What Is the Difference between Dubbing and Voice-Over?

Difference Between Dubbing and Voice Over

There are tangible differences between dubbing and voice-over despite the fact that these are often terms used interchangeably. The primary difference is that dubbing requires the new language audio to be a performance of the original, acted out in its entirety, mirroring the same tone, emotion and nuances in delivery, whereas voice-over requires less performance and is more rigid. In a way, voice-over exemplifies foreignization since the viewer still experiences some foreign elements and dubbing is an example of domestication as it tries to minimize the signs and effects of translation.

Voice-over can be divided into UN-/News-Style Voice-over and Off-Screen Narration/Voice-over. The former lays a new audio track in a different language over the original audio, but you can still hear the original in the background. The latter is used when the original speaker is not on the screen, so the new audio simply replaces the original.

Dubbing involves substituting the original performance with a different language version that is fully acted out. Language/Voice Replacement does exactly that, but little to no effort is made to synchronize the script with on-screen lip movements. In contrast, Lip-Sync Dubbing dictates that the new audio matches the on-screen actors’ lip movements as much as possible.

From wannabe influencers to businesses, organizations, and multimedia giants like Netflix and Amazon, these solutions allow content to reach global audiences and open doors to new audiences. To decide which solution is best for you, we’ll offer examples of use cases, benefits, and drawbacks of each option, and some of the latest developments.

Use Cases of Voice-over and Dubbing

Voice-over is better suited to short-form content where the focus is on the information, rather than tone or expression. For example, basic staff training videos and instructions, documentaries, international interviews, and global news reports.

Dubbing can help disguise that the content is translated. It tends to be used for entertainment, such as television series, films, and content intended for children. For educational content dubbing is preferred, although voice-over is often used to minimize costs.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Voice-over and Dubbing

Best choice for cost-effectiveness: voice-over, especially UN-/news-style voice-over.

  • Voice-over only requires a few voice actors. Dubbing mandates a full, carefully chosen cast and full script transcreation and localization (Kwintessential).

Best choice for translation accuracy: voice-over or voice replacement dubbing.

  • Pacing, timing, and lip-syncing constraints can lower translation quality. Neither UN-style voice-over, off-screen voice-over, or voice replacement dubbing pay attention to lip-synchronization; the former must only adhere to pacing and the latter two to timing. Interestingly, Amazon’s dubbing study of 54 shows across three languages showed that viewers prioritize quality over timing.

Best choice for viewer experience: dubbing, particularly lip-synced dubbing.

  • Dubbing can appear completely natural, if done well, as the performance should mirror the same emotion as the original, allowing viewers to focus on the visual. Although off-camera voice-over can be beneficial to cohesion if there are multiple parts/performers, it can interfere with information delivery and damage overall quality if used incorrectly. UN-style voice-over should always be avoided for longer content as having two audio tracks can be distracting for the viewer.
  • Talking to learners in their native language has been proven to achieve better learning outcomes and knowledge retention.

Simon Constable, Global Language Services SVP of Visual Data Media Services, told us on SlatorPod about the challenges of audiovisual localization, including slang, idioms, and made-up words.

Latest Developments in Voice-over and Dubbing

We have seen a boom in content creation and the rising popularity of short-form content, inciting a surge in interest in new technologies, such as cloud dubbing and synthetic voices, and a research boom due to the increasing applications of speech-to-speech translation. E.g., live translation of video calls and machine dubbing (AI dubbing). Slator’s 2022 M&A Funding Report found these were attracting investors. While there are still issues with AI and the spoken word, particularly when it comes to emotion, technology could prevent increasing demand from spiraling out of control.