Audio Localization In Games – Yago Sagrado From Keywords Studios

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How do you localize the audio in games? Yago Sagrado from Keywords Studios is here to guide you through the process of audio localization from start to finish.

I got to talk about video games again. Yay! Welcome to part 1 of our interview where you’ll learn:

  • The best way to get into the game industry
  • Why it’s good to know multiple disciplines
  • What exactly is part of audio localization
  • How to localize songs
  • Why are day one patches so huge
  • How casting works in game localization
  • What is adaptation
  • 4 actors in the booth… drunk?!

This is episode 39 of my social practice, also known as The Localization Podcast 🙂 #localization​ and #translation​ insight delivered to you by the power of voice, this time with Yago Sagrado García.

⏲️ Timestamps ⏲️
0:00​ – Intro, Dubbing Mile
08:05​ – Getting into games, LQA tester into PM
17:38​ – General audio localization process, songs, casting
56:12​ – Crunch mode, QA, bug-fixing


Andrej Zito 

Yago. Welcome to the podcast.

Yago Sagrado 

Thank you.

Andrej Zito 

I thought we made it happen. Yeah. excited to have you here. So when we were discussing the like, what this episode will be about, there are a couple of things that we could have talked about, because right now you’re working as a communication specialist at keywords. But we agree that we will focus this episode on audio localization, which is something that you’ve been doing for quite some time. Before we get into that, Where exactly are you right now.

Yago Sagrado 

So I’m in Madrid in actually in the keyword studios office, which is based in what we call the dubbing mile, here in Madrid. So So we have one, dubbing Milan, Madrid this like this. There are several studios around all dedicated to movies, video game dubbing. So it’s kind of all of three, four of us are in the same street, kind of

Andrej Zito 

Aha, is that is that a term that’s like, common in the industry? Because to me, it only relates to Green Mile, the movie dubbing mile is the official term for something like that.

Yago Sagrado 

I don’t know. I would say this is a the recording hub would be the technical term, or you’re the dubbing hub in Madrid. Right. But we call it the mile because it’s also fashion mile or you know, golden mile and stuff like that. So we as a joke, we call it a dubbing Mio because then we were all here.

Andrej Zito 

So you worked on non audio projects before? Right?

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah. related to video games? Yes, I did work as a localization tester. So not specifically, pm or anything. So I went from being a locked tester to audio.

Andrej Zito 

Is that how you got into localization?

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, yeah, I was, I was always kind of interested in joining the video game industry. And I think being a tester is one of the one of the ways you can get into the industry. So for anyone kind of, you know, thinking, How can I do it, there’s a lot of q&a and l QA positions out there, you can, you can use maybe if you if you do well, and you make your contacts, you can find your way into other spaces of the industry, because it’s not too easy to get in, at least in some sectors or sections of the industry. But through q&a and all QA I think there’s a high possibility you can get a job, where do you ever thinking of joining the site that developed the games instead of being on the localization side? So here in Madrid, or in Spain, we do not have too much of a development, structure, or infrastructure.

Yago Sagrado 

So the developers are always you know, United States, UK, Japan, stuff like that. So, but we do have a very strong localization and QA structure. So there’s lots of companies doing loc, and QA and stuff like that. So I think it depends geographically, where you live, and if you’re, if you’re available to move, and if you want to move to other countries, that’s also something you kind of have to take into account when thinking, what type of job you’re looking for in the video game industry, which is such a big thing. So localization is just a small part of the process.

Andrej Zito 

Is that still something that’s on your roadmap? Like, would you ever eventually want to work on the development process?

Yago Sagrado 

I mean, I would never say no to, to anything. That sounds like a pretty interesting option. I would say. It’s just that now what, for example, when I’m doing keywords, it’s a different thing. It’s like a more strategic position where we talk about, well, the way I deal with communication and marketing, stuff like that. So maybe if I go down that road, you know, development starts getting farther and farther away. But I would I would ever want to I’m definitely interested in how all that works. And I would definitely want to get to know firsthand how that happened. So I mean, for sure. It would be very interesting. I don’t know if I will ever get the chance. But well, we’ll see. You never know. Maybe I’ll end up working at a developer rather than a provider or partner.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, you could do like a marketing. Pr communication.

Yago Sagrado 

Exactly. So instead of moving jobs, I could have a different To position other elsewhere, and then again, I’ll be more in contact with the game development if you work in a studio or something like that a publisher.

Andrej Zito 

For sure. Do you feel like very tied to Madrid and Spain? Or would you consider moving away?

Yago Sagrado 

No, I’d say I’m, I’m quite, I’m quite tight. Yeah, I say, I’ve been, I’ve built my entire relations, family, friends, hobbies, music band I have, it’s it’s every everything’s here. So I would, I would have a very hard time moving places. But again, I’m not close to anything, it’s just I would find it quite complicated to just to pull it off, and you know, successfully moved elsewhere and have that will be overly complicated.

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned before that, like the game studios are like, centered in US, UK, maybe Japan. Do you think like with COVID, they are more open to having people work remotely? Or is it still tied to one single location?

Yago Sagrado 

No, I would say I can entire world has changed, then remote working has been accelerated, you know, by by COVID. So it was a thing that people said that companies said they had. But it wasn’t something they really had. Or that was really, it was actually a reality that you could you could enjoy as an as an employee in all in companies. But I think COVID has accelerated that. Now. I’ve already I read a piece of news the other day, and what Square Enix was just moving to remote working permanently. So they they were going to completely de localize everything, so their offices and stuff, like I mean, surely you still need to have a physical structure somewhere, but I think they will, they were going to scale it all down and try something else, you don’t have everyone working from home, see how that works?

Yago Sagrado 

I think the possibilities to work, not in the place where your company is based, are gonna are going to be bigger as time goes by a lot more for sure. I do not I do not know how how, how things are gonna develop. So I really, I really don’t know how much you could be working in Madrid for a company, a development company based in London, for example, keywords, we have employees from all over the world. And it’s already at some times where we kind of have a global meeting, it’s always hard to find the time spot between for example, you know, Japan, or Los Angeles, because you know, it might be a PM, for some, but it might be 6am, for others. So it’s complicated. It’s complicated.

Andrej Zito 

When you were looking for the job in the industry, was it purely because of your passion for games? Yeah, I would say so. Were you always thinking like, I want to combine my passion with something that earns me money, because I think that maybe many people are actually not scared. also scared of doing that, you know, because some people may think that, like, my passion will not earn me enough money. So they opt for a different career, which, you know, like a lawyer or doctor or accountant, or like board work did that, you know,

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah I know, for sure. I mean, that that was exactly my case I maybe now is it’s both clear. But 20 years ago, when I was in school, I didn’t even know you could make money. There was there was an actual industry around video games, I kind of enjoyed them. But I didn’t know there was such a big structure around them. So many job options and stuff. So I think the job or the video game industry still has to do that teaching work through academic schools and stuff. So they we still have to become an option for kids. Because they don’t know, they don’t know, they could actually do a thing they love. And that’s gonna be a viable option more than viable option, you know, to develop professionally. I just think it’s I don’t know, I think it’s these days know, a lot more than than we did back in the day.

Yago Sagrado 

But the I think there’s still a lot of work to be done on schools and universities. Sure. And was it personally for me, I studied journalism. You know, I, I’ve always loved communication, journalism, stuff like that. So I studied journalism, and I started working as a journalist. Actually, but you know, then the crisis 2010 came, then journalism was hit pretty bad by that one. So, you know, there was all the transition from paper to digital companies didn’t actually really know what the future of journalism would be. So it was, it was a tense moment that they they fired lots and lots of people. I was one of those. I mean, I would just I just came in the, in the journalist industry, so it was very easy to you had to keep the big names. So the smaller ones were, were fired. And then I thought, I mean, what’s the rest of the things I love? I love communication, journalism, I love video games. I love music.

Yago Sagrado 

So I mean, I failed. Number one, let’s try number two. It was just as easy as that I try. I search for video game companies that were based in Madrid. I found Electronic Arts had a, an office here in Madrid, it was it’s very focused on QA and stuff like that. So I applied that got into a temporary job there started working as a QA tester. And I’m here now. So it’s been some years working on it, but it paid off.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. But a lot of passion that you mentioned this music. So does this your passion to music somehow translate into working as an audio pn? Or is that more mostly about like the typical project management? As I know, it may be from translation and localization project? And there’s not much like, creativity going on?

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, I would say there’s not too much of a creativity. So enjoying music. I mean, there’s aspects you can have the touch, maybe I because of my past, or I because I’ve recorded albums with bands and stuff like that I know, how the recording process works, you know, I know what a plugin is, I know, how different workstations work so kind of just by just because I’ve been in touch with them. And maybe that has helped me kind of be more familiar with some of the tools you use. But I’d say that’s as far as it goes.

Andrej Zito 

How did the opportunity came for you?

Yago Sagrado 

You mean of being an audiophile?

Andrej Zito 

Yeah

Yago Sagrado 

I think I, my bosses had EA, were happy with what I would have the work I did there for two years. So the problem with our QA and all these types of jobs as you kind of, it’s not super stable. So it goes on a project basis, and what at least most of the jobs like this. So I had the I had the keywords, acquired three studios in Spain, they merge them all together to create the actual keywords Spain, keyword studio, Spain. So that opportunity came precisely when I was going to be project less as a QA tester at EA. And some of the people that EA we’re going to, we’re moving to the keywords. Because there’s this big opportunity showed up. So my bosses say, said, Hey, this, this opportunity is here. Do you want to try out and have an interview? And it was I came into audio because there was a vacancy because they needed someone in audio growth. Maybe if they had needed someone in lock, like in text translation, I would have ended up there. But it was all a matter of you know, how things went?

Andrej Zito 

Do you remember your first days as a project manager? Was it something completely different for you? Because the L QA tester, it’s kind of like, like, people tell you like what to do, right? The eater exactly, like tests it this way. But when you’re a project manager, you get to expand and you’re basically the person in charge of everything.

Yago Sagrado 

One of the most curious things I would say was like being a QA tester or a QA tester, you get to see the end product and you get to be in touch with the end product much so much more than any production pm or anything. So you get to see the game and you be you get to be in touch with the game. And then when when I became a PMS like there’s no game, you’re you’re dealing with assets, you’re dealing with audio, you’re dealing with scripts and XML files, but the game is nowhere to be seen unless you kind of see Cost cinematics or anything. So that was like a big shock. I say I’m dealing with something I’m not really in touch with anymore. So there was a, there was a big step. But you also get to see the like the other side.

Yago Sagrado 

So maybe when you’re now QA tester, you kind of freak out saying, how, how are these types of errors made? So why are these errors in the game? So you kind of don’t understand how complex the whole process is, and how things that seem obvious at first glance, then you think about him is like, Okay, I understand that this has been a mistake done in this step. And it has been detected because of these other reasons. So

Andrej Zito 

I think that the higher you move on the ladder, US zoom out, you see a bigger picture.

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, exactly. And then, you know, now, as I said, communication specialists, and kind of seeing more of with theirs, apart from localization, because I’m in contact with the art service line, or with the, you know, QA service line, or with the development, music, whatever we accuse does a lot of things. So you get to see there’s a lot more, and you can, and then you kind of get to understand where each step of the process goes. And then you understand that localization is last in the process. So it’s kind of the last step. The last production, I’d say, I would say is the the last truly production step. So that’s, that’s where it came. So there’s a lot of things and you have to understand that being in the last in the process, not, not the last importance, by any means. But I said last time, in the schedule, you, you understand why developers do things they do.

Andrej Zito 

So you’ve should happens before like you’re the one who

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, so it. So as localization, one of the things you have to be aware of, even as an L QA tester is that you can see, you’re going to be the last eyes on the product, mostly capsule on the last pair of eyes on the product. So it’s always good to be aware of everything, because you can end up improving the actual end product or the original product, even just by being aware of, of your localization space.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, so let’s talk about the audio localization. Sure, my experience here is very limited. So that’s why I’m very curious. I think this will be kind of like an introduction to all the localization, the only thing that I worked on, which involve like some voiceover was when I was working on out of this project. And you know, when they were doing their annual releases of all their products like AutoCAD, and all those alien products that they have, they would do like, videos like getting started, or these are the new features, and they would localize the audio as well. So my first question is, because when we talk about audio, maybe you can speak for games, or maybe you can even speak like an audio localization in general, what actually belongs to audio localization besides over voiceover,

Yago Sagrado 

Okay, so it kind of is an ongoing discussion, you know, because audio localization, in terms of audio when audio development ends, and when audio localization start is a bit of a blurry line. Of course, if you’re adapting something, you’re gonna know, it’s localization. And if you’re creating something, it’s a development, but maybe you’re creating some assets for localization. Because maybe, for example, given a character that has a, you know, strong voice effect, or you have to mix some effects. In the cinematic, for example, most of the times you’re giving the assets to work with but the mix is on your own. So the final makes this kind of thing you’re doing so you’re giving assets, but you’re not really just adapting them, you’re creating a mixer in your kind of own so the lines are blurry, I would say of course, dubbing is clear audio localization, but then you have post production, for example, post production is also part of the localization process mixing QA of the audio files.

Yago Sagrado 

I would say that still localization but as As deeper you go within the audio engineer role, so what those guys do, the lines get a little bit blurry, because they may be creating some stuff on their own to, to add to the localized product. But, you know, it has to be very similar to the original.

Andrej Zito 

Would you ever localize, let’s say sound effects or music? For any game? Or does it always stick to the original?

Yago Sagrado 

No, no, it depends on the developer. But you there’s definitely some developers and publishers that like, everything to be localized, like, absolutely everything. And that’s a business strategy. So there’s some developers that will go full on localized, and some others will, will don’t. But yeah, we’ve done we’ve, we’ve done quite a bit of songs, actually, as well, remember, yeah, it’s a pretty interesting process, I would say it’s even more different than just a normal audio localization, because then you’re gonna have a director, you’re going to have a voice director, that’s going to be the person in charge of, you know, the game knowledge and stuff like that, but then you’re going to have like an actual music director, that’s going to be with the talents, you know, directly, like, yeah, that was a bit off to, you know, sink a socket, or just, you know, so like, the actual music stuff.

Yago Sagrado 

So they’re going to read the music sheet. And they’re going to have to adapt the script, because then you have words you have to put in into. And so the localize the translators really can localize a song script. But then you have to make it fit the actual song structure. Right? And that’s very complicated.

Andrej Zito 

But it’s like the next level.

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, that’s, that’s one of the hardest thing to do is localizing songs.

Andrej Zito 

I’m still like trying to grasp this idea? Like, can you give us an example like, not specific because you don’t want to name the projects? Or the clients? I’d like just so that I can imagine, like, on some, some game that people know, like, where would you actually want to localize a song? And where would it make sense from the business perspective, to actually go do it.

Yago Sagrado 

Think about a marketing video, where you have like the Christmas special DLC or whatever. And then that’s accompanied by a YouTube video with a SOG. And some developers and some publishers with localized that’s not. Maybe you’re going to see that Saugus when you open up again, some stuff like that, maybe it’s endgame. Maybe it’s a cinematic you’re going to see in game, I’d say songs are mostly off gay, like outside the gates marketing stuff. But you know, there’s also maybe a, you go inside a bar, within the game, you go inside a bar canteen, or something like that, and people are singing, of course, you’re not gonna have the music director there. That’s not such a special thing that needs direction, musically, so they can just if that Tavern is just for drunk guys, then it can be done with the normal structure we have. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, speaking of drunk guys, that I immediately thought of Assassin’s Creed, Black Flag. I think I didn’t play that game. But I, when I read the reviews, I think many people were saying that the songs that you get when you were, you know, like sailing, with your, with your crew that those songs are like, really good. And it’s like, it has like the atmosphere of like, drunk pirates, you know, sailing and same things.

Yago Sagrado 

So those would be I mean, if the game is localized, I’m sure those were localized as well. Then again, there’s no instruments and there’s no, you can do that. Like in a normal localization process. You can get maybe four actors in the booth and have them sing the song. Of course, it will probably need to go with them drunk. Yeah, getting drunk if they if they want to. Of course, that song would need to go through adaptation. And because again, the translators can, you know, without context without seeing the game, they may know that’s a song. But then they wouldn’t know like the actual metrics or rhythm of the song because they’re not going to be able to listen to it. So one of the jobs of the artistic director in the studio is going through the script and adapting it and if it’s a song, he’s going to have to adapt the syllables and maybe change the text of it. A bit so it kind of fits. So that’s a song for complicated.

Andrej Zito 

So you were working specifically as an audio PM, like, in my case, the example that I share with you, I was basically a project manager for the whole product localization, where the videos plus the voiceover was just part of it. My question was, are there actually only projects? Where the client only wants you to? To do all the localization? And if so, do you somehow collaborate with the rest of the people who are localizing the non audio assets?

Yago Sagrado 

You mean, the text assets?

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, like or like the whole game,

Yago Sagrado 

I haven’t seen any. Usually, if a client wants audio localization, they will also give you the text. But that’s not always the case. So maybe there’s clients, and I’ve seen clients that they do their own translation. But since you’re going to need need native speakers, so audio localization is very local. So you need to have like the local structure, because you need the natives, and you need to destroy the network. So that’s something you only get by being there. So some clients, my group might create their own translations, and then just hand you the audio localization, just the audio localization. And I’ve seen that, too, you get in contact with the other boy, it goes from case by case, type of thing, I guess, because, you know, it all kind of boils down to how much freedom Do you have to change the text.

Yago Sagrado 

Because if you’re free, if the client has given you a very strict script, and you cannot change it, then you’re going to have some issues, because you’re always going to have to tell them before you change something. And that makes everything more complicated. If the client has a trust in your work in your studio, they usually give you a lot of freedom to adapt about always is super helpful, because you’re not, you’re not always needing to kind of contact them for every minor change, or what we usually do. If, if this is the case, because we have clients, which are both sometimes are more strict. And they want the script just as we received it. And others are give you a lot of leeway. So they don’t have a problem with you changing anything. And in the In either case, what we do if we change the phrase or sentence or file, is we recorded an alternative version.

Yago Sagrado 

Imagine that a file, we feel it was not translated properly, because of lack of context or whatever. So you change it. But you always record alternative version with the with a text that was in the script, even if it doesn’t make sense. And you know, it’s not going to be used, you’re always never 100% Sure. So you always record alternatives. And our clients may be it may ask you is send me the alternatives. And I will choose and I will see what’s up. Yeah, most of the times we end up having a lot of alternatives. And that that’s, that’s one of the hardest parts of tracking. In audio localization, I would say it is having control over alternative assets, what you’ve recorded for the original script, what you’ve adapted, what is the alternative? What’s in the alternative? Because in the end, maybe you’re gonna have a file that says, rogue, 01, person for attack, dot whatever.

Yago Sagrado 

So what’s in that file? You don’t know you have to go to the script? Well, maybe you can play it, but you’re going to be playing 1000s of files. So you’re going to have to go to the script and say, let me check, because if something’s wrong with an audio, it’s a they say the client says, Hey, this audio is bad. Why is it saying this and not what’s in the script? You have to go to the script because those those is those are, I would say like the the hardest parts of audio localization, you are handling such a vast amount of assets, like actual files, a one by one they can add up to 1000s for a single game, which is pretty, pretty common. 1000s I’ve seen I’ve seen big, big numbers. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. So we already talked about some of the specifics of the process, like some some details, but I think it would be great for people like me who don’t know anything about audio localization, we somehow like briefly, very generically describe the process. Sure. So I thought, you know, I share with you that You know, one of the, the the games that I played and where the voiceovers were super, super appreciated was Overwatch. So, on that case, if we can say like, Okay, I’m Blizzard, and I create the the audio in English, and then my contact keywords what happens then?

Yago Sagrado 

So what would happen in that case? Well, as I say it kind of goes on a client by client basis. But the usual process for any client would be to understand first how we’re going to work you know that, for example, this? Do you want alternatives? Can we have freedom to change stuff? Do we have freedom to cast, stuff like that? So the actual process would be first, imagine is an ongoing project, you already know the client, and it’s not something super new when all this is kind of laid out already. So there someone some client is bringing a new IP, so they want to their new characters, new epic, they send you their familiarization, so you’re familiar with those types of things that will they send you information about the game, just so you know, under that the important thing, when for the audio localization side would be to understand who the characters are, and start maybe thinking about suitable voices.

Yago Sagrado  

Because you have to make a casting and the way casting goes is that you either have like, database casting, that’s what it’s usually called, or a live casting. So a live casting would be, you get information from a character, maybe even you get a voice sample, which is usually what would you get voice samples of the actual character already, but maybe at some point, the development is, or the character can record some samples. So you have to work with only a description and a picture of the character and stuff like that. So you would cast, you would find from our, our records of talents, you would find the most suitable, in your opinion, actors or actresses for that role, they will actually record pieces of the actual script, you’re given by the client. And then you send it to the client, and they will choose, maybe it’s three, four or five options.

Yago Sagrado 

So they would be in character, so that the talent would be already playing the character. So there will be a life casting, the database casting, which is much more, it’s much more quick, we have database samples of all the talents we work with. So we have a pool of 200 plus 300 plus ad talents here in Madrid. So we have specific samples. Now one acting as a soldier, one acting as a monster in order with a more, you know, type of fairy boys, whatever. So we have samples, like kind of archetype samples for each one. And then we would they say, Okay, I have this five new characters, send me the samples, we will choose the most suitable options for that character of three, or depending on what the clients want three is the usual number options, you send them to them with voice samples.

Yago Sagrado 

And then they choose from that. So from both the live casting and the database casting, the client is the one that ends up choosing which voice they want, but you kind of filter out the already already sent them three, four or five options to choose from not 100 to 200.

Andrej Zito 

Right? Who is the person on the localization side who shortlist these three people that you then push to the client? Is it the pm or someone else?

Yago Sagrado 

No, it usually is the artistic director. So that’s the person who’s going to be in the booth with a cat with the talents. So that they are the ones who know the talents more, of course, because you as a PM, you really have that much of a contact with talent. So they are the ones who know their voice characteristics, their availability. You know, maybe if it’s a character of the Celts a lot, maybe it’s a soldier who’s shouting a captain, you know, it’s going grenade, as goes mood, mood, you know, it’s a person who shouts a lot, you’re going to want to have talents that can do that without breaking their voice. And so talents can do that and others can’t. And you as a pm wouldn’t have that knowledge. But the artistic directors work closely with for sure.

Andrej Zito 

Just to be sure. So you as a pm you receive the request, right? But then you reach out to the artistic director and he does this magic.

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, exactly. So you prepare everything and you say you give them the information they need, you structure the samples because maybe the client sends you in a way that’s not very easy to handle. So your work is to put them put that information in a digestible form for the audit director. And then maybe at some point that even the, the client is going to ask for a specific talent that has happened. And especially when they are like VIP talents or stuff like that they asked for, I want my main character to be this talent, okay, we’ll do that for you wouldn’t get in contact with talent. So that’s kind of the initial part is casting once you have the cast, and the cast is kind of all it’s ever evolving. So it’s not just like, I haven’t seen a cast that’s closed from the get go.

Yago Sagrado 

So usually, you cast the main characters, and you keep casting as the project kind of goes on. Because there’s lots of characters. And maybe you’re going to have a structure where a single voice is a voice, a single talent is voicing three or four different characters throughout the game, like minor characters, of course, the main characters are just going to have one voice, because it will then be too obvious. But then if you have like civilian two, and mercenary, three and four, then those guys you can eat, they can be voiced by the same character. And that guy, that talent is going to modulate the voice a little bit, so it doesn’t sound as the same guy, but it’s the same talent. So also clients are wanting to save costs, because then you kind of can kind of pile up booking tips. Because some characters really have very, very little lights.

Yago Sagrado 

So they have three lights, you can have to be half an hour, because that’s how things work, you pay at least either half an hour or a first hour. If it’s for one line, or the 20 lines or 100 lines, the first half an hour or an hour, depending on the country is paid as a block. So you can not divide it. So then you you want to kind of be cost efficient. and say if you’re coming to record one line, one line for this guy, just gonna record this other 150 lines for this other guy will make an entire hour.

Andrej Zito 

We have the same with with translations. translators typically complain a lot, if you just send them like five or 10 words, you know, especially with like software now that it’s a jail and the client just you know, updates like a few strings, and hey, please translate this. And then translators are like, either not happy or they’re charging you minimum charge, which is not good. So, like, in your case, you want to like bundle ID with some more work?

Yago Sagrado 

Exactly.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. One thing that I was also curious about, because when we were saying that on the localization side, the artistic director picks the three candidates for each language. So but then you submit it to the client? And who on the client side actually decides which talent to pick? If it’s different languages? Do they also have their artistic director? And can that person one actually, can one person actually decide about, let’s say, eight to 10 different languages? Or do you need native people to make the decision,

Yago Sagrado 

It depends on the localization effort on culture, on the client side, so there are clients are going to have a big, big localization culture, and they are going to have, they’re usually called specialist, Spanish specialists, the German specialist or the matter subject, or whatever, that they have several names depending on the client. But there’s usually special guests for each language. And they are the ones who are going to be on the top of the localization from the client side. But I’ve seen I’ve seen clients that not don’t do too much of localization, or don’t have that big of a localization culture. So they would just have one person taking a look at them all. But if it’s just one person, you usually don’t see one person dealing with eight languages. Because if it’s just one person, it means the client doesn’t really localize that muscle, maybe we’re talking about two or three languages.

Yago Sagrado 

Although I’ve seen I do remember, one client has just one person, because they’re doing localization just now they’re beginning to do it. Because of the game, nature, games nature. And they’re doing starting to do localization now. But they just have like one person dedicated to it. So they chose all languages. And at some point, these people can say, hey, studio, choose whoever you think bits best. Because I’m not going to be as knowledgeable as you are guys. So we do get a lot of those clients. We don’t have like that much of a localization culture, just let us do the choosing for them, which is also very help For at some point,.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, enough of my questions. Maybe now we can go back to the process. So we have the, we have the cast.

Yago Sagrado 

So after casting, I would say, then there sanitation, you get the script, and it has to go through adaptation. To speak about adaptation, you have to think about how games are recorded or overwritten when our original is recorded. Or maybe the English files for a specific game, they may have some constraints in terms of timing, but they usually just do whatever, whatever comes up. But when you localize, you have a lot of constraints that tie you in different ways. So for example, you could have files that need to be at the same length as the original file, think about a conversation or again mentioned the place files, just one after the other finishes, just after one replace one file, just because the other one has ended not because it kind of recognizes the type of file it’s bringing, it’s just a series of files, it’s, it’s just meant to play one after the other.

Yago Sagrado 

So in order to play out as a conversation, and play out with the facial animations of the characters, or what you’re seeing on screen, you actually have to time those files. So they are the same length as the English, and everything is going to play out in the same way as the original deal. So those would be like a hard constraint files. You also have non constrained files, they, they’re given several numbers, vo files, wild files that they got, depending on the company, they got different names, but those are files that really don’t matter. Those are mostly on the multiplayer side. Multiplayer side is they have lots of files, but they’re usually not constraint. I think about you know, a battle, a war game where lots of short soldiers are just shouting stuff at each other, it doesn’t really need to play out in a certain way.

Yago Sagrado 

So if you throw a grenade, the game engines gonna just throw just gonna play that grenades out, or that throwing a grenade. But it doesn’t really need to play out in a conversational way. So you could have that sound, and maybe other could be listening to other sounds. And that’s just place when it has to play. So those are wild, it doesn’t matter if the original fire was one second log, and you record the three second log file. So that’s okay. Then you have like, other situations where you want the files to be kind of similar, but you don’t want a heart constraint. And why would the reason why would you wouldn’t want to hard constraint is because the harder the constraint, the longer it takes to record. So of course, for the challenge is going to be a lot easier to record five, they have no constraint.

Yago Sagrado 

So they can go like one after the other, just making sure the acting projection is okay. But when you start to put constraints in the mix, productivity goes down, and could productivity and going going down means you’re going to have the talent more time in the booth. So it’s going to cost more money, you need to have all constraints clear, to kind of make making the recording work. So after casting, how it would play out is that you go into adaptation. So for example, you get a script and it’s been translv ated by a third party or even your your set your own translators, but maybe the translators have the constraint information, but maybe they don’t. So maybe they know that this file is hard constraints or has to be the same length. Or maybe they don’t, and if they don’t, maybe they they just translate it normally, and they would go you know, out of bounds that will translate to long.

Yago Sagrado 

So then the artistic director would need to go through the entire script that’s going to be recorded, and adapting. That’s why you kind of need to give them a very clear picture of which files have constraints and what those constraints are. As I mentioned, there’s, you know, wild maybe 10% constraint 20% constraint, you can go longer 20 10% you also have like a strict constraint, which is you cannot go longer than this and well, not even longer or even shorter. It has to be the exact same length. And then you have sound sync what we call sound sync constraint which is it cannot be longer, but within the file, you also have to take into account internal process. So if the character stops talking, you have to stop talking. So the file, if you put something file, an original sound sec file, an original and a localized sound sec file, they were very, very look pretty similar.

Yago Sagrado 

That’s what they need to look like. And then the final constraint would be lip sync, which is kind of the way movies and TV series shows and whatever are localized, you’re seeing the character already moving its mouth, and you’re nailing it to the character’s mouth. But that just goes for cinematics, I would say. And most of the cinematics are too early in development by the time it gets to localization. So um, haven’t seen too much of cinematics like being fleshed out, or you know, already in a final state. So mostly, you would get a reference a video reference where you get the models, they’re kind of moving a little bit stiff, there’s a milestone of moving and stuff like that maybe they don’t have the textures on still so, but it kind of gives you an idea on the the context and when you know, for example, you’re going to have a mouth, on on site on the screen.

Yago Sagrado 

And then if you have a mouth and screen, you’re going to want to perfectly match the English to the localized language, because if not, it’s going to, it’s going to be weird. But then if the character is looking other way, you’re not seeing his mouth, and maybe you can, that’s just how it’s done in movies and stuff like that. So after the casting, I would say adaptation, that’s a crucial step. And it, it does take a while. But it really pays off in a sense that you can really make a recording goes so much quicker. If you take the time to adapt, if you’re going to the booth without going through adaptation. Maybe it goes well. But maybe you’re going to be adapting with the talent inside the booth and you’re gonna lose money. Because, yeah.

Andrej Zito 

When we had our intro call, I was asking you if there’s something like internationalization happening for audio localization, and you wanted an example, I think this would be sort of an example. Because from what you’re telling me, I understand that adaptation is not like a standard process, like it can help a lot. But maybe some clients, they don’t know about it, and they don’t want to invest into it. Maybe they see just Okay, I’ll give you the script go recorded. And that’s it. Right. So is it really at that stage, like within the industry, that adaptation is only like for the advanced companies, and you have to really pitch the idea to the clients to actually pay for it or the you guys decide that as the as the vendor,

Yago Sagrado 

it’s usually budget. So it’s time your budgets. And if it does, if it’s not budgeted as in taking a specific field in the budget, saying that we are going to take so much on adaptation, then you you have to yourself when you’re quoting your budgeting, you have to take that into account, and maybe put it inside the pre production concept or anything. So it’s kind of a given. I think most people understand that there’s a time you need to do for these types of things. So yeah, I would say I would say clients really are already bought in you don’t have to tell them adaptation is necessary.

Andrej Zito 

Right, right. And my second question was, when you as PM, schedule, the whole project, which includes the adaptation, and you were talking about the different constraints and how that affects productivity? Do you guys have something like a standard, let’s say productivity metrics or expectations, like, for example, for translation is like typically around 2000 words per day translator can do so how is it with adaptation?

Yago Sagrado 

So we have our own metrics I can, I can say the numbers. But yeah, we have our own metrics. We know out of experience out of data and statistics, we know how much time you win by adapting and how much time it takes to adapt depending also on the constraint, because it’s not the same as adapting hard constraint or a strict tech constraint file as a cinematic sound, single constraint for cinematics or silencing, you’re gonna have you’re gonna want to maybe even add gestures in the script. So breaths and stuff like that. The artistic director would add that into the actual script. And so when they’re going into booth, they already know Okay, I’m going to record this breath here. I’ve got to do this and that all that sticking out after all those notes or maybe created a different column in the XML file or whatever.

Yago Sagrado 

But it that helps a lot. And of course, it depends on the type of constraint, the metrics. But yeah, we do have metrics on adaptation on how much of talent takes to record the 100 files in each different industry.

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned Excel file. So where exactly does the adaptation happen? Is it really just like Word document, Excel? Or is there any some sophisticated file format for these things?

Yago Sagrado 

No, XML is the king, I’d say Yeah, actually scanning for everything. Especially when you’re dealing with 1000s of lines on a single script, we have to work in Excel. So each studio would do things differently. So we have our own tools. And we have our own ways of creating specific formats on on an Excel file, so it’s digestible or easier to read on our site. So we have tools that made in macros and stuff that kind of help us out. So it would maybe create a column specifically for adaptation that would maybe then compare the original column with the updated column and highlight a difference if there is what stuff like that. So we have our own tools that do that those types of things and make life a lot easier, I would say, yeah. But yeah, Excel as Excel is the way we record stuff.

Andrej Zito 

One thing that I just thought of right now, like when you mentioned that you compare these two things. So is the adaptation happening? Like let’s say, the original is English script? Do you adapt the English first into another English, which is, let’s say better for localization? Or when you say adaptation, we just translate the script?

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, adaptation is just translated script. Yeah. Of course, English reference has to be there. Because you’re going to want to know what what the original says, but you’re, you’re looking at the translated text? Mostly, yeah.

Andrej Zito 

Okay. So going back to our imaginary project is,

Yago Sagrado 

And then after that, you go, you get your cast day, you’ve gone through adaptation, you schedule the talents. Given the metrics we have, we already you know, know how much time more or less for a normal project they would need. So we, we booked them, we have a specific department is just focused on booking talents, because it’s such a, it takes a lot of time, and there’s a lot of, you know, I can be there give me a need to be 10 minutes later. Can’t be tomorrow, stuff like that. So. So yeah, we have a couple people just devoted to that. You get your schedule. And then it’s, we’re bad news calm, because then you’re gonna say, okay, a client, you need it this next week, or in five days. But you know, what your main character is out on holidays? Right? Yeah, you have two options. You either wait, or you look for a sound alike. Voice.

Yago Sagrado 

If it’s if it’s extremely urgent, depending on the on the projects, needs, you might be you may be need to record a small batch with a voice that sounds very, very, very much like the original or the or the talent you used. But that’s always something that’s what everyone tries to avoid as much as possible. So that’s just for an urgent situation. A very, very critical situation. So that, yeah, that then, because we’re working with people as as in rather, in comparison with text localization, where you’re working with text and words. At some stage or an audio localization, you start working with people, and people, you know, are people. Yeah, people are people and people might fail people. Some are better, some are good, some are bad, and some are super professional. Others are not maybe so much professionals.

Yago Sagrado 

So that’s one of the biggest parts of handling an audio localization project. I would say it’s just making sure the client is always aware of the situation of the project and say, okay, you will have these characters by next week. Are you going to have the main character who is out 10 days or 12 days, how does that work for you? And they, they, they will, you know, complain, and they will say, yeah, you know what’s up? Maybe we knew maybe we didn’t know, maybe he left a holiday, maybe he’s sick, or she had a child, so she would be off. You know, so there’s a lot of situations that start to play a role in the development of the localization project. And that can get very, very hairy, I would say, very complicated. Because it’s a lot of people, maybe you’re dealing with a triple A game, and you’re dealing with, I don’t know, maybe 5060 talents, or again, each with their own schedules, problems lives.

Yago Sagrado 

And you know, so you get to, it’s, it’s, lots of things happen. Lots of things happen there. But then if you have your schedule, and everything goes right, then you’ll be able to record stuff, then it will go to the audio engineers, or the engineers, who would, you know, maybe cut the files and start editing the files.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. Maybe Maybe I should have paused because I’m so curious about, like, let’s say, let’s say, you know, like games usually get into their crunch mode. I’m not sure. Like, if, if, if at the like the last final stages of the game that will open there’s through some some new audio that might show up. But what if, you know, because you, you were talking about like constraints within the audio localization, but you have the bigger constraint, which is like the release of the game, right? Like, must you need to hit. So what happens if then like, you get like a smaller new audio updates, and the voice down is like off like a way like you cannot get hold of them. And they recorded like 95% of the, the audio before.

Yago Sagrado 

And that’s that’s just one of the problems, you can face that maybe you’ve recorded some stuff, some cinematic in some way, but then they change the bit, the original, and then you just record that single spot, they changed. But then the flow, when you see it entirely, the flow breaks, so it doesn’t work. So those are the things you have to be mindful of when receiving changes by the client. So how much does this affect what we’ve already recorded? And keeping track of what you’ve already recorded? And what’s yet to be recorded? And how everything kind of works together is also a very complicated part of being an IPF. And how much are games changed? during the development process? I would say a lot. So whenever, yeah, too much, I’d say, whenever you always have the couple of big big constraints, which are submission date, and you know, the release date.

Yago Sagrado 

But of course, everything that goes beyond submission is already going to be in a day one day zero patch. So the maybe people don’t know this, but that’s why you’re seeing such a big day zero day weren’t patches these days, because most of them have a lot of audio in the system, not development. It’s audio that’s in maybe it’s localized audio. So because the as I was saying the localization kind of goes last in the development process. So every change that’s done already in the final stages of development is going to be super late for authorization. So I would bet a lot of money that all those days, zero patches, all those giant Day Zero patches, a lot of them have to do with audio localization, maybe some bugs, maybe some, you know, QA that hasn’t been, has been just worked around in the last days. But I would say it takes a big space of that.

Yago Sagrado 

I’ve seen games for which we were recording stuff on the very day of release. I’ve had, so yeah, I know, that was a very, very, very critical year, stressful and critical. But I mean, in a way, you’re already so late, that you know, it doesn’t really matter. It’s already going to go to a patch. whenever it’s ready. It’s already going to go in a patch. So at that point, you’re even kind of relieved because you’re already late. So does anything happen to you that we’re you know, you’re already going to be super late for for some somewhere. Do you just start taking your time so if I maybe have meeting or not meeting, but I’ve spoken with friends to hang up, hang out at seven. And I wake up at, you know, 15 minutes earlier from a power nap.

Yago Sagrado 

And I still have to shower and all that it’s like, Okay, I’m going to be late, I’m not going to stress about it, like, I’m going to be already so late that it doesn’t even matter. So it’s a matter of being 30 minutes or 45 minutes late, but you’re going to be lazy that way. So it kind of happens. That way, when you’re already so late, you’re going to get pressure always from the client to deliver as fast as possible. But at some point, you have to, if you’re late, you’re late. And there’s nothing you as a as a service provider that can make mean, you’re going to do everything that’s in your hand to speed up the process. But maybe, for some reason, as I was saying, the main character is out. And sufficient day is tomorrow. So what are you going to do about it? You either wait or you go for sound like if they don’t want the sound like option? You have to wait.

Yago Sagrado 

It’s there’s nothing you can do. And that’s the thing I was less talking about when working with people, you have to be super flexible. And that’s the thing that the video game industry doesn’t really, it’s not really too flexible. I would say we have very tight deadlines, release dates and stuff like that. So it’s it’s hard. You know, putting those two together, together. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

Just on this topic. Do the games always release? Like all the workplace versions are available the same time as English? Or is it still possible that some languages already like later on?

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, it’s possible. I’ve seen games that add maybe successful games that weren’t thought that they were going to get so big, then they get super big and you the developer really wants to reach out globally? So they say so they start doing a localization effort. And yet, the game was released in one language, but then you know, you have this patch a couple months from it a couple months later, and you add like five, six languages? Yeah, that’s what happens.

Andrej Zito 

So you started talking about the audio engineers? And actually, I was thinking like, are they possible solution to fixing the last minute changes? Like, can they stitch some pieces together? Or is it always like super unnatural?

Yago Sagrado 

As always, it depends. You can try. And sometimes it works perfectly. How able you are to do those types of things. also depends on if you’re able to find specific words. Maybe this word was badly recorded by the Tallaght, because he, they recorded the 1000 files that day, so one of them was incorrect. So maybe it depends on if you how able you are to find that same word in the entire script, rescue the old file, and, and try and see if it fits. If it fits, okay, you don’t have to call him back, that’s a saving you’ve made for you. And for the client, you save money for both of you. But then again, maybe you’re not going to be able to so that’s when you have to record a box session, which is also quite complex to track because then the way you work is by batches. batch one, batch two, session one, session two, whatever the names are, so but then maybe you’ve recorded four sessions, and then they’ll keyway comes in, and they start doing their testing.

Yago Sagrado 

And then by the time you’re doing session five, you’re already doing session five, and bug fixing of sessions, one to four. So then you’re starting to branch out, you’re having different scripts, you’re having different assets, and you have to create your own bug fixing script on your own. And the way bug fixing works is that they will just send you their reports, the QA, sense, and you have to figure them out. So maybe rescue the file, maybe the file name has changed. From the moment you recorded to the moment they got to QA some development thing happened there and they changed the entire set of files. So you can like why am I not aware of recording this file because this file wasn’t recorded by that name was recorded by this. So bug fixing is another whole damn world.

Yago Sagrado 

It’s a it’s the, I would say, you know, taking care of people you know, scheduling and bug fixing are The most complex of it all, that’s super hard, and you have to keep super tight control of everything, or you’re gonna fail miserably. Because by the time you’re doing bug fixing game is already in crunch mode, probably. So they’re going to be sending out stuff changes. Every day, things get messy. And you can end up recording a bad batch with an out of date translation, stuff like that. So you need to be aware of that and do the work before it gets. It gets to be too complex. So you have to have everything retract. Even if we’re if a sentence was changed during the recording process, you have to have what those what the talent really said, No, we’re not what was in the script. But what they really said.

Yago Sagrado 

So if a bucket comes and says, Hey, the telling is saying this, when he should be saying this sort of thing, then you go to the fire, say, Why is he saying this? Okay, and then you can see the change? Or maybe you’re seeing, okay, maybe I sent an old version of a file. That’s what they are not that they are flagging this as a bug. But it’s not because they’re bad file was wrongly recorded, because I sent the old file rather than the bug fixed file. So yeah, lots of tracking to do there. And very, very micro management.

Andrej Zito 

Speaking of box, when does the keyway happen?

Yago Sagrado 

Okay, so we left the process kind of in the sound engineers with those guys would cut, edit the files, maybe and then depends on the studio, they will have renaming tools. So each file is the has the name the client wants it to have. And then on our case, it goes through QA. So it all those files get listened to by our internal QA teams. And they will see if everything makes sense if there’s a mispronunciation. Or if there’s a bug we can detect before sending it to the client, stuff like that. So we are we have a QA, internal department, that would receive the files from the sound engineers, and they would just check them out and listen to them all type, any changes that have been made to the file. So that’s where you get the actual transcription of what was recorded. And then those guys, if everything’s okay, then those are the guys that would send me as a PM, like, say, hey, this batch is ready.

Yago Sagrado 

So you can send it to the client. After that, you as a PM, maybe you’re going to have to re create a folder structure. So it depends on on how the client wants the files, but maybe they want it on a per character basis. So you want to have soldier one, and although soldier one files inside that folder, but maybe you could have multiplayer, then inside the multiplayer folder, you’re going to have a folder per action. So toss, attack, the fan, whatever, or maybe a folder by map, depending on for the campaign, you’re going to have to rebuild that structure. Again, or maybe just build it from from the ground up, we have tools also to kind of ease that process how because we’re talking about 1000s of files, putting all those files in specific folders. And it’s also good, then you check the files, you kind of do your file checks, everything’s there, all names are there, it’s looking good. You put it in a nice package and you send it to the client through a secure platform. Right, right. Right. So that would be kind of the entire process from start to finish.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, thank you for that. Now we know everything

Yago Sagrado 

It gets it gets messy super messy at some points. But

Andrej Zito 

Now you inspired the people to start competitive thirst to keep it’s a generative process. Right I would assume just like a high level Yeah,

Yago Sagrado 

Yeah, that’s that’s just how things go in all studios might have their own tools and stuff like that, but the process is more or less standard.

Andrej Zito 

You know what one thing that I was thinking about when we’re talking about how we could fix the the audio issues and that’s Sure how it’s called officially, but is it like voice synthesis, like where the computer can actually generate a voice based on like some sample.

Yago Sagrado 

So our technology is not there yet. So we, we keep investigating, and we keep seeing how the industry develops the technology and for anyone, it’s not there yet. So maybe maybe in a very long future, it could help. In a very far future, it will help with some stuff. But our idea is that technology is always a tool, but it will never really replaces anything. So you’re always going to have the the human aspect, safeguard and quality, because machines can make a lot of mistakes. It’s kind of the same, I would say, yes, if you do machine translation, then you’re always going to have to post edit the files, or the batches or translations. So to the text to speech, could not convey emotions could not convey or not properly. So technology is not there. It’s not something we kind of give too much thought.

Yago Sagrado 

As of now. We are always on the lookout. And we’re always we always have our own, you know, developments in place, you know, trying to see what technology goes and all that. But it’s just experiments for now.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, it’s good that you brought up the example of machine translation. Because yes, you need post editing, but not in all cases. And that’s actually where the budget comes in. Because some companies for some smaller niche markets, they may want to opt just to have machine translation, because they don’t want to pay for the post editing. So I’m thinking, is this something like that could be happening for games? Or is it already happening? Like maybe for some, like very small markets, the players would actually be okay, just getting something that’s generated by a computer, and it’s not super top notch, or it would damage the the game totally.

Yago Sagrado 

This is this is a personal opinion, I see games as a form of narrative narration. It’s a very complex type of narration. I would say, again, it could maybe help you out in some specific cases. But it’s not something that’s viable, as in, you know, we’re gonna just do machine translation, right? I know, there are companies, keywords, own keywords, has own machine translation companies that develop engines for companies and other services. So for example, they developed an engine for legal text translation, those don’t get posted at that, because they are good enough to just be understandable. And we’re talking about millions of words that need to go through machine translation. So it kind of makes sense for that niche. But for games, I would say, you’re always going to want to prioritize quality. And quality.

Yago Sagrado 

As far as I understand that all means human. If you want quality, you need human interaction, human involvement. So maybe help somehow. But for games, I think there’s such a complex and rich type of narration that you need people in the people around you the actual experts. And that’s one of the things we are always kind of thinking about, like, we work with a lot of external partners, translators and linguists, and talents and stuff. But we always want to have expert in house experts for games. So if we’re talking about specific clients, we want to we want the PMS in control to know all about that game. So the expertise is always on the center kill people under expertise are always on the on the center of how we try and make a chief quality.

Andrej Zito 

I totally get it. Yeah. I think in Star Wars, you know, like the characters who have already passed away there, this tear made their appearance in the movies. So maybe once that technology is working, well, the same could happen for voice as well.

Yago Sagrado 

You never know. I mean, you could never tell how far technology is going to get but I would say that always, always, always call 80, even 100 years from now, I would say quality means human. And specifically, like tailor performance or translation, or any type of content, which is what I think really localization is all about is making content relevant for audiences. And that’s that goes beyond translation. It’s about emotion is about how people in this specific region think of, of, you know, a certain thing. It’s how they talk. It’s intonation, it’s a lot of things. And localization is about making content that’s relevant for a specific audience relevant to other audiences. So let’s say if you go if you want to achieve that people and expertise are always going to be in the middle of it, or even if technology advances, it’s always going to be just the tool.

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