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4 Tips for Casting Dubbing Talents for UN-Style Voice-Over

UN-style voice-over is a unique kind of video dubbing because it retains the source audio in the final productions. This specific trait affects script translation, workflow, mix – and of course, voice talent casting. It’s critical that producers and LSP professionals have a basic understanding of the casting requirements of UN-style to ensure the success of their video localization projects.

This post will list four essential tips for casting UN-Style video dubbing projects.

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Why is UN-style a unique type of voice-over dubbing?

UN-style is used primarily for documentaries, testimonials, news footage, interviews, speeches, reality or documentary-style shows, and any other content which features real people or situations – as opposed to characters played by actors in a narrative TV series or film, for example. It includes the source audio in the mix specifically to retain the authenticity of the source content, as you can see in the following sample of German UN-style dubbing:

Unlike lip-sync dubbing, which creates the illusion that the foreign-language audio is actually coming out of a character’s mouth, UN-style voice-over tells viewers the opposite – that the voice audio they’re hearing is a translation. This means that the foreign-language voices don’t have to match the full emotion or performance of the source, or even match the original speaker’s voice profile (its pitch and other physical characteristics) exactly.

For more information about this dubbing service, see our previous post, Video Localization 101: What is UN-style Voice-Over?

How to cast UN-style voice-over projects

So what do you need to know when casting these productions? Let’s jump right in.

1. Most common casting is three talents total.

Most corporate, e-Learning and documentary UN-style projects will require just three foreign-language voice-over and dubbing talents. One talent reads any off-screen narration, while one female talent reads the voice-over for any female on-screen speakers, and one male talent does the same for all male speakers. Since the source audio stays underneath the foreign-language VO, audiences can still tell who is speaking.

2. Some projects require additional casting for audience accessibility.

For example, producers for a documentary featuring interviews with children may request to have a younger-sounding talent, or even a kid talent, record the UN-style for those speakers. Otherwise, the audience may find it jarring to hear an adult voice over a kid’s source audio, or even unintentionally funny.

Similarly with e-Learning scenarios – often these projects benefit from the higher translation accuracy and cost-effectiveness of UN-style. However, many of them feature scenes with interacting characters. In these cases, assigning a different voice talent to each character may help make the scenes more intelligible for course participants.

3. Source speaker considerations affect casting as well.

For example, a corporate year-end video with employee testimonials and a CEO message may require a separate talent for the CEO’s voice-over. Similar considerations apply for interview footage with well-known speakers like politicians, subject matter experts or celebrities – you may have to make special casting choices for them, or they may ask for a close voice match. In short, make sure to consider whom you’re voicing when locking in your casting.

4. Reality and documentary-style entertainment content require different casting.

These shows are filmed in a documentary format, but because they’re entertainment content, they may have different requirements. For starters, they often feature recurring subjects, akin to characters in a narrative series. Moreover, they often contain more B-roll and interactions, which may benefit from a larger talent pool. It’s critical to make the viewing experience as seamless as possible for the target audience, and that may affect casting decisions.

Think through casting before localization post-production

To recap, make sure to ask yourself the following questions. What’s the standard for my specific type of content? What do I need to do to make my content accessible to my foreign-language audience? Do I have to make special casting decisions for any of my speakers? And finally – does my content require more character-style casting? Tackle these questions early on in the video localization process, and make sure to get buy-in from your client, producer or in-country contacts. As with all multimedia and post-production projects, thorough preparation is critical to delivering successful UN-style productions.

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