Tips for Offering Video & Film Translation Using Dubbing or Subtitles


With translation, your films and videos, or those of your clients, can reach an international audience using dubbing or subtitles. For some of you out there in the ProductionHUB world, adding translation services can mean another stream of income. It also means that you can become a one-stop shop. 

The video and film translation process is fairly straight forward if it’s done correctly. Today’s viewers won’t accept a poorly done translation. Bad translation is the stuff of comedy sketches! But professionally translated videos are easily accepted by viewers. I’ll go over the optimal translation process, and I’ll include information on what to avoid as well. 

Personally, I’ve been working with video translation for over 25 years. I started back when I began as a Producer/Director/Editor for Burger King World Headquarters. I had to oversee the translation of each video I produced so that it could be distributed worldwide. I learned the ins and outs over time.  

With my own Miami video production company, Ball Media Innovations, we’ve offered film and video translation since I started the company in 2002. In recent years, I’d say that I’ve seen an increasing trend towards international distribution of video and film. We work with a variety of production companies around the country, so this includes everything from business and medical videos to animated kids shows, TV shows and films. 

The following is what you’ll need to know to offer quality film and video translation services. In part 1 we’ll cover the methods of translation and their pros and cons. In part 2 we’ll discuss the actual steps you’ll need to take. As I cover the process, it will be important to decide which parts of the process you should handle yourself, and which parts you should subcontract. Outsourcing some or all of the process is a viable option. You’ll be able to mark up your costs, and still come out with a profit. 

First, let’s discuss the two main methods of video and film translation. 

Dubbing vs. Subtitling

Dubbing is the process of replacing the original voices in the video/film with those of another language. Subtitling shows the translation with words on the screen. Of course, dubbing involves a lot more costs, equipment and people than subtitling. 

Subtitling involves the following steps: 

  • Transcription (you’ll need an exact script of what is being said)
  • Translation
  • Approval of the translation
  • Create and time the subtitles
  • Burn them to the video

Here are the advantages of subtitles:

  • Subtitles are the least expensive method of translation.
  • When they’re done right, they’re easily read.
  • They make it possible to follow the story even with the volume off.

Disadvantages of subtitles: 

  • Depending on the script, they may have to run quickly. Keep in mind that the standard of subtitling on the screen is 2 lines of text and around 40 characters per subtitle.
  • For some topics, it can be difficult to read and watch the on-screen action at the same time. This is especially true for technical topics or educational videos. 
  • They can block graphics, words on the screen or images. Remember that subtitles must be title safe. Also, they’re usually placed in one location on the screen throughout the show. This can block visuals.  

 

For more information on this subject, read Should I Use Subtitles for My Video or Film Translation? 

Dubbing is more complicated. 

In fact, you’ll want to be familiar with two styles:   

They’re quite different. With UN-style the video will begin with the person or people speaking at full volume in the original language. From there, the audio fades to a lower level, and the translated voice(s) is brought in at full volume. 

What are the pros of UN-style dubbing?  

  • The viewer gets to hear the voice and emotion of those on-screen. These can be important cues for interpreting what’s going on.  
  • This can be far less expensive than lip-syncing and the production process does not take as long.  
  • Often, the video can be dubbed with a single voice for the entire project. 
  • The viewer can still hear any background sounds. 
  • Precise timing is not required with UN-style dubbing. Think of a live interpreter. They listen and then interpret. This has a similar feel, so perfection with timing is not required.

 Cons for UN-style dubbing:

  • Some people find UN-style dubbing to be confusing. There can be a variety of sounds all at once. This is especially true when there are multiple voices, a lot of background sounds, music and sound effects.  
  • There is more work involved in this process than subtitling.
  • It’s more expensive than subtitling. 

Advantages of lip-sync dubbing: 

This is considered the gold standard of translation. Lip-syncing is the art of re-voicing. The goal is to match the voices as exactly as possible with the mouth movements of those on-screen. Lip-Synching is especially desirable when there’s interaction between actors on the screen. 

Here are the advantages: 

  • Lip-syncing helps retain realism compared to subtitles. As long as they’re done well, they can seem rather natural. 
  • Lip-syncing is far less distracting than subtitles. Rather than watching the words on the screen, the viewer can watch the action. 
  • The lip-synced voices can be mixed with your M/E track. This means that it can sound like the original soundtrack.

Cons for lip-synching:

  • $$$. Compared to subtitles, lip-synching is a lot more expensive. 
  • The process is much more complex than using subtitles.  

For a more in-depth look at this, read “Is Dubbing the Best Option For My Video?”.

Dubbing steps for both lip-synching and UN-style: 

  • Transcription (you’ll need an exact script of what is being said)
  • Translation (Adaptation is a part of this, and we’ll discuss this below)
  • Approval of the translation
  • Recording the voices. This requires a studio, studio engineers, technicians, editors, audio mixing, voice talent. 

Have any questions? Feel free to email me directly at gregball@ballmediainnovations.com. As I said, I’ve been involved with video translation for over 25 years. I and my translation team work with production companies and television networks throughout the USA and the world.



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