April 20, 2021
Movies are a global phenomenon. Many film production titans, such as Hollywood, that make English-speaking content run their works far beyond North America and the UK. It, of course, requires translation to reach maximum audience. Cinema industry, in general, is huge and powerful. It’s great cultural force able to motivate, educate, provoke thoughts, illuminate issues, and produce numerous feelings. Most widely known films are created in Hollywood, which requires movie translation from English to other languages. But recent example of the film Parasite (2019) demonstrates that worldwide hits may require translation from other languages, which poses a challenge for specialists in this area.
Filmmakers always look for ways to reach a broader audience worldwide to gain maximum profits. However, here comes language barrier that may prevent most viewers from watching a movie because it requires decent level of foreign language mastery. At the same time, it’s not possible to produce a film in different languages as it would increase production costs tremendously and make the entire process of making it last for long years. So video content is first produced and then is sent to movie translation services for further work. Typically, it’s done by local language service providers in countries where movie is about to be run.
They conduct both content translation and localization and pass it further on for future production. There are several techniques in this regard, each with its benefits and cost-effectiveness. When script in local language is completed, producers have two choices for integration of local text in the film. These two main types of movie translations are dubbing and subtitling. Apart from that, filmmakers want their work to be understandable for their audiences and be able to create certain effect in each moment. Thus, not only translation but adaptation or localization is required to fit viewers’ cultural setting. Also, different countries may have different censorship requirements. So during translation, some explicit words or provocative expressions may be replaced with more neutral ones.
Dubbing is a type of translation when an original voice recording is replaced with corresponding actor’s speech. It’s further divided into two major types: lip-sync dubbing or and voice-over. The difference between them is that in lip-sync dubbing original voices are absent, and viewers hear only dubbing actors. But in a voice-over, translated and recorded dubbing is put on top of the original audio track. It follows that voice-over is a cheaper and faster method of translation of movies. But instead, lip-sync dubbing is more favored as it is of higher quality and more pleasing to listen to and enjoy video.
Dubbing is a more popular type in bigger countries where the population is about 40 million people or more. For example, in Europe, Germany, Spain, Italy, France typically have movies dubbed. The same is true about Slavic countries and Asia. In each of these areas, one language is either predominant or officially recognized. So, investment in dubbing a movie can pay back filmmakers several times from cinema tickets sold.
Although dubbing allows attracting a wider audience and presents a movie in a comfortable and comprehensible form, it still has its disadvantages.
This translation method consists of placing a translated actors speech as short text lines at the bottom of a screen. This translation type is typical for countries with a smaller population, such as Greece, Finland, Portugal, Denmark, Belgium as well as Luxembourg. Since the number of potential viewers is much smaller in these countries, subtitling is a more cost-effective option as it requires less time and fewer people.
Also, it is often used for areas where more than one language is officially recognized. This method is also often used for educational purposes allowing viewers to both hear speech and, if needed, translate movie subtitles that serve as a visual help for learners at the bottom of a video screen. So subtitling greatly facilitates edutainment where learners are studying and also enjoy movie watching.
Although for filmmakers, subtitles are the easiest way to translate movies for larger audiences, dubbing is still preferred due to several reasons.
Just like filming, it’s a massive project that involves many people, time, and resources. Even with subtitles, the number of people needed includes professional movie translator, editors as well as specialists in video content. Depending on a film, such teams may consist of dozens to hundreds of people.
This is tedious work consisting of several steps:
In dubbing, the first three steps of creating subtitles are shared, but there are slight differences. In this type of movie language translation, the hardest part lies not in technical difficulties but rather in finding and hiring actors whose voice would best fit a character.
It’s impossible to tell whether subtitles or dubbing are better means for translation of movies. This rather depends on a movie and an intended audience. It’s better to be extremely careful with choice. By picking cheaper option only for cost-effectiveness may end up not bringing profit at all as chosen type would not be suitable for audience. It’s only thorough analysis and a unique mixture of relevant parameters that will help to decide between dubbing or using subtitles.
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