Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies The Film and the Book

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3. 2. Revoicing

Revoicing is the second alternative as far as translation of a film or TV programme is concerned. It consists in replacement of the original voice track by a target language one. Luyken distinguishes between four subcategories of revoicing: 1) dubbing, 2) voice-over, 3) narration and 4) free commentary.

3. 2. 1. Voice-over, narration and free commentary

These are three names for approximately the same thing: a method when the new soundtrack is carried out by one single person or several people with no attempt to synchronise the lip movements with what is being said. The original sound is either not heard at all or is audible at a very low level. Sometimes at the beginning and at the end of a speech the original is allowed to be heard. The difference between voice-over and narration is only very slight: the voice-over refers usually to a single monologue while narration is a translation of the whole programme. Free commentary differs from the former two in that it is not a faithful translation of the original (Luyken, 80 – 84).

According to Luyken, all these methods are quite simple and cheap. They are used mainly in documentaries and other non-feature programmes. Nevertheless, in some European countries such as Poland, it is used in TV for all production including feature films and series.

3. 2. 2. Dubbing

Lip-synchronised dubbing is the most common type of revoicing. It is performed by professional actors, usually each of them dubbing one character and its aim is to have the same effect on the target language audience as the original has on the source language audience.

One of the main differences between dubbing and subtitling is the fact that several people participate in the preparation of dubbing, while almost the whole process of subtitling is nowadays done by only one person.

Individual steps involved in the whole process of dubbing are treated by Luyken (73 – 79). After registration and verification of a master and dialogue list a time-coded working copy is produced and spotted. Then a raw translation is made which serves as a basis for the adaptation. At the same time casting is carried out. Next step is the recording itself. After that, the final product is mixed, edited and approved and thus prepared for transmission. In the case of a one hour programme all this takes from a few working days to a maximum of 3 – 4 weeks. Luyken claims that the actual duration is influenced my many factors, e.g. the difficulty of the original script or the quality which is demanded.

Steps which are decisive from the point of view of our topic are translation and adaptation.

3. 2. 2. 1. Dubbing Translation

As stated by Kautský, the dubbing translation is very different from the literary one. According to Kautký, the main distinction between them is the fact that the translation in dubbing is not the final product which is presented to the audience, but only a semifinished work which is then passed on to the adaptor who finishes it. He claims that the translator usually produces a word-by-word translation, sometimes even with several suggestions how something could be translated. It is essential, Kautský argues, that the adaptor knows the exact meaning so that he can capture the sense and transfer it into the target language in utterly different words which enable the synchronisation. Thus, the translation has to be very raw.

3. 2. 2. 2. Dubbing Adaptation

The adaptor then works with the raw translation. He does not necessarily have to speak the source language of the original, but if he does, it is undoubtedly a big advantage. Sometimes the translator and the adaptor are the same person.

Unlike subtitling, the final text does not have to be reduced in relation to the original, it has to have exactly the same length, start and end simultaneously with the original dialogue. Nevertheless, there are some other rules the adaptor has to observe.

3. 2. 2. 3. Synchronism

Paquin speaks about three types of synchronism: phonetic, semantic and dramatic.
According to Paquin, phonetic synchronism is simply matching the lip movements. “Phonetic synchrony is achieved when the lip movements of the screen actor match perfectly the sounds produced by the studio actor, not only words, but also breathing, grunts, screams, etc. Actors do that in the studio, even if they are invisible. They make gestures, and get into their roles” (Paquin,

According to Paquin, the adaptor has to stick to these basic rules if he wants to achieve good phonetic synchronism:

  1. the number of syllables of the adaptation should correspond to the number of syllables of the original (this contributes to the credibility of the adaptation. On the other hand this rule is sometimes not observed and that does not necessarily mean that the dubbing is bad).

  2. The main hard and fast rule is fitting the bilabials. If the protagonist pronounces “m”, “v”, “p”, “b”, “f” then the dubbing actor has to use one of these consonants too. They are well interchangeable and the audience is not able to tell them apart.

Thus, for example, Czech word “opice” can be used for the original “monkey” without any problem. Even the fact that there is a vowel preceding the bilabial in the Czech word “opice” does not pose any problem, as the audience is not able to notice its pronunciation. It is important to fit the bilabials at the beginning and the end of words. Here they are most noticeable.

Kautský argues that if the actor markedly closes his mouth at the end of his speech although the last sound he pronounced was a vowel, or, on the other hand, he markedly opens his mouth after a final bilabial, then the adaptor has to conform to what is seen and not what is heard in the original.

The best way of the adaptor to help himself if he cannot find appropriate equivalents in the target language is to change completely the word order. Then it is much easier to find a matching word.

Last but not least, it is important to say that phonetic synchronism should not, if possible, be achieved at the expense of appropriate syntax and lexis (e.g. one register should be stuck to and no inadequate provincialisms should be used).
According to Paquin, semantic synchronism means that the new dialogue in the target language should have the same meaning as the original. Nevertheless, Paquin argues, there are certain cases when this is not true. This concerns for example numerals, occupations etc. When for example the occupation is not important for the story it can be changed in the target language in order to achieve more convenient phonetic synchronism. Thus, it can be said that semantic synchronism is more important than phonetic synchronism only if the original meaning is essential for the whole story. In other cases the meaning can be slightly changed without any problem.
The last synchronism Paquin speaks about is dramatic synchronism. It is the realism with which the characters speak in the target language. What they say has to correspond to what they do (a person shaking his head obviously cannot say yes and vice versa) and the way they speak must be in accordance with what the audience expects. Thus, e.g. a queen should not use colloquial speech when it is not appropriate, a prostitute should not express herself in archaisms etc.

This is also why, for example, the dubbing of Latin American soap operas may sometimes seem unnatural: the lip movements are matched, but monotonous Czech language does not fit exaggerated gestures of the actors.

Last but not least, a fourth kind of synchronism can be added. It is the nucleus synchronism introduced by Luyken. “Nucleus-sync concerns the fact that movements of the body, slight nods, raising of the eyebrows, or making gestures always coincide with the uttering of stressed syllables, which in linguistics are referred to as nuclei. Possibly, this parallel occurrence of stressed syllables and other movements can be seen as instrumental in the perception of speech” (Luyken, 160).

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