Dubbing the scene “Relevant” from Birdman into Spanish

The following post is a proof-of-concept project for Middlebury Institute of International Studies, I do not own the rights to the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn48hUyFrKQ or the movie.

The Art of Dubbing

According to ©2022 Encyclopedia Britannica, dubbing, in filmmaking is the process of adding new dialogue or other sounds to the soundtrack of a motion picture that has already been shot. Dubbing is most familiar to audiences as a means of translating foreign-language films into the audience’s language.

However, as a localization professional It’s not every day that we get to work on a dubbing project from the perspective of the dubbing supervisor, voice actors/actresses, and video editors, all at once. For that reason I decided to dub one monologue of one of my favorite movies of all times: Birdman, the unexpected virtue of ignorance and see what challenged I could face by doing so.

 But once I started thinking about the best workflow for the project, I had only a glimpse of the challenges that were coming. 

  • Preparing the Script (English / Spanish)
  • Recording voiceover (two voices)
  • Editing video to match lips from the original in Audition
  • Importing into Premiere Pro and creating a final file.

Things that I knew before going into the project

  • Its widely know that Spanish expands when translating from English most of the time, for that reason I knew that I had to count the words to match that into the translation. I had to be brief in Spanish, while trying to convey the same meaning.
  • I knew that I had to use the razor tool in Audition to match the lip from the dubbed
    audio with the original file.
  • I knew that there were any distractions where I could put some audio over because the lips were not there, the lips where ALWAYS there in this clip.

But… It was “1:35” min clip so I should be fine right?


The unexpected virtue of ignorance – Why?

First, I am not a professional actress, keep in mind that Emma Stone got an Academy Award nomination for her role on this movie. I had to really imprint my voice with frustration, anger, sadness, and think about all the emotions that I couldn’t convey. But besides that, I didn’t realize that the recording was even more crucial than I anticipated.

Second, I am not a professional video editor, although I feel pretty confident now about my skills in Audition and Premiere Pro, I know that there are some high-level skills that professionals use that I don’t know about, so I watched a lot of tutorials to get things right.

Third, in Dubbing, Each second counts.

This last challenge was the most difficult one for this project because I realize that if not only how many words are in a script that count. Its also the pacing of the voice actor/actress while speaking. A sentence with only 8 words can turn into a long audio frame in Audition. So, I had to record myself multiple times to achieve that “matching” of the lips of the original clip.

The final product

After many recordings, editing sessions and a lot of patience, a 1:35 clip turned into 6 hours of work. At the end, I got a final cut that it doesn’t make me feel completely bad about it, but it can be improved by real voice actors/actresses and video editors. However, this experience allowed me to understand a bit more what it’s behind the effort of dubbing. I can say that after my Project Showcase, I have even more admiration for all the voice actors/actresses, video editors, dubbing supervisors and project managers who work to make the movies and the TV shows that people who doesn’t speak the original language can enjoy.

My recommendation to whoever is looking into getting into the Entertainment Industry is to try it yourself, there are many tutorials online and programs that you can learn, and even if you don’t achieve professional level in your first project, you will learn more about it that if you were just watching it from afar.

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