How Does Movie Dubbing Work? A Step-by-Step Guide

For all those interested or involved in the movie-making business, from filmmakers to cinephiles, actors and performers, dubbing is an interesting process that can be simply understood and yet requires a lot of considerations.dubbing-vs-subtitling-infographic

Dubbing is the procedure by which foreign-language films can be translated into the audience´s language. A translated dialogue is added to the original movie and, through editing, this translation is carefully matched to the timing and lip movements of the cast in the movie. 

Now, hold it there. I can imagine some of the questions you may have. How is this any different form voiceover? How is it done? In filmmaking, what are the implications and components of an efficient dubbing process?

In this article, we´ll take you through the different steps that should be followed in movie dubbing and the aspects that make it a different tool that voiceover. 

So, three, two, one, Action!

Why dub at all?

Many people think that “subtitles will do” and that may be true. But a huge part of today´s audience prefers listening to their own language when they go to see a movie. Whether it is because they don´t like to read subtitles and get distracted from the performances or because the dialogue in the foreign language is confusing, it´s important to acknowledge the public´s demand in this matter. 

On the other hand, dubbing is also useful to improve the sound quality of the movie. Some choose to dub in the original language of the film during post-production stages to make sure that any pronunciation mistake is corrected and that actors can be heard loud and clear.

The greater impact the movie generates, the wider the audience spectrum gets. Some movies are dubbed into French, Spanish (the Spain version and a second one for Latin America) and German where entertainment and movie business are quite expanded. It´s essential to prepare for how diverse be may the public. 

And, of course, the kids. Try to remember that age where reading during a movie sounded difficult and boring. This explains the tendency in animated movies to use dubbing a lot more than live-action films. Children are generally uninterested in reading during movies, and translating the dialogues and jokes would definitely make it a lot more accessible for them to enjoy. 

No Oscars experience

Ok, for those who come from a non-English-speaking country, watching the Academy Awards with voiceover is generally a relatable episode. And it helps to enlighten the essential difference between dubbing and voiceover. 

You may have also heard the use of voiceover in the news, documentary clips or…The Lord of the Rings, when Smeagol talks to himself in his thoughts. They use it to display a character´s internal dialogue to the audience, but it also applies to report a story where some of the people involved speak in a different language.

Voiceover can be used to translate instantly what´s being said into a different language with the original voice sounding low. That´s why the voiceover sounds in advance by a couple of seconds to the actual dialogue. And this is the main difference with dubbing: it doesn´t go unnoticed. Since voiceover has an immediate translation propose, you can hear the original dialogue, whereas dubbing has to replace the original sound of the words. 

To dub a movie you´ll need the voice of other actors who speak a foreign language and an audio-editing procedure on the original footage to include the alternate language recordings of the script. It´s not only a translation but an adaptation of the movie content to an entirely different tongue. Here, tone and emotion take place as critical factors. “VO” is, instead, an additional sound to the original. They use it for shorter segments, like conferences or, even, awards. 

When dubbing you should start by…

Team up

First, you need to be aware that dubbing is a many-sided process that requires the expertise of different kinds of experts. The collaboration of several filmmaking professionals is indispensable- You´ll need dubbing specialists and actors with an understanding of the nuances of dubbing performance. 

This group can help to ensure a valuable work. From translators to voice-over actors or foreign performers and specialists on sound engineering, everyone works on the process. Remember to verify the actors’ voices, age, and tone so that it fits with the original character. 

Script and timing 

We are talking about a whole new book here. Since dubbing is about recreating a dialogue for a film in the native language of a targeted audience, the entire script must be translated. 

The tricky part will be to adequate it to the original timing of the movie. The translated dialogue needs to sync-up with the time given to pronounce each line. It has to match up not only replicating the sense of the phrases but its duration. Fun side? Some expressions that only require four words in one language may need seven words in another. And maybe, you don´t count with the time to add three words. This is the art of dubbing without sacrificing the original writing. 


How to find the right person? Something many don´t know is that there are performers who actually specialize in dubbing. A couple of elements to consider are voice sound and lip movement.

The point is that the actor mirrors the tone and the inflection used by the performer of the movie. A competent dub is unnoticeable to the viewer. So, for instance, if the original actor is opening his mouth, the sound shouldn´t be that of a consonant such as “M” or “B” where the dubbing will differ notably from the authentic acting. Even if it´s not possible to equal the original motion, it would help the dubbing talent to watch the unedited movie.


Even if it´s not all about the right spot, it´s not a minor detail. Filmmakers with background on dubbing sometimes have their own recording studio in their homes. This might not be the case of most. That is why it´s necessary to book an equipped space for dubbing, like a professional studio. 

Ever heard of recording technics for dubbing? There are two main styles. The standard method implicates the out-loud reading of the script by the actors as they watch the original footage. There will be three beeps and they say their lines at the forth imaginary beep. They repeat the procedure before each line of dialogue. 

The alternative scheme is “rythmo band”. They mainly use it in Canada and France. The actors read the lines of dialogue at the bottom of the screen while the movie plays.  These  lines show exactly how the new words should be filled in during the original character´s acting and mouth movements. This method helps to achieve a greater synchronization with the character´s lips.  

Editing- M&E

The last step is to converge the new dialogue tracks and recordings with the original movie sound. Sound editing work well to layer the dialogue correctly. 

Commonly, the studio dismantles the original voices form the main soundtrack of the movie and creates an M&E (music and effects track). Once the voices in the foreign language are recorded, editors fix the dubbed dialogue in the right places of the M&E so that the blend sounds fluid.  

It sounds like a lot to take in but if you are looking for a trustworthy movie dubbing agency you´re on luck! We offer an excellent dubbing service that will help following the right steps to an impeccable work. 

Ten articles before and after

Multilingual Voice Commands – Their Uses and Benefits

How to Become a Dubbing / Voice Over Specialist

How Does Voice-Over Work in Movies?

Hire a Pro Commercial Voice-Over Artist for Your Next Commercial

Why Hire Female Voice Actor Over Male Voice Actor

How to Become a Commercials Voice-Over Artist for advertising

Guide to Recording Effective Voice Over Scripts

Warm farewell to legendary voice actor Pepe Mediavilla

Great Debate: Is It Better To Watch Anime Dubbed or Subbed?

Why Voice-Overs Are Essential For Your Video Communications