The Art of Dubbing


The Art of Dubbing

We have entered the age of global video. As national video consumption barriers continue to erode, new approaches are necessary to optimize the user experience.

Enter video dubbing, a concept that has increased in some countries for decades but is just making its name in others. When done correctly, it is a perfect example of audio localization within individual videos. 

That means treating dubbed videos’ translation and recording as an art form. What is the rise of dubbing, and how can you leverage it?

Video Dubbing, Explained

At its core, video dubbing is simple. It consists of a three-step process:

  • The original audio in a video is translated into the target language.
  • Native speakers re-record the new audio in the target language.
  • The newly recorded audio is laid over the video track.

The intended result is that the audience in the target language can watch the video without having to read subtitles or understand the video’s original language. 

Most translation producers categorize dubbing into three categories. 

Lip-synced dubbing tries to match the mouth movements of the original language as closely as possible. 

Time-synced dubbing focuses on matching time stamps rather than mouth movements. 

Finally, wild (non-synced) dubbing focuses on the most accurate translation possible without too much worry about matching up.

The Rise of Dubbing in Recent Years

Especially in the film industry, dubbing has been around for decades. Countries like France, Italy, and Germany have a strong tradition of dubbing TV shows and movies before they are released in local media, from theaters to TV channels.

The global dubbing industry is increasing. It was valued at $2.4 billion in 2019 and is expected to surpass $3.6 billion by 2027. What’s more, that is only the film dubbing industry. That figure does not consider the increasing trend of commercial dubbing videos like advertisements.

In other words, the dubbing industry is growing rapidly. A close examination of why that is the case can help businesses create strategies that account for new and changing audience preferences in connection with more significant globalization trends.

Why Has Dubbing Increased in Importance?

The rise of dubbing connects directly with an increasingly globalized video economy. In particular, the rise of streaming companies like Netflix and Disney+ across the globe has made more international entertainment content available to global audiences than ever before.

Formerly exclusively American TV shows are now available in Europe, Russia, and Asia. Similarly, some of America’s most popular TV shows and movies, from Squid Game and Money Heist to Parasite, are produced in countries on the other side of the world. Produce good enough entertainment, and globalization can ensure a worldwide reach via streamlined channels.

It’s only natural, then, that audience preferences have shifted heavily toward dubbing

  • 86% of Russian TV watchers preferred dubbed over subtitled content.
  • In Germany, Spain, and Italy, the number approaches (and in some cases surpasses) 70%.
  • Countries like Japan, India, and Canada are more evenly divided but are moving toward dubbing.

In addition, dubbing has become a more central concern as audience preferences in content creation continue to shift. As one expert stated in a recent Slator DreamWorks panel on the art of dubbing, younger audiences prefer shorter content, which has a higher percentage of dialogue compared to its longer equivalents.

As a result, localization (typically in dubbing) becomes essential and significantly impacts the success or failure of the content in question. That is also why the concept is now central to the global aspirations of streaming giants like Netflix.

The Art of Dubbing – Nuances and Considerations

Of course, audiences only prefer dubbing if done right. A significant reason for many audiences’ hesitance to fully embrace can be traced back to bad experiences with the concept.

So, what makes dubbing great? Answering that question requires a deep dive into the art of dubbing.

Perhaps most importantly, great dubbing is (almost entirely invisible. It appears as the natural audio of a video in question rather than standing out as a distraction. That, in turn, means a few things:

  • The audio translation has to appear in the same, or at least close to the same, timeline as the original audio.
  • The actors have to be dubbed with voices that could reasonably substitute for their original voices.
  • The translation has to capture the exact text in question and account for the context in which viewers will consume that text. That might mean updating cultural references and slang to match the video content and the audience’s mindset.
  • The translation has to consider the non-textual clues a video might experience when watching the video. The soundtrack, b-roll footage, and more make up the experience of watching into which dubbing has to fit seamlessly.

In other words, dubbing can never be a simple word-for-word translation. Instead, it has to be a localized translation that accounts for all cultural backgrounds and references that might impact the viewer from their first watch. 

That, in turn, gets us back to the different types of dubbing explained in our definitional section of dubbing above. To truly make dubbing great (meaning invisible), strategic consideration of each type and which might make the most sense for each project becomes vital:

  • Lip-synced dubbing takes the most time and resources, as well as trained voice actors comfortable with changing their cadence and mouth movements as needed. It also requires experienced translators who can write scripts with the unique sounds of the words in each language in mind.
  • Time-synced dubbing is similar to its lip-syncing equivalent but focuses on an easier matching guidepost—the time it takes for each sentence and line to be spoken. Translation can be less nuanced, but one must remember that different languages may have shorter or longer words and sentences. 
  • Wild dubbing comes without constraints, but the level of immersion by your audience will also be the lowest. As such, it works best when limited to an off-screen narrator or in shorter videos where the audio is secondary to the words, images, and graphics on the screen.

Closely connected to this discussion is the rising availability of automated dubbing. It describes replacing an original audio voice with a synthetic translation in the target language, optimized via AI. While this type of technology focus comes with significant time and monetary savings, it is similar to other types of machine translation as being best used for functional means and wild dubbing.

Finding a Partner to Localize Written and Dubbed Content

Regardless of your industry, your international target audiences are beginning to expect increasing amounts of dubbed content. How you deliver that content can go a long way toward successfully getting your message across and building brand equity.

Getting there is a long process, but you do not have to go it alone. With a reliable localization partner by your side, the translations required for dubbing can match your exact needs and audience. Contact us at Vistatec to discuss your needs and how we can help you successfully expand your video content into new markets.