A recent study by captioning charity Stagetext found that 80 per cent of 18 to 25 year olds in the UK use subtitles some or all of the time. Whether that’s because subtitles help viewers understand dialogue more effectively, or they help audiences concentrate on the TV show or film they’re watching, it seems subtitles are an important part of content from both broadcasters and streaming services.
Launched in 1998 by Dom Bourne, Take 1 is best known for providing transcription and translation services to media and entertainment companies including Discovery Inc, ITV Studios, BBC Studios, National Geographic Channel, A&E Networks and Peacock.
In the company’s early days, video was shot on tape and the only way to log or view footage after the shoot was to either book expensive playback machines by the hour or transfer footage to VHS with burnt-in-time-code.
Take 1 offered an alternative – and more effective – way for production companies to prepare for edit. Instead of spending hours viewing VHS dubs of their shoot footage, producers sent these tapes to Take 1 where Bourne and his team would transcribe the time codes, dialogue and action onto paper. These transcriptions were then posted or biked back to Soho and used to prepare paper edits.
Fast-forward to the present day, Take 1 continues to provide transcription, access and localisation services to the international media and entertainment industry under the leadership of CEO, Louise Tapia. With offices in the UK and US and a global workforce, the company leverages digital technology and data-driven workflows to provide high quality, artisan services at scale.
“We support production companies in the production and delivery of their content; we help broadcasters, networks and streaming platforms ensure that their content is accessible to all audiences, and we help content distributors create global content for any platform,” Tapia tells TVBEurope.
“Take 1 transcribes and translates shoot rushes for production teams, journalists and documentary-makers so that they can prepare storylines, find soundbites and cut down the time spent wrangling high volumes of content and multilingual stories in the edit suite. We also create ‘as broadcast’ or post production scripts which include a timecoded transcription of all dialogue, captions, credits, music cues and other information based on each project’s specific requirements. We provide these to production companies at either picture-lock or final edit stages for deliverable compliance and to networks to facilitate localisation.
The company’s access services include video captions and audio descriptions to make content accessible to hard of hearing or visually impaired audiences. “Our clients in this space include production companies, vendor partners and broadcasters, networks and streaming platforms,” adds Tapia. “Finally, we provide high-quality translations, subtitles, dubbing services and foreign language audio descriptions as part of our localisation services to help content producers, distributors, networks and streaming platforms reach international audiences with global content.”
Take 1’s workflows combine the company’s multi-skilled teams alongside AI integrated technologies – some of which have been developed in-house while others are recognised and utilised across the industry.
“Our proprietary metadata harvesting platform, Liberty, is integral to our data-driven approach – it supports the production of XML-based post production scripts, TTML timed text for captioning, and the re-purposing of this data into the various documents, files and reports needed throughout the global content production workflow,” explains Tapia.
“The Take 1 cloud provides a secure-by-design web-based interface for our clients to transfer video assets to Take 1, add comments or instructions for specific projects or media files, monitor the status of work in progress and retrieve completed outputs.”
The team also employs some third-party tools, including Xytech’s MediaPulse to co-ordinate high volumes of content across the organisation, and products from Ooona and Starfish Technologies to support its access services. “Using VoiceQ and ProTools, we can bring voice artists from home setups and partner studios anywhere in the world into one recording session for dubbing or audio description projects,” she adds. “These industry tools are componentised so that we can easily swap out technologies to always ensure we’re using best of breed, accommodate changing requirements and work according to our customers’ preferences.”
Back in September, Take 1 announced plans to expand its localisation and access services departments. “Recent mergers in the sector have created a gap in the market for boutique service providers with an artisan approach and an already substantial appetite for international programming was amplified in 2020 when Covid-19 restrictions reduced new content production,” Tapia explains. “Localisation and access service workflows are also becoming increasingly data-driven, an approach pioneered by Take 1 and underpinned by the transcription data that the company provides.”
The expansion has so far included the appointment of Yelena Makarczyk as VP of localisation and post production and Adam Hewes as Take 1’s chief technology officer. “We’ve also established partnerships with local studios and vendors across multiple territories and on-boarded hundreds of new in-territory linguists to our freelance team of linguists, voiceover artists and subtitle/caption creators,” she adds. “A significant number of these additions are LatAm Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese translators and subtitlers, managed from our office in Santiago, Chile. We plan to continue building out our localisation team of managers and co-ordinators and adding new staff in sales and account management.”
Returning to our earlier point, the demand for subtitles and localisation has never been as high. Tapia agrees the ability to watch video online and on the move has caused a spike in content consumption, changing viewing habits and driving new audiences to watch translated and titled material. “The increased demand for access services is partly in response to the increased quotas of accessible content that broadcasters, networks and streaming platforms are legally obligated to provide for hard of hearing and blind audiences and also due to an increased demand for captioned content.” she continues. “Localising content, on the other hand, is an opportunity for these content producers and distributors to make more money from content produced for a specific territory or platform. The proliferation of different streaming channels also means that just about every piece of content has to be produced in multiple different formats and we’re increasingly being asked to edit existing captions or subtitles for multiplatform distribution.”
So with the demand for subtitles and localisation keeping the Take 1 team as busy as ever, what does the future look like for the company? “Now that we’ve expanded our services to cover the full content supply chain, we expect to spend the next few years deepening our relationships with existing clients by offering the full suite of services that support distribution and becoming a more dominant player in the sector,” says Tapia. “Part of this will include working on partnerships and integration projects to make it easier for our customers to access and manage these services.”
Since our interview, Take 1 has announced the acquisition of US-based transcription and captioning company, Verb8tm. According to the company, the deal will not only strengthen its position in the US, but the addition of Verb8tm’s staff and technology will also provide Take 1 with additional capacity and capabilities for international projects.