Translation for dubbing is an important aspect of our work and, in order to understand it, it is essential to know about the history of this process. In fact, the creation of dubbing dates back more than a century. And it may come as a shock to learn that this technique is very old, however modern it may seem! At CristBet, we like to understand the origin of the areas we work in.
And this history is fascinating.
Oral language is something so lively that it allows for an infinite number of codes and forms of expression, such as songs and poetry. Orality can also seduce people, something that is very important for activities and arts that use the vocal capacity as the main instrument.
For a long time, writing dominated communication, but gradually the voice began to take over. With the arrival of radio and the telephone, the voice crossed borders and took on an ever greater dimension, with new technologies amplifying its reach. Radio, in particular, added an element of fascination and mystery to the voice.
Cinema resisted, but eventually surrendered to sound. With the advent of sound in movies, the enchanting voices of actors and actresses, who stood in front of or outside the camera angle, became an integral part of cinematographic works. Television, in turn, shaped and moulded the audience, the actors and their performance.
The history of dubbing
But how did it all begin? In the early days of cinema, films were silent, and only a few of them had subtitles to help viewers understand the plot, since there was no sound or voices. It was Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian inventor, who made the first narration for a radio programme, recorded on Christmas Eve 1906. This event marked the beginning of the sound revolution that would transform the audiovisual world.
In 1925, some films with sound began to appear, revolutionising the entertainment industry. However, it wasn’t until 1930 that the dubbing technique as we know it today was invented by Jacob Karol. Filmmakers now had the ability to perfectly synchronise voice and image, which made it possible to record actors’ dialogues separately and under ideal conditions.
If you watch original films like Taxi Driver today, it’s hard to concentrate on the action because of the huge amount of background noise, almost overpowering the dialogue.
It was in films like Rouben Mamoulian’s “Applause” that dubbing began, with post-synchronisation and audio mixing as we know it. Mamoulian experimented with editing all the sounds on two interconnected 35mm soundtracks, thus initiating the dubbing technique still used today: that of creating the tracks for later “gluing” them to the pictures.
This approach significantly improved the sound quality of films, as audio isolation techniques had been so limited until then. With dubbing, the original sound of the movies could be better recorded, resulting in a more immersive viewing experience.
In addition, dubbing played a key role in the democratisation of cinema, making stories accessible to audiences of different idioms around the world.
From the 1990s onwards, the stars of the film industry began to lend their voices to characters in audiovisual works, including cartoons, which had previously been considered a minor art form. The so-called “3 voice acting” is now starting to be treated with interest by film and TV stars.
It was around 1992 that famous actors began to dub cartoons, particularly after Disney’s commercial hit “Aladdin”, in which the voice of the genie Aladdin was interpreted by the iconic actor Robin Williams and the animation was done according to the voice and intonation of the actor, rather than the other way round. This made Disney and other producers of animated films realise the power of this option in terms of marketing. For the animation studios, this meant having a big name on the posters and someone to talk to the media, since the animators couldn’t represent the character. But the biggest advantage that dubbing brought was the possibility of the same film being understood in several different languages around the world.
A few years after the United States, Brazil also decided to invest in famous voices to dub cartoons and other productions. In Portugal, the art of dubbing followed the Brazilian tradition, starting with cartoons, a genre that remains best known in this field for the Portuguese.
In Portugal, the first dubbing done for an animated film was Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, originally distributed in 1938 in several Western languages and widely seen in Portugal in Brazilian Portuguese.
How does the dubbing process work?
When the film is exported, following the technical process, the text, translated and adapted from the foreign product, arrives at the studio for national voices to be “glued” to it. The director chooses them taking into account a number of factors, such as the customer’s recommendation for someone to do a particular voice, or the possibility of an actor or character being a “dummy” for a particular speaker, i.e. only they can do it.
In the studios, the acting work begins, which requires a special reflex technique to follow the script and interpret the dialogues in sync with the actor or character’s lips. It also requires not only a good dubbing technique, but also talent for acting and theatre. After recording, the voices are mixed with the soundtrack and effects, and the product is sent back to the customer, who checks that it is suitable for screening.
Count on an excellent dubbing service
Translation for dubbing implies a totally different notion of rhythm and pauses from translation for subtitling and requires translators with an artistic flair and sensitivity to the changes and intentions of the spoken word. In the context of cartoons, the text for dubbing is especially important, and the work must be carried out with great sensitivity in order to capture and reproduce the nuances and intentions in the characters’ voices.
At CristBet, we have a team of translators specialised in handling dubbing projects. Over the years, we have translated countless hours of animated films for dubbing, always with great customer satisfaction.
If you would like to explore dubbing as an option for your project, or need translation services for dubbing, please contact us using the form.
We’ll make sure your message is conveyed with quality and precision in any language.