Dubbing Primer and Checklist

Content localization can be complicated; there are several methods to localize your content and a cornucopia of different elements to consider for your project’s scope. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and feel intimidated by the possibilities. That’s why we’ve put together this handy primer on voice-over and dubbing! When it comes to localizing your dialogue, there are three primary techniques you can go with: subtitling, voice-over and dubbing. Since we have already dedicated a separate page to the subtitling process, this post will focus on voice-over and dubbing. 

Even though voice-over and dubbing may seem similar on the surface, there are a few key differences. With voice-over, the content (or a summarized version of it) is recorded over the original audio track. It can be heard in the background using a single voice and uninflected tone. The goal is to enable the audience to enjoy both the translation in their mother tongue as well as the original intonation as played by the original cast. This approach is also known as “Lectoring” or “UN Style,” and is popular in Eastern European countries such as Latvia, Poland, and Lithuania. 

Dubbing, however, consists of substituting the voice of the actors shown on screen by the voice of different performers, known as voice talents. Under a director’s supervision, these professional actors record replicas in the studio while watching the video feed on screen and listening to the original soundtrack. The new audio segments are then synced with the existing footage, keeping the dubbed version as close as possible to the original. Markets where dubbing is popular include France, Germany, and Spain. 

Dubbing is both artistically and technically challenging, as the voice talent must not only deliver dialogue that matches the emotion and intent of the original, but must also work to match the sounds of the target language to the movement of the speaker’s lips. This often requires hours of work in a professional studio from a lip-sync script editor, a studio engineer, a dubbing director, a QA reviewer and the various voice talents. 

Translations for lip-sync dubbing, then, must do three things: 

  • Contain roughly the same number of syllables as the source language 
  • Match as many of the visible vocalizations as possible 
  • Maintain the meaning and artistic intent of the source dialogue 

This means that the translated scripts must often be creatively re-written by a skilled script timing editor to allow the voice talent to achieve an optimal lip-sync delivery. 

On top of all of this, there are still many other things to consider. For instance, are there certain words or concepts that have to be protected throughout the localization process? Do you require review and approval of each voice cast for each target language? What method (streaming, broadcast, cinematic) are you using to display your content? All of these elements will impact project costs and timelines. 

Here’s a checklist of things you need to consider when adding voice-over or dubbing to your project:

As you can imagine, there are a lot of moving parts and decisions to be made when bringing your content from one locale to another. That’s where Captionmax can step in: our project management teams are more than happy to help you work through these and all of the other facets to be considered when scoping your content localization project. Whether you require UN Style voice-over or a hand-picked cast of dubbing talent, we’ll work with you to bring your content worldwide.