Professional Voice-Over Services Can Make or Break Your Movie

How many times have you seen a movie so awkwardly dubbed you laughed yourself to tears? B-movies that didn’t use professional voice-over services are a perennial treat for the multi-brow cinephile, and the lifeblood of midnight movie programming everywhere.

Naturally, you don’t want your film to become one. But did you ever think about why the voice-over process is so easy to mess up?

Voicing over is a complicated business. It requires all the skills of cultural translation plus acting, but even that is oversimplifying things.

Translators and actors work with editors and audio producers to make sure the pieces all blend seamlessly. It’s a tricky task to pull off, which is why it requires a team of people with specialized skill sets. And the success of your voice-over services could make or break your movie.

If you’ve decided to use professional voice-over services to translate your film, first you should find out your options.

Professional voice-over services break down into two major techniques:

1. Voice-Over Translation or UN-Style Voice-Over

UN-style is a branch of voice-over services similar to the experience of listening to a speech with a simultaneous interpreter. The editors leave the original audio track intact in the background, lowered about 20 percent. Then the translator speaks over the original voices.

Often there’s only one voice actor, who typically reads the translation in a less emotive fashion. The emotion and cadence of the original speaker still come through in the original audio track.

UN-style voice-over is a type of professional voice-over services typically reserved for newscasts, interviews and documentaries. It lends a sense of authority to the material, because it maintains the integrity and authenticity of the original content.

It also has lower costs and fewer people in the creative chain, making it faster and easier to produce. In some parts of the world, notably Russia and Eastern Europe, this kind of translation is used for major motion pictures as well.

2. Dubbing or Dub Localization

The dubbing process takes apart the audio track and replaces the screen personality’s voice with that of a voice actor. Audio technicians separate the speaking track from the other elements of the soundtrack (like any sound effects or music), so that they can weave the new voice track back in with them. The result is an integrated soundtrack with a completely new vocal personality speaking in the target language.

This is a trickier process than UN-style. As this branch of professional voice-over services usually applies to cinema and entertainment media, there are typically multiple voice actors–one for every character in the film. Sometimes one actor with a talent for range will supply the voices for multiple minor characters.

The process also necessitates the expertise of more editors and sound producers for the technical AV work. The new vocal track must synchronize closely to the original actor’s lips, although the importance of this is sometimes debated.

All of these elements make dubbing more expensive and time consuming than UN-style voice-over. But for most filmmakers, the emphasis on aesthetic detail makes it worthwhile.

Dub localization is the same process as dubbing, but also refers to localization as a natural part of the process of professional voice-over services.

Localization in Professional Voice-Over Services

It’s important to consider the degree to which you want to localize your film. Localization is naturally a part of the dubbing and voice-over processes, but it’s particularly prominent in dubbing.

Cultural cues and culture-specific terms, for example, won’t make sense in the target language, so the translator usually converts them into a cultural equivalent. But can localization go too far?

Japanese anime series, for example, have made wide use of dub localization over the years. In past decades, the dubbed versions of certain anime cartoons even featured flipped footage so cars appeared to be driving on the right side of the road, instead of the left as is normal in Japan. This may have made American audiences more comfortable in previous decades, but in a more connected world, such a gesture is overkill.

Is it necessary to use valley girl slang in an anime series like Sailor Moon, for example, instead of slang that adheres to a more Japanese flavor? More controversial is the censorship of references to homosexuality or gender-fluidity in the same series, which translators have sometimes written out so not to offend any delicate American sensibilities.

Taken far enough, you end up with a fully Americanized product that only resembles the original piece in its most general points.

The goal is to preserve your vision while delivering a product that is comprehensible to your target language audience. Your professional voice-over services team should include a translator who understands the degree to which you want to localize your film.

Getting the Results You Want

Your team should also include skilled editors, audio producers, and professional voice actors. Your professional voice-over services provider will handle the casting of clear, articulate voice actors who can match the emotional tone of your screen actors.

When all the pieces are in place, you can look forward to the delivery of a carefully dubbed piece of work that matches your original vision, and makes your film accessible to a new audience.

Using the most professional voice-over services means worldwide enjoyment of your movie grows–without it becoming fodder for midnight screenings!

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