JBI Studios' Blog on Voice-Over, Dubbing, and Multimedia Localization.

6 Questions You Must Ask for Accurate Voice-Over Translation Quotes

Accurate voice-over services quotes are crucial to the success of any audio and video localization projects. However, voice over can be somewhat difficult to quote. Why? First, several service options exist for the same content. Second, pricing can depend on market factors as well as studio labor involved. It's a little tricky – but it is possible to get accurate quotes, if you know what to ask.

This blog post will list the six questions you must ask to get an accurate VO translation quote.

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Voice over costs are related to labor – mostly

As with most services, including linguistic translation, VO recording costs are primarily tied to the amount of labor involved. High-quality, professional VO projects require a Project Manager, Session Director, Studio Engineer, VO Talent, and a QA Reviewer – three of whom must be native-speakers of the language being recorded. They’re also tied to the equipment used – professional voice recording studios require expensive, specialized gear. Finally, they’re tied to market forces – for example, how many native-speakers a language has, or what actors command for certain types of media.


The following 6 questions generally cover all of the different factors that may affect localization VO pricing.

1. What languages do you need?

It’s the most basic question for any translation project, but there are a couple of things to remember when asking this question for voice over. First, as with translation, VO pricing is not the same for all languages. Many heavy-usage languages like Spanish, French, German, and Brazilian Portuguese have generally similar pricing. But some other languages may have very different rates. Swedish and Dutch voice-over won’t necessarily cost the same as Spanish voiceover. Second, remember that VO often has to take accent into account – something that’s not generally an issue for script translation.

2. Do you need timed or untimed audio?

Most often, this question comes down to one detail of your project – whether you’re recording audio for a video, or for one of the dozens of non-video uses, like video games, audio books, e-Learning slides, corporate presentations, public announcements, IVR phone menus, or many others. Therefore, the answers to this question bifurcate as follows:

  • If you’re recording non-video audio: Probably the answer is no. Most of this VO is recorded untimed, and then any multimedia elements that interact with it are adjusted to fit it (since there’s a high likelihood that it won’t time out the same as the corresponding English). However, there are some applications for which the client will require matching the timing of the original (i.e., recording “timed audio”). Especially good to ask for video games.
  • If you’re recording audio for video: The answer is almost certainly yes – the client will need you to record the audio so that it lines up to the video, since that’s effectively the raison d'être of the audio. Some clients will prefer to record the localized audio untimed, and then adjust the videos for it – however, this is very unusual, and not practical for most projects.

Finally, if you are recording timed audio to video, you also have to consider the recording style you’ll need. If you have off-screen narration in your video, the choice is pretty obvious – off-screen voiceover. If you have on-screen speakers, though, there are more options – the JBI Studios video dubbing services page has concise descriptions and video samples of each one.

3. How many talents do you need? Any special needs, like kids or particular age ranges?

Additional talents add cost to the project, since they require another session fee. Likewise, in California talents who are minors require supervision during their sessions – and they can’t record as long as adults, especially if they’re very young. This adds session cost as well. Same thing with singing – the pool of talents who can sing is smaller, which adds to production costs.

You get the idea – if you need any talents who aren’t adults over 18, or if you need them to have special skills, this must be addressed in the quote.

4. What final deliverables do you require?

For VO productions, there are generally only three deliverables: a) just the voice audio files; b) the voice audio files “mixed” with any music or sound effects from the English original; or, c) the video with the foreign-language audio added to it. All three are standard.

However, some projects require different deliverables. For example, the production company requesting a feature film dubbing project may want to receive the Pro Tools HD studio working files for their archive, or for final mix. Likewise, some clients may require multiple conversions for different platforms. It's always good to ask.

5. Any in-studio special requests?

These are special requests that take place during the studio session, and which can make the session take longer or that require special setups. For example, some clients like to call in to the studio to listen to the first few minutes of the session and give feedback on tone and pace – that requires a special setup. Likewise, some clients may request multiple takes of lines – this is quite common for video games and TV and radio spots. It’s more difficult to foresee these requests, but good to ask about them up-front generally.

6. How and where will you use the content?

Specifically, for some video content, it’s necessary to know its “usage.” In the context of multimedia, usage refers specifically to where a piece of audio or video will play, for how long, and in which markets. If you’re working with TV or radio spots, your production clients should already be familiar with this concept, since they’ll have addressed usage for the English-language original content.

Why is this question important? Because talents often command higher rates for media that will play for larger audiences – like theatrical feature film or animation dubbing, trailers, TV commercials or radio spots, and online marketing videos or online pre-roll (which we discussed in a previous post). For these kinds of projects, usage will affect the pricing significantly.

Bonus question: If you have a video, do you need on-screen titles localized?

This question doesn’t apply to voiceover itself, but we’re mentioning it here because on-screen titles are the single main reason that video translation budgets expand. If you’re localizing videos, make sure to read our post explaining OST replacement, Video Translation 101: The 3 Ways to Localize On-screen Titles .

Ask these questions before the quoting stage (if at all possible)

One final, general suggestion – don’t wait until the final quoting stage to ask these questions. Asking them earlier on in the production process – even before you start shooting or recording the English-language original content – can help you foresee major localization costs and make small tweaks that can ameliorate them. For example, if you have an on-screen presenter who can easily be replaced by off-screen narration and B-roll, doing so can seriously lower your costs while raising the quality of your localized videos. Likewise, if you know you’ll need kids, starting the foreign-language casting process early on can make sure you have time to find just the right talents in each language. Of course, this is true overall for localization projects – the best way to keep budgets on scope and turn-arounds on time is to plan thoroughly, and ahead of time.

Download "7 Myths of Audio & Video Translation," JBI Studios' indispensable guide to audio translation and dubbing.

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

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