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10+1 Questions to Ask Your Client Prior to Audiovisual Translation

Angela Starkmann
Angela Starkmann

4 minute read


There is so much we would like to know about our customers, right? Whether they drink tea or coffee when they send us the first translation request in the morning, and most importantly if they like working with us.

Not scolded is praised enough (“Nicht geschimpft ist genug gelobt”) is something people often say in South Germany, and in many cases, we have to wait for our entire professional career to receive any positive feedback from our clients. As of course, they know that we will handle their translations the usual professional way. We are the experts after all.




Use the following checklist when a customer is sending you audiovisual material for translation. Ask the following questions:

1. What format is your video file?

There are various file formats available and it’s crucial to make sure to receive files that you can work with. I recommend you to ask your client to send you the video in mp4 format, which is very popular and also the format memoQ supports. Instructions how to link the video preview tool can be found at our YouTube tutorial here.

2. Do you have a source text template available?

For any AV translation, you need a source text template first. If your client is asking you to create this, you need to use a subtitle editor for this purpose. memoQ can be used for the translation of a source text template, but not to create it.

3. What format is your source text template?

There are just as many subtitle formats available as video file formats. You may receive different formats depending on what your customer is going to do with the subtitles afterwards (display videos with subtitles online, use subtitles with a custom video player, use them in a video editing tool etc.). The desired format for input and output can make a difference for your approach. Often it is possible to save files in SRT format, (untimed) Excel or TXT file, then merge it with the timed subtitle format. Depending on your customer’s requirements, it might be necessary to improvise and try out different approaches, but don’t worry - you will find a solution eventually. For your AV translations in memoQ, you need the source text template in SRT or Excel. Additional information about the SRT file format yan be found here.

4. Do you have a script available (without timecodes)?

A script can serve as a reference for your translation. The source text template is often already truncated to fit into the available timing. Therefore, the script can be much longer and contain additional information. If you have a script available, you can have a look at the decisions of the person created the template, and if necessary, use the additional information you find.

5. Do you have any other formal requirements?

Here can be many different issues to think of. Keep this an open question. It is okay if your customer leaves this blank.

6. Reading speed? (words per minute, characters per seconds)

The reading speed can be measured in either words per minute or characters per second. It is possible to find it in memoQ if you want to receive a warning when the maximum length is exceeded.

7. What is the maximum length of a line? How many lines maximum?

Normal is somewhere between 30 and 45 characters per line, and one or two lines per subtitle. Ask your client what they prefer. You can find this in memoQ.

8. What is the bit rate/frame rate?

There are different settings available for your videos. This is rather techy and most of the time it is not an issue. memoQ uses the standard settings of your files, but you should be aware that they exist and read up on them if they seem to be an issue for your work.

9. What is the source language? Is it the same as the video template language?

This is not always the same. Particularly for “difficult” and small languages, a pivot language process is recommended.

10. What is the target language?

Customers sometimes forget to tell you the target language(s). Also think of the market they intend to use this translation for.

+1 Do you have any style requirements for the translation? (most common: Netflix-style)

There are many things you could find in a style guide. If you are unsure about how to handle the style of an AV translation, ask your client or look for style guides online. Important questions such as how to deal with:

  • Multiple speakers
  • Abbreviations
  • Quotes
  • Proper product names
  • Formality

Communication is especially important for projects that are a bit more out of the ordinary. This is even more true when the client is sending over more unusual content for translation, for instance, audiovisual material. They might have received it, for example for their new website, or as part of their trade fair package. And now they rely on you and your expertise to translate it just as successfully as you would do with any other file format.

I hope that this summary will be helpful when you start working on your next audiovisual translation project. Did I forget anything important? Comment below!


Know the difference!

Video template
In audiovisual translation, a “template” is the source text with the timecodes, for instance in SRT format. This is what we need to work on in order to get the translated subtitles afterwards. In the context of translation technology with memoQ, this is called a video template.

memoQ template
In memoQ, a specific template only have to be created once to be used later without any preparation. It includes collection of settings, commands, and scripts where documents and resources are processed automatically to save valuable time for project managers. In the context of translation technology with memoQ, this is called a memoQ template.


Angela Starkmann

Angela Starkmann

Linguist, editor, PM and communication specialist with broad experience in software and documentation localization, translation of marketing material.

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