One of my favorite Web 2.0 collaborate production sites of all time is dotSUB — tagline: “Any video. Any language.” I’ve been bumping into Michael Smolens, CEO and founder of the innovative startup, for the past couple of years at video and social media conferences on both coasts.
dotSUB is a Web-based tool that enables the subtitling, or captioning, of Web videos into other languages using human translators. The videos can be subtitled through volunteer crowdsourcing or restricted to professionals hired to complete the task for a business or project.
The genesis for dotSUB was Michael’s realization that English-only independent and documentary films, TV programs and videos could have a powerful, transformative effect if made available in dozens of other languages – and the same could hold true of foreign works shown in the U.S. with English subtitles. The service’s early years relied on the Wikipedia model of crowdsourced translations: Anyone could begin subtitling a film into his or her own language, and others could come along afterward to tidy up.
Apart from open, collaborative uses, dotSUB more recently has been used as a closed platform where businesses, media and entertainment companies and other organizations that don’t trust the open community could hire a team of professional translators to provide captions of CEO speeches, corporate videos, training videos and marketing or advertising messages in multiple languages. And this, no doubt, is where dotSUB generates the bulk of its income, given that it can accomplish this task at a price considerably below traditional methods.
One can easily imagine multinational corporations that use video as part of its marketing, public outreach or branding strategies turn to dotSUB as an end-to-end solution for translations into its non-English markets.
One can also imagine the educational uses of dotSUB in the classroom from elementary school to high school, from universities to graduate level programs.
dotSUB is helping to put the issue of access and language on the radar screens of major corporations and smaller organizations. In the last couple of years, dotSUB has partnered with TED, Pop!Tech, ICANN, Brightcove and SDI Media, among others. For example, dotSUB is powering the translations of thousands of TED videos into scores of languages.
“Anyone in the world can volunteer to translate any TED talk into any language,” Michael said. “This is the first time these remote languages will have something like TED talks available in their own language.”
He also cites the example of Iranian bloggers who used dotSUB to translate cell phone videos about the Iranian street demonstrations from their native Farsi into other languages, including English. And Michael said he and Wikipedia are discussing the use of dotSUB as an enabling tool for the videos starting to appear on the site.
Michael and I chatted during the last Open Video conference at New York University. Not sure if I’ll be attending this year’s event, Oct. 1-2, but anyone interested in the use of open tools to propagate video far and wide should consider going.
Cross-posted (with different emphasis) to Socialbrite.JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.