No doubt you’ve seen a documentary or someone commenting on the news and heard the original voice in the background while listening to another superimposed voice in your language. Bingo! This technique is called ‘voice-over’ and in today’s post, we’re going to explain what it’s all about, its main function and what sets it apart from other similar audiovisual techniques.
When we talk about voice-over, we’re referring to the production technique involving a superimposed voice that is normally used in the audiovisual world. For this, the voice of a speaker who doesn’t appear on screen is recorded. We need to talk about voice acting in order to explain what voice-over is, as it depends on this professional voice recording mode.
Broadly speaking, it’s a kind of oral translation or interpretation played over the voice of the original character. This service is mostly used when translating documentaries, series, reality shows and adverts.
One of the main reasons behind its emergence is to do with the sense of credibility that it contributes. In fact, this was one of the main reasons it began to be used in the broadcasting of documentaries. Another of the reasons is related to the sense of drama. That’s why so many programmes prefer to employ this technique, as being able to see and hear a person showing their feelings is considered a great television resource for increasing viewer numbers.
And you’re probably wondering what the difference is between voice-over and dubbing. Well, in dubbing, the person’s voice in the original language is entirely replaced by a substitute voice in the target language, as is often the case in films or series. In voice-over, however, the original voice is still heard behind the superimposed voice; the volume of the former is simply decreased so that the latter is heard over the top, without completely removing the original character’s voice. Therefore, unlike in dubbing, there’s no need to synchronise the movement of the character’s lips with the translation.
It’s also worth noting that it is preferred to subtitling in certain audiovisual productions, as the viewer can focus all their attention on what is happening on screen, without having to take their eyes off the main action to read the subtitles.
This mode has a number of applications and functions, including as a resource to aid a character, when their thoughts or intention are not entirely clear or to give an animated character a voice; as an educational or descriptive resource, in documentaries, for example, in which a narrator describes what is happening without appearing on screen. It also tends to be used in interview or news programmes to describe what’s happening in images or videos that are shown at the same time. Finally, it is also used as a commercial resource, as since day one more and more adverts have employed this technique to advertise a specific product or service.
When it comes to putting this technique into practice, it’s important to follow a series of steps. The first step is the transcription from audio to text, which involves listening to the original audio and producing a kind of script in the target language. Next comes the technical preparation that enables the file to be translated/adapted, followed by the voice recording. The resulting audio track is then edited to trim it and mix it so that it is best adapted to the on-screen image. As we’ve said, this mode is more flexible than dubbing and doesn’t have to be particularly precise in this respect; that said, there shouldn’t there be large time differences between the original audio and the superimposed track.
It’s important to trust a team of professionals who deliver a professional voice-over to be incorporated in your audiovisual pieces. This mode is closely linked with translation, one of the phases prior to recording the audio that will be shown in the country that you’re targeting. There are also other alternatives that prefer to directly recur to an interpretation technique that reduces the time and the number of phases.
Here at Tatutrad, we’re experts in professional translation, interpretation and transcription. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via our web contact form.
Tamara Sousa Villafaina