Voice-over or subtitiles, what should I choose?

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Voice-over, localizing, foreign language re-versioning, re-narrating, dubbing, re-voicing, subtitling…

There are many names for different forms of audiovisual translation, and which one you choose is ultimately driven by your audience’s preference.

A foreign language voice-over will make your presentation look and sound complete and professional, as if built for that language market from scratch. It avoids over-crowding of on-screen text and captions, and is easier to listen to and follow. Most likely though, your voice-over project will be more expensive than subtitling, due to voice talents costs (especially is there is more than one speaker), studio costs and engineering/production costs.

Subtitling Youtube videos is surprisingly easy, and while every viewer is probably going to enjoy a video the most if it’s spoken in his or her native tongue, translated captions can get you more YouTube views by expanding your audience. An uploaded transcript in a foreign language will be searchable, so your video will come up in foreign-language searches.

Mandarin voice-over

Chinese Traditional subtitles


With voice overs, the script is first translated and then re-recorded using voice actors in the new language. There are several methods of doing this:

Dubbing: The replacement of the voices of the people appearing on screen with the voice of different performers speaking another language. This is done by professional actors and with lip-synching. The need for lip-synching accounts for often significant editing. This is normally only used for movies and specialist voice artists are used.

Narration style Voice-over, or renarration: Dubbing WITHOUT lip-synching. The speaker is usually an unseen off-camera narrator. This technique involves the replacement of the original voice-track with the foreign language recording, keeping the music and sound effects. Translation adjustments are often required especially if the video call for the audio to be synchronized to the visual content. This is the most likely scenario for foreign language projects, such as corporate or educational videos, and in most cases only one voice-over artist per language is required.

UN-Style voice over: This method is also often used in documentaries and news reports to translate words of foreign-language interviewees. When an interviewee speaks a foreign language, production companies typically use voice actors to record over the original audio. This way, the viewer hears the interviewee in the background speaking his or her language, as well as the interpreter’s voice. In most cases, the volume of the interpreter’s voice is much louder and lags seconds behind the original audio track.

Find out more about how to prepare your voice over project


With subtitles, the audience hears dialogue in the original language, while a translation appears on screen. The existing soundtrack remains untouched, giving viewers a more authentic experience of the original film or video.

Closed captions: For hearing-impaired people, these include not only dialogue but also meaningful sounds (phone ringing, shot gun, sometimes voice intonation, etc.).

Teletext: For hearing-impaired people, this is scrolling text included in TV programming, often live, usually done with voice-recognition software.

Read more:

Wyong Council: Promotional videos. Mandarin voice-overs and captioning. Produced in-house at Language Professionals.

To discuss future requirements, please contact Françoise on (02) 9356 1600. Or email us: [email protected]

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