Archive for September 2012

America By the Numbers: Maria Hinojosa PBS Special

America By the Numbers
with Maria Hinojosa
 

Bringing translation to PBS National Broadcast:
An interview with Futuro Media Group Executive Producer, Martha Spanninger

[Editor’s note: American By the Numbers (ABTN) aired nationally on PBS on Sept 21stand can be watched in Spanish, Nepali, and English on Dotsub. And on FuturoMediaand PBS.org.]
America By The Numbers on PBS

DS: Our readers share Futuro’s interests in video and language, please tell us about your mission and America by the Numbers.

The Futuro Media Group, which was founded by Latina Journalist Maria Hinojosa in 2010, focuses on underreported stories in media. In “America By the Numbers” (ABTN) we give voice to the underreported demographic shift in which so-called minorities will become the American majority by 2042.

This shift is happening fastest in the American South. In ABTN we focus on a southern town, Clarkston, Georgia, which is a microcosm for this trend.  Since 1980, the white population has shifted from 90% to 14% in Clarkston, and from 97% American born to more than a third foreign born.  Now Clarkston is home to refugees from over 40 countries speaking over 60 languages.

DS: Why did you choose to caption and translate ABTN?
As a Latina led company, it’s our goal to make our media available in Spanish and English.  For this program, our characters were from countries ranging from Somalia to Bhutan to Burma, and they live in a community with residents from over 40 different countries.  Dotsub approached us with an offer to donate captioning, project management, and some language services, and enabled us to get volunteers to add translations, like we’ve heard they have done for Adobe, Stanford, and TED.  We wanted to make our program accessible to all our characters, their families both here and abroad, and ultimately to the entire Clarkston community in all its diversity.  So this captioning is great for ESL viewers, and translation was emblematic of our story and fulfilled the mission of Futuro Media.

 Amina - City Council Campaign Manager from Somalia

DS: As a veteran network broadcast producer, were there surprises?
Compared with my experience with traditional TV on-the-fly closed captions, Dotsub was much higher quality.  The web makes video captions and translations accurate, fast, and affordable.  Because the work is live on line, we could go in and edit, fine tune, and approve.  In the old days, captions would take 5-6 days of back and forth; with Dotsub captions were done in 24 hours.  This live control is ideal for producers, directors, editors and journalists.

We also paid Dotsub for a Spanish translation, and their price was one-fifth of others’ quotes. As a Latina led company, we could edit details and idiom ourselves.

DS: How has the volunteer translation worked out? 
First, the Clarkston community was thrilled to be empowered to sign in to Dotsub to perform their own translations. Before we aired we had a complete Nepali translation, and today Italian, Vietnamese, and Bhutanese are in progress – all volunteered by the community. We expect over our next episodes to build a community to translate all of The Futuro Media Group’s work on the Dotsub platform.

Bhutanese - US Citizen study group

DS: What impact does captioning and translation have on your work?
For producers interested in growing Hispanic and multi-lingual markets, it’s a no-brainer. Also, it’s the right thing to do. Especially for a series like ours which is intended to give voice to a diverse range of under-represented citizens.

[Editors Note:  The FCC now requires broadcast TV to offer captions for online, 77% of YouTube is viewed outside the US, and there are two billion ESL viewers worldwide.]

DS: Brian L. Roberts, Comcast Chairman, says TV will change more in the next 5 years than in the last 50. How will the web, captioning, and translations contribute?

With Dotsub we enjoyed the speed and control of caption and translation editing on the web.  We think the web continues to make production as well as distribution more efficient to keep independent voices, like Futuro’s, alive.

We think the video news magazine audience gets larger because of the web.  We already produce shorter format stories just for the web with a longer shelf life and global appeal – all of which benefit from the web.

We think that once video is captioned, it becomes more discoverable and more accessible, so under-reported stories, like America By The Numbers, can be found from all over the globe. And because of the rich context of the transcript, video becomes more productive for sponsors and advertisers.

Translations will be both demand- and volunteer-driven, so just as we will have a multi-lingual America, we will have multi-lingual video players. And from what we can see, none of it will be machine translated; it will all be human powered, because the machine captions and translations are completely inferior, and sometimes hilarious.

DS: What advice do you offer video producers and journalists about translations? 

Dotsub lets you start small. We started with captions and Spanish and built from there. Start building your translator fan base. Because the web is social, the power of sharing, recommendations, and crowd-sourcing all become an independent producer’s best allies, and a company like Dotsub is making it possible for us to build that community across language barriers.
[Editors Note: In under four years, Dotsub enabled TED to build a translator network of 8000 who translated 31,000 TED videos into scores of the world’s languages.]

DS: How can our audience engage with your work?
“America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa: Clarkston Georgia” premiered on PBS as a NEED TO KNOW Special on September 21, 2012.
“America by the Numbers” can be watched in numerous languages and volunteer translated at www.dotsub.com.
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