers on the planet.” It turns out Netflix is looking for translators into languages it doesn’t now provide subtitles. For instance, in India, at this point Netflix only offers English subtitles.

Checking out combinations of need versus ability, I discovered it varies greatly

Translating from English to Romanian Is only a $8 a minute gig. Ho-hum! (or Plictisitor!) Translating Japanese into Icelandic would get somebody $27.50 per minute of film (though, if you have that skill I’d suggest you re-negotiate with Netflix; people like you definitely aren’t growing on trees.)

pj@mediapost.com

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