Why Should You Choose Dubbing Over Subtitling?

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Why Should You Choose Dubbing Over Subtitling? - DubbingKing

Why Should You Choose Dubbing In Addition To or Over Subtitling?

We’re often asked about dubbing vs. subtitling a video or film. There are many reasons to choose dubbing over, or in addition to, subtitling:

  • Some markets simply require dubbing. In France, for example, dubbing film or video is the norm.
  • Children’s programming is always dubbed for obvious reasons.
  • Visual films or videos such as nature documentaries that are heavily narrated are usually dubbed.
  • In some instances, both dubbing and subtitling are recommended, i.e. when a great deal of information is being communicated as in instructional videos for highly skilled procedures.

Subtitling Versus Dubbing

  • Certainly, dubbing is rather unusual. UK and US audiences tend to be shown foreign films with subtitles and dubbing is generally left for movies and television series aimed at children. The reason being that, as audiences grow older, they prefer to hear a film’s original language which gives a sense of place and adds to the atmosphere of a film.
  • Spaghetti Westerns had international casts that would act in their own languages so studios would dub Italian voices into English and vice versa – but even when English-language dubbing is available, such as with the Mandarin film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, movies tend to be subtitled when shown in cinemas or broadcast on television in the UK.
  • “”There is clearly an established market for subtitled foreign-language films, and research by theatrical distributors has concluded that the audience responds better to films in their original language,” says Sue Deeks, head of programme acquisition at the BBC, who has brought foreign-language hits such as The Killing and Spiral to UK audiences.
  • “”If a film is released commercially in a dubbed format we would certainly consider transmitting it in that version, but in our experience, while dubbing has undoubtedly improved over the years, audiences still prefer to experience the authentic voice and language of the actors and the real flavor of the culture or country they are from.””

Where Has Dubbing Has Been Preferred Over Subtitling?

  • Although the number of dubbed foreign productions in the UK is low, the reverse is the case in some other countries. In Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia, China, Iran, Russian-speaking countries and Francophones in Quebec, dubbing is so commonplace that some voice artists are even assigned to specific actors.
  • “”Often the production companies retain the same voice talent to ensure continuity unless the talent is sick or demands more remuneration,” says voice actor Mohd Sheikh, who works for the dubbing company Media Movers. “Dubbing is a tricky art. Emoting with more focus on matching the lips can be an arduous task.”
  • The decision over whether to dub or subtitle sometimes goes beyond creative preferences. Foreign languages were banned in Mussolini’s fascist Italy so films were dubbed into Italian. Since the early 1960s, foreign-language films have been prevented from being dubbed into the Kannada language in India to protect the domestic film industry.
  • In Some Instances, films were censored so that some sensitive words – such as communism or colonialism – were replaced.
  • Dubbing does not always follow take original dialogue and translating it literally into another language as with Japan’s cult television hit Monkey, for instance. Actor Eric Thompson took the French animation The Magic Roundabout (Le Manège enchanté) and narrated it using the visuals alone, discarding Serge Danot’s original scripts, which would have cost the BBC more money.
  • In Germany, which has more foreign movie dubbing studios than anywhere else in the world. The Persuaders television series added humorous elements to the original English version and it is not unusual for sexually explicit gags to make their way into German dubs.
    • “Germany has a lot of such readaptations,” says Sameer Bhardwaj, a foreign language dubbing consultant. “Intellectuals tend to go on internet forums saying how the jokes are badly translated or the entire story and concept has changed but most viewers never knew about the original language, joke or concept and then it’s always a new dish to be tried and appreciated.”
  • There are many examples of bad dubs and not necessarily regarding foreign language conversions. Films re-dubbed for television often have swear-words removed (“That guy’s a serious asshole” in Robocop was replaced with the softer “airhead”). The characters of Honey Rider, Blofeld, Goldfinger and Marc-Ange Draco in the James Bond movies were dubbed by British actors.
  • Some dubs are performed to make them more attractive in particular countries. In Shrek 2, Doris, the ugly stepsister, was voiced by Jonathan Ross in the UK and Larry King in America. Miramax, the distributors of Trainspotting, feared that American audiences would find the Edinburgh vernacular incomprehensible, so asked its British producers to dub parts of it.
  • “Dubbing, in general, is a regional thing,” says Jane Crowther, acting editor of Total Film. “”While we don’t have a history of it in the UK, other regions systematically dub English language films, television, and games into their native tongue, making celebrities of the voice actors who exclusively dub the stars and tweaking the material to reflect the sense of humor and culture of the country. It’s expected and accepted.”
  • Hollywood movies are dubbed for around 90 percent of non-English-language territories, according to Variety. It has put pressure on the thriving dubbing studios especially given blockbuster films are dubbed into more than 30 languages. In India alone, a film such as Spider-Man 3 can be dubbed into as many as four languages: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Bhojpuri. Constant production tweaks to movies and late shipping cause greater stress.
  • How much work is involved depends on the type of dub? “Some prefer voice-over dubbing instead of lip-syncing dubbing,” says Ken Lorber, CEO of dubbing studio The Kitchen. “This where the original dialogue is lowered but still maintained under the voiced-over dialogue. Others prefer a lector approach whereby a narrator describes what is being said in a story description, spoken over the original dialogue. This is common in Russia and some eastern European countries.”

How Is Dubbing Done In Brief?

  • Once you have opted to dub your video project in a different language from its original, selecting the right localization is key.
  • Typically a dubbing studio will view an entire film. A project manager will review the material, the translation department will find the best translator and the artistic director will be made responsible for the production process.
  • Once the script has been written – it is adapted and timed for the recording process – auditions are held for dubbing actors. Studios like The Kitchen uses technology to record each actor individually with the artists viewing the original video on screen and listening to the foreign dialogue via headphones (“Sometimes the dubbed lines need to be rewritten in order to achieve this in a session if the timing is off,” says voice actor Trish Basanyi).
  • The artists are able to see and hear the dialogue surrounding their segment in order to get into character and once the recordings have been made, they are sent to be lip-synced and reviewed. Care has to be taken to create the ambiances of the voice quality too, ensuring, for example, that a character in a gym sounds doesn’t sound as if he’s in a small office.
  • A professionally made dub is one that the intended audience does not notice. Anything less and the dub risks ruining the entire viewing.

The Syncing Nightmare in Film Dubbing

  • Studios have increasingly turned to technology. Media Movers and The Kitchen have software that can automatically sync dubbed tracks. “At best, dubbing is an imperfect art,” says Lorber. “Regardless of the efforts, transferring dialogue from one language to another will always yield lip-sync issues, as different languages require different lip movements to form each word. What is critical is that when an actor on screen begins to speak, the dubbed words begin to be spoken.”
    • Christoph Bregler, associate professor of Computer Science at New York University, has worked on a system called Video Rewrite which hopes to solve the lip-movement issues. It changes the on-screen lip and facial movements of actors depending on the dub. The original actor looks as if they are saying the dubbed version.
    • Human intervention is still vital. “Lip syncing is difficult and time-consuming,” says Nikolay Ivanov, CEO of Bulgaria-based Graffiti Studios. “There are software programs that semi-automate the process but the final touch is always human. A bad dub is able to ruin even the greatest content. Bad translation, bad casting, poor quality control – these all lead to a bad dub.

“Things are changing, though. Although offering both subtitling and dubbing is double expensive, modern technology is enabling that to become cheaper.” The message from the dubbers is clear, read our lips, we’re only getting better.

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