Next-Gen Recruitment: Growing the Language Localization Talent Pool

by By Scott Rose,
CTO, SDI Media

How technology innovations have supported transparency, efficiency and recruiting additional talent

Most of the talent engaged in foreign language localization — lip-sync dubbing, voice-over, subtitling and access services — operate on a freelance basis and for multiple localization service providers. This dynamic in and of itself is not a problem, as seasonal and project-driven workflows demand that there be a workforce that is fluid and flexible. While there are models that support having an in-house pool of resources, margins in localization are thin and most companies do not have owned and operated facilities in every territory for managing staff, even if the economics were to pan out. Consequently, contract talent continues to make sense, and the lack of control over the freelance world is largely mitigated by territory vendor
managers, and technology such as cloud-based web portals and integrated workspaces, to give freelancers a place to live and operate.

Meeting the demand for dubbing resources It’s no secret that the influx of premium, original content into the marketplace, (i.e. content that has more in common with theatrical than TV, driven by platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Hulu, etc.) has put a strain on dubbing resources. This is true not only in major markets such as the FIGS but also in emerging markets such as Poland, Hungary and Thailand. This strain is not limited to just voice actors, it impacts script adaptors, directors, lyricists and engineers who often work in local production or are fresh out of university and have not really figured out a career path that involves entertainment localization. How do you find the next generation of talent, and how do you make it easy for them to choose that path?

Cloud-based, connected workspaces have become the norm for subtitling creation as they provide efficiency not only for engaging resources and providing work materials, but also for evolving the essence of translations from files to data.

Attract new talent in a level playing field

We live in a world of social media that is driven by a generation accustomed to apps that bring a world of collective interests to their fingertips. With this reality in mind, SDI Media’s Alberto Abisso and Olenka Pelczynska decided to try something new to solve the talent gap and launched a project aimed at creating a transparent and self-enabled global dubbing community. What emerged from this effort is an app called Produb.

Creating an impartial, online community

By creating an online community where actors, singers, directors, lyricists, translators and engineers can upload their résumés and voice samples, see what projects are upcoming and applicable, share feedback on opportunities, and forward information to colleagues, we move away from old school processes managed in silos and enter a world of collaboration, transparency and efficient

Produb subscribers can receive notifications when new projects become available, review scheduled auditions, or peruse breaking industry news. To further increase transparency, Produb also offers our clients visibility to the talent recruitment process so they can follow the progress of a new project. The Produb app is geo-filtered and created in local languages to allow for variations in workflow and demand across each language territory. It was first launched in Poland and the uptake has been remarkable, quickly growing to thousands of subscribers. A rollout to further territories is scheduled, with Germany next, closely followed by the Nordic countries.

In order to keep the talent pool growing but still be able to flex across the various dubbing studios in each territory, it is important to understand that any platform needs to be impartial to vendors, and not exclusive to SDI Media or any other vendor’s projects or studios. A true creative community platform encourages communication across projects — sharing of information, training suggestions, conference and event details, recommendations and endorsements.

Good experience helps recruit subtitling talent

The recruitment and management of subtitling resources differs significantly from dubbing in that there is a long-standing tradition of freelancers working independently on subtitling software in a relatively straightforward workflow focused on simple deliverables. While this concept has not changed, the world around it has.

The increase in original content and shrinking deadlines has resulted in competent translators having more choices in what they work on and how they work. All things being equal, a translator who has five jobs to choose from may simply take the one from the localization company that offers the most seamless and user-friendly experience.

The incentive is ease of engagement, instantaneous access to work materials and immediate delivery of translations from anywhere in the world.

How the cloud attracts subtitling resources

Cloud-based, connected workspaces have become the norm for subtitling creation as they provide efficiency not only for engaging resources and providing work materials, but also for evolving the essence of translations from files to data. A data-centric approach in a centralized platform not only gives full control over the status and output of the task, but also allows vendors to more efficiently recruit, test and train new resources while simultaneously onboarding them in to the system.

SDI is in the process of transitioning its 7,000-plus translator pool from its celebrated GTS desktop application to its new GTS-Pro platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Apart from the obvious production efficiencies, GTS-Pro also manages translator recruitment by streamlining invitations and automating testing, evaluations and notifications. By engaging potential translators in a simplified tool from the start, SDI can evaluate their translation skills immediately and the candidates get a truer
sense of what the job of subtitling really is.

Bringing a third party to the party Another benefit of GTS-Pro is the flexibility of engaging third party vendors to increase the resource options. One drawback of a connected, closed system is that it requires the owning company to directly manage and schedule all translators. If you need to engage a vendor (and their pool of translators) it often must be done out of the system and managed as an exception. GTS-Pro has a third-party mode that allows the assignment of projects to a company that can then independently manage their translators within the platform and engage the toolset. This is especially valuable for challenging locations such as India where most translators work for an existing company.

The future of talent recruitment

As SDI embarks on utilizing community-centric applications and cloud-based platforms to increase the level of interest and talent pool for media and entertainment localization, much will be learned about how to tailor the experience for a given culture. One lesson we have learned from implementing anything new in the localization world is that you must first respect and emulate the culture you are trying to engage. And as there is no substitute for experience, there is also no substitute for having a local presence. For more information on Produb or to join the community visit

Scott Rose has spent 18 years developing production and workflow technologies for SDI. He has worked closely with every major entertainment technology company and standards committees across all market segments, including digital cinema, broadcast, packaged media and digital platforms. Rose’s current focus is on automation technologies utilizing cloud-based workspaces, AI and machine learning., @SDIMediaGroup