The importance of translating and localizing a script in a video dubbing process is often overlooked. This is very risky and dubbing suffers irreparably from lackluster language work.
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What is Video Dubbing?
Video dubbing is used to replace voices in a piece of content. Television shows and films often use dubbing to transform voices from a source language into a target language.
There is content that is seldom dubbed, even if there is a necessity to render the words from one language into another. Such is the case with documentaries, where original voices are preserved. Usually, they will either use subtitles or voice over translation.
Video Dubbing vs. Voice Over Translation
Video dubbing replaces original audio entirely. A script is translated and voice actors are cast, in an attempt to replace all original audio. The new voices are also synchronized to the actors on the screen, for a better viewing experience. Dubbing is quite complex and a considerable financial investment for content creators.
Voiceover translation, on the other hand, places dialogue on top of content and lets the original audio remain audible. It is a much easier process than dubbing. Naturally, such a translation may have different variations. The original audio may be left at a very quiet volume. Alternatively, the audio track may be set at a higher volume, so that it is still very audible.
Should I Use Video Dubbing, Subtitles or Voiceover Translation?
Deciding on the use of video dubbing or voiceover translation, or even subtitles will depend on several factors.
The first consideration is the issue of formality. How formal or informal must the finished product be? Does the audience expect fully translated and replaced dialogue (dubbing) or will they accept a fast translation on top (voiceover)?
Dubbing is a lot more expensive than voiceover translation. Does the project have the funds needed to invest in such a process? Or will the limited amount of funds make it necessary to simply use subtitles or voiceover translation? Would a good translator suffice to create great subtitles or provide a fast voiceover?
The Process of Video Dubbing
The process of video dubbing seems quite simple at first glance. It is important, however, to take enormous care throughout, lest it yields lackluster results.
Translating the Script
The first step in achieving great video dubbing is the proper translation. To achieve this, it is important to invest in an excellent translator.
Occasionally, there will be content which does not have a script. This is the case in documentaries, where it is necessary to translate interviews. In this case, it is necessary to transcribe these first and then translate. Sometimes the translator may be able to transcribe first and then translate. There will be other times, however, when a transcription service will have to be acquired independently.
The basic process of translating a script (or of transcribing and then translating the transcription) has some things to take into account.
The first conundrum that a translator must solve is whether to polish or not polish an original script or transcription.
Imagine the following situation: A translator receives a script for a movie. The idea is to translate this script and cast the parts to create a full video dubbing.
Now, consider the possibility that the script is in bad shape. Should the translator try to polish it, before setting out to translate? This is usually a bad idea. It is best to simply get on with the job of translating. A client will seldom ‘recognize’ themselves in a polished work, even if it is better!
Now then, what if there is a transcription? Should the translator attempt to polish this transcription before translating it? Could the translator organize it better, perhaps even edit its odds and ends? Again, this is not advisable. Even though transcriptions, by their very nature, reproduce the errors in diction of the people talking, they perhaps should not be ‘improved on’ by a translator. A translator’s job is to translate. Editing is not quite their responsibility, as necessary as such work may seem.
Precision vs. Aesthetics
The second great issue which confronts a translator working in video dubbing is the dualism between precision and aesthetics.
Precision in translation is essentially keeping the literal meaning of the original text. Aesthetics, on the other hand, is straying from such literal precision and towards a translation which preserves its intent but sounds/looks better.
Consider the following examples, from the film ‘Full Metal Jacket’. There are, evidently, two ways in which this film can be presented to Spanish-speaking audiences on television: (i) By creating subtitles only (ii) By creating a full video dubbing.
Either way, the challenge of translating the dialogue in the script is a monumental struggle between precision and aesthetics. Take this exchange, between ‘Animal Mother’ and ‘Joker’, when ‘Joker’ finally finds his friend ‘Cowboy’ and 1st Platoon. There is some initial tension between ‘Joker’ and ‘Animal Mother’:
(moves in close)
You talk the talk. Do you walk the walk?
The literal translation of this fragment into Spanish would be something like “Hablas lo que hablas, pero ¿caminas el camino?” Such a translation makes very little sense. It is too literal and in Spanish this expression is not well known, nor would its literal translation be comprehensible either. Literal precision is therefore uncalled for here.
The better alternative is to create a translation that strays from literal precision but strivers for a preservation of intent and more aesthetics. Animal Mother’s intent is clearly to issue a challenge to ‘Joker’; something along the lines of ‘can you back up what you are saying with force?’
A better translation could be something like “Hablas mucho. Pero, ¿sabes pelear?” This means “You talk a lot. But, can you fight?” This is an acceptable translation which, although not very literal, preserves the intent of the original phrase. It sounds better than attempting a word-for-word translation that may sound too clumsy.
Now then, does this example prove that we should stray completely from precision and create translations that only preserve intent? Not quite. The idea is always to strive for precision as much as possible. When such literal precision is simply not feasible, then we can think about creating a translation that is aesthetic, preserves meaning, but is not necessarily literally precise (like in the ‘Full Metal Jacket’ example above).
Translating Fast but Thoroughly
When creating a translation of a script to be used in video dubbing, the idea is to translate fast, but thoroughly. Very often, translators attempt to work extremely fast. This happens because clients demand it or because translators simply need to be profitable and take on a lot of projects.
The key, therefore, is to take the time necessary to translate and to compensate translators well. The script is the backbone of any film or piece of content. It stands to reason that the translation of a script is the most crucial moment in the process of video dubbing.
A translator must be sure to translate all the text and not forget sections due to a hasty translation. When the translation is done, it is time to run a spell-check and give the document a once-over proofread.
Localizing the Script
Localizing is making content fit the characteristics of a specific place. Evidently, this process requires, first, a great translation. Thereafter, it is a question of localizing such a translation to the characteristics of the specific market.
Imagine the previous example, regarding the ‘Full Metal Jacket’ script. We concluded that we had to stray from precision and towards a more aesthetic rendition that preserved intent. Such an approach would lead to a script that could be used for subtitles or for a full video dubbing with a cast of voice actors.
Now then, is this enough? Following the example about ‘Full Metal Jacket’, if we had a script translated from English into Spanish, would that be enough? Not necessarily, perhaps it is necessary to localize.
When it comes to subtitles, video dubbing, and localization, there is a divide between Spain and Latin America. In general, Spain will do their own thing and use ‘Spanish from Spain’, so to speak. Latin America, on the other hand, generally uses a ‘Neutral Mexican Spanish’ to subtitle and create video dubbing. ‘Neutral Mexican Spanish’ is a good solution for the issue of localization in Latin America. There is such a large amount of countries, each with their own accent and particular jargon/slang that ‘Neutral Mexican Spanish’ is an adequate, perhaps inevitable, go-to.
The Gist of It: Getting it Done
Now then, we have translated and localized the script/transcriptions. Now it is necessary to cast the voice roles and get it done. An excellent alternative nowadays is to acquire an all-in provider who can take care of this completely.
There are two crucial aspects when it comes down to achieving first-rate video dubbing. First, it is important that we find a provider able to handle all the odds and ends and deliver finished, produced, content. Secondly, this provider must be flexible and have robust customer service, really trying to please their clients.
Bunny Studio, for instance, is able to create large-scale video dubbing projects from start to finish. This means that there is a vetted roster of transcribers and translators able to tackle a script. Thereafter, there is also a plentiful amount of voice talent able to handle the job. Moreover, it is an all-included provider, able to stay in touch with a client and create ready-to-use content.