Save Everything: A Quick Guide to Source Files
Let’s say you’ve planned the perfect marketing campaign. You’ve outsourced the production of your video content, and your vendor returns a stellar mp4 that matches exactly what you wanted. The campaign is so successful that you want to adapt it for Japanese and French markets.
So you contact your language partner to translate the video content. They say, “We’ll get on this right away. Can you send us the source file?”
What are source files, and how do you get them?
When planning a marketing campaign that may be adapted into other languages or media, it’s important to know what you’ll need before a project starts. Having an advance plan, and a clear idea of what your various collaborators will need, will help you get the most out of your budget and avoid any file fiascos. Below, we’ve created a quick guide to source files: what they are, when to use them, and who might need them.
What are source files?
When talking about source files for video projects, creators and translators are usually referring to the original projects and files used to generate the final video. Often, these are voice and image clips linked to an Adobe Premiere (preferred for voiceover projects) or Adobe After Effects project (preferred for animation videos). For other types of projects (print and banner ads, content marketing pieces, etc.) you will want the original packed files with all the content. Some of the most common types are Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator files or files created in Adobe Animate.
Why do my localization partners need all the files?
It’s easier and cheaper for your localization partners to make changes in the content if they have the source files. Working on projects from the source files means that your partners won’t need to recreate files to work on them, so details like fonts or effects won’t be compromised. Editing source files (rather than recreated files) is especially important if your project contains animated text. Text can usually be easily edited in the source file, which means your project can be localized with very little effort.
If your content contains a voiceover, it’s especially important to pass on the source files to your partners. If the video has any background music along with the voiceover, each track will most likely be on a separate audio layer. Having the source files allows your localization partners to just replace the original voice layer with the localized one while keeping the music/effects intact. Without the source files, your localization partners would have to remove the voice from the audio track to maintain the music on the localized video. While this kind of manipulation is possible with the tools many translation/localization partners have, the resulting video is rarely as good as the original.
When do I need to keep source files?
Short answer: it’s always good to have the source files. We recommend always including the source files in your original scope of work for your media production company. That way, if you ever want to adapt the content into other languages, you already own the files and can save yourself the extra cost of purchasing them back from your media production company, or having your translation and creative adaptation partner remake the content from scratch.