Movie Translation - Between VoiceOver & Subtitles

Movie Translation - Between VoiceOver & Subtitles

In today’s day and age, you’d have to be living under a rock or in an isolated tribe to not know what a movie is. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a soul in this world that doesn’t know about Hollywood, Bollywood, the Oscars, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and other movie-related things. 

After all, movies are the modern-age storytelling, so there’s no wonder why everyone can find at least one title they’ll enjoy. Of course, with streaming services like Netflix you never stop at just one, but I digress. 

Now, you probably know that the final product we get to enjoy in cinemas, in television or online is supported by a huge industry. Just to give you an idea, in 2018 alone, the global film industry was worth $136 billion! While this figure may seem unbelievable when you consider the amount of work and the number of players involved in making a movie, it kind of makes sense. Such a production needs anything from writers to directors, animators, actors, consultants, even translators. 

But today I won’t talk about the exciting adventure of making a movie from start to finish (mostly because I don’t really know all the intricacies). In exchange, I will tell you about the part I know, which is movie translation. 

Why Do Movies need Translation?

Well, unless you’re watching a silent film, it can be rather difficult to understand the plot if the movie is in a language you don’t know. Even with silent films, they used written cards and titles to drive the story. 

However, as the world became more open and the Internet more accessible, people now have access to movies from all over the world. So, in order to understand them, they need subtitles or voiceover translation. 

So, when a movie is launched on a new market, the studio releasing it may also cover the translation. This is not always the case, which is when the translation may be performed locally, by hired specialists. In both cases, specialised translators should be involved because, like any other translation, it’s not just about words. 

A movie is a work of art that needs to be adapted to the audience so viewers can fully grasp its significance. This means that the translation needs to be localised by taking into consideration local habits and culture. Otherwise, the result will be dry and meaningless, which can mean the movie won’t perform as well as it could on that specific market. 

Furthermore, most movies run a race against time because of the fierce competition each new title has to face. Big studios produce title after title, which means that a newly-launched production only has a few weeks to become successful before the audience moves on to the next release. 

Lastly, it also depends on the audience as some movies perform better in foreign countries than they do in their own homeland. So, translation plays a crucial role in the notoriety and overall revenue of such a production.

Subtitles vs. Voiceover

If the budget is limited or really tight, producers may prefer subtitles over voiceover. Subtitles (the writing you see on the screen) are low-cost and don’t tamper with the authenticity of the film (viewers can still hear the dialogue in the original voices).

Furthermore, some audiences prefer subtitles because that’s how they’re used to see movies. For instance, people in Sweeden, Luxembourg, Finland, Belgium, or Portugal are more likely to go to a subtitled movie than to a dubbed one (voiceover). 

However, subtitles distract the attention from the plot and can be difficult to integrate and synchronize with the action on the screen. Voiceover removes all these difficulties but it is more expensive since it requires voice actors and other specialists. 

At the end of the day, it is the choice of the customers (whoever owns the right for the movie in this case). However, both scenarios require assistance from a professional translator with experience in localisation. 

Wrap Up

As you can see, translators are everywhere in today’s day and age! We work with solicitors, we translate official documents, help with emigration/immigration papers, facilitate people’s access to world-famous books, help with marketing campaigns, and now we help the spread of movies! 

What a cool profession, right? Well, we (the team at Translations123) certainly think so!