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Dubbing vs Subtitling

Whereas in the past film production remained highly nationalized, today the same film can be broadcast in more than 30 or 40 countries for certain Hollywood productions. Translating and making films accessible to all then becomes a real challenge, hence the need for producers to use dubbing or subtitling.

A real debate then ensues for consumers, which option should they choose? Dubbing or subtitling in the cinema?

Dubbing consists of replacing the voices of actors in a film with the voices of other actors speaking in a foreign language. This technique requires perfect synchronization of the voices of the two actors in order to best adapt the content to the international audience. Subtitling, on the other hand, retains the original voices, which are translated and displayed as text at the bottom of the screen simultaneously with the dialogue. The translated text must therefore coincide with the actors' speech rate.


Subtitling requires more attention than dubbing, which allows you to focus on the content of the video more attentively. It thus makes it possible to better enjoy a film without having to read it. Moreover, dubbing makes it possible to broaden the target audience. Indeed, children or people who cannot read require that the dialogues be spoken and not written. Finally, it brings the spectator closer to the production in a way, since he or she feels much more concerned by a story in his or her original language.

Although dubbing has many advantages, it also has disadvantages. Firstly, if the actor's interpretation or the adaptation of the translation to the spoken language is wrong, this greatly affects the quality of the result and even comprehension. Let's take the French dubbing of Star Wars as an example. The French voice-overs leave something to be desired, mainly because France is very careful to translate English names and sayings in literal terms. "Darth Vader" becomes "Darth Vader", "Tusken raiders" is translated as "sandpeople" and "battle droids" is called "droïdes de combat". Although these names and other translated terms are easy to understand, they lose some of their meanings related to the Star Wars stories that the author originally intended. The film therefore seems inaccurate from the point of view of an English speaker, while French viewers do not notice any differences in the plot. Then it is a much more expensive process than subtitling. Indeed, you have to use an actor, who moreover must be the same from beginning to end, in order to guarantee the coherence of the story. The great actors even have a regular voice actor! Subtitling is therefore less costly, less time-consuming and less risky. In addition, some viewers prefer to listen to the "original voices" of the film as they provide a more authentic performance. Seeing a French-speaking American in the center of New York is not really convincing. Finally, to study languages, it is the best way!

Today more and more production facilities use both in order to be able to meet the demand of the hearing impaired. Finally, the association of the two can be used as a real tool of adaptation, this time not cultural but social.

Both processes bring disadvantages as well as advantages to the film industry. Choosing between the two is subjective. However, this "duel" opens up an important question:

Do we want a cinema that adapts to demand with more or less convincing dubbing? Or do we prefer them to focus on preserving the authenticity and original spirit of productions with quality subtitling that is less anchored in customer demand?

At 2002 Studios Media, we accompany you throughout the process of creating your video content, offering you the dubbing or subtitling solution that corresponds to your communication objectives.

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