By Jacques Barreau*
Since the start of dubbing in Europe in the 1940s, the model hasn’t changed much. Dubbing studios spent (and still spend) the vast majority of their time hiring dubbing actors to dub American movies. And these studios, which are located in large European, Asian, or Latin American cities, have not increased their pool of dubbing actors proportionately to the rapid growth of localized content.
Most of the Europe-based dubbing countries have two or three main dubbing cities. Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville are the dubbing hubs for Spain. Rome, Milan, and Turin are the dubbing capitals of Italy. Berlin, Munich, and Cologne are the places to dub in Germany. But the French dub practically everything in Paris.
This means that for countries with 50 million to 80 million people, a pool of approximately 2,000 dubbing actors is dubbing everything. Furthermore, since “time is money” is a universal rule, that means that a small group of dubbing actors from this pool dubs 80 percent of the content because they are good (and even more importantly, fast). The result is a feeling that these stars’ voices are sounding too similar in movies and TV series overseas.
In order to fix this problem, I propose that that the sector look for actors who want to become part of the industry, but don’t live near these big cities.
But how can they find assignments? Simple. The jobs will find them. This is where a hybrid approach comes into the picture.
The concept is to develop a larger pool of dubbing actors. A school could be a smart way of achieving this by giving these new actors the technical capability to record their tracks remotely — even from their homes. The most important thing is that they must record good audio tracks that can then be edited and mixed by sound engineers in dubbing studios.
And those who work for the dubbing studios need not worry that this will put them out of a job. The dubbing studios will always have their place in the dubbing business. For high quality product, wherein voice directors and perfect acoustics are needed, the studios will still be the preferred place to be for a long time.
From an economic standpoint, the concept makes a lot of sense as dubbing studios are not cheap to build and are mostly located in the big cities where the cost of living is the highest in the country.
Having access to a cast who can work from anywhere will level prices as these locations won’t have the same constraints, the same number of dubbing actors, nor the usual talent asking price. From a talent point of view, it is certainly better to stay home and record quietly than spend most of the day going from one dubbing studio to another in an effort to juggle recording sessions.
Furthermore, the countries themselves are not equal when it comes to the international dubbing “rate card.” The geopolitics of dubbing –– in the classic studio model –– show big differences between countries. Europe, Asia, and Latin America are different in terms of dubbing costs, which is not only due to the fact that actors, directors, and translators represent between 60 and 80 percent of the cost worldwide. It is also because of their cost of living. A small studio in Tokyo will cost much more than a much nicer facility in France or Italy, for example. We can even see noticeable differences between European countries, Spain being significantly cheaper than the other three “FIGS” countries (France, Italy, and Germany).
Obviously, this part of our hybrid approach –– the remote recording –– will not have the same constraints. This doesn’t mean that it will not have challenges. The first will be ensuring that there is a consistency in the recording and voice quality. The second one will be giving these remote dubbing actors the picture and audio elements they need quickly enough that they’ll be able to deliver the job on time. The third one will be giving them the appropriate tools to do their job.
Only a strong synergy between the two parts –– dubbing studios and remote recording –– will ensure a successful transition from the classic model to the hybrid one. One model doesn’t exclude the other. The remote recording will be limited to recording and the dubbing studios will get the tracks, edit, mix, QC, and deliver them to the right recipients.
Of course, the big question is: How do we get a reliable, large enough, trained pool of actors that can use our tools and deliver credible performances fast enough to allow the dubbing studios to complete the dubbing process in a timely manner?
*Jacques Barreau is vp at L.A.-based Translations.com. Barreau plays a key role in the development of the company’s GlobalLink Studio and Media.Next suite of AI-powered media localization solutions.