Audiovisual is the form of translation that we are most exposed to during our daily lives.
An interview with a foreign leader on the TV news, a film or documentary on television, a series on a streaming platform, a corporate presentation video with subtitles, a fun video on YouTube with a voiceover… all these are examples of how we benefit from audiovisual translation without even being aware of it.
The term “audiovisual translation” is in fact an umbrella term for any kind of text translation with acoustic components (dialogue, soundtrack, a phone ringing, the noise of an explosion) and visual ones (images, colours, movement and written messages).
Translation theorists agree that there are two main categories of audiovisual translation:
To simplify, these categories can be said to correspond to dubbing (or voiceover) and subtitling.
In dubbing, the script is rewritten for actors whose voices will replace the original ones.
The script-adaptor, a key figure at all stages in the process, receives the translated script, records the timecode for each line and synchronises the text, while also taking into consideration staging and acting requirements.
Lip synching, necessary when the actor’s face is shown in close-up, is also the greatest hurdle for this kind of translation, absolutely necessary if the “perfect illusion” is to be created.
Whereas with voiceover, the original voice can still be heard underneath the newly recorded audio by the dubber.
This is mainly used in documentaries, with a view to transmitting a feeling of authenticity to the audience, although during the past decade its use has also extended to include reality shows and corporate videos.
Subtitling is the process of superimposing text over the program video. Subtitles or captions appear and disappear to coincide more or less with the start and end of sentences and dialogues spoken by the actors.
Both dubbing and subtitling require a high dose of creativity (for example to recreate the humour and wordplay in the original) and an in-depth knowledge of the target culture of the multimedia product (for example when the correct cultural equivalents of certain concepts must be found).
Just as important are the technical skills required.
Professional software is not enough to create subtitles; indeed, knowing how to use it correctly is fundamental.
The team of translators must know and respect the standards used for subtitles. Some restrictions regard the number of characters per line, which is usually 42. Subtitling programmes display a warning when maximum line length is exceeded.
But there are also other rules that must be followed. For example, a subtitle must not appear during a change of scene or shot, because this would distract the viewer and compromise the desired effect in the original.
Professional translation agencies usually have a team of technicians responsible for correctly defining the points in the video where the subtitles will appear, as well as synching these with the dialogue.
In any case, the most economical option is to use a dubbing studio, which will already have recording rooms, professional microphones, computers with the power required, a pool of dubbers and technical sector professionals.
In terms of cost, dubbing can cost up to 30 times more than subtitling. If the necessary resources are available however, it can prove to be a sound investment.
As well as films, documentaries and TV series, subtitles and dubbing are also useful tools for other materials, such as, for example:
Whatever the nature of your audiovisual multimedia content, the Arkadia team is up to the challenge. Our audiovisual translators and technicians will see to the entire process, from transcription to synching of subtitling with dialogue in the video, through to the effective translation for subtitles. Should you want to dub your material, our partners have all the necessary equipment, technicians and professional dubbers.