Audio Translation and Voice-Overs That Capture Your Audience

A high-quality voice recording has the power to command attention and elicit an emotional response from listeners. When it’s done well, we find ourselves brought to a hush so that we can silence our cell phones in a movie theater, listen to the pre-flight safety presentation on an airplane, or simply feel compelled to purchase the product being advertised.

But finding the perfect voice to enhance your product is both an art and a science.

To begin, take an inventory of what you have to work with

  1. You have an audio recording (with or without music) but without accompanying images or video. Or it could be an audio that goes with still images, such as a slide show.
  2. You have an audio recording as part of a video. You need the original to be voiced over in the target language and mixed with the other elements (video and other soundtracks, such as music) of your production.

The requirements of your audio translation will depend on the scenario and audio content.

Considerations before starting your audio translation project

1. The Script
Before a professional voice talent can record in the target language, the original audio needs to be available in written form for translation or created by transcribing it. In most cases, a script would have been used to record the original audio.

We recommend (and prefer to use) Microsoft Word for scripts, as it allows you to create a table format with time codes, visual references to the images, source text and translation. Time codes and visual references are added for ease of matching up the translation with the original video.

2. The Length (and timing of audio and visuals)
Do you need the translated reading to be timed to match the original length? Keep in mind that most languages are longer than English. For example, the Spanish language requires about 20% more words than you would need to express the same concept in English.

In order to have the audio translation read in the same amount of time and at the same pace as the original, the corresponding video would need to be extended.

But there is another option:

3. Would you like to have your translated script adapted to fit time restrictions?
Experienced professional translators who have practice with audio script translations (and employing voice-over artists) can shorten their work so that the translation can be read at a natural speed, and in the same amount of time as the original English. This is called script adaptation.

While recording the adapted translated script, the voice-over artist will adhere to the timeline of the original, resulting in a translated audio file that syncs with the video element perfectly.

4. Which voice-over artist is the right fit?

Consider the following:

  1. Gender of the original speaker
  2. Age of the original speaker (or the age the voice sounds). Also, consider pitch, as some cultures have a preference for higher or lower-pitched voices (which may actually be a better fit than the original audio).
  3. The tone of voice: should fit the execution and product (for example, recording for a meditation video or CD requires a different style and tone than an advertisement for a pickup truck).
  4. National or regional accent vs. neutral: determine the best fit for your product and target audience. In some instances, a speaker with a certain national or regional accent might be required. For example, French in Canada sounds quite different than French in France, just as the Southern and Northern German accents are audibly different. In some instances, you may find that a neutral sounding speaker can satisfy a variety of geographic targets.
  5. Personal preferences: You will naturally feel more drawn to some voices than others when presented with a selection. Request demos of a variety of voice talents to help you narrow your selection.
  6. Pricing: voice-over artists’ prices vary depending on the specifics of your project as well as the voice talent’s availability, so find the best fit for your budget. Rest assured that clients achieve big results at every budget.

5. Timed or narration-style audio?

  • Timed: the new, translated audio file should fit seamlessly over the original. The total length should be the same, and any breaks in the reading need to be at the same timing.
  • Timed with matching breath and/or lip movement: often required when the original speaker is on camera. In addition to being timed, the speaker recording the translation needs to breathe at the same times as the original speaker, to match her/his lip movement as closely as possible. A special type of translated script adaptation is necessary for synced lip movement recordings.
  • Narration style: the original speaker is not on camera but narrates the video. Therefore, the length of the translated audio is not as critical. The video may easily be extended where needed. An untimed narration style is usually less expensive to record than timed audios.
  • Narration with the original voice at the beginning: this is a popular solution for documentaries. The original voice is audible at the beginning of the track and then fades quickly. Therefore, to match this, the target language reading is audible while the original plays and then fades in the background.

We’re happy to help you find the best option for your project. Please do not hesitate to contact us  if you have any questions about these options.

6. Would you like to participate in the recording session?

It is completely understandable and appropriate for clients to ask to participate in the recording session. You may be interested in doing so if you have an internal resource who can speak or understand the target language.

Depending on the chosen voice-over artist, the options for your participation may differ.  Consider the following options:

Web-based participation:

Skype:  a common solution for lower budget recordings. Though you may sacrifice quality for convenience in a Skype audio session, the upside is that Skype is a free, easily accessible service.

High-quality participation through a web browser: possible through paid products such as Session Link Pro, (offered by professional recording studios in the Tell network).

Participation via telephone lines:

ISDN (Integrated Services for Digital Network) connections allow for the simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video, data, and other network services using the public telephone network. Because telephone rates apply, this option comes at a higher cost than the web options.

7. Would you like to outsource mixing?

Mixing is performed after all tracks have been recorded and edited. This service includes setting levels and equalization, using stereo panning, and adding other tracks such as music and effects.

Tell proudly provides mixing as part of our menu of services. 

Uta Nelson and the TELL team provide sound advice and translation services for clients of all sizes, in over 100 languages.