Subtitles or Voice-overs: Everything You Need to Localize Your Video

Subtitling and dubbing vary by region, content, and budget, impacting audience reach. Find out which suits your needs.

date iconJune 14, 2023     tag iconTranslation

Subtitling and dubbing are two common video localization strategies, but their uses can be differ by country, content, and budget. Even when subtitles are used, they're not always available in all languages. This means content creators, studios and distributors may be missing out on the full 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 detract from the viewer’s overall experience. 

Should You Use Subtitles or a Voice-over for Your Video Content?

Subtitles play a big part in making 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 catalogs of content. They help increase the visibility of your videos online. 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) Often, when localizing into languages spoken in smaller countries, it may not be cost-effective to have dubbing studios for the 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 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. 

6 Benefits of Voice-over or Dubbing Over Subtitling

But there’s more to dubbing! While subtitling can be cost-effective, there are some applications where using voice-over or dubbing can really help your content have the intended impact in any language. 

  1. A voice can help add emotion to the delivery 
  2. Those who might struggle to read will be able to understand 
  3. Even when looking away, a viewer can still understand 
  4. A voice is understandable when the video screen is too far away read subtitles  
  5. A voice can be much more engaging, and demand the audience’s attention 
  6. A voice makes content accessible to blind and visually impaired people 

Who Uses Dubbing in Europe

European countries and their common methods to dub films 

Black - Dubbing only for children. Otherwise solely subtitles. 

Red - Mixed areas: countries using occasionally full-cast dubbing, otherwise solely subtitles. 

Blue - Voice-over: countries using usually one or just a couple of voice actors whereas the original soundtrack persists 

Yellow - General dubbing: countries using exclusively a full-cast dubbing, both for films and for TV series 

Striped - Countries which occasionally produce their own dubbings but generally use dubbing versions of other countries since their languages are quite similar to each other and the audience is also able to understand it without any problems.

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]. Many audiences, particularly on streaming platforms, are increasingly expecting subtitles, even in their native language, for the content they consume.


Why are Subtitles on Streaming Channels Often Bad Quality? 

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 wouldn’t recommend this if you want to be understood, because there are so many expressions and nuances in language that don’t translate well when translated literally. When “a woman goes into labor on a plane” the translation may 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 perfect. 

We Recommend Taking One of These Two Paths:

Option 1 

  1. Create a transcript 
  2. Check the accuracy of the transcript and make corrections if needed 
  3. Export the file 
  4. Deliver to your translation agency 
  5. Enjoy the benefits of worldwide distribution 

Option 2 

  1. Let your translation agency handle both the transcription and the translation of your subtitles 
  2. Enjoy the benefits of worldwide distribution 

Our advice is to find the right partner to localize your video content.

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 be adept at adapting the content so the translation fits. 

To give you an idea, let’s look at some translations of the idiomatic English phrase ‘comparing apples and oranges’, alongside their literal meanings. 

Dutch - Appels met peren vergelijken - Comparing apples and pears 
Finnish - Ero on kuin yöllä ja päivällä - The difference is like day and night 
Ukrainian - Схожий як свиня на коня - As alike as a pig and a horse 
French - Mélanger/comparer les choux et les carottes - Comparing cabbage and carrots 

How Can I Guarantee High-quality Subtitles?

At Acolad, we have experienced transcribers and translators for every possible language combination. We can do everything from subtitling a recording of your 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 allows translators to deliver their best work without having to invest in expensive licenses. 

How Does Acolad Create Subtitles?

Our workflow is plain and simple: 

  1. Your files are delivered to our secure environment. 
  2. We make a transcript or import one if it’s available. The transcript can be sent to the client for approval if needed. 
  3. Our specialist translators translate into the designated languages and proofread if necessary. If needed, the translations can be validated by the client at this point. 
  4. We then export the video with subtitles, with the ability to render in most formats, either with hard-coded or time-coded subtitles files. 

date iconJune 14, 2023     tag iconTranslation

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