Subtitles or voice-overs: everything you need to know

Best Practices

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Subtitling and dubbing options can differ per country, content and budget. Subtitles are not always available in all languages. Content creators, studios and distributors therefore don’t reach the potential of their audience. But why?

Is it because dubbing is more expensive than subtitling for movies, TV series and games? 

Meanwhile, subtitling mistakes in games and TV content can be embarrassing and take away from the viewer’s overall experience.

Should you use subtitles or a voice-over for your video content? Here's everything you need to know.


Subtitles have made content available all over the world, from sitcoms to blockbuster movies, and from your daily streaming service to that short Hungarian YouTube video. Netflix is available in 20 languages and subtitling farms are working around the clock to pump out subtitles for enormous catalogues of content. But why use subtitles?


8 reasons to choose subtitles over dubbing

Dubbing is generally more expensive than subtitling. Whether or not you hire multiple voice actors for different characters, there are 2 kinds of dubbing: phrase sync dubbing (less expensive) and lip sync dubbing (time consuming and more expensive) A small country cannot afford to have dubbing studios for their relatively smaller audiences.
  1. With dubbing, the original voice gets lost.
  2. Voice actors do good impersonations but are never as good as the original.
  3. The lip movements aren’t in sync with the sound, which may look unnatural and can break the viewer’s immersion in the video.
  4. Cheap dubbing means many characters have the same voice actor, which is distracting.
  5. Dubbing music songs must be done very well or not at all (Disney does this well, every country has its own version of “Let it go” or “Under the sea”).
  6. The script is often written for a certain actor or actress with a specific voice. The voice actor often doesn’t have the same qualities.
  7. If you want to learn the language of the content you’re watching, dubbing doesn’t allow that.
  8. If you want to know what the actors are really saying, dubbing prevents that.

But dubbing is not all bad!

 

6 benefits of voice-over or dubbing over subtitling 

  1. A voice can have great impact by adding emotions 
  2. A voice reaches people who cannot read 
  3. A voice is available while looking away 
  4. A voice is available while the video screen is too far to read subtitles 
  5. A voice is available when you left your glasses in your purse 
  6. A voice is available for blind and vision impaired people 

Talk to a subtitling professional today! Contact us

 

Who uses dubbing in Europe? 

Dubbing is very popular in Europe. But subtitles are more accessible, easier, cheaper, and more suitable for adapting content in multiple languages at the same time. 

Contrary to what you might think, subtitles are very common in the United States. Closed Captions (or CC) are used everywhere because in every corner store, café, or coffee house there is a TV playing with the sound off or very low. These subtitles are often suitable for the hearing impaired, displaying things like [sigh], [applause] or, more famously: [cries in Spanish]. 

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Why are subtitles often bad/How do I get cheap subtitles? 

Get your intern to do it! Or even better, get them for free! As promised, we’ll explain how. You can do it with YouTube. 

Upload your video. YouTube can detect voice and turn it into subtitles for you. All you have to do is download it, put it in Google Translate and you have your free translation! 

However, we don’t recommend this, because expressions don’t translate well when translated literally. When “a woman goes into labor on a plane” the translation will result in things like “a woman goes into work on a plane” for example. On top of that, the speech-to-text algorithm is good, but not watertight.  

We recommend taking one of these 2 paths: 

Option 1

Option 2

  1. Create the transcript 
  2. Check for correctness and make corrections 
  3. Export the file 
  4. Deliver to your translation agency 
  5. Enjoy the profits of worldwide distribution 
  1. Let your translation agency handle both the transcription and the translation of your subtitles 
  2. Enjoy the profits of worldwide distribution

Our advice: work with a professional agency to localize your content and videos. 

The internet is full of examples of bad subtitles. Netflix and other streaming services have been in the news multiple times due to subtitling mistakes. 

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What are the minimum requirements for a translator? 

Only a native translator knows how to appropriately translate important things like expressions. So many jokes, references or abbreviations don’t have direct translations, but a native translator will always be able to get close to the real meaning. 

To answer the question about minimum requirements: always start with a native translator.  

To give you an idea, the following expression here is stated in different languages, next to the literal meaning:

Language 

Translation 

Literal meaning of translation 

English 

Comparing apples and oranges 

 

Dutch 

Appels met peren vergelijken 

Comparing apples and pears 

Finnish 

Ero on kuin yöllä ja päivällä 

The difference is like day and night 

Ukranian 

Схожий як свиня на коня 

As alike as a pig and a horse 

French 

Mélanger/comparer les choux et les carottes 

or 

Mélanger les torchons et les serviettes 

Comparing cabbage and carrots 

or 

Comparing towels and napkins 

 

How do I get high-quality subtitles? 

At Acolad, we have experienced transcribers and translators for every possible language combination. We can do everything from subtitling your recording of a business meeting to handling a catalog of streaming content that needs to be subtitled in a week. We work with in-house translators, a large network of freelancers, and a state-of-the art system that uses your glossary and gives translators the opportunity to deliver their best work without having to invest in expensive licenses.  

 

How does Acolad create subtitles? 

Our workflow is plain and simple:  


Do you have a subtitling or transcription project? Contact us!