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Film Term:

The recording of dialogue in a sound studio, after the footage is shot, where the actors watch the film and match the lip movements.

Glossary of Film Terms - http://homepage.newschool.edu/~schlemoj/film_courses/glossary_of_film_terms/
reprinted with permission

Also the process of transferring a recording from one medium to another, for example Hi-8 to VHS or U-Matic tapes.

It is beyond me, that a movie or tv production, which can eat millions and millions of dollars to create something that is at least similar to the artistic vision of a whole team, often including writer, director, director of photography and sometimes even the producers, is considered finished once the domestic version of the movie is done.

They seem to forget that international marketing of the product does not only account for some of the money earned with the movie, but also offers an audience, that can be larger than the domestic audience. Only a few directors take interest in the international versions of their movies and try to maintain artistic control for them.

For most international markets, movies will be released with the original title, with added subtitles in the local language.

For some markets, e.g. the German-speaking market, this is not enough. Movies released there have to be translated and audio-dubbed to be acceptable to the local audience. I don't know who started this or when, but it has a long history (at least back to the 50's, see Casablanca) and there's no chance that this will change in the next decade or two.

Now consider these factors degrading the dubbed version (and remember to add them up):

  • The need to synchronize the spoken words in the target language to the lip movements in the source language. I have seen movies dubbed in English, as well as movies dubbed in German, and my impression is that the Germans are much better lip-syncers, but they don't pay much attention to accuracy with respect to the meaning of the dialog.
  • The fact that the German language needs more syllables than the English language to express the same thought (I think the number I heard was 30%). As a result of this, some dialog has to be lost during the dubbing process, or actors have to speak unnaturally fast (when possible -- remember lip-synchronisation).
  • Translation errors, resulting from time pressure or lack of interest and incomplete understanding and comprehension of the original material. Sometimes I get the impression that most movies and TV series are translated in a one-pass process during the first viewing, because some of the mistakes are really obvious once you've seen the whole movie (yes, you don't even need to know the original version to spot some of them).
    Of course you'll never find out about most of those errors unless you watch the original version of the movie. Until then, it will just feel like crap dialog.
  • Lack of voice-actors available for dubbing work. Not only will different actors share the same voice over time ("Oh, Jean-Luc Picards voice, again."), no, whenever two such actors meet in a movie or when the regular voice-actor is not available, some actor will suddenly have a different voice.
  • Lack of athmosphere. It takes a hell of an actor to dub a movie so that it feels the same. Forget that, when the voice-actors don't even care. You've got a pretty good chance to get a decently dubbed version for a blockbuster movie, but who cares for episode 4711 of some TV sci-fi series? (Well, I, being the target audience, do...)
    And because the dialog and the sound effects are usually on the same audio track, the sound effects have to be recreated, too, they're replaced with fake effects or pre-recorded material ("Ah, that's party mumbling #2, again.").

But not only is all the dialogue translated and dubbed, so is the title. And, more often than not, poorly, I might add.

If you're not shocked yet, meditate on those facts for a moment:

Among the few movies released in Germany in original language in the last twenty years was Kevin Smith's movie Clerks. It even had reasonably good subtitles. All his following movies were released in dubbed versions.

Dub"bing (?), n.


The act of dubbing, as a knight, etc.


The act of rubbing, smoothing, or dressing; a dressing off smooth with an adz.


A dressing of flour and water used by weavers; a mixture of oil and tallow for dressing leather; daubing.


The body substance of an angler's fly.



© Webster 1913.

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