Where to place the translation booth
One of the most common pre-event questions we receive from the AV teams running the show, is the question on the placement of translation booths: how much space they occupy, and where to put them. In this article we’ll talk about full-size translation booths, as they are the most common solution of choice for large events with simultaneous interpreting.
First, let’s talk about the footprint of an industry standard ISO-compliant fully encapsulated booth: the typical footprint is 6×6 feet for a 2-person booth. It is important to check with the language vendor, if the booths are going to be 2-person, because sometimes the language team for that specific language may have three people.
The true size of the booth is a little smaller than 6×6: for example, a North America de-facto standard MCI Congress booth for 2 is 166cm x 166 cm which translates to 5.45 x 5.45 feet. However, it is important to consider the following factors:
- A booth must be at least 3 feet away from the back wall, for the door to freely open, so that the interpreters can comfortably walk in and out of the booth
- When placing multiple booths for multi-language event side to side, leave a bit of space between them to run audio and power cables. This will also prevent the voice vibrations from going wall-to-wall between one booth to another
Some booths allow reconfiguration, so the door can be re-positioned to the side if you are extremely constrained on space in the back. That, of course, should be accounted for if you are placing multiple booths side by side.
Another important aspect to consider is the booth height. A typical full-size translation booth is 7 feet high including vent channels on the roof. Again, true measurements are a little less: 6.6 feet, but language vendors usually place simultaneous interpreting equipment, such as transmitters on the roof for better coverage.
Typically the show organizers separate the AV house and its sea of cables from the participants by using a black curtain with adjustable height. The translators booths normally look very presentable with a clean front and large windows for the interpreters, cables neatly hidden from view, so it’s not necessary to place them behind the barrier. However, if you would like to achieve a uniform look, the windows typically begin at the height of 2.5 feet.
Now that we have covered the footprint and the height, let’s talk about booth placement. The ideal location is such that interpreters have a direct line of sight to the stage. Usually this means placing the boots side by side along the back wall of the event space, somewhere close to the AV team space.
The direct line of sight can be substituted by placing monitors in the booths, but in practice, interpreters prefer to have both. The ability to “look out the window” and follow not only the camera view, but the stage, the audience, what is happening in the event space overall – is critical to the interpreter’s ability to immerse themselves into the speech flow and accurately convey the message to the audience. The monitors help the interpreters figure out the small details that are hard to discern even the event space is large, and the booths are located too far back.
So, what is the next best option if you are constrained on space, and direct line of sight is not a possibility? The video feed from the camera following the speaker on stage is always an option. Now, you are not limited by the physical space constraints in any way: with the video feed run to the booths, you can place them virtually anywhere: behind the stage, in an adjacent room, separated by sound wall, for example. The only limit is the physical distance that you need to run an XLR and SDI cable for audio and video feed respectively.
Placement to avoid
There are several situations to keep in mind when placing booths:
- Placing translation booths on an elevated platform. Platform assembly comes in set dimensional pieces, and it is possible to end up with the booth overhanging the edge by a few inches. Booths do not come with their own floor, so now you have an unstable booth, an empty air gap – which is both a hazard for interpreters, and a way for sound to leak through. Make sure you add some extra linear space when planning to avoid moving the AV tables or adding extra platform pieces at the last moment.
- Placing booths at an angle to the stage. Translation booths come with side windows, so it is possible to get a 180 degree view of the room. However, the view is obstructed by the corner beams, and now interpreters will be craning their necks to the side for the entire duration of interpreting session, trying to see the stage. This will impact their view, and their performance.
- Obstructing the exits. When planning event space, it is important to remember, that none of the entrances and exists to the space can be obstructed, and that includes placing translation booth, even if it slightly overhangs the entrance doors. Fire marshals inspecting event space will not sign-off on this setup, and the booths will have to be relocated at the last minute, including all power and AV cable runs.
It is extremely important that the language vendor receives the event space floor plan ahead of time, during the event planning stage, so that they can provide their input on the possible placements of translation booths, and figure out logistics of routing power and AV cables ahead of time.