Which Type of Dubbing Is Right for Me?

We’ve all seen plenty of examples of bad dubbing. Indeed, that was the concept behind Woody Allen’s first film, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, in which he recorded new English dialogue for a bad Japanese gangster movie.

But done right, dubbed audio-visual content remains the best and most cost-effective way to communicate across cultures. For everything from Hollywood movies to the humble training video, shooting in one language and delivering in many is a necessity.

“So, which type of dubbing is right for my project?” That’s probably the most common question we get from clients. There are three major types of dubbing, and each has its appropriate uses:

UN Style

With UN-style dubbing, you hear a second or two of the original speaker, then the volume drops and the dubbed voice comes in over top. You’re always aware that another language is being spoken, but at the same time you get a sense of the original speaker’s voice and tone. UN-style dubbing is used most often for documentaries, factual (lifestyle / reality) TV shows, and any interview-based videos.

UN-style dubbing lets you hear the original voice.

UN-style dubbing is not so good for dramatized scenes, where you need to believe the actors are actually speaking their lines. It can be distracting and confusing, especially when the lines of dialogue are short.

Timed Sync, AKA Dialogue Replacement

Timed-sync dubbing matches the rhythm of the original. The dubbed voice precisely follows the original speaker, speaking when he speaks, pausing when he pauses. It looks more natural, and it’s less noticeable that the video has been dubbed, but you lose any sense of the original voice. That’s why it’s particularly effective for dramatized dialogue, as in training videos, and also for discussions with rapid-fire conversation.

Timed-sync dubbing matches the original dialogue syllable for syllable.

Timed sync tends to be a bit more expensive, because the adaptation process is highly specialized and precise. You can’t just count on your voice performer to adjust their speed; to match the translation to the original perfectly, you have to count every syllable, and think of myriad alternative ways of saying something in the new language. It also takes about 20% more time in the studio to make sure the voices match up. But for many videos, it’s essential.

Lip-Sync Dubbing / Looping

When dubbing movies or TV drama, this is the way to go. It’s the most precise type of dubbing of all, in which the translated script matches not only the rhythm and number of syllables in the original, but the mouth movements as well. In other words, the translation tries to match the occurrence of sounds such as O, A, M/B/P, N/D/T, etc. Actors skilled in this type of dubbing can have long and lucrative careers as, for example, the German voice of Bruce Willis.

Depending on the type of video you’re dubbing, your target audience, and your budget, there is a method that’s right for you. Give us a shout, and let’s discuss.


Eric Geringas
Versioning producer. Documentary filmmaker. Factual TV director. Problem solver.