International voice over is a growing industry that is only just beginning to realize its potential. Audiobooks, podcasts, eLearning, streaming services, and explainer videos have established a foothold in the public zeitgeist. They are only growing in popularity, and they all need voice over. Netflix expanded to 170 countries in just 7 years.
Accessibility is the nature of the internet. Content can be uploaded and then span oceans in the blink of an eye and the voice is the bridge between a script and the audience. One of the quickest and most effective ways to build that bridge is through the use of a localized voice over for international content.
- Expensive footage can be reimagined for global commercials and advertisements.
- Corporate content for global teams, from eLearning and training videos to company updates, conferences, and functions.
- Social network content that is likely to move past local audiences into the international sphere is made more accessible.
- TV Shows and Movies can be dubbed, revoiced, and localized. Expanding service offerings at a much lower cost.
- Explainer videos are often disseminated online, the more accessible the content the greater the ROI.
- Podcasts and audiobooks can be recorded in different languages or simply localized from region to region
A Global Voice for All
English is spoken by over a billion people. It’s one of the primary languages of communication, a ‘global language’. However, the bulk of those billion people don’t speak English natively, and as an evolving language, it comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The Brits and the Americans have their ways of spelling, their insider jokes, and pronunciations, and so do us Canadians.
To foreign ears, each nuanced style and accent can sound like an entirely different language, which poses a problem when dealing with English for the international market. Enter neutral English, International English, and Global English.
International Voice Over and Global English
Global English is a way of writing that is easily understood by non-native English speakers. A neutral voice or international English is the same concept but spoken instead of written. An International English accent doesn’t identify with any particular region or country, it isn’t British or American, it’s a voice that is recognizable to everyone.
There are pros and cons to using an international accent voice over. eLearning is at its most effective when the learner can identify and relate to the voice over, but in terms of accessibility, a neutral accent is a no-brainer. Simpler courses can benefit from a neutral accent, but more complex subjects likely require a more targeted approach.
Dubbing vs Subtitles
Dubbing has become increasingly popular, content-hungry streaming services are turning to foreign language films to fill our days. There’s lots of debate over ‘subtitles or dubbing’ with proponents for each side decrying one side in favor of their own preferred viewing method. Try watching something with a bad dub and bad subtitles, that’s the true enemy. The answer is simple, do both.
Not only do both sides of the argument get to enjoy their viewing experience, but it’s also more inclusive, catering for the deaf and blind communities. Closed captions include background noises and speaker changes, while subtitles only consist of the spoken words. By nature dubbing requires a script and humans reading it (hopefully spotting anything that sounds off), so a good dub means better subtitles. Everyone is happy.
A Good Dub Needs a Professional Voice
Admittedly bad dubbing is something of its own horror story. I can see why some passionate fans might object to having their favorite show or movie scoffed at by the general public as a result of poor quality dubbing. Then again some subtitles literally make no sense, and I do mean literally. ASR (automated speech recognition) is largely to blame for nonsensical captions.
The problem comes in when people confuse dubbing with voice over. Voice over is part of the narrative, dubbing on the other hand is trying to hide in plain sight. Ideally, the viewer shouldn’t even notice that there is any dubbing. Dubbing is a separate voice artist skill set, an addendum to voice over, and it needs to be learned and practiced. Matching voice flaps isn’t an easy feat..
Finding The Right Voice for International Dubbing
So how do you find a voice over artist for your dubbing project that is going to appeal to international audiences, and deliver a performance that isn’t going to turn a drama into a comedy?
- Make sure your casting is specific, mention that it’s a dubbing project.
- Look for a voice over artist with experience, one who knows how to match mouth flaps.
- Decide early on if you are going for a general global audience or if you are going to localize your dubbing efforts. A local voice over artist or one who is familiar with a specific region or dialect will be able to offer suggestions and changes to make the script and delivery more region specific.
- Provide your voice over artist with resources, such as the original content. A dubbing artist isn’t going to be coming up with their own character, instead, they are going to need to model their performance on what is already on the screen. The animation, live action, and the original actor’s delivery.
The Subtle Art of Localization Using International Voice Over
Localization is the process of adapting content to a specific market. From country to country, or even regionally. It’s more than a simple translation, localization contextualizes content and takes the nuances of idioms, expressions, and even sentence length into account. Local jokes and references might not make sense to international audiences. Localization isn’t specific to the realm of voice over and dubbing, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ was renamed as ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ for American audiences.
Some content might benefit from localization, particularly eLearning content, others might not. It’s a judgment call. Thankfully with the popularity of dubbing on the rise, the methodologies and skillsets behind revoicing are being taken more seriously. While hiring a professional voice over artist might be more expensive than asking an intern to do it, the blowback from audiences when dubbing goes bad makes a professional a must-have. Besides, it’s cheaper than making a show from scratch.
Today TV shows and movies prefer to remain as close to the source material as possible, or they risk audience ire. However, content for companies, eLearning, and commercials don’t have the same limitations. An eLearning module needs to be as understandable as possible to the learner, so localization is a requirement.