Sign Language in Videos on Scribit.Pro: this is what it takes

19 May 2023  
Illustration. 2 arms come out of a masonry wall with a stone in one hand and a shovel in the other. At the bottom, 2 legs come out of the wall that are in the tailors.

Sign language is the native language of deaf and hard of hearing people. It has its own grammar and sign language is different in every country. To make videos accessible to people who have sign language as their native language, Scribit.Pro works together with various (deaf) sign interpreters with whom we film sign translations in front of a green screen. But there is a lot to consider while making a sign translation video. Ellen Both, who has already interpreted several videos for Scribit.Pro, explains how making a sign translation works.

Ellen has been working as an Interpreter of Dutch Sign Language and Dutch supported with Signs for eleven years now. She interprets at church services, conferences, meetings, but also at funerals, weddings and schools. She is also engaged in music interpreting. For Scribit.Pro she mainly interprets informative videos. A glimpse into the working day of a sign language interpreter.

Getting the studio film-ready

Ellen has her own studio at home for recording videos. 'The entire process of interpreting takes place here: from preparation to setting everything up, and from recording to final sending,' says Ellen. According to her, good preparation is very important. 'I'll get all the lights ready. To do this, I taped the floor so that I know exactly which lamp should be where and where the camera should be.'

Ellen continues: 'For the videos for Scribit.Pro I use a green screen that I hang on the wall. This ensures that I can easily be cut out during editing and pasted into the video.' Scribit.Pro chooses to display sign translations alongside the source video. This makes the sign translation more visible and at the same time the original video can still be followed well. The translation video is processed into an additional video file, which is offered as an additional choice under the supporting buttons.

Preparing and filming video

After everything is film-ready, the preparation of the video begins. Ellen: 'I watch the video completely once, so I know what's coming along. Then I watch it again. If I hear a word I don't know the gesture off, I pause the video and look up the official gesture. For this I use the Sign Center website ( There you will find the Van Dale Basic Dictionary of Dutch Sign Language. If there is no gesture for a certain terminology yet, I think of one myself that best conveys the word.'

After preparation, the real filming can begin. 'I try to get all the gestures in my head as best as possible beforehand,' says Ellen. Shooting a video finally succeeds after the second or third take. 'Sometimes it goes so fast that I trip over my fingers. But after two or three times I have a feeling for the speed and what the gestures are.”

Recording takes quite some time. Ellen: 'A five minute video takes me about two hours, including all the preparations.' According to her, the information density in a video is also an important factor: 'Sometimes someone talks very quietly, which makes you think it's easy to interpret. But then I find out that the person transfers a lot of information in a short time. As an interpreter this is very hard work.'

Make as few mistakes as possible

‘You are always a sentence or two behind when interpreting. Deaf people are used to that. Because I first have to hear a sentence before I can convert it into the correct sentence order,' says Ellen. A sentence in Dutch Sign Language is different from a sentence in 'normal' Dutch grammar. 'I'm going home' becomes 'I home go' in Dutch Sign Language. Ellen: 'I don't always let all the words come back. I listen to the meaning and translate what needs to be conveyed. That's why you always have to wait a while.'

Ultimately, according to Ellen, the most important thing is to make as few mistakes as possible in the video. ‘When I am interpreting live, I can intervene when I have missed something. You can't do that in a video, because it just is what it is. It therefore takes more preparation and practice time to get up to that speed without making too many mistakes. In a five-minute video, all information is intended to be conveyed. I can't just suddenly interrupt the story.'

Translate my video into sign language

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