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Audiovisual Translation Options: Which One is Best for Your Video?

According to the American Translators Association, more than 62% of the world’s 3.5 billion Internet users worldwide consumed digital video as of 2017. If your goal is for your video content to reach a foreign-language market, that content needs to be localized. There are several options for audiovisual translation, so how do you choose which is the right fit for your company and video? We’ve listed a few of the most common options to help you decide.

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Subtitling versus dubbing: what’s the difference?

Subtitling is when the audience hears the video content in its original language and, in turn, reads a transcript of what is said via translations, generally at the bottom of the screen.

Dubbing (or Voice Over), on the other hand, is an audio recording of the video script that replaces the original audio. Viewers hear the video content in their own language instead of in the originally recorded language.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of subtitles? 

Proponents of subtitling often prefer being able to hear the audio as it was originally intended to sound. With subtitles, none of the on-screen talent’s emotions are lost. Also, from a financial perspective, subtitling is usually less expensive than dubbing, because there is no need to hire voice talents or secure a recording studio and engineer.

On the other hand, subtitles may lose some of the meaning you would otherwise hear in audio. They must be short enough that the viewer can read them while the original audio is playing. If the text translation of the audio runs long, the subtitler is faced with a dilemma on what to cut. Filler words and other seemingly unimportant parts of the text are sacrificed in order to meet the character limit imposed by subtitles. Moreover, if a video is “busy” with a lot of graphics or action, subtitles may distract viewers. They could miss key parts of the visual experience due to having to read the subtitles. If a viewer looks away, they could potentially miss an important part of the dialogue as well.

What are the pros and cons of dubbing?

Fans of dubbing usually prefer it over subtitling because it typically allows for an easier viewing experience. Since viewers hear the audio in their own language, they can focus entirely on what’s happening on screen, without the distraction of reading subtitles. 

Then again, what’s being heard through the dubbed audio will almost never match the pace or movements of the person’s lips as they move on screen, similar to poor lip syncing. Some viewers are more distracted when a voice does not “match” the actors’ movements than they are by subtitles. Dubbing is also typically more costly. You will have to find a professional voice talent who speaks the native language of the audience you’re targeting, as well as find a recording engineer and studio. The process is typically more time-consuming than that of subtitling.

Should I choose subtitles or dubbing?

Often, this is a stylistic preference, and it is the reason that many companies offer both options for video content. However, it may not be in your budget to invest in both right away. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when determining whether to select subtitles or dubbing:

  • What do I know about my target audience? The type of audience viewing your video may have a large impact on the type of audiovisual translation they prefer. Research preferences by country. Oftentimes, viewers are more accustomed to one type of experience over another, depending on what is most popular in their country. A person’s typical preference may also differ by age range or reading abilities as well. Do not assume that it’s a one-size fits all approach when making this choice.

  • What type of content am I producing? Just as audiences are usually more accustomed to a viewing experience depending on previous experience, the same can be said of the type of content you produce. Consider whether your audience is in a business setting, part of a targeted ad campaign, viewing solely for entertainment, etc. Also consider how “busy” your video is and if subtitles may hinder the experience for viewers.

  • Where will I share this content? Will you share your video on social media, present it as part of a business training, release content on DVD or Blu-ray, or embed it on your website? Localized videos may require different approaches depending on where you plan to share them. If your audience typically views your videos with the sound off as they scroll through social media, for example, subtitles may make the most sense. If you share a video in a business setting where people will be expected to take notes on what they are learning, dubbing may be the right option instead.

At the end of the day, both of these audiovisual translation options have merit for localizing your content. Spend some time researching what will work best for your company and target audience each time you create a video you’d like to localize. 

Need subtitles or dubbing for your latest video content? Contact us to set up a consultation.