What Is Language Dubbing & How Does It Work?

Published on July 9th, 2022


Language dubbing is an audio solution for translating video content, one that’s gaining a lot of traction in the age of streaming services like Netflix. In recent years, a string of international series hits like Money Heist and Squid Game has boosted demand for video translation solutions, including subtitles and language dubbing.

In this article, we explain whether dubbing is the right choice for your next video translation project and what the production process involves.

What is dubbing?

Language dubbing replaces the dialogue in video footage with translated dialogue tracks. This is most commonly used for translating film and TV into other languages as an alternative to subtitles and closed captions. Increasingly, streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+ provide multiple audio options for content, which users can select to match their preferences.

This is language dubbing in action and streaming platforms also often include multiple subtitle options to cover a wider spectrum of languages.

Broadly speaking, language dubbing comes in two forms:

  1. Animation dubbing
  2. Live-action dubbing

Animation dubbing tends to be less demanding when it comes to lip-syncing, but advances in animation technology mean this isn’t always the case. Likewise, animated characters tend to have less nuance in facial expressions, which can provide more creative space for performances and localising certain aspects of the original dialogue for local audiences.

Conversely, live-action dubbing is often more demanding when it comes to lip-syncing and matching the performance of the actors in the original footage.

Also, keep in mind that animation dubbing and live-action dubbing generally require different types of voice actors.

Why use dubbing for video translation?

The most common use of dubbing in video translation is TV and film, but these are not the only content formats that can benefit from this service.

The best way to analyse the pros and cons of dubbing is to compare it with another audio translation service: voice-over translation.

Benefits of language dubbing

  • Replaces the original dialogue
  • Each participant/character is given a voice of their own
  • Suitable for translating conversations, debates and other instances where multiple speakers are quickly engaging
  • Voice actors can mimic the performance of original performances

Benefits of language voice-over translation

  • Voice-over tracks can be placed over the original dialogue of on-screen participants
  • Alternatively, voice-over tracks can replace the original dialogue of off-screen participants, such as narrators
  • The voice, tone and emotion of on-screen participants are preserved (at a lower volume)
  • Most suitable for scenes with a single, uninterrupted speaker

By looking at the benefits of language dubbing and voice-over translation separately, it becomes obvious how dubbing is more suitable for the complex dialogues often involved in film and television – e.g. dramatised conversations, arguments and other rapid exchanges between multiple participants.

Dubbing is particularly effective in scenarios where speakers may interrupt each other, overlap with other speakers or potentially talk over each other.

Aside from dramatic film and television, dubbing could be the ideal choice for translating debates, sports coverage, theatre productions, podcasts and a range of other content formats that rely on multiple speakers participating at the same time.

How do voice dubbing services work?

Quality voice dubbing involves an extensive production process and it is important to ensure each stage runs as smoothly as possible to prevent delays or costly mistakes. We can condense this production process into nine key steps but a lot of work goes into completing each stage:

  1. Analyse your footage to check for any potential translation issues and localise any aspects that require adaptation (e.g. cultural references, relevancy issues).
  2. Translate your script into each target language.
  3. Review translations to ensure each version is of the required quality.
  4. Prepare each script for recording sessions with time codes and notes to direct your voice talent.
  5. Find the right voices for each role in the translated versions of your video.
  6. Run recording sessions to capture the dubbing tracks in synchronisation with the original dialogue.
  7. Sync your dubbing tracks: With the dubbing tracks recorded, sound engineers ensure each language version is synced with the original, editing the tracks where required.
  8. Review each version of the translated footage to ensure quality.
  9. Test each video version on language audiences and request feedback.

The list is a short one for something as intensive as voice dubbing production, but you can sense how much work is involved when considering that translating scripts into multiple languages is just one of nine stages listed above.

To make voice dubbing work, it is recommended to partner with an agency that specialises in providing this service – one that will help you translate scripts, find the right voice talent, run the necessary recording sessions and manage the technical side of production, editing and publishing.

The above involves a lot of work and different aspects to consider, so make sure you speak to a language service provider with proven experience in language dubbing services.

If you’re still unsure whether language dubbing is right for your next video translation project, our team can help. Contact us to discuss your options by filling out the form on our contact page.

Posted on: July 9th, 2022