Making Video Content Accessible: Voice-overs, Subtitling and Dubbing


Accessing foreign video content has become easier with the development of companies like YouTube and Netflix. People have the ability to watch movies, television shows and commercials at their fingertips. With the development of foreign language voice-over, subtitling and dubbing techniques, video product companies can easily make their content viewable to all foreign markets. This article will explain the difference between the three techniques and when each should be used.

First, we’ll take a look at voice-overs. A voice-over is a recording of translated content that is added on top of the original audio track, which can be heard in the background. Translation for voice-overs is usually not verbatim; more often it is a summarized version of the content, that can be recorded by a single narrator. This technique is usually used for documentaries, news broadcasts and company training materials. The cost of a voice over will include first the translation of the text, and then the recording of the voice-over track, which is priced by the hour. One example of a voice-over project is conversion of a video about safety procedures from English to Spanish for an insurance company. The script of the video was first translated into Spanish and then a voice-over specialist recorded the script.

In subtitling, the spoken dialogue is put into writing and shown at the bottom of the screen. Subtitles can be used to translate dialogue from the original language to the language spoken by the audience. Subtitling is also used to reach the Deaf and hard of hearing community. This technique requires the translation of the script, as well as appropriate time coding for superimposing the text on the film. Subtitling is generally used for movies and television shows and is the quickest and the cheapest method of providing content in alternate languages. This method is often praised for allowing the viewer to hear the original dialogue and voices of the actors. An example of this technique is the translation of a script about religious charities from English into Spanish, Polish, Korean, Vietnamese and French for a video production company.

The third technique, foreign language dubbing, requires that the dialogue is first translated in such a way that the words used match the lip movements of the actors, and then carefully recorded by a cast of voice actors. When a film is dubbed the original sound track is removed and replaced with the dubbed version. Dubbing is an alternative to subtitling and is preferred by some because it allows the viewer to focus on the on-screen action, without reading subtitles. However, dubbing is more costly and time-consuming because the dubbed version often requires multiple voice actors, and must be closely aligned with the screen actors’ lip movements. An example of this type of project is the dubbing of a series of five training videos about fair and impartial policing into Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Khmer, Mandarin, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole and Vietnamese.

These techniques are utilized in many industries and play an essential role in communicating with international markets and those consumers who do not speak English. Whichever technique you require, it is important to hire a language services provider who is experienced in that technique, and professional voice talent. Because of the multistage process, a lack of experience can lead to delays, additional costs and a poor result. When utilized successfully, these three techniques will extend the reach of a video and help to gain a company recognition on a global scale.