Dubbing (filmmaking)

In filmmaking, dubbing or looping is the process of recording or replacing voices for a motion picture. The term is most commonly used in reference to voices recorded that do not belong to the original actors and speak in a different language from the one in which the actor is speaking. "Dubbing" can also be used to describe the process of re-recording lines by the actor who originally spoke them. This process is technically known as automated dialogue replacement, or ADR. Music is also dubbed onto a film after editing is completed.

Although dubbing is most common with film, television series are sometimes dubbed as well (mostly popular Hollywood series and serialized Japanese anime that have received foreign distribution). Foreign-language films and videos are often dubbed into the local language of their target markets to increase their popularity with the local audience by making them more accessible.

Automated dialogue replacement / post-sync

Automated dialogue replacement or Additional dialogue recording (ADR) is a film sound technique involving the re-recording of dialogue after photography, also known as "looping" or a looping session. In the UK it is called post-synchronisation or post-sync.

In conventional film production, a production sound mixer records dialogue during photography, but several uncontrollable issues, such as traffic or animal noise, during principal photography can cause the production sound to be unusable. This is also true for computer-generated imagery, since some of the "actors" were not actually present at the set. In addition, ADR is also used to change the lines which the actor originally said while being filmed.

When the film is in post-production, a Supervising Sound Editor or ADR Supervisor reviews all of the dialogue in the film and rules which actor lines will have to be replaced using the ADR technique.

ADR is recorded during an ADR session. An actor, usually the original actor on set, is called to a sound studio equipped with video playback equipment and sound playback and recording equipment. The actor wears headphones and is shown the line of the film that must be replaced, and often he or she will be played the production sound recording. The film is then projected several times, and the actor attempts to re-perform the line while watching the image on the screen, while an ADR Recordist records the performances. Several takes are made, and based on the quality of the performance and sync, one is selected and edited by an ADR Editor for use in the film.

Sometimes, a different actor is used from the actual actor on set. One famous example is the Star Wars character Darth Vader, portrayed by David Prowse. In postproduction, his voice was replaced with that of James Earl Jones. Many fans therefore think of Jones as "the man who played Darth Vader" rather than Prowse.

There are variations of the ADR process. ADR does not have to be recorded in a studio, but can be recorded on location, with mobile equipment; this process was pioneered by Matthew Wood of Skywalker Sound for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. ADR can also be recorded without showing the actor the image they must match, but only by having him listen to the performance. This process was used for years at Universal Studios.

An alternative method, called "rythmo band” (or "lip-sync band") was historically used in Canada and France. This band provides a more precise guide for the actors, directors and technicians and can be used to complement the traditional headphone method. The band is actually a clear 35 mm film leader on which is written, in India ink, the dialogue and numerous indications for the actor (laughs, cries, length of syllables, mouth sounds, mouth openings and closings, etc.). The lip-sync band is projected in studio and scrolls in perfect synchronization with the picture. Thanks to the high efficiency of the lip-sync band, the number of retakes are reduced, resulting in a substantial savings in recording time (as much as 50% compared to headphones-only recording).

Historically, the preparation of the lip-sync band is a long, tedious and complex process involving a series of specialists in an old fashioned manual production line. Until recently, such constraints have prevented this technique from being adopted internationally, particularly in the United States.

Advanced software technology has been able to digitally reproduce the rythmo-band output in a fraction of the time. This technology is being adapted in all markets and is proven to reduce the amount of studio time and number of takes required for actors to achieve accurate synchronization.

Using the traditional ADR technique (headphones and video) actors can average 10-12 lines per hour. Using the newer digital rythmo-band technologies, actors can output from 35-50 lines per hour, and much more with experience. Studio output with multiple actors can therefore reach 2-4 hundred lines per hour. dubStudio has pioneered the digital rythmo-band technology and has been used by several large dubbing studios.

ADR can usually be used to redub singing. This technique was used by, among many others, Billy Boyd and Viggo Mortensen in The Lord of the Rings.

Adding or replacing non-vocal sounds, such as sound effects, is the task of a foley artist.

Practice of dubbing foreign films throughout the world

Dubbing is often used to localize a foreign movie. The new voice track will usually be spoken by a voice artist. In many countries, most actors who regularly perform this duty are generally little-known, outside of popular circles such as anime fandom, for example, or when their voice has become synonymous with the role or the actor or actress whose voice they usually dub. In the United States, many of these actors also employ pseudonyms or go uncredited due to Screen Actors Guild regulations or simple desire to dissociate themselves from the role. However, famous local actors can also be hired to perform the dubbing, particularly for comedies and animated movies, as their names are supposed to attract moviegoers, and the entire Hollywood cast is dubbed by a local cast of similar notoriety.


In the Russian, Spanish or Italian-speaking markets, virtually all foreign films and television shows are dubbed. There are few opportunities to watch foreign movies in their original versions, and, even in the largest cities, there are virtually no cinemas that screen original versions with subtitles, or no translation at all. However, digital pay-TV programming is often available in the original language, including the latest movies.

In Bulgaria, television series are dubbed. But most television channels in Bulgaria use subtitles for the action and drama movies due to lack of money. Only Diema channels dub all programmes.

In Croatia foreign films and TV series are always subtitled while some children programs and cartoons are dubbed into Croatian. Recently more efforts have been made to introduce dubbing, but public reception was poor. Regardless of language, Croatian audience prefers subtitling to dubbing. Some previously quite popular shows (e.g. Sailor Moon) lost their appeal completely after dubbing started and were eventually taken off the program. The situation is similar with theatre movies with only those intended for children being dubbed (Finding Nemo, Shark Tale) but they are also regularly shown subtitled as well.

In Finland, dubbing is exclusively used in young children's cartoons. Cartoon films and other films for children are usually released dubbed in Finnish, although many theaters also screen the original versions. For the 6% Swedish-speaking minority, the dubbed version from Sweden is also made available at certain cinemas, and later on video/DVD. In movie theaters the films have both Finnish and Swedish subtitles, the Finnish printed in basic font and the Swedish printed below the Finnish in cursivated font. In the early ages of television, foreign TV-shows and movies were dubbed by one actor in Finland, as in Russian Gavrilov translation. Later subtitles became a practice also in Finnish television. Dubbing is very unwanted in Finland. A good example for this is The Simpsons Movie. While the original version got average ratings, the Finnish dubbed version got poor ratings, some critics even calling it a disaster.

In France, movies and TV series are always released dubbed in French. Films are usually released theatrically in both dubbed and original versions in large cities main street theatres, and a theatre showing a subtitled movie typically has a sign on the poster advising the moviegoers the movie is in the original language version (usually abbreviated VO (version originale) as opposed to VF (version française). Art house movies are often available in their original version only due to limited distribution. Some voice talents, such as Roger Carel, Richard Darbois, Edgar Givry, Jacques Frantz, Jacques Balutin or Francis Lax, have achieved significant popularity.

In Germany, Austria and the German speaking part of Switzerland, practically all films, shows, television series and foreign soap opera's are shown in the dubbed versions created for the German market. Even computer games and video games feature German text menues and are dubbed into the German language if containing any speaking parts in the games. However, in recent years, Swiss-German television, SF1 and SF2 have been showing increasing numbers of movies in "dual sound" which means the viewer can choose between the original language (usually English) or German. In addition, Swiss-French television shows many broadcasts available in original language or French, as does Swiss-Italian television TSI. A common example is the American detective series Columbo and other popular series based broadcasts such as Starsky and Hutch.

Dubbing films has been and is still tradition and is common practice. Although voice actors play only a secondary role, they are still notable for providing familiar voices to well-known actors. Famous foreign actors are known and recognized for their German voice and the German audience is used to them and so dubbing is also a matter of authenticity. However, in larger cities, there are theaters where movies can be seen in their original versions as English has become more popular, especially among younger viewers. On TV, few movies are subtitled, although pay-per-view programming is often available in its original language.

German dubbed versions diverge sometimes far from the original, especially adding humorous elements to the original. In extreme cases, like The Persuaders! the dubbed version was more successful than the English original just by its better dialogs. Often it also adds sexually explicit gags the US versions would not be allowed to use, like in Bewitched translating The Do-not-disturb sign will hang at the door this night to The only hanging thing this night will be the Do-not-disturb sign.

Some movies dubbed before reunification exist in different versions for the east and the west. They use different translations, and often they are different in the style of dubbing.

In Greece, all films are released theatrically in their original versions and contain subtitles. Only cartoon films (e.g. Finding Nemo, The Incredibles etc.) are released in both original and dubbed versions, for children that cannot yet read fast or at all. Foreign TV shows are also shown in their original versions except for most cartoons. For example The Flintstones is always dubbed, while Family Guy is subtitled and contains the original dialogue, since it is mostly for adults rather than children.

In Hungary, practically all television programmes are dubbed, and about 50 per cent of movies in theaters. In the socialist era, every one of them was dubbed in high quality with professional and mostly popular actors, and similarly to Germany, they generally added to the quality of the film. Great care was taken to make sure the same voice actor would lend their voice to the same character. In the early 1990s, as cinemas tried to keep up with showing newly released films, subtitling became dominant in cinema. This, in turn, forced TV channels to make their own cheap versions of dub soundtracks for movies they presented, resulting in a constant degrading in dubbing quality, which once became customary, cinema distributors brought back the habit of dubbing to cinemas for popular productions, presenting them with the quality varying from very poor to average. However, every single feature is presented with original soundtrack in at least one cinema in large towns and cities.

There is a more recent problem arising from dubbing included on DVD releases. Many generations have grown up with an original, and by the current technological standards outdated soundtrack, which either technologically (mono or bad quality stereo sound) or legally (expired soundtrack licence) is unsuitable for a DVD release. Many original features are released on DVD with a new soundtrack, which in some cases proves extremely unpopular, thus forcing DVD producers to include the original soundtrack. In some rare cases the Hungarian soundtrack is left out altogether. This happens notably with Warner Home Video Hungary, who ignored the existence of Hungarian soundtracks completely. This was because they did not want to pay the licensees for the soundtracks to be included on their new DVD releases, which appear with improved picture quality, but a very poor subtitle.

Italy is the country where the use of dubbing is systematic, with a long tradition going back to the 1930s in Rome, Milan and Turin. Back in Mussolini's fascist Italy, foreign languages were banned. Rome is the principal base of the dubbing industry, where they dub major productions such as movies, drama, documentaries and some cartoons. However in Milan it is mostly cartoons and some minor productions which are dubbed. In big cities original version movies can also be seen. Subtitles are usually available on late night programmes on mainstream tv channels, and on pay-TV all movies are available in English with Italian subtitles, and many shows feature the original English soundtrack. Early in his career, Nino Manfredi worked extensively as a dubbing actor.

In Latvia, dubbing is hugely popular - almost all shows are dubbed.

In Norway, Sweden and Denmark only children's movies and TV shows (acted and animated) are dubbed, while all TV shows and movies intended for older audiences are subtitled. For children's movies in cinemas usually both a dubbed and a subtitled version is available.

In Poland, cinema releases are almost exclusively subtitled, and television screenings of movies, as well as made-for-TV shows, are usually shown with the original soundtrack kept, and translation spoken over by lector - it is almost exactly the same as the so-called Gavrilov translation in Russia. Standard dubbing is not widely popular with most audiences, with the exception of animated and children's movies and shows, which are often dubbed both in cinema and TV releases. One of the major breakthroughs in dubbing was the Polish release of Shrek, which contained many references to local culture and Polish humor. Since then, people seem to have grown to like dubbed versions more, and pay more attention to the dubbing actors. However, it seems that it's the case only with animated films, as live-action dubbing is still considered a bad practice. In the case of DVD, most discs contain both the original soundtrack and subtitles, and either lector or dubbed Polish track.

In Portugal, only children's TV series are dubbed, and on Cable TV even children's series such as Doraemon are subtitled. Animation movies were shown using the Brazilian dub for decades -The Lion King was the first feature fim dubbed in Portugal. Recently, children's Live-Action movies (such as the Harry Potter series) have also been dubbed into Portuguese. While the quality of these dubs is recognised, usually original versions with subtitles are still preferred by the public and they get even distribution in cinemas. (Bee Movie is a good example of this). Animation for adults (such as The Simpsons or South Park)are never dubbed - when The Simpsons Movie was dubbed and the Portuguese version was largely distributed in cinemas (some small cities not even getting the original version), there were protests from the public. Live action series and movies are always shown in the original language with subtitles.

In Romania, virtually all programmes intended for children are dubbed in Romanian, including cartoons on Jetix, Cartoon Network, Minimax as well as those shown on generalist television networks, children-focused series like Power Rangers, The New Addams Family, The Planet's Funniest Animals or movies screened on children television. Animation movies are shown in theatres with Romanian dubbing, but usually those cinemas with more screening rooms also provide the original subtitled version; that was the case of such movies like Babe, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Finding Nemo, Cars, Shrek the Third, Ratatouille, Kung Fu Panda or Wall-e. Other foreign TV shows and movies are shown in the original language with Romanian subtitles. Usually subtitles are preferred in the Romanian market, except for children-intended programme: according to "Special Eurobarometer 243" of the European Commission (research carried out in November and December 2005), 62% of Romanians prefer to watch foreign films and programmes with subtitles, rather than dubbed; nonetheless 22% prefer dubbing, while other 16% declined to answer. This is led by the missconception that watching movies in their original version is very efficient in learning foreign languages. However, only 7 percent of the respondents in that same survey claimed they learned a foreign language by doing so (EU average: 10 percent), compared to 69 percent that learned a foreign language during language lessons at school (EU average: 69 percent). Moreover, according to the Eurobarometer, virtually no Romanian found this method – watching movies in their original version – as the most efficient way of learning foreign languages, compared to 53 percent that chose language lessons at school.

Russian television is generally dubbed with only a couple of voice actors, with the original speech still audible underneath.

In Serbia (and most other Serbo-Croat speaking parts of former Yugoslavia), all foreign films and TV series are always subtitled while children movies and cartoons are dubbed into Serbo-Croat. The dubbing of cartoon classics during the 80s had a twist of its own: famous Belgrade actors provided the voices for Bugs, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Goofy, Donald Duck and other characters, frequently using region specific phrases and sentences and thus adding a dose of local humor to the translation of the original lines. These phrases became immensely popular and are still being used for tongue-in-cheek comments in specific situations. Even though these dubbed classics are seldom aired nowadays, younger generations continue to use these phrases without even knowing their true origin.

In Slovakia, virtually all foreign films and television programmes shown on television are dubbed, often by well-known actors. Most movies reach the same quality as the original ones, sometimes even surpass the original, as in the case of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame where the dubbing actors were arguably better singers than their English-speaking counterparts. In cinemas, films are usually shown subtitled, unless they are intended for children of 12 years of age and younger; Slovak law requires those films be dubbed or rated as MP-12 (roughly equivalent to PG-13, without a cautionary meaning in this case.). Cinemas sometimes offer both dubbed and subtitled screenings for either very major movie releases (e.g. the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy) that would have otherwise not been dubbed, or conversely for children's films or family films that are expected to also attract mature viewers (e.g. Shrek) to maximize the potential audience.

In Slovenia, all foreign films and television programmes are subtitled without exceptions. Traditionally, children movies and animated cartoons used to be dubbed, but subtitling has gradually spread into that genre, as well. Nowadays, only movies for preschool children, who cannot read, remain dubbed.

In the Soviet Union most foreign movies to be officially released were dubbed, however with the fall of the regime many popular foreign movies, previously forbidden or at least questionable under communist rule started flooding in, in the form of low-quality home-copied videos. Being unofficial releases, they were dubbed in a very primitive way, i.e. the translator spoke the text directly over the audio of a video being copied, using most primitive equipment. The quality of the resulting dub was very low, the translated phrases were off-sync, interfered with the original voices, background sounds leaked into, translation was inaccurate and most importantly, all dub voices were made by a single person and usually lacked intonation of the original, making comprehension of some scenes quite difficult. In modern Russia, the overdubbing technique is still used in many cases, although with vastly improved quality and now with multiple voice actors dubbing different original voices.

In Spain, practically all foreign television programmes are shown dubbed in Spanish, as are most films. Some dubbing actors have achieved popularity for their voices like Constantino Romero, who dubs Clint Eastwood, Darth Vader and Schwarzenegger's Terminator among others. The Spanish-language dubs created in Spain are rarely used in Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America and vice-versa, since the varieties are generally considered too different by the general audience. In addition, in those Autonomous Communities with their own official language other than Spanish, most films and TV programmes shown on local TV networks (and sometimes in cinemas) are dubbed into local languages, such as Catalan, Basque, and Galician.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the vast majority of foreign films are subtitled although some, mostly animated films and TV programmes, are dubbed in English. These usually originate from North America as opposed to being dubbed locally, although there have been notable examples of films and TV programmes successfully dubbed in the UK, such as Monkey and The Magic Roundabout. When airing films on television, channels in the UK and Ireland will often choose subtitling over dubbing, even if an English dub already exists. It is also a fairly common practice that animation aimed at pre-school children is re-dubbed with British voice actors replacing the original voices, although this is not done with shows aimed at older audiences.

Some animated films and TV programmes are also dubbed into Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. Similarly, in Ireland, animated series shown on TG4 are shown dubbed in Irish.

The Americas

In Spanish-American countries, all foreign language programmes, films, cartoons and documentaries shown in free aired TV channels are dubbed into Neutral Spanish, while in cable and satellite pan-regional channels are both dubbed or subtitled. For theaters, only the films made for children are dubbed into Neutral Spanish (usually with Mexican pronunciation) and sometimes dubbed into local Spanish for major markets like Argentine ones.

In Mexico, departing from the conventions of other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, Blockbuster films are featured in all movie theaters with dubbing. In addition most of the cinema-theaters, primarily in big cities, offer to see the film in the original language with subtitles. The people who attend the screening of films in the original language are often people from middle and upper class backgrounds. These people tend to find dubbed films as terrible. Also most of the movies released in DVD have the feature of Neutral Spanish. In broadcast TV foreign programs are dubbed. For legislation, in movie theaters, the documentaries, animated and children movie are dubbed. In Pay TV most shows and movies are subtitled.

In Brazil, foreign programmes are invariably dubbed into Portuguese in broadcast TV, with only a few exceptions. Films shown at cinemas are usually subtitled (only children movies have dubbed versions at cinemas). Pay TV commonly offers both dubbed and subtitled movies but subtitling is predominant. Foreign TV shows are always subtitled in Brazilian Pay TV.

In Quebec, Canada, most films and TV programmes in English are dubbed into Quebec French (with an International French accent for ease of comprehension and regional neutrality). Occasionally, the dubbing of a series or a movie, such as The Simpsons is made using "normal" Quebec French. This has the advantage of making children's films and TV series comprehensible to younger audiences, but many bilingual Québécois prefer subtitling since they would understand some or all of the original audio. In addition, films are always shown in English as well, in big cities, and in fact, some theatres, such as the Scotiabank Cinema Montreal, show only movies in English. Most American television series are only available in English on DVD, or on English language channels, but some of the more popular ones have French dubs shown on mainstream networks, and are released in French on DVD as well, sometimes separately from an English-only version.

Formerly, all French-language dubbed films in Quebec were imported from France, and to this day some still are. Such a practice was criticized by politician Mario Dumont after he took his children to see the Parisian French dub of Shrek the Third, which Dumont found incomprehensible. (After Dumont's complaints and a proposed bill, Bee Movie was the first DreamWorks animation film to have a Quebec French dub .) In addition, because viewers usually find Quebec French more comprehensible, some older film series that had their first installments dubbed in France have later ones dubbed in Quebec. For example, the Star Wars original trilogy was dubbed in France, changing most of the names and terms from the English version (for example, "Chiktabba" for Chewbacca). However, the prequel trilogy was dubbed in Quebec; due to the change of voice actors for most characters, and the custom in Quebec dubbing to usually not change names of characters and terms, many inconsistencies were created.

In the United States, dubbing is rare except for animations: televised Japanese anime is almost always aired in its dubbed format regardless of its content or target age group, with the sole exceptions occurring either when an English dub has not been produced for the program (usually in the case of feature films) or when the program is being presented by a network that places importance on presenting it in its original format (as was the case when Turner Classic Movies aired several of Hayao Miyazaki's works, which were presented both dubbed and subtitled). Most anime DVDs contain options for original Japanese, Japanese with subtitles, and English dubbed, except for a handful of series which have been heavily edited and/or Americanized. Usually, Tokusatsu and daikaiju films are dubbed when imported into the US.


China has a long tradition of dubbing foreign films into the Mandarin Chinese which started in 1930s. Beginning from late 1970s, not only films, but popular TV series from the US, Japan and Mexico were also dubbed. The Shanghai Film Dubbing Studio has been the most celebrated one in the dubbing industry in China. In order to generate high-quality products, they divide each film into short segments, each one lasting only a few minutes, and then work on the segments one by one. In addition to the correct meaning in translation, they make tremendous effort to match the lips of the actors. As a result, viewers can hardly detect that the films they are seeing are actually dubbed. The cast of dubbers is acknowledged at the end of a dubbed film. Quite a few dubbing actors and actresses of the Shanghai Film Dubbing Studio became well-known celebrities, among whom are Qiu Yuefeng, Bi Ke, Li Zi, and Liu Guangning.

In Thailand, foreign television programmes are dubbed, but the original soundtrack is often simultaneously carried or "simulcast" on the radio.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, South American telenovelas are dubbed, while English language programmes are usually shown in the original language with Indonesian and Malay subtitles respectively. However, recently in Malaysia, this has changed and South American telenovelas now retain their original language, with Malay subtitles. Most but not all Korean and Japanese dramas are still dubbed in Mandarin with Malay subtitles on terrestrial television channels. Cantonese, Mandarin, Tamil and Hindi programmes are shown in original language all this while, usually with Malay subtitling (and in some cases, multilingual subtitling). Cartoons and anime are also dubbed as well, although English-language cartoons are normally not dubbed, and some anime do retain their original Japanese language.

In the Philippines, Japanese anime is dubbed in the local tongue, Tagalog. One network, which features all anime are all Tagalog-dubbed animations. Popular also in the Philippines are Chinese, Korean, and Mexican tv programs which are termed Chinovelas, Koreanovelas, and Mexicanovelas respectively.

In Mongolia, most television dubbing uses the same method as Russian, using only few voice actors, and the original language audible underneath. In movie theatres, foreign films are shown in their original language with Mongolian subtitles underneath.

In India, where "foreign films" are synonymous with Hollywood films, dubbing is done mostly in Hindi which is the national language and a few regional languages like Tamil and Telugu, the finished works are released into the towns and lower tier settlements of the respective states (where English penetration is low), often with the English language originals being released in the metropolitan areas. In all other states, the English originals are released along with the dubbed versions where often the dubbed version collections are outstanding than original. The most recent dubbing of Spider-Man 3 was also done in Bhojpuri a language popular in northern India.

In Pakistan, Almost 60% of population speak Punjabi as their mother-tongue in country. Therefore Punjabi films make more business than Urdu films. The film companies produced Punjabi films and re-record all films in Urdu and released it as a "Double Version" film.

Also in Pakistan, where "foreign films" are synonymous with Hollywood films, dubbing is done mostly in Urdu which is the national language, the finished works are released into the metros of all over the country.

In Vietnam, foreign-language films and programs are dubbed on television, usually with just one voice actor. Programs aimed at children might have multiple voice actors. Chinese-language series available on DVD or for rent are dubbed with multiple voice actors, done by overseas Vietnamese. Subtitling is rarely seen.

In multilingual Singapore, English language programmes on the free to air terrestrial channels are usually subtitled in Chinese or Malay, while Chinese, Malay and Tamil programmes are almost always are subtitled in English. Dual sound programs like Korean and Japanese dramas offer sound in original languages and subtitled or are Mandarin dubbed and subtitled. The deliberate policy to encourage Mandarin among citizens has led to other Chinese dialects (Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew) programmes to be dubbed into Mandarin; exceptions being traditional operas. In a recent development, news bulletins are subtitled.

Middle East

In Iran, Dubbing starts from 1946 with the advent of movies and cinemas in this country. Since then, foreign movies have always been dubbed for the cinema and TV. Using various voice actors and adding local hints and witticisms to the original contents, the dubbing played a major role in attracting people to the cinemas and making them interested in other cultures. The dubbing art in Iran reached its culminant point during the 1960’s and 1970’s with inflow of American, European and Hindi movies. Most famous musicals of the time, such as My fair lady and Sound of music were translated, adjusted and performed in Persian by the voice talents. After the 1978’s Revolution, the dubbing industry has been on the downfall, with movies to be dubbed only for the state TV channels. During the recent years DVDs with Persian subtitles have found a market among the educated societies, but most of the people still prefer Persian-spoken versions. Nowadays, The Association of Tehran’s Young Voice Actors is seeking to revive the national tradition of dubbing, by adding a local tinge to the original and making it more appealing to the public (e.g. Finding Nemo, Incredibles, Horton Hears a Who!, etc). This association has taken a big leap forward in adapting and performing songs and poems used in animations which is unprecedented.


In South Africa, many television programmes, including Beverly Hills, 90210 were dubbed in Afrikaans, with the original soundtrack (usually in English, but sometimes Dutch or German) "simulcast" in FM stereo on Radio 2000. However, this has declined as a result of the reduction of airtime for the language on SABC TV, and the increase of locally produced material in Afrikaans on other channels like KykNet and MK. Similarly, many programmes, such as The Jeffersons, were dubbed into Zulu, but this has declined as local drama production has increased.


In common with other English-speaking countries, there has traditionally been little dubbing in Australia, with foreign language television programmes and films being shown (usually on SBS) with subtitles. This has also been the case in New Zealand, but the Maori Television Service, launched in 2004, has dubbed animated films, like Watership Down, into Maori. However, some TV commercials which originated from foreign countries are dubbed, even if the original commercial came from another English-speaking country.

Insistence on Subtitling

Subtitles can be used instead of dubbing, as different countries have different traditions regarding the choice between dubbing and subtitling. In most English-speaking countries, dubbing is comparatively rare. In Israel, some programmes need to be comprehensible to speakers of both Hebrew and Arabic or Russian. This cannot be accomplished with dubbing, so subtitling is much more commonplace — sometimes even with subtitles in multiple languages, with the soundtrack remaining in the original language, usually English. The same thing also applies to certain television shows in Finland, where Finnish and Swedish are both official languages.

In the Netherlands, Flanders, Nordic countries and Estonia, films and television programmes are shown in the original language (usually English) with subtitles, and only cartoons and children movies and programs are dubbed, such as the Harry Potter series, Finding Nemo, Shrek, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory etc. Cinemas usually both show a dubbed version and one with subtitles of this kind of movies, with the subtitled version later in the evening.

In Portugal this has traditionally also been the case (at least for live-action material), but one terrestrial channel, TVI, dubs US series like Dawson's Creek into Portuguese. RTP also transmitted Friends in a dubbed version, but it was poorly received and later re-aired in a subtitled version. Cartoons, on the other hand, are usually dubbed, sometimes by well-known actors, even on TV. Animated movies are usually released to the cinemas in both subtitled and dubbed versions.

On DVDs with higher translation budgets, the option for both types will often be provided to account for individuals' preferences; purists often demand subtitles. For small markets (small language area or films for a select audience) subtitling is more suitable because it is cheaper. For films for small children, who can not yet read, or not yet very fast, dubbing is necessary.

In Argentina, terrestrial channels air films and TV series in a dubbed version, as demanded by law. However, those same series can be seen on cable channels at more accessible timeslots in their subtitled version. Apart from airing dubbed TV series (for example, Lost, Married with Children, ER, Dr. House and Desperate Housewives) Telefé, like many other networks, has bought the rights to produce and air a "ported version" of Desperate Housewives in Argentina, with local actors and actresses.

Other uses

Dubbing is occasionally used on network television broadcasts of films which have dialogue that the network executives or censors have decided to replace; this is usually done to remove profanity. In most cases, the original actor does not perform this duty; instead, an actor with a similar voice is called in. The results are sometimes seamless, but in many cases the voice of the replacement actor sounds nothing like the original performer, which becomes particularly noticeable when extensive dialogue needs to be replaced. Also, often easy to notice, is the sudden absence of background sounds in the movie during the dubbed dialogue. Among the films considered notorious for using substitute actors that sound very different from their theatrical counterparts are the Smokey and the Bandit and the Die Hard film series as shown on broadcasters such as TBS. In the case of Smokey and the Bandit, extensive dubbing was done for the first network airing on ABC Television in 1978, especially for Jackie Gleason's character, Buford T. Justice. The dubbing of his phrase "Sombitch" became the more palatable (and memorable) "Scum Bum," which became a catchphrase of the time.

Dubbing is commonly used in science fiction television as well. Sound generated by effects equipment such as animatronic puppets or by actors' movements on elaborate multi-level plywood sets (e.g., starship bridges or other command centers) will quite often make the original character dialogue unusable. Stargate and Farscape are two prime examples where ADR is used heavily to produce usable audio.

Since some anime series contain some amount of profanity, the studios recording the English dubs often re-record certain lines if a series or movie is going to be broadcast on Cartoon Network, removing references to death and hell as well. Some companies will offer both an edited version and uncut version of the series on DVD, so there is also an edited script in case the series is broadcast. Other companies also edit the full-length version of a series, meaning that even on the uncut DVD, characters say things like "Blast!" "Darn!" in place of the original dialogue's profanity (Bandai Entertainment's English dub of G Gundam is infamous for this, among many other things, with such lines as "Bartender, more milk.").

Dubbing has also been used for comedic purposes, replacing lines of dialogue to create comedies from footage that was originally another genre. Examples include the Australian shows The Olden Days and Bargearse, redubbed from 1970s Australian drama and action series respectively, and the Irish show Soupy Norman, redubbed from Pierwsza miłość.

Dubbing into a foreign language does not always entail the deletion of the original language; in some countries, a performer may read the translated dialogue as a voiceover. This often occurs in Russia and Poland, where "lektories" or "lektors" read the translated dialogue into Russian and Polish. In Poland, a single person reads all parts of the performance, both male and female. However, it is almost exclusively done for the television and home video markets, while theatrical releases are usually subtitled. Though, as of recently, the amount of high-quality, fully dubbed films has increased, especially for cartoons and children's movies. If a quality dubbed version exists for some film, it is shown in theaters (however, some films, such as Harry Potter or Star Wars, are shown in both dubbed and subtitled versions varying with the time of the show) as well as on TV (although some channels drop it and do standard one narrator translation) and VHS/DVD. In other countries, like Vietnam, the voiceover technique is also used for theatrical releases.

In Russia, the reading of all lines by a single person is referred to as a Gavrilov translation, and is generally found only in illegal copies of films and on cable television. Professional copies always include at least two actors of opposite gender translating the dialogue (some titles in Poland have been dubbed this way, too, but this method lacks public appeal so it is very rare now).

On special occasions, such as film festivals, live interpreting is often done by professionals. See also dubtitle.

Criticism and defense of dubbing

Dubbing has been criticized in several ways, particularly in countries where it is not common practice.

Those who dislike dubbing sometimes claim that it devalues films or TV programs, as original soundtracks are closer to what the director intended. The humorous effect of Inspector Clouseau's accent is, of course, entirely lost in the French dubbing. Some consider that the body language of Italian actors make their performances particularly ill-suited to dubbing, as foreign post-synchronization often destroys much of the original Italian language's feeling. Comedy performers such as Peter Sellers, Louis de Funès, Steve Martin or Roberto Benigni are considered to lose great part of their impact when dubbed into foreign languages, as the humorous effect resulting from the interaction between their voices and bodies is partially lost. Some feel that dubbing can make the film or program less authentic. For example, German officers in WWII movies can be distracting to some if not speaking German, while in the German-dubbed versions of these films, the contrast between Germans and speakers of other languages is lost. The best example here is from the Indiana Jones movies, where the German characters had to be dubbed by native Germans for the German release and for the later re-release of the movies for television and DVD, they kept the dubbed lines even for original soundtrack to make it more authentic.

Likewise, some claim it is distracting in English dubbed anime when many characters speak in North American accents, which may not match their ethnicity and nationality or the time and setting of the story. Similarly, in dubbed versions the different accents of the protagonists which may be important to the story (for example in Upstairs, Downstairs, portraying the lives of an upper-class London family and their servants in the early 20th century) can not always be adequately reproduced in certain languages. In addition, a significant part of actor's performance consists of their vocal inflections. Very often, memorable lines from popular films are frequently quoted, not for their substance, but for the way they were spoken; a good example is a famous sentence, uttered by Jack Nicholson, in the film A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!". For these reasons, some may feel they miss part of film's artistic value when watching a film dubbed into another language. Also, lip synchronization is normally lost when dubbing, even with quality dubbing between closely related languages. There are examples which have been reshot or reanimated to remedy this problem. The dubbing of many television series is often criticized: the French dubbing of Dynasty and many American soap operas was and still is considered especially poor and ill-synchronized, and in addition it sometimes appears as if it was filmed with the camera on a different setting.

Dubbing performers are occasionally known to take liberties with some works they do not hold in particular esteem, or consider exploitation films. The French dubbing of the anime Fist of the North Star is notorious, as the performers disliked the violence of the series so much that, after post-synchronizing a few episodes, they only agreed on continuing their work if they could turn the show into a spoof. This resulted in episodes full of idiotic puns, absurd dialogue and extreme overacting by everybody. This dubbing has gathered a cult following in France for that precise reason, although many anime fans consider it highly disrespectful to the original work.

Another example is the German dub of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The people responsible for the dub deemed Monty Python's humour unsuitable for the German audience (which was disproven by the huge success of Monty Python in Germany up to the present day, the group having even produced a German-language TV show and actually speaking the language in it) and introduced a lot of awkward puns into the dialogue, whereby they often completely killed the original humour. However, this practice had been a success with The Persuaders!, where Tony Curtis' and Roger Moore's suddenly very humorous dialogue has generated a cult following in Germany, while the series was received not as well in its original country, England.

Perhaps one of the most notorious examples of this is all anime dubbed by 4Kids Entertainment in the US, such as One Piece. Not only are the American voice actors ill-received with the anime fanbase, but many awkward puns are inserted, names and settings are changed, edits are made to make the show suitable for a younger audience, and some or all of the original music is changed. The dubs are popular with young children but almost universally disliked among anime fans.

Occasionally, dubbing teams can show some disregard for the meaning and setting of the movies, regardless of their perceived quality: the French version of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral renames Wyatt Earp "Edward Thorpe", as Earp's name is somewhat difficult to pronounce in French; since Wyatt Earp was not the most familiar Old West figure to French audiences, the adaptators did not feel bound to give particular regard to the historical figure.

Defenders of dubbing maintain that subtitling interferes with the visual experience, as it obscures part of the picture. Some people also find that the act of reading itself is distracting, especially in pictures that rely on subtle motion: one would be too busy reading the subtitles to pay attention to what everyone is doing. Also, some viewers who understand both the original language and the language used in the subtitles say they find that it is confusing and distracting to mentally process the dialogues in both languages at the same time. In other cases, viewers may not consider subtitling (and alternate forms of translation) to be distracting or inadequate; rather, they simply chose to listen to dubbed versions as a matter of personal preference. These people sometimes argue that as long as dubbing does not prevent others from viewing programs in the language format that they chose, it finds its merit simply because there are people who enjoy dubbing. Another defense for dubbing is that it works better in action movies, in particular scenes involving special effects with occasional dialog, since subtitles distract from the action or effects.

In many European countries, Hollywood movies are regularly dubbed and some people maintain that a creative translation (not necessarily faithful to the original English words) can occasionally bring additional fun and depth to films. English-language series such as The Persuaders! and Starsky and Hutch are greatly popular in France for their talented dubbing. The French version of "The Persuaders!" was in fact a translation of the German version instead of the English original - and was also successful. A German fan has asserted that the German dubbing was "a unique mixture of streetslang (sic) and ironic tongue-in-cheek remarks" and that it "even mentioned Lord Sinclair becoming 007 at one or two occasions".[19] It also frequently included remarks about the series itself like "Junge, lass doch die Sprüche, die setzen ja die nächste Folge ab!" (Stop those jokes, or they'll cancel the series) or about the dubbing: "Du musst jetzt etwas schneller werden, sonst bist Du nicht synchron" (Talk faster, or you aren't in sync any more).

In Hungary it is common for translators to create the Hungarian text to rhyme for comedies and cartoons with well-known local actors providing their voices to read it. The most famous example is perhaps the The Flintstones, with its entire Hungarian text in rhymes.

In many cases, dubbing of films or series involves the addition of dialogue where there previously was none. This often happened during the dubbing of anime for television. Extended silent scenes with no dialogue are often used for dramatic effect in anime as in live action. This is typically considered too slow-paced for North American childrens cartoons where dialogue is considered the most important element.

Dubbing the same language several times

In the case of languages with large communities (like English, Chinese, German, Spanish or French), a single translation may sound foreign to some groups, or even all of them. This is why a film may be translated to a certain language more than once: for example, the animated movie The Incredibles was translated to European Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Venezuelan Spanish and Rioplatense Spanish. However, people from Chile and Uruguay clearly noticed a strong porteño accent from most of the characters of the Rioplatense Spanish translation. Another example is the French dubbing of The Simpsons, which is entirely different in Quebec and France, the humor being highly different for each audience (see Non-English versions of The Simpsons). Audiences in Quebec are generally critical of France's dubbing of the Simpsons, which they often do not find amusing. The French-language Télétoon network once aired the Quebec Simpsons dub, as well as Parisian French dubs of Futurama and Family Guy, which were both similar to the Parisian Simpsons dub. The two latter shows have since been taken off the network (probably due to a lack of popularity), while The Simpsons continues its run on Télétoon. The Quebec French dubbing of films, while generally made in accent-less Standard French, often sounds peculiar to audiences in France, because of the persistence of some regionally neutral expression which may not sound quite natural to all audiences and because Quebec French performers pronounce Anglo-Saxon names with an American accent, while French performers do not. Occasionally, for reasons of cost, American direct-to-video films, such as the 1995 film When the bullet hits the bone, are released in France with a Quebec French dubbing, sometimes resulting in what some members of French audiences perceive as unintentional humor.

Portugal and Brazil also use different versions of dubbed films and series. Because dubbing has never been very popular in Portugal, for decades children films and television series were distributed using the good-quality Brazilian dub. Only in the 1990s dubbing began to gain importance in Portugal, thanks to the popularity of dubbed series like Dragon Ball. The Lion King became the first Disney feature film to be completely dubbed into European Portuguese, and subsequently all major animation films and series gained European Portuguese versions. In recent DVD releases, most of these Brazilian-dubbed classics were released with new Portuguese dubs, eliminating the predominance of Brazilian Portuguese dubs in Portugal.

Austria and Switzerland generally use the German dubbed versions made in Germany. Although there are sometimes some differences concerning some local words or the pronunciation of some words there's no need to dub into their own versions because all films, shows and series are still dubbed into one single German version made for the German speaking audience irrespective of any geographical borders.

Now and then it occurs that Austrian or Swiss actors also provide their voices in German dubbings but they have to speak in High German pronunciation of course, as it was for the film Beauty and the Beast and Mulan.

Nevertheless there are also exceptions. For the film Babe and its sequel Babe: Pig in the City there exists three different German versions.
In addition to the Standard German version, the films were completely dubbed into Austrian German and into Swiss German including their own voice actors speaking in their own dialects. For Walt Disney films there also exist several versions. In 1998 when the film The little Mermaid was released anew, the film was redubbed in many other languages and so there was made a special cinema version, in which the characters speak in Viennese German where Ursula, the Sea Witch was dubbed by the famous Austrian singer Jazz Gitti. This version was specially made for the cinema and was never available for Videotape or DVD but then there was produced a second Austrian version, which now is available for DVD. But instead of using the Viennese characters in this version, only a few characters were dubbed anew into standard Austrian and the other characters were kept in the standard German version from 1998. In this way there exist Austrian versions for Shrek 2 and Cars.

The many martial arts movies from Hong Kong that were imported under the unofficial banner Kung Fu Theater were notorious for their seemingly careless dubbing which included poor lip sync and awkward dialogue. Since the results were frequently unintentionally hilarious, this has become one of the hallmarks that endear these films to part of the 1980s culture.

While the voice actors involved usually bear the brunt of criticisms towards poor dubbing, other factors may include script translation and audio mixing. A literal translation of dialogue typically contains speech patterns and sentence structure that are native to the foreign language but would appear awkward if translated literally. English dubs of Japanese animation, for example, must rewrite the dialogue so that it flows smoothly and follows the natural pattern of English speech. Voice actors in a dubbing capacity typically do not have the luxury of viewing the original film with the original voice actor and thus have little idea on how to perform the role. Also, on some occasions, voice actors record their dialogue separately, which lacks the dynamics gained from performing as a group.

New technology

It is now becoming possible to overcome some of the problems associated with dubbing using new technology. An application developed at New York University, known as Video Rewrite, uses computer animation to match lip movements with the new voice track. In a video clip made using this technology, John F. Kennedy appears to be saying "Video Rewrite gives lip-synced movies".

Media Movers, Inc., a dubbing company, has developed a piece of proprietary software which can automatically sync ADR/dubbed tracks with pre-defined algorithms.

TM Systems received Emmy awards in 2002 and 2007 for their dubbing and subtitling software.


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