01 Jun

Dubbing vs subtitling part 2

The other day I was watching this subtitled video, which documents the creation of the Rio 2016 Multisensory Paralympic Brand.


Video in Portuguese with English subtitles.

Every time I watch this video I think to myself: “The sound of Brazilian Portuguese is so beautiful and so emotional, so much a part of this Rio brand, I wouldn’t want to hear the video in any other language. Reading subtitles is a small price to pay.”

That got me thinking further about the subtitles-vs.-dubbing divide. In another blog post I wrote that the key to choose whether to choose dubbing or subtitling services for your brand video or documentary is based on two points:

1) The context in which it is being watched, plus
2) Whether the content is informational or emotional.

But the key, as in all professional communications, is to consider your audience. Who are you addressing? What is their preference? In other words, before deciding whether to dub or subtitle, do some audience research.

Googling a little bit about that topic I quickly found some interesting info. An academic article points out that in Europe, countries like France, Germany, Italy and Spain have a long tradition of dubbing foreign content, while the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and the United Kingdom prefer subtitles. Another article argues that dubbing works better for horror movies, for example, because viewers are free to shut their eyes or look away without missing dialogue.

So where does that leave our clients, video producers, agencies, brand managers, etc.?

Don’t distract the viewer from the message. Content and context are still important. If you want your viewers to focus intently on the action, don’t distract them with subtitles. If you want to hit them with an emotional personal story, don’t distract them with a voice-over (unless you have the budget to hire top professional dubbing talent). Meet your audience where it is.

Bottom Line: Yes, subtitles are much less expensive than dubbing. But misjudging your audience’s preferences and expectations can prove to be the most expensive choice of all. And, in any case, take a sure shot and choose services of a professional subtitling and dubbing company like ComTranslations.