The Role of Audio Visual Translations for Localising TV Shows and Movies

What is audiovisual translation?

Streaming movies and shows from throughout the world are now more popular than ever before. The people who most often do the streaming don’t just seek out movies and TV shows from their own country and in their own language. There is an increase in demand for the streaming of audiovisual products from all around the world. However, the audience is seeking movies and TV shows that have been translated and localized to suit their own language and culture. It doesn’t necessarily have to be dubbed, but an accurate audiovisual translation (AVT) using subtitles will suit some audiences, especially if the content of the movie is compelling and interesting to view. AVT involves the process of transferring verbal communication of both video and audio footage into different languages.

Dubbing versus subtitling

There are many different types of audiovisual translation, but the commonest is dubbing and subtitling. Another word for dubbing is revoicing, which involves the audiovisual translation of all the spoken fragments found in a movie or a TV show into another language. The original audio is substituted by a supplementary recording which is mixed in with the original soundtrack. Generally, all of the background effects and noise remain intact.
One of the key challenges of dubbing is trying to get the translated revoicing to match the actors’ gestures and lip movements. This limits the translator’s freedom and requires more imagination and flexibility to try to get the actors’ mouth movements to match the new spoken language so that the audience feels the actors speaking are both natural and synchronized. Most movie watchers feel uncomfortable when the lip movements of the actors don’t fit in naturally with the words spoken.

Subtitling is often preferred

Instead of using dubbing as the audiovisual translation method, many companies decide to use subtitles for audiovisual localisations of movies and TV shows. Subtitling in countries such as Belgium, Portugal, and the Netherlands is preferred to dubbing. For the company responsible for translating the movie or TV show it is a lot cheaper to use subtitles than dubbing. Subtitling does require skills and the product marketer cannot afford to get the audiovisual translation of the subtitling wrong, as it would lead to reduced sales and viewing. This kind of audiovisual localization requires the translating of the audio component and putting written text into the targeted language. The subtitles often appear at the bottom of the screen while the original audio remains intact. Subtitling into another language is not an easy task as it involves the audiovisual translation of both expressions and colloquial and idiomatic language. There may be character restrictions to think about as some languages require more space than others.

Challenges for AVT

These are the following:

-fast turnaround;

-accurately translating colloquial language and dialogue;

-translating concepts and terms that are culturally accepted in the new language.

Audiences expect to be able to view Hollywood movies and ongoing episodes in TV shows in real-time. This means the translators have to provide a fast turnaround to meet these requirements. Audiovisual translation specializes in manipulating humor, puns, and colloquial language. This is because much of the spoken material in a movie or TV show involves informal dialogue. Jokes and nicknames are often a key part of movies, which gives translators quite a challenge to translate accurately.
Movies and TV series often involve specific environments so the audiovisual translator has to try to understand these environments in two languages. In the end, translators create an environment that mimics one of the viewers. This requires some localization of the language so that it fits well into the context.


Audiovisual translators are required to work with image subtitling, image processing, and audio software systems so they can perfect subtitling and dubbing.