M&E Journal: Improving Transparency and Speed in the Content Supply Chain, From Client to Freelance Translator

By Nicky McBride, VP Business Development, SDI Media

Media localization has gone through a major transition in the last few years, driven both by the need to turn around localized content in a shrinking window and increasing quality requirements. The traditional release window norms are now a fraction of what they were only five years ago, with many “day and date” releases. This puts pressure on the localization providers and has created an increased need for “transparency” when creating workflows for post-production services.

There are two primary models of localization and distribution. The traditional linear TV model generally involves one exclusive three-year license per country, per broadcaster, with the broadcaster managing localization for one language with local licensee; usually with a buyback option for the licensor.

In reality, this usually results in re-recording for subsequent sales due to issues with the audio tracks, such as quality, compatibility and local compliance issues.

In the current production-driven model, there may be multiple non-exclusive licenses across many distribution networks at one time. The licensor manages localization for all licensees, creating a master asset and multiple file versions per each licensee requirement. This creates a dependency on a single or limited number of localization and distribution vendors to manage multiple languages and delivery to multiple licensees.

Transparency in this context means the sharing of information, allowing access to project status in real time, and connecting all stages of involvement in post-production. The old method of sending emails back and forth is increasingly insufficient as customers rightfully are demanding to know the status of their project from their desktop. Technologies to achieve this are becoming more important in the content supply chain.

Localization providers have adapted those traditional workflows away from the “release date” or scheduled air date timeframe to a production- led workflow. This increasingly involves working with non-final materials where translation, adaptation, and recording will work through a multi-pass process; easily working through two passes, but at times up to five before final locked-down picture is available.

The only way to tackle this head-on is by implementing technology that both saves time and allows clients to have increased visibility into the status of their assets. Project status visibility and opportunities to interact with localization providers are achieved through integrations, portals and reporting. Historically, checking on the status of projects has been largely manual — multiple emails with excel spreadsheets attached, out of date before they even reach the client.

From SDI Media’s perspective, this adds stress and risk for both the provider and the client. In this new environment, clients have a constant, real time view of a project from their desktop, laptop or smartphone.

This degree of transparency extends not just towards clients, but also stretches to the complex supply chain involved in the language localization process.

For example, SDI Media works closely with over 7,000 freelance translators, adaptors, directors and sound engineers. So, we need to focus on developing technology that shares access to freelancers’ schedules, and their availability to work, as well as other essential elements such as their suitability for a particular job, and rating success on a project basis.

The factors that are key from both the client and the supplier perspective include:


Connect key systems and tools

Expand capabilities to integrate with customer systems


Create touch points between SDI and customers

Provide visibility on production status through dashboards

Connect workspace tools

Provide an enhanced level of security


Centrally ingest work assets and orders – and move assets through production – Media Logistics

Utilize version recognition technology to identify editorial changes in multi-pass projects

There is no “one-size fits all” in the new environment. Successful localization providers need to have the skills and resources to create customized solutions. The following two case studies give examples of what SDI Media has done:

Case Study 1 – Systems integration with a linear broadcast channel

The challenge

No direct relationship between the schedule and the work order

Too many versions of the truth (Excel, Word etc.)

Too many emails

Missing components only flagged once the schedule was with transmission

Last minute requests to translators

Lack of visibility

The solution: Phase one

Carry out analysis of workflows with all users

Add language component data to scheduling system

Create reports to match the existing work orders

Produce work orders form based on schedule data


Challenges: Manual processes taking too long and error prone.

Solution: Structure, streamline and automate.

Benefits: Less time checking and tracking more time on quality.

Case Study 2 – Matching audio mixes – localized audio to original audio

The challenge

Global IP owners increasingly require the localized mix version to be an exact match to the original version, in terms of sync, mix and sound level. This can be done as a traditional audio QC report with further time spent on corrections. However, traditional QC does not catch all the inconsistencies against the original due to challenges in comparing two audio tracks and is time consuming.


A real-time visual QC enabling a direct comparison between two audio tracks on screen. The operator can identify inconsistencies in levels, sync, and mix as well as picking up missing lines. Most corrections can be made in real time; more complex corrections and missing lines do still require further fixes.

Benefits of the Visual QC tool include: Matching localized audio with original audio; visually referencing tracks for audio QC; preforming QC in “real time,” saving hours of labor; toggling between multiple language tracks in real time; and easier turnaround on day-and-date projects.


Transparency and real time processing will continue to be a key focus in meeting increasing consumer demands for more programming in more languages.

The media localization industry must embrace all opportunities to streamline the content supply chain to enable our clients to satisfy their viewers’ insatiable appetites for globalized entertainment – and we can only do that through increased automation and ever more sophisticated technology.

The winners in our industry will be those that have the skills and resources to deploy these technologies, not just for one customer, but for the wide spectrum of content providers each with their unique needs.


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