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Dubbing: how to create a real foreign language masterpiece

Dubbing: Two voice actors busy dubbing

When it comes to great foreign language dubbing, voice synchronization and excellent script translation are essential elements. If you’re new to the term, dubbing is when voice actors record translated dialogue that replaces that of the original film or video. That way, viewers constituting the target market in another country are addressed in their native language. That’s why video-on-demand services like Netflix have lept to the top of the list of localized content providers. So, in this post, we’ll take a closer look at the dubbing industry to find out how you can utilize this feature to achieve a successful dub of your own video marketing material. For many businesses, dubbing is the way to go, because it’s all about localization.

Dubbing: image of a voice actor performing in the studio
Image: Envato

Why is dubbing the most popular choice?

As practice, dubbing is hardly a newcomer to the audiovisual industry. In fact. it’s been popular since the 1960’s – although with varying degrees of success. A quick YouTube search for the ‘worst dubbing ever’ will provide you with some hilarious results! When done correctly, however, dubbing keeps the viewing experience truly engaging for foreign viewers. Dubbing has even become an integral part of the American entertainment experience. Hit shows like Money Heist and Squid Games are fitting examples. Netflix has also reported that its dubbed content is available in over 30 languages. This means various blockbusters have been dubbed into the world’s major languages. In fact, dubbing has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years and, by implication, so has the voice acting industry. 

Many streaming platforms today focus on making dubbing sound much more natural and less dubby than our wonderful example above. Since the voices behind the on-screen faces are what bring the dubbed version to life, there is also a vast amount of voice over talent available in the industry than ever before. These are the voices that turn dubbed content into their own unique and separate product after release.  

What can dubbing offer an audience? 

With dubbed versions, the relevance of particular sentences and ideas are taken into consideration based on the locale. This means a person can better relate to and understand content like jokes, puns, and phrases that might not have made sense in a different language. A well-dubbed version is also not as obviously noticeable to viewers. Not unless the viewer pays special attention to lip-reading. The aim of native dubbing is to create an illusion for viewers. So what important details enhance this illusion? 

Dubbing: image of a mixing desk
Image: Envato

1. The script and timing go hand in hand. 

Dubbing must first regenerate and localize dialogue in the region’s native language. Unfortunately, this step is not as easy as it sounds. Why is that? Well, timing is the foundation of dubbing. Localizing the dialogue is one thing but, it should also sync up with the original language and match the dialogue in timing. The complication comes in the form of language structure. 

This was evident in the English dub for the Netflix show, All of Us Are Dead. There was one line in particular that had the director Kyung Sok Kim stumped. “Let’s eat, take a bath, and then we can talk.” Kim believed the word bath didn’t really match the original Korean word which technically translated to sauna. So, bath was eventually replaced with spa which matched the meaning and timing of the sentence in a much smoother way. The fact that the show reached the top ten list in the U.S, as well as eighty-nine other countries means that its dubbing effect did resonate with a global audience. 

So, ultimately what could be said in just a few words in one language might need an entire paragraph in another language. That’s why translated dialogue must also fit into the timeframe of the original dialogue. This will ensure that it is spoken in the manner and structure of the original language. It’s also vital because the timing must match the same context of the great storytelling in the original version. 

Dubbing: image of a voice actor dubbing dialogue
Image: Envato

2. Choose the voice talent that best suits the role

Finding the right voice over talent is a key ingredient to launching a successful dub. Luckily the industry is littered with a number of professional voice actors that specialize in dubbing for specific markets. So, the voice actor you eventually settle on should be able to follow the timing requirements of the project. 

Another important factor to consider is how the potential voice actor can mirror the voice of the on-screen actor. These include vital aspects like voice mannerism, tone, emotion, and yes, even body language and facial expressions. 

Body language is an important element of voice acting and this is even more so when it comes to dubbing. This is because both elements work together to create a stellar project. Although the voice actor is not the actor on the screen their voice is really what becomes the representation of the on-screen character. 

A good example of this is Jean-Pierre Michael. The French voice actor that’s known as the voice of Brad Pitt. His voice resonates so well with viewers in France that they won’t accept a replacement voice for Brad Pitt.  

Final thoughts on dubbing 

Dubbing is a great option to reach a global audience. That’s because the power of voice acting can enhance any dubbed project regardless of language. So, using the best voice for your dubbing projects is a decision you won’t regret. We wish you all the success in the world with your dubbing projects. And as a final note, if you’re on the prowl for your next dub, be sure to choose from among the list of impressive voice actors available to you on Voice123!


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