Should I use Dubbing for the translation of my video or film?

Before I answer the question, here's a short definition of dubbing: Dubbing is the process of re-recording and overlaying the original actor's voices in a video or film with new voices. Traditionally, this has been done in American cinema with musicals when an actor didn't have a stellar voice, or to cover up profanity.

Today, it's commonly used as a method of translating video and film into other languages for use in other countries and markets. It's often used for movies and TV shows, as well as for business, educational and medical purposes such as in training and marketing videos.

Dubbing can consist of straight voice narration, lip-synching, or UN Style dubbing. The style you'll need will depend on your show and your preferences.

Voice narration is when you have an off-camera announcer or narrator's voice on a show or commercial. This can be easy to replace by removing the original voice and replacing it with a new voice using a new language.

UN-style dubbing is more commonly seen in documentaries or news style programs. This is when the original voices are left on the show, but the sound level is lowered substantially, and a new voice with another language is inserted at full volume. This permits the viewer to hear the emotions, background sounds, as well as music and sound effects from the original show.

Lip-synching is more complex. It involves adding the new language in, while trying to match perfectly the lip movements of the person speaking on screen. If done well, it's unnoticeable, if done poorly, it looks rather silly.

So is dubbing the best option for me?

Now that you've seen the different versions of dubbing, the question remains. Is that the best option? There are other choices. For example, you can go with subtitles. When determining which is the right option for your specific project, there are several pros and cons to consider.

Here are the PRO'S of using dubbing.

PRO #1: Dubbing allows the viewer to watch the on-screen action more easily.

This is especially essential if there's important or complicated action on the screen that requires the uninterrupted attention of the viewer. For example, let's say that you're showing a medical procedure on-screen. Having to read subtitles would be very distracting and your viewers are likely to miss important information. In this case, dubbing would be a better choice.

PRO #2: Dubbed video or film is simply easier for the viewer.

Having to read subtitles on-screen while watching the show is naturally more challenging for your viewers. Some people simply don't like it. Some markets don't like it. By using dubbing rather than subtitles, you're making the experience easier and more acceptable for the viewer.

On the other hand, in some markets subtitles are commonly used and accepted, and they cost significantly less than dubbing. Please read here if you want more info on subtitles vs. dubbing. You'll need to know the market you're targeting, and take their norms into consideration.

And now to the CON'S of dubbing your video or film: 

CON #1: Dubbing is more expensive than subtitling.

Consider that when you choose dubbing, you'll be paying for the actual translation, as well as the actors, studio time, and post-production work. If your budget is limited, consider subtitling rather than dubbing.

CON #2: If your translator or actors aren't highly experienced with video dubbing, there can be problems - especially with lip-synching.

Remember the old Saturday Night Live skits that made fun of the old dubbed martial arts movies? Those movies had dubbed dialogue that was so out of synch with the original dialogue, that it looked like a joke.

The length and timing of the words it takes to say something in the original language won't match the length and timing of the replacement language. Skilled translators know how to modify the dialogue in a way so that it fits the timing for the original dialogue, but maintains the true meaning. Talented dubbing actors know how to synch their dialogue with the on-screen actors.

So the people working on your dubbing project must be highly skilled, or you can end up with a show that looks like the stereotypical joke. And poor translation can result in the meaning being altered, which can have many ramifications. Stick with a company that has an excellent and verifiable track record.

CON #3: You may diminish the sincerity and impact of the original actors.

If you use lip-synching or voice narration, the voices of the original actors will be completely replaced, If your dubbing actors are less than effective, you could lose the emotional impact of the performances.

It's tricky to not only act, but to time the words so that they match the on-screen performance. You'll need actors and production staff that are highly experienced at this craft, or you could end up with poor acting and badly time translations.

CON #4: You may lose background sounds if your audio is on a single track.

When using voice narration or lip-synching, the original sound will be lost. Sometimes this is important, but sometimes it's not. If it is important, consider using a different method of translation.

Given all this, what type of translation should you use? 

This will depend on your video or film subject, your target audience, and your budget. If your show has complicated on-screen action or details that the viewer shouldn't miss, dubbing may be your best choice. If your video will be played in a market that doesn't commonly watch subtitled shows, then you should consider dubbing. If you have the budget to use a respected and experienced service, then dubbing may be your best choice.

Now, if you're still not sure about whether dubbing is for you, give us a call.

We'll happily discuss your project with you, and there's no obligation for you at all. At Ball Media Innovations, we're video translation experts, and we're highly experienced at creating professional quality translations. Read more about our video translation services, or contact us!

Greg Ball, President of Ball Media - Studio designer & builderAbout The Author and Company: Greg Ball, President of Ball Media Innovations, has over 25 years of leading his film and video translation teams. He started working with international translation when he worked as the Manager of Worldwide Video Communications for Burger King Corporation. He's known for his attention to detail and excellent service.

Ball Media Innovations is located in Florida, so we're a USA based company. We specialize in video and film translation, dubbing, and subtitles. It's also a full-service video production company. For translation services and video production services, call today. We'll be happy to talk with you about your film or video translation project.

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