First, the most important question: What equipment do I even need to dub videos?
Arthur: That depends on your own quality standards. A cheap microphone is good enough for a simple dubbing. However, if you want to work professionally, you need an isolated booth, a diaphragm microphone (which really records every sound you make) and then you need devices in between which capture and push all that. Our’s is Focusrite's audio interface called Scarlett 18i20. It is there to make presets, for example, to adjust the sound in order for you to keep your level, or to add bass to improve the dynamic range of your voice. Of course, you also need a PC that records all that and software, in our case Adobe Audition.
Kasia: By the way, there are also free programs like Audacity.
Manuel: There are also some pretty good condenser microphones, as a middle option between “I only have a cell phone to record” and “booth with diaphragm microphone”. They are not as good as diaphragm microphones, but they are also acceptable quality-wise.
Now we have the necessary technical fundamentals. What’s next? Can you describe the typical process of dubbing a video?
Kasia: You take the original text and translate it as lip sync as possible.
Arthur: Exactly! It’s not the kind of translating you know from school. It shouldn’t be an original but lip sync translation. You have to try and find the words that fit the movement of the lips. One lip movement may correspond to a number of words - it depends on how you stress them.
Manuel: Again, it’s up to each person and their standards.
Kasia: Ok, so you translated the text and the technical equipment is ready...then you are almost ready to go. But first you should warm up your voice, this is very important - just like in sports.
Manuel: Yes, there are some nice exercises to loosen your tongue and enlarge the volume of your mouth.
Kasia: Then you get started. You record the text until you are satisfied with the result. At the end, you adjust the voice. You can move the audio track until is as in sync as possible. And you apply certain filters to the voice, just like you add layer masks in Photoshop, to make sure the voice comes across even better.
Arthur: It is called mastering - for example, adjusting the volume when there is music in the background.
Manuel: Of course, ideally, you have to fine-tune the voice as little as possible.
Is there something you need to pay particular attention to?
Arthur: Yes, there are two parts: if you are responsible for the direction, you have to make sure that the dynamic is right. For example, if you got a very aggressive video you can’t put a sleepyhead behind the mic. The director makes sure that the voice suits the audio quality. On the other hand, the dubber really has to prepare for the job: watch the video, do some dry runs, learn passages by heart...you also have to be an actor and convey emotions when you are dubbing!
What is the most fun about dubbing?
Manuel: As a dubber, I find it really fun to get into character. In the end, “only” the voice comes across, but if you watch, for example, the making ofs on DVDs and see the voice actors and how they get into character, you realize how important it is.
Arthur: Yeah, a cool example is Benedict Cumberbatch, the voice actor of Smaug, the dragon from The Hobbit. There is a video which is very impressive.
Kasia: It’s also a great feeling to know that, in the end, more people will be able to understand the video - making the video available for more people.
And what really grinds your gears?
Arthur: When the wording is bad...you try to say something but it doesn’t work because it is a tongue twister or the like.
Manuel: And I have the impression that there are always more syllables in German than in English so that you always have to squeeze or cut something.
Kasia: What grinds my gears is time pressure when you have certain quality standards.
A piece of advice to the dubbing starters out there?
Kasia: Just do it!
Manuel: Yes, learning by doing – this is the most fun. First and foremost, you should watch “making ofs” of voice actors to get an impression. You have to come out of your shell, convey emotions. It’s a good exercise to pronounce everything you say exaggeratedly and extremely clearly at first.
Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice actor of Smaug, the dragon from “The Hobbit”:
Tips on how to speak so that people want to listen (with warm up exercises for your voice starting from 7:45): https://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_how_to_speak_so_that_people_want_to_listen
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