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PALEX - Voice-Over Translation or Dubbing: Which Should You Choose?

Anna Zhuk

Chief Marketing Officer
February.7, 2022

Voice-Over Translation or Dubbing: Which Should You Choose?

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    There’s a lot to consider when producing video content. When and how will your video be used? What kind of audience is it intended for? What are the most suitable distribution channels? The list goes on and on.

    Moreover, when you deal with the international market, you’ll face the need for localization of your video content. There are two common localization techniques: voice-over and dubbing. Which should you choose? To help you make the right choice, we’ve compiled the key issues that you should consider. In this article, you’ll learn:

    • what voice-over and dubbing are and when you should apply them;
    • the specifics of dubbing and voice-over for content localization;
    • what influences the cost of dubbing and voice-over services.

    TABLE OF CONTENT

    (click to show)
    1. Differences between Dubbing and Voice-Over Translation
      1. Voice-over
      2. Dubbing
    2. Voice-Over and Dubbing for Content Localization
      1. Voice-Over Translation Types
      2. Dubbing Types
      3. Voice-Over Translation / Dubbing Process
      4. Voice-Over and Dubbing Rates
    3. Drawing the Line

    Differences between Dubbing and Voice-Over Translation

    Voice-over

    • Because the UN-style voice-over entails playing two audios at the same time, it works best with brief information chunks. If it continues on, the audience may become confused or even distracted


    Use when:
    you want to directly translate information for a new audience. These can be documentaries, news programs, training materials, and other situations where the original background voice should be heard. Here, the focus is on information, rather than the tone, emotional content or nuance of delivery.

    Pros:
    • Cost-effective

    UN-style voice-over is quicker to produce since it requires fewer voice performers and doesn’t require complete lip-sync. Typically, one female and one male talent are sufficient to read a screenplay, but this doesn’t imply that the process is simple to perform. Vocal actors must still maintain the original audio’s speed and voice quality.

    Voice-over

    The technique of recording material over the original audio track but at a different volume level is known as a voice-over. Although the voice-over actor’s voice is audible, you can still hear the original audio in the background. When using a voice-over you don’t need to do lip-sync. Compared to dubbing, voice-overs are more narrative. They convey the essence of the audio without being translated word-for-word. This technique is often called UN-style, after the United Nations.

    Dubbing

    Dubbing is the process of replacing original audio with a version in a target language rendition. Also known as Language Replacement, dubbing gives the impression that the actors are speaking the viewers’ native tongue. This entails one or more voice actors imitating the original actor’s tone, emotion, and nuances, including laughter, sobbing, and a whole spectrum of expressions.

    Pros:

    • More accurate translation

    Dubbing can aid in the translation of complicated messages and conversations that voice-over may be unable to convey.

    • Engaging experience

    Dubbing allows transforming original content into authentic versions that connect with the target culture. Voice actors convey emotions through sighs, chuckles, and grunts, providing the viewer with the experience intended by the video.

    Cons:

    • Entails a bigger budget

    Dubbing is more expensive than voice-over since it is a time-consuming process. This is a fairly unique technique since it often needs lip-syncing in a language where the same meaning may be expressed with more or fewer words. Voice actors need to have advanced observation skills to match not just the acting, emotion, and intonation, but also the movement of the lips, which is especially important for close-up shots. The voice actor and sound engineer in charge of the dubbing project must be extremely talented.

    Use when: you wish to portray the original speaker’s purpose or nuance of emotion, or when you want to hide the fact that the information has been translated. Information presented in this manner is frequently easier to remember, and the message is often richer and more natural to a local audience. Additionally, it’s a lot more entertaining.

    Voice-Over and Dubbing for Content Localization

    Let’s have a look at voice-over translation and dubbing types, as well as the specifics of these processes.

    Voice-Over Translation Types

    UN-style voice-over

    We’ve mentioned this type earlier as it is a more common type of voice-over. Mostly, when we speak about voice-overs, we mean UN-style voice-overs. When listening to a UN-style voice-over, you can frequently hear the original audio recording in the background at a reduced volume.

    Off-camera voice-over

    However, we can distinguish one more type of voice-overs, and that is off-camera voice-over. It can be used when the original speaker cannot be seen on screen. The original audio track is frequently erased.

    Dubbing Types

    Dubbing generally comes in one of two varieties:

    “Language replacement” or “voice replacement”

    The original audio performance is replaced with a new one in the target language. However, there will be no or very little effort made to connect the new audio to the performers’ on-screen lip movements. As a result, this method is frequently referred to as “language replacement” or “false lip-sync.”

    “Lip-syncing” or “lip-sync dubbing”

    Lip-sync dubbing matches as closely as possible the original on-screen performers’ lip movements to the words of the new audio performance.

    The quality of the original script translation is the most crucial component in making effective lip-synced audio content. A careful selection of words and phrases that communicate the same concept as the original conversation is required. Those words, on the other hand, must involve the same lip movement as the original performance, but in a different language. If you want the ultimate result to be a natural and engaging audiovisual experience, this will require much skill and effort.

    Voice-Over Translation / Dubbing Process

    Voice-over translation and dubbing processes are quite similar. Let’s explore how they typically happen step-by-step.

    Writing a Script

    When the requirements for translation are clarified, the necessary materials are gathered and a suitable team is assembled—it’s time to tackle script translation. The challenge of translating scripts for voice-over lies in ensuring that the translated text matches the length of the original version as closely as possible. This is needed to achieve accurate synchronization of the recorded voice with the visual. Thus, the translator adjusts the text in such a way so that the voice-over talent can read it at a natural tempo while staying within the time limits imposed by the video’s duration.

    When it comes to dubbing, the process of writing a script is even more challenging. In addition to conveying the meaning of words precisely, a translator also has to make them match the original language in terms of time and sync. To express the same unit of meaning, you may need three words in one language and one word in another. To create a dub that matches perfectly the original dialogue, one has to create time-codes from the beginning statement of dialogues to the end of the statement. This is why you need professionals to guarantee a quality result.

    Quality Assurance

    Next, specialists handle proofreading, as well as Language Quality Assurance (LQA), The text files are provided to the customer for approval before moving on to recording.

    Choosing Voice Talent

    A voice-over artist will actually become the voice of your company. The correct tone of voice may help form a genuine, long-lasting emotional bond between your business and clients. When you use the wrong voice, you risk alienating your potential buyer and creating unfavorable feelings about your product. That’s why hiring the correct voice-over talent is so important and can be considered a separate step.

    As for dubbing, a voice-over talent must have even more advanced skills and be able to keep time, have a voice that matches that of the original actor’s and be able to convey the emotions and tone conveyed by the original cast.

    Recording

    So far, it’s clear that each phase of the voice-over and dubbing process needs a specific amount of professional knowledge to ensure that the translated content is flawless. At this step, it’s essential to choose the right equipment to handle all of the client’s dubbing needs. Using a professional studio is usually a good idea.

    Mixing

    When the recording is done, the sound engineers of the dubbing agency step in. They mix the recorded audio so that it fits seamlessly with the content. The less apparent, the better.

    As for dubbing, it often takes even more effort and skills to mix dubbed content to achieve the realism of the original version. To do their work, they need audio production, engineering, editing and sound design skills and knowledge of DAWs (digital audio workstations).

    After everything is set and done, there it is—professionally translated content!

    Voice-Over and Dubbing Rates

    Now that you know what voice-over and dubbing translation is, let’s explore how the budget for this kind of service is set. Below we’ll go through factors that influence the price of voice-over and dubbing services.

    The Purpose of the Content

    In terms of this issue, you need to define what the audio will be used for. Typically, audio and video content is created for the purpose of education, information, entertainment, advertising, and sales promotion. In addition, it’s necessary to define the target audience and content distribution channels. The answers to these questions will provide an initial understanding of the price.

    When dubbing educational content (e-learning) and informational (IVR, on-hold messages, explainers, audiobooks, audio tours) premiums to the base rate are usually not applied. However, the creation of commercial and entertainment content, as well as sponsored informational videos (including socially oriented, public service announcements) usually entails additional costs that are paid to the voice talent.

    For commercial and entertainment content, audience reach is crucial. The greater the reach of the potential audience, the higher the usage fee that an actor may require.

    Studio Type: Home or Professional

    Some content, such as audiobooks, can be recorded in a home studio, but most often, you need to rent a professional recording studio.

    Recording can be carried out remotely through special ISDN channels, Source-Connect, which allows managing the session and recording directly to the “customer’s” recorder in real-time. However, the use of such channels also adds up to the price of services, which must be taken into account.

    Requirements for Actors

    Some service provider clients want to involve a famous person whose voice would add value to the product. Naturally, the services of professional and popular announcers and celebrities are more expensive. Most of these actors are members of guilds and have some obligations with trade unions that regulate voice rates.

    In addition, when dealing with vocal language, you should consider accents. For example, if the customer needs a German speaker, they’re talking about a speaker with a northern accent. In this case, the natives of the southern regions of Germany and the Swiss Germans might not fit.

    Thus, specific requirements (for accent, acting, demographic, etc.) make it more difficult to hire a voice actor. For example, actors of the same timbre as celebrities, or capable of plausibly and authentically imitating foreign accents, or having a unique vocal signature add to the total project price.

    Number of Actors

    If the script implies more than one character and you need several actors, this influences the cost of voice acting. Most likely, each actor will be recorded in a separate session and in different studios. Regardless of the length of the video, the actors charge a minimum voice actor fee exceeding the cost per minute of the base price list. To save the budget, voice acting for several characters can be done by one actor.

    Script

    The degree of script readiness also affects the cost. Does the client have a script or does the service provider need to create it from scratch (transcribed with audio or video)? Or will the service provider translate the existing source? Has the script been linguistically tested? Has a pronunciation guide and specific directions been provided? Is the script adjusted to make it easier for the actor to read and save time for studio rent and engineering work? Do you need to stack the text after translation so that the speech doesn’t go over the limits of the timeframe? Does the text sound natural? Script creation and optimization is a service where the standard translation rate may not cover the entire volume of work.

    Pick-up is an unforeseen additional cost due to the re-recording of the track. This relates to the client’s preferences (for example, for the text to be pronounced differently) and the flaws of the process that require adjustments to the recording.

    It is important to clearly agree with both the contractor and the customer about the number of free pick-ups and the cost of paid ones. If the script was not supplied with the pronunciation guide and your audit of the track stretched out in time, then voice actors won’t likely fix the jambs for free. Each additional recorded piece (take) can result in a minimum fee plus additional studio rent (unless the actor is recorded at home). Therefore, it is very important to organize competent and efficient supervision of both the session itself and QA.

    The number of tracks, the abundance of dialogues, the presence of music, and special effects that need to be mixed at the post-production stage directly increase the labor costs of sound engineers.

    Raw VO (unedited audio) requires minimal engineering (mainly work related to recording and exporting files, renaming them according to the specification). However, VO studios rarely deliver raw audio. Most often the price includes minimal editing: cleaning the file from noise, removing unnecessary pieces, cutting and renaming files. Thus, it’s hardly possible to save significantly by ordering raw format.

    High-quality formats (for example, Dolby) also require more time than a standard radio clip or audiobook. In addition, working with some formats requires a separate license from both the engineer and the studio, which affects the cost.

    Audio Specifications and Engineering Scope

    Track production directly determines the price of the entire voice-over or dubbing service. Track production cost consists of the cost of the actor’s services, studio rent, engineering hours for editing & post-production.

    Time-synchronized voice acting (STC) or dubbing (lip-sync) even with an experienced announcer will take much more studio time than unlimited voice-over translation (Wild VO). A professional actor is capable of reciting 1800-3000 words per hour at a natural unlimited speed. If it is necessary to synchronize with the video sequence, this speed is reduced to 300-1200 words per hour.

    Naturally, lip-to-lip sync is the most expensive of the services (it takes 4-6 times longer than voice-over). In some cases, to save the budget, you can replace it with phrase-sync— the voice to the length of the phrase.

    Audio Duration and Need for Synchronization Demo

    Some clients are not satisfied with free samples from the existing library of voices, and they want to record a demo of their script. In this case, it is necessary to agree on the conditions under which such casting will be carried out both with the client and with the candidates for voice acting.

    Drawing the Line

    Voice-over and dubbing are powerful tools that can unleash the potential of your media content such as audio, video, e-learning and interactive materials, and others for the entire world to see and hear.

    Being a leading multilingual voice-over and dubbing service provider, we understand the value of engaging content. Among our clients are major global corporations involved in e-learning.. Our ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 17100:2015 certificates provide objective assurance of the quality of our services.

    We’d be glad to help you choose the necessary services and constitute the workflow according to your needs and requirements. If you have any questions, contact us at sales@palexgroup.com.

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