The Ultimate Guide to Remote Recording for the Media and Entertainment Industry

26 January 2021

Remote recording dubbing

Publication by Belén Agulló García.

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of remote recording in the entertainment industry. For some time, media producers and distributors have been flirting with the idea of using remote recording in the production process, but the industry as a whole was not quite ready to test out  such a disruptive model — for the most part because they didn’t have to. However, lockdown measures around the world have forced the industry to take action and put remote recording solutions into place. 

To wit, we have seen over the past year just how swiftly recording studios and content distributors have been able to adapt their workflows to our new reality. While lockdowns brought many industries to a screeching halt, media, entertainment and gaming have been having a heyday during the crisis. People the world over have been increasingly craving more content to help cope with their endless time spent at home. 

Unquestionably, the need to find a solution to deliver a multilingual experience to viewers became more important than ever before. In this report, we will discuss the tools and processes that have helped fuel this revolution in remote recording for the entertainment industry.

What is remote recording?

Remote recording is the art of capturing high-quality audio from a location outside a professional recording studio and has been used for decades in the localization industry. The practice has been used for a number of specific types of products including corporate videos, educational content, internet videos, audiobooks, audio ads, podcasts, voice applications, generation of synthetic voices, interactive voice response and telephony, to name just a few examples. 

Remote recording has proven to be a reliable solution for these types of production because both the technical and quality requirements and the recording workflow are far less complex than traditional dubbing for films and series — or even video games. However, during the current pandemic we’ve witnessed even far more complex modalities of voice recording be performed from home with the right tools and processes in place.

What are some challenges of dubbing?

Traditional dubbing requires different types of synchronization that make it difficult for a voice talent to simply record alone from home, not to mention the technical implications of recording. Some of the types of synchronization are: 

  • Isochrony: The length of localized sentences need to be exactly the same as the original sentences. Internal pauses in speech need to be replicated in the dubbed versions as well. So even though German is by nature longer than English, a German translation needs to be exactly the same length as the English original. Otherwise, the image and the audio would not line up right. 
  • Kinesic synchronization: The localized versions have to make sense with the images that appear on screen. So, if someone is, say, nodding their head, the localized version cannot use a negative sentence even though such a sentence might be a valid and correct translation. Or, to take another example, if the actor on screen is making an “L” (loser) sign with their hand on their forehead, the dubbed version should make sense with that image and, ideally, use a translated word that starts with an “L” as well. 
  • Lip synchronization: This is one of the most complex variations of traditional dubbing. The voice talents have to use words that make sense with the shape and movements of the onscreen actors’ lips and mouths to maintain an air of believability that the latter is actually using the words of the dubbed version. This is especially relevant for closeups. 

The acting component is also stronger in traditional dubbing because actors are required to perform different types of emotions, even adopting different voices, for different characters. On the other hand, recordings for eLearning videos, for example, are usually flat and linear. 

The technical requirements are also quite specific for dubbing productions — high quality microphones, soundproofed rooms, sometimes complex audio post-production and mixing, to name a few. The truth is there is no magic bullet for recording from home, especially when we talk about high-quality, complex productions like films, series or triple A games. Studios have been hard at work looking for a decent solution to put remote dubbing into place and they are all well aware of the potential limitations of the modality.

Not only are there technical limitations (setup, security, acoustics), but there’s also a strong human factor. Dubbing is a very collaborative and creative practice and it’s essential that all parties involved (voice talents, artistic directors, sound engineers and the like) be able to work together seamlessly as if they were physically together in a sound studio. On top of that, not all actors have adequate equipment at home — or even a quiet room where they can record — and this was another factor that needed to be taken into account when defining a strategy for remote recording. Moreover, in some countries remote dubbing was even banned by unions — both to avoid discrimination against voice talent without equipment and due to quality concerns.

Even with all these difficulties and challenges, the media and entertainment localization industry has come through with innovative solutions to allow the media and entertainment industry to continue delivering a high-quality multilingual experience to viewers around the world.

Our methodology and why you should read this report

The goal of this report is to analyze how the different levels of the media localization industry have been impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown measures, the challenges that various stakeholders have faced during these uncertain times, and the solutions put in place for remote recording. Moreover, this study seeks to understand the long-term effects this disruption may have in the industry. In order to achieve this, we carried out interviews with various stakeholders in the dubbing process, including:

  • Content distributors
  • Media localization companies (Deluxe, Iyuno Media Group, SDI Media, Sound Map, ZOO Digital)
  • Voice talents

This approach allowed us to analyze the subject of remote recording from a variety of different perspectives. The insights provided in this report will help the reader understand both the implications of remote recording and how to adapt the workflows in a successful way, while learning from experienced companies. 

The software solutions analyzed as part of this report are:

This report will be of particular interest to:

  • Content creators and distributors who need insights to inform their remote recording strategy.
  • Members of the voice talent community who want to understand how different studios have been managing the situation and how they can better prepare for future opportunities.
  • Dubbing studios who work with films, series, and video games and would like to understand how the biggest players in the industry are tackling this challenge.
  • Software developers interested in remote dubbing solutions who seek insights to develop successful solutions.

Information contained in this report

  1. TL;DR
  2. Dubbing or subtitling?
  3. What is the process for dubbing?
  4. Disruption and challenges
  5. Innovative solutions for remote recording
  6. Applications beyond COVID
  7. Lessons learned

TL;DR

Quality and security are the main concerns for content distributors. The risks of remote recording on dubbing operations need to be minimized through the use of a solid solution and strategy.

Subtitling is not a solution for countries that have traditionally dubbed all content. Viewers who are used to dubbing find subtitles to be disruptive to their viewing experience.

Enabling collaboration between the creative team is the cornerstone of remote recording. Voice talents, artistic directors, and sound engineers need to work together to ensure the quality of the recordings.

When creating a remote recording solution, caring about the creative community and all the stakeholders involved in the dubbing process is necessary to successfully implement an appropriate solution. A user-centred approach is the way to go

Voice talents’ income have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, as they were unable to work for months. An immediate investment in new home recording equipment was not a possible solution for many talents. Empathy and understanding is key to moving forward during uncertain times.

Remote recording will have lasting innovative uses beyond the COVID era. The extreme situation of our times has spurred the creativity of stakeholders who are already using this technology in other ways.

This has been an extended preview of the full report.

The full Remote Recording Report can be accessed by Nimdzi Partners. The full publication goes into great detail around the disruptions and challenges faced by each stakeholder, the innovative solutions developed by the industry’s biggest players, and future applications for remote recording technology. If you are not a Nimdzi Partner, please contact us.

Special thanks go to the people who have contributed valuable information and insights to this report:

  • Krisztina Matolcsi-Papp - Dubbing manager
  • Magda Jagucka - Vice President, Localization Operations at Deluxe Entertainment Services
  • Greg Taieb - Vice President, Product Development and Innovation at Deluxe Entertainment Services Group
  • Chris Reynolds - SVP and General Manager, Worldwide Localization at Deluxe Entertainment Services Group
  • George Hart - Audio Technical Operations Lead at Deluxe Entertainment Services Group
  • Alberto Abisso - Executive Vice President, Europe at SDI Media
  • Daniele Turchetta - Dubbing Studio Technology Director, Europe at SDI Media
  • Nicky McBride - Business Development at SDI Media
  • Chris Carey - Chief Revenue Officer and MD of Americas at Iyuno Media Group
  • Brianna Appel - Marketing Manager at Iyuno Media Group
  • Valeria Zunzun - voice director and voice talent, professional studio at ZUNZUN ENTERTAINMENT
  • Marisol Garnica Pérez - Production Director and Co-Founder at SoundMap
  • Tamara Puente - Technical Director and Co-Founder at SoundMap
  • Alba Penadés Llin - Strategy Director and Co-Founder at SoundMap
  • Lynsey Band - Head of Marketing at ZOO Digital Group plc
  • Mazin Al-Jumaili - Director Business Development at ZOO Digital Group plc

This publication was researched and written by Nimdzi’s eLearning Director and Lead Media Researcher, Belén Agulló García. If you wish to find out more about the topic of video localization, please reach out to Belén at [email protected].

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