Hybrid Approach for Language Dubbing
Language dubbing originated in Europe in the ’40s. For the last 80 years , the model hasn’t changed much. Dubbing studios were, and still are, hiring dubbing actors to dub mostly American movies. These studios, mainly located in the larger European, Asian, or Latin American cities, have not increased their talent pool proportionately to account for the rapid growth of content to be localized.
Most of the European dubbing countries have two or three main dubbing cities. Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville for Spain; Rome, Milan, and Turin for Italy; and Berlin, Munich, and Cologne for Germany. Only the French, thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte, dub practically everything in Paris.
This means that for countries with 50 to 80 million people, a pool of approximately 2,000 dubbing actors is dubbing everything. With “time is money” being a universal rule, this means a small group of actors from this pool dub 80% of the content because they are skilled and, most importantly, fast. The result is a feeling that many stars have the same voice in movies and in TV series overseas.
To not be limited to this small group of dubbing actors, we should look for actors who want to become part of the industry but don’t live in or near these big cities.
But how can they find a job? Well, the job will find them. This is where the hybrid approach enters into the picture and makes the most sense.
The concept is to develop a larger pool of dubbing actors. A school could be a smart way of achieving this and giving new actors the technical capability to record their tracks remotely—even from their home if they want to. Of course, they will have to prepare a soundproof environment to record without outside noise interference. The most important thing is that they must record audio tracks that can then be edited and mixed by sound engineers in the dubbing studios.
Since the bottleneck is the number of dubbing actors and not the number of studios, this could solve a big part of the problem.
The dubbing studios will always have their place in the dubbing business. For high-quality product, where voice directors and perfect acoustics are needed, the studios will still be the preferred place for a long time.
The same way my new hybrid car has a regular motor and an electric one working together, our approach for localization relies on our studio network and the remote recording system that we started implementing with our Media.NEXT initiative.
From an economic standpoint, the concept makes a lot of sense as dubbing studios are not cheap to build, and as we saw earlier, they are mostly located in the big cities where the cost of living is the highest in the country.
In the opposite way, having access to a cast who can work from anywhere will level prices as these locations won’t have the same constraints, the same number of dubbing actors, or the usual talent asking price. From a talent point of view, it is certainly better to stay home and record quietly than spend most of the day in the car going from one dubbing studio to the other, juggling recording sessions. Less stress, better recording, and helping the planet by saving on gas!
Furthermore, the countries themselves are not equal on the international dubbing “rate card.” The geopolitics of dubbing, in the classic studio model, show big differences between countries. Europe, Asia, and Latin America are different in terms of dubbing costs, which is not only due to the fact that actors, directors, and translators represent between 60% and 80% of the cost worldwide, but also because of the cost of living. A small studio in Tokyo will cost much more than a nice facility in France or Italy, for example. Even between European countries, we can see noticeable differences, with Spain being significantly cheaper than the other three “FIGS” countries: France, Italy, and Germany.
Obviously, the remote recording part of our hybrid approach will not have the same constraints; this doesn’t mean that it will not have challenges. The first one being ensuring there is consistency in the recording and voice quality. Second, giving these remote dubbing actors the picture and audio elements they need quickly enough so they can deliver on time. And finally, giving them the appropriate tools to do their job.
Only a strong synergy between the two parts—dubbing studios and remote recording—will ensure a successful transition from the classic model to the hybrid one. One model doesn’t exclude the other. The remote recording will be limited to recording, and the dubbing studios will get the tracks to edit, mix, QC, and deliver to the right recipients.
Of course, the big question is: How do we get a large, reliable, trained pool of actors that can use our tools and deliver a credible performance fast enough to allow the dubbing studios to complete the dubbing process in a timely manner? But that is another story…