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

What is Script Editing for Timing? Why Is It Critical for Dubbing?

Script editing for timing is perhaps the single most critical element for ensuring the success of a video dubbing project. But it’s also one of the least understood parts of the video localization process – and this can lead to problems in the recording studio, as well as pick-ups. What do multimedia localization professionals need to know about script editing for timing to ensure project success? Start here.

This post will explain what script editing for timing is, and why it’s a critical part of the voice-over dubbing workflow.

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What is it & why is it critical for voice-over dubbing?

Script editing for timing is required because of a tension inherent in any video localization project – that translations expand, but videos do not.

Translations are almost always longer than their English source text – sometimes dramatically so. A 10-second English script will usually become a 12-second read in a Spanish voiceover session, for example. That’s just the nature of translation.


Videos, on the other hand, set a strict limit on how long a dubbing track can be. There are a few exceptions to this rule – sometimes videos can be slowed down to expand them, or even re-cut for the localized versions – but they are very rare in dubbing projects. In the majority of cases, the localized voice-over track has to be the same length as the source video. That is to say, if your video is 30 seconds long, your voice-over track can’t be 31 or 32 seconds long – or even 30.5 seconds long. It has to come in at 30 seconds, or it just won’t fit into the video. It’s that simple.

For more information on text expansion and how it affects voice-over recording, see our previous post Text Expansion in Foreign-Language Voice-Over.

What does script editing for timing entail?

The process itself is a relatively standard part of post-production localization services. It requires a professional script timing editor who is a native speaker of the target language, is fluent in English – and is an expert in both script translation and voice recording.

The timing editor reviews the script translations against the source video, making sure that they line up. For standard dubbing like off-screen narration or UN-style projects, that means ensuring that the translations aren’t too long, and editing them down as needed until they fit. It also means ensuring that significant synchronizations work – for example, for bulleted lists in corporate webinars, or titles in instructional videos. This is particularly challenging, of course, because the shortened translations must retain a high degree of accuracy.

This step is even more labor-intensive for online marketing commercials and broadcast spots. Why? For starters, because these videos usually have much tighter copy, with few or no pauses built in. On top of that, their effectiveness hinges on the pace and performance of the voice-over – a rushed read caused by 1-2 extra syllables may seriously lessen a spot’s impact. And finally, since any copy changes often have to be approved by multiple stakeholders, the script editing for timing may have two or three rounds.

For more information on localizing online marketing spots, see our previous post What You Must Know to Record Voice-Over for Online Commercial Spots.

The special case of lip-sync dubbing

Script editing for lip-sync projects – like entertainment content or e-Learning scenarios – goes even further. As well as overall length, the edited translations have to match in terms of number of syllables, as well as visible vocalizations. (To see what vocalizations look like, say “toe,” “pay” and “wee” in front of a mirror – notice the distinct mouth motion on each word). In fact, this editing is so labor-intensive and the script changes so thorough that it’s often called lip-sync adaptation. And of course, it requires a script editor with very specialized lip-sync dubbing experience.

For more information on lip-sync dubbing, see our previous post Video Translation: Lip-Sync Dubbing for e-Learning & Corporate Content.

Don’t skip this video localization step

You may be tempted to skip the script editing process, especially if your video has long pauses built into the voice-over. Or, likewise, if you’re localizing into a language that’s not known for text expansion – for example, on a Mandarin Chinese dubbing project.  However, remember that languages that don’t expand visually may still expand in terms of number of syllables. Mandarin voice-over, in fact, is a great example of this – a script translated into Simplified Chinese may have shorter lines, but those lines will often contain more syllables than the original English. More to the point, script fit issues in the recording booth usually lead to longer sessions and possibly even pick-ups. As on all multimedia localization projects, a rigorous production workflow is the key to ensuring that high-quality projects deliver on time and on budget. On dubbing projects in particular, that workflow must include script editing for timing or lip-sync adaptation.

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Topics: Voice-over & Audio Dubbing

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