Idea Blog

Translating Your Animated Videos for a Global Audience

Denise McArthur 05.08.2015

Hasta la vista. Schadenfreude. Carpe diem. Je ne sais quoi. Flashes of foreign tongues spice up our everyday conversations with a certain joie de vivre, but when it comes time to translate your animated explainer video, it’s best to leave it to the experts.

Appealing to a global audience means taking certain steps to ensure your message transcends cultural boundaries—but what about the language barrier? At IdeaRocket, we’ll often help clients translate their animations through subtitles and overdubs that retain the nuance, flavor, and spirit of the original.


While you’ll have to decide whether you’d prefer subtitles, foreign voiceovers, or both, the script needs to be translated before all else. For that, we’ll employ one of our trusted third-party experts, namely LanguageTran or CaptionMax. We’ve worked with both providers several times—they’ve been heavily vetted and we can vouch for their outstanding service.

Since we won’t always understand the foreign language we’re working with, we go to great pains to communicate the details, nuances, and intricacies of the script with clarity. Once we get a translation back, we’ll verify it with native speakers on the client-side to ensure it strikes the right chord.

Dub Or Sub?

Now that we’ve translated the script, you’ll have to decide whether you want to overdub (“dub”) or subtitle (“sub”) your animation. Overdubbing—recording a new vocal track—makes for a more seamless, immediate, and dramatic experience, while subtitling leaves your video more versatile for varied audiences.

Once we have the foreign language script, subtitling it seems simple enough; we simply sync up the lines and plaster on the text. But again, we reach a crossroads: subtitles can either be burned directly onto the video itself or they can be contained in a separate SubRip (.srt) file.

The former allows you to easily share your animation without worrying about any moving parts, while the latter enables your viewers to turn subtitles on and off—this can be particularly useful if you’re appealing to multiple audiences and you’d like to include multiple subtitle tracks. You can easily upload the subtitle file to YouTube, too, so anyone around the world can understand your animation.

On first blush, dubbing seems much more labor-intensive than subtitling. In reality, most of our animations feature voiceover narration, rather than back-and-forth dialogue between characters. Recording a foreign language voiceover is surprisingly cost-effective and easily attainable.

Adjusting Text 

If your animation relies on on-screen text to deliver its message, you may have to make another decision: we can simply include the translated text in the subtitles or we can recreate the graphic elements in the new language. We typically recommend recreating the text, as it makes for a more cohesive feel that doesn’t take you of the narrative.

For a quick example, check out this whiteboard animation prepared for the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).


For the Spanish language version, we both overdubbed a new audio track and recreated certain textual elements, like the vitamins and minerals highlighted in the opening seconds.


The result: an engaging explainer video that’s accessible to diverse audiences. Voila!

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