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5 Voice-Over Localization Terms that Trip Up Newbies (& Experts Too!)

We’re not ashamed to say it – voice-over localization is tricky, even for veteran studio professionals. Voice recording and video dubbing are both highly-specialized skills, with terminology that can be challenging, and which shifts as new new technology comes online. As an audio & video professional, what can you do?

Start by reading this post – it lists the 5 terms that trip up both newbies & experts on a regular basis.

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Why is the multimedia localization jargon so dense?

To start, the terms used in audio and video production describe complex technical processes. To make matters worse, the way they’re used shifts over time. Think of closed captions and subtitling, which refer to two very different processes for broadcast TV and films, respectively. Online streaming, however, uses the same technology for both services – and now a large segment of the population uses the two terms interchangeably.

For more info, see our previous post, Are subtitles & captions the same thing? (No.)

OK – let’s jump right in.

ADR, aka Automated Dialogue Replacement

ADR is a process in which dialogue in a movie is re-recorded, usually by the original actor. It’s done for several reasons, but mainly when the sound recorded during filming isn’t usable because of location noise like airplanes, cars, or wind. But it can also be done for performance, or even to replace curse words for TV and airplane versions of movies. A great example is the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars – actor David Prowse played the character during filming, but James Earl Jones famously re-recorded the voice in an ADR session.

Dubbing

Dubbing is the process of replacing the dialogue or voice in a video with a voice in another language. This can be any voice in the video – even off-screen narration. However, the term is most commonly associated with lip-sync, which creates confusion. Therefore, it’s always better to use more specific name for the kind of video voiceover required – this list on JBI Studios’ services page is a great tool for that.

dubbing-or-adr-voice-over-talent-in-studio.jpg
Dubbing or ADR? It all depends on the language the voice talent is speaking.
Hint: it's lip-sync recorded at JBI Studios.

Mixing

As the term implies, the mixing process takes multiple audio tracks (usually VO, music and effects) and converts them into one playable audio file.Movies, for example, may have hundreds of audio tracks – mixing adjusts their volume so they sound good together, then converts all of that information into a stereo file for TVs or DVD players, or a surround sound file for cinemas and high-end home systems.

Keep in mind that to mix you must have two or more audio tracks. Cleaning a file (taking out breaths and false starts) is not mixing – that’s standard post-production audio editing.

Script Editing for Timing

Translations expand – it just happens. It’s a common challenge, including for Spanish voiceover sessions and most other languages. Therefore, scripts translated for video have to be edited to make sure that they’ll fit in the time allotted by the original English audio. Pretty simple – except that this term gets confused with “script timing,” which refers to adding time-codes to a script (usually for markers or subtitles), and is more specifically called time-coding or spotting.

Pick-ups

Pick-ups are any recording session done to correct an error, re-do a line for performance, or to record script content missed during a recording session. They’re usually done a few days after the initial session, and are short. They’re also always done with the same voice talent – if you need to record additional content for a project with a new talent, that’s not a pick-up, but rather an additional session.

Likewise, pick-ups by definition require bringing the talent back into the studio – if you need to correct previously-recorded audio but can do it via editing, that’s a post correction. Finally, pick-ups are for re-working content, or adding small elements to it – if you have a new project for the same product or client with an on-going talent, that’s an additional session.

As a final note, you definitely want to avoid pick-us – check out our previous post, The dreaded voice-over pick-up, and how to avoid it.

Bonus tip: Be specific and use examples

The terms are tricky – so be specific when you communicate your project’s needs. For example, if your video has an off-screen narrator, request that service instead of the more generic video dubbing. Likewise, if you have a previous video reference, or even a link from YouTube, share it with your studio services vendor. Thorough, specific and concise communication is crucial to quoting accurately and delivering multimedia localization projects on time, on scope, and of course, on budget.

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Topics: Voice-over & Audio Translation & Localization Video Translation