One of the questions clients frequently ask about voice dubbing (also known as “lip sync” recording) is: how well will it turn out? There is not always a clear answer readily available, but there are certain factors that all have an influence on the successful outcome of a voice dubbing project.  What can be said in general is that the more time you budget for recording, the better the final product will be.  And incremental improvements to voice dubbing recordings are always possible.

But there are a few very tangible basics:

  • It all starts with the translation.  If the translation is not done with great care to make sure the words “fit” into the on-screen actor’s mouth, then even the best actor and recording engineer will not be able to produce any voice dubbing that is much better than what you’d see in a bad B-grade movie.  This text prep includes not just matching word counts and identifying where there are pauses, hesitations, etc. within each sentence, but counting syllables within each sentence fragment and translating accordingly.  This translation work is tedious, and time consuming, but absolutely essential to make your voice dubbing project a success.  And it goes without saying that it takes a translator with experience.
  • Translators must have the video while they are working so they can read their translations out loud to get a sense of the  sync-to-picture.
  • Certain words come with very obvious mouth movements, think O, P, M, U.  In these cases translators will want to choose words that with start with those letters or words that will “look the same” when married to the video.
  • Many times a voice dubbing translation may look odd on paper or read awkwardly.  Remember that this may be necessary to provide good sync-to-picture, and that the final result is what really matters. Dubbing translations cater to the eye as much as they do to the ear.
  • When it comes to the actual voice dubbing recording, the voice talent will be watching the picture to which they are recording, listening to the spoken English source text in one ear, and themselves in the other ear of the headset.  And of course, they’ll have to keep an eye on the script as well—which makes for a pretty tall order of multitasking.  But the essential part of the activity is to not just read the textthe script needs to be brought to life.  Gestures, expressions, subtle inflections, the projection and sound levels of the voice dubbing must all match the action of the onscreen speaker.  Acting is an essential part of voice dubbing and it takes special talent to become a skilled voice actor.
  • With all the care and effort that is invested in preparing a well-timed script, the talent and a dialog coach must have the flexibility to make adaptations to the script at the time of the recording.  Being able to nip or tuck in an extra syllable or two here and there can make all the difference between a voice dubbing project that looks convincing or not.

In our experience, languages that share common linguistic roots with English usually work quite well and produce voice dubbing projects that can look as good as the original language.  Spanish and French offer the benefit of many words that are nearly the same, as they are derived from Latin, for example, organization, substitution, objective, culture, etc.  Because of their vastly different sentences structures, German and Japanese pose special problems.  Russian with its extremely long words is always a mouthful and difficult.

But sometimes languages that have nothing in common can be very compatible.  For example, Mandarin Chinese is a highly compact language and “fits” to the rhythm and prosody of English exceptionally well, even though the sentence structure is vastly different from English.  But the fact of the matter is that Chinese voice dubbing projects often produce the best results of all languages.

Check out our high quality voice dubbing samples.

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