Voice-over or Subtitles: Which Should I Use?

By Kathy Quinn on September 11th, 2015
With todays increasing needs for Video Marketing, it is essential to understand the process of foreign language voice-over recording, from script to translation and locating voice talent to the actual recording and file delivery. But if you have a multimedia project that includes audio, there is another option besides voice-over recording—subtitling. Subtitling adding foreign language captions at the bottom of the screen to mirror or paraphrase what is being said in the video.
Almost always, voice-over recording will be significantly more expensive than subtitling. But, because voice-over is more expensive is it automatically better? Do you get what you pay for? The short answer is “Not always.” Depending upon a variety of factors, voice-overs, subtitling, or a mixture of both, may give you the results you need.

Related Article:Male-vs-Female-voices

Purpose and content of video
Marketing and promotional videos
For a marketing or promotional video, a voice-over is usually preferable because it is more personal. Just as you choose a persuasive voice to your original video, you can choose voices that will resonate well with the foreign-language target audience.However, there are exceptions. For instance, if your video contains individuals speaking, and you want to retain the full effect of their vocal inflections and emotions, you may want to use subtitles for those parts.
Training or explanatory videos
In the case of e-learning modules or how-to videos, the personal voice may not be as important since it is the subject content of the video that is the focus. This can be an argument for subtitles, but again there are definite exceptions.Where a training video simply demonstrates something on screen while the audio describes it, subtitles can work well. But what if there is a lot of text on the screen. Expecting the viewers to read the subtitles as well as all the other text on the screen may at the least be annoying. Here voice-overs could be the better choice.

Related Article:The Perfect e-learning Voice-Over
Audience preferences
You should also take into account the cultural preferences of your audience. In some countries there are strong preferences for either voice-overs or subtitles. For training and e-learning videos, the different types of learning methods prevalent in the target country should be considered. Find a cultural consultant to guide you.
Budget
While ideally you would pick voice-overs or subtitles based solely on what’s best, we know that costs are still going to be a consideration. After all, there may also be costs involved in localizing your video that don’t relate to the audio. There may be on-screen text or graphics with embedded text that you will also want to have translated. The fact that you cannot afford the gold standard of video localization does not mean that you and your localization partner cannot come up with a plan that will meet your needs.The best way to minimize your costs and, therefore, have the greatest latitude for choice is make sure that you can provide your localization partner with these important components:
A timed script for the video
The source file for the video (NOT .mov, .wmv, or .mp4)
Associated source files
Music and sound effects
On-screen text
Images
Animations
The lack of some of these files may not make your project impossible, but is likely to lead to additional costs for re-creation. Make sure your video production company delivers all of these files along with the final version for showing.
You can search for local Voice Over Talents here