Subtitling vs. Dubbing in Global Markets

In today’s internet-dependent era, this computer network has become the primary channel for the dissemination of information. And through social media channels like YouTube and streaming platforms like Netflix, entertainment content has found a way of moving beyond geographical boundaries.

Today, anyone, anywhere in the world, can access any information they want through the internet. This free flow of information has created a need for the readjustment of content to suit the needs of the global audience base.

And some of the common ways through which producers are localizing content to serve the needs of the target audience include subtitling and dubbing. But which of these two techniques is best for global markets? Let’s find out.

Subtitling vs. Dubbing: The Difference

Before diving deeper into the differences between subtitling and dubbing, let’s first understand the meaning of each term.

Subtitling is the translation of an audio track in an audio-visual way using subtitles. In subtitling, characters appearing on-screen are limited to between 35 to 42 per line. Therefore, you need to use time codes to ensure the spoken dialogue coincides with the subtitles. 

On the other hand, dubbing refers to replacing the original audio track with another audio track recorded in the target audience’s language. The recording of all the human sounds and speeches in the original track using a different language is either generated automatically using software or recorded using voiceover actors.

The primary difference between these two techniques is that subtitling allows the audience to read the translated content on-screen while listening to the original actors’ voices; with dubbing, on the other hand, the audience gets to hear a translated and re-enacted content.

Cost Considerations 

 Having understood what each term means, let’s now look at the cost considerations.

Typically subtitling is cheaper than dubbing. In fact, it’s approximately 10 times cheaper. This is because subtitling doesn’t involve lots of alterations in the original audio track.

On the other hand, dubbing is costly because it involves technical and creative processes that require time and production talent.

Moreover, subtitling takes less time to execute, contributing to its affordability, compared to dubbing, which generally has a longer turnaround time. 

Remember that the more content your video has, the longer it takes to localize for a foreign audience and the higher the overall cost.

Do Different Countries/Cultures Have Different Preferences between Subtitling and Dubbing?

Yes, different countries and cultures have their preferences, which may affect your choice of content localization technique.

For instance, all foreign content in Australia is shown in subtitles except for TV ads where commercials from foreign regions are dubbed in the local Australian language regardless of where the original commercial came from.

In Asia, dubbing takes over subtitling. Most Asians prefer watching content in their native language.

If your target audience is in Europe, you can use both subtitling and dubbing, depending on the nature of the content. Here, movies and TV shows intended for children are dubbed, while those meant for adults are localized through subtitling. And for movies shown in movie theatres, the audience chooses between the subtitled or dubbed versions; either can do.

In Russia, on the other hand, TV content is dubbed using UN-style voiceover.

Therefore, before deciding on a localization technique, consider the preferences of your target audience.

Technical Considerations

Another key factor in determining whether to use subtitling or dubbing is the technical aspect.

Typically, both techniques require translation of the original audio, which may be generated automatically using software or, for better quality, resorting to professional transcribers and translators.

With subtitling, you’ve to ensure each frame carries two lines of text, each with about 35-42 characters. You also need to adjust the text on the screen, so it doesn’t block the visual content. Besides, you should pace your subtitles appropriately to give the audience enough time to read.

Dubbing also comes with its technical requirements. The translated content needs to match the approximate length of the original content. This is to allow the voice actors to follow the content’s pacing frame by frame. The lip sync also needs to align with the original audio content.

So, both techniques demand quality technical input and professional know-how. However, dubbing has more technical needs than subtitling because you may need additional sound engineers, professional actors, and extra studio time.

Bottom Line

The choice between subtitling and dubbing narrows down to personal preference. For projects like indie content and adult projects, subtitling seems to be the best option. This method preserves the original audio and creates a stronger connection with the foreign audience at a lower production cost. 

Dubbing comes in handy when attracting a new audience. It can enhance the viewing experience and also act as a promotional marketing tool. However, you must invest a lot of financial and technical resources to complete a dubbed content. 

Therefore, it’s vital to consider your target market, production costs, and technical capabilities before settling on a particular content localization technique.

You may also want to consider contacting a professional language services provider who could offer their expertise and advice on the different options and eventually also provide any transcription translation, subtitling or dubbing services you may need.