ProComm Blog

Spanish Voice Overs and Translation: Steps to Success (Part 3)

In our two previous articles about getting the most out of Spanish voiceovers and script translation, we focused on the importance of using fully bilingual, native speakers throughout the process, and the practice of using a neutral Spanish dialect versus regional dialects.

In this third installment, we will focus on different ways that timings affect Spanish voice over sessions.

You know that feeling you get as a writer/producer/creative director when your beautifully worded radio spot times out at 75 seconds on the first read through?  It surely didn’t seem that long when you were writing it and mumbling the words under your breath, as you sipped the finest of coffee beverages.  So in the session, you sigh as you realize the need to remove some words, and you condense other lines to retain the necessary information, but you’re now doing so using a time saving strategy.

Well a similar situation may occur when you translate an English radio/TV/video script into Spanish. Even if the English version times out at sixty seconds or under, if you get a direct translation of your script, the Spanish version could easily balloon to seventy seconds or more.  And for longer scripts, the Spanish translation will generally expand at the same rate.

How can this be?  Simple answer – Spanish generally requires about 20% more words than English to say the same thing.  That’s just the way it is – due to syntax, sentence structure, lack of contractions…all the little things add up.

So again, we go back to the main objective in getting a great translation – translating for content while taking timing, phrasing, meaning and understanding into account.

Before beginning a Spanish-language voice over production, you should think about a few factors that can help guide your approach:

    • Is your voice over for a broadcast Radio/TV spot where you have strict time limitations of 10, 15, 30, 60, 120 seconds?

    • Is your Spanish creative an entity unto itself, or are you matching the creative elements of a corresponding English audio production – using the same transitional cues such as music edits, sound effects, graphics or on-camera action?

    • If your production is for a TV spot or long-form video, do you need the Spanish voice over segments to match the timings & transitions of an existing English version?  Or will you prefer that the Spanish audio times out to its natural length, and then you go back to re-edit the video to match the pace and length of the new Spanish VO?

Generally speaking, if you just get a word-for-word translation, you should expect that the Spanish version will be a longer piece.  But if you’re aware of this as you go into your project, you will have a better idea of the approach you want to take, and you will have an idea of some of the obstacles associated with producing a Spanish language voice over.

So taking all of this into account, there are two basic approaches you could follow:

    • Be sure that your experienced translator is aware of any timing constraints, and have them translate the content to meet these marks.  Sometimes that will mean condensing the essence of the message into a smaller space.  Thus the importance of working with someone you can trust to boil down content and rephrase it effectively to retain your message.

    • Make sure that your editor/engineer/producer/director is aware of the situation…whether they need to hit specific marks or cues as the voice is being recorded, or will they be re-editing the background elements to coincide with the length of the new read?

You should be ready with one or both of these approaches, because making seventy-five seconds of Spanish voiceover fit into a sixty second hole is not easy…some may say it is downright impossible.

Foreign language voice over production can be intimidating, but by following these simple guidelines you can make your production a great success.

To recap the basics for getting the best out of a Spanish voice over, you should:

If you follow these steps, you have a good chance of wowing your client with your production savvy. Using the skills of a seasoned professional is helpful, as this person understands all the things that can go right or wrong during a recording session, and they can come into it with contingencies in mind.  So relying on the experience of others can make your job that much easier.

Best of luck with your next Spanish voice over project.  You are now free to go enjoy a café con leche & write your next award-winning piece.

Ciao Amigos!