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

Why Script Format Is Critical to Voice-Over & Dubbing Project Success

Some of the critical elements for successful foreign-language voice-over and dubbing projects are obvious – the quality of the script translations, casting the right native-speaker voice actors, and of course, ensuring a rigorous quality assurance process. Others, like script format, are much less so. But this one element is critical to recording high-quality audio and ensuring seamless project launches, and producers and multimedia localization professionals must be familiar with it.

This post explains studio script format, and why it’s critical for voice-over and dubbing projects.

[Average read time: 4 minutes]

What exactly is proper voice-over & dubbing script format?  

The basic translated script format is pretty simple: a single table with columns for file name, character or speaker, English source text and translated text. It’s easier to understand if you see it – following is a script sample from an e-Learning localization project with these four columns:

Screenshot of e-Learning localization voice-over script with columns for Speaker/Character, File Name, English source text and Russian translation. Table has four rows, each one with a distinct file name. Speaker names are Customer, Rep 1 and Rep 2.

The format can vary slightly. For example, dubbing scripts usually omit the “File Name” column, since the standard deliverable for those projects is one file per video. Likewise, scripts with only one speaker may omit the “Speaker/Character” column. And finally, the “Source” column isn’t required, but is very useful (more on that below).

Here’s why this format is critical to ensuring voice-over project success.

1. File naming and segmentation information is critical for audio deliveries.

Accurate file naming and segmentation is essential on most voice recording projects, including e-Learning audio, IVR, prompts and video game localization. These suites of content often contain hundreds (or even thousands) of audio files. And more importantly, their software requires plug-and-play deliverables – that is to say, audio files that are named exactly like the source English – just to avoid integration failures. In conjunction with JBI Studios’ proprietary post-production software, the table script format ensures that each audio file is assigned the correct file name, and that no file path errors are introduced.

2. Speaker/Character column is critical for voice-over talent assignments.

Managing voice and dubbing talent casting can be quite tricky, especially on projects with heavy talent re-use. For example, a suite of e-Learning courses may have several scenes with as many as 60 or 70 distinct characters, to be recorded with as few as 7 or 8 actual voice talents. Having an accurate, sortable list of characters is critical to avoiding pick-ups that delay implementation and add to project budgets.

For more information on pick-ups, see our previous post, The Dreaded Voice-Over Pick-Up, and How to Avoid It.

3. Voice-over copy is isolated.

Another advantage of this format is that it isolates the voice-over text into its own column. Why is that critical for accurate deliverables? Because it gives the foreign-language voice-over and dubbing talents, native-speaker director and quality assurance reviewer a clear indication of what content each audio file contains. This is particularly true for scripts that have notes or extraneous information in them – those can make it into the final audio if they’re not cleaned out of the script copy. Finally, isolating the copy in this way makes it much easier for talents to read and record, since they don’t have to skip over any of the file name or speaker/character information – they can just read the content in their native language, straight down the script.

4. English source text provides performance and pronunciation context.

As mentioned above, this column is optional, but it can improve the quality and accuracy of the final recordings. First, the English reference provides context for each translated line, useful for locking in the performance. Second, when coupled with source audio reference files, it can be used to get pronunciations for proper names, brands and proprietary terms. And finally, the English reference column is incredibly useful during post-production, specifically audio integration and re-synchronization, since editors can use it to make sure they’re lining up to the right content in their e-Learning localization files, video games, IVR suites and prompts systems.

The multimedia localization advantages of the table itself

Finally, the table format itself allows for scalability. For starters, tables are sortable, meaning that it’s easier to create single-talent scripts, check content per speaker and finalize casting. It even makes it easier to ensure you have the right number of loops in the final output. But on top of that, the format is expandable, meaning that you can add columns to it without affecting its functionality during the voice-over session.

For example, many clients add a Notes column with instructions on performance and context, which is particularly useful on e-Learning and video game projects. Likewise, dubbing scripts often include reference time-codes, added quickly using tab delimiting, which can then be used to generate session markers. In short, the innate flexibility of tables themselves is a key part of why this format is so useful to ensuring high-quality, on-time and accurate multimedia localization deliveries.

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Topics: Voice-over & Audio Dubbing Translation & Localization

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