What’s What in Media Localization, Part 2

Last time we discussed the difference between audiovisual translation and media localization. Today, we will look at the different terms used to describe media localization modes related to audio recording.


Voice-over is a term that is used both in the film and in the media localization industry with different meanings. This can be sometimes confusing, so let’s clarify what’s what.

In the filmmaking industry:

Voice-over refers to the voice of an unseen narrator in a movie, a documentary, a series, an ad or any other audiovisual content. This narrator can appear elsewhere as a character in the production or only act as a narrator (for example, in documentaries or ads). We can find an example of a voice-over narrator in The Lord Of The Rings films by Peter Jackson. 

In this industry, voice-over is also used when referring to the voicing of animation products.

In the media localization industry:

Voice-over refers to the translation technique in which the voiced translated version is heard simultaneously over the original soundtrack (instead of completely replacing it, as in dubbing). The original soundtrack can still be heard in the background. This technique is mainly used in documentaries because it increases credibility.


Dubbing or revoicing is a translation technique that consists of replacing the dialogues in the original soundtrack of an audiovisual production by the translated dialogues. Professional voice actors and actresses are in charge of voicing translated versions, paying special attention to acting and lip synchronization (lip-sync). Thanks to a proper lip-sync, the dubbed effect is quite realistic. Here we have a fun scene from Pulp Fiction that perfectly illustrates the concept of dubbing.

Dubbed versions gaining steam in the English-speaking market

Dubbing has a long tradition in Europe, especially in the so-called “dubbing countries,” such as Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. Voice actors and actresses in these countries are very well-known, and the dubbing practice is considered an art; the same as acting in front of a camera. The dubbing tradition in the US is not as established. However, Netflix is working in a different direction. They have been investing in Original Netflix content created outside the U.S., and some of them have gained a great deal of popularity. That is the case of the Spanish Original Netflix “La Casa de Papel” or “Money Heist.” Due to its success, Netflix decided to dub the series into English and that has become a trend for all “foreign” Originals.

According to an article by Jill Goldsmith from The New York Times, 72 percent of the American viewers chose dubbing over subtitling for “Money Heist.”

This means that the English-speaking audience is ready for a change.

Tokyo (Úrsula Corberó) in a scene from “Money Heist”

Previously on Nimdzi, we published a report on the audio recording industry. In this report, data points both to voice-over and dubbing (that is, both the creation of the original and the dubbed versions). In those cases, it is advisable to use the umbrella term “audio recording.”

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