Voice-Over vs Subtitles vs CC: Pros & Cons

Video content is a powerful communication tool and one of the most popular mediums available. From entertainment to education, companies are using video to reach global audiences. However, visual content intended for foreign markets requires adaptation to overcome language barriers.

Fortunately, language services companies like Dynamic Language offer several options for language adaptation within video content, including voice-overs, subtitles, and closed captions. The tricky part is deciding which service is the best solution for translating your content.

So how do you decide which service – subtitles or voice-over or subtitles vs closed captions – is best for optimizing your video’s audio for global audiences? This article will provide an overview and comparison of all three services and common use cases for each, so you can confidently choose the right service for your content.

What is the Difference Between Voice-Over, Subtitling, and Closed Captions?

Before deciding on the best service for your video content’s translation, it’s essential to understand the differences between each service.

Voice-Over

Voice-over translation involves creating an audio track of the video’s spoken content using voice actors or voice-over artists, then syncing the translated track with your video content. For example, popular streaming services like Netflix often use voice-overs when adapting films for viewing in different countries.

Subtitles

Subtitling involves placing text on the screen that translates the spoken dialogue as it’s being spoken. Subtitling will also translate any other important text that appears on screen, such as quotes, statistics, signs, etc.

Closed Captions

Closed captioning is similar to subtitling; however, it’s primarily used to reach deaf or hard-of-hearing audiences. Closed captions display text on the screen representing the spoken dialogue and any sounds or comments necessary to aid deaf viewers in accessing video content.

Now that you have a better understanding of what each service entails, let’s review the pros and cons of each when it comes to optimizing your video content for global audiences. Although your intended audience and the kind of content you produce often play a significant role in deciding which audio translation method to use, it’s a good idea to evaluate your options before making an audio translation selection.

Pros & Cons of Voice-Over

voice over vs subtitles

If you are deciding between subtitles or voice-over for your video content’s audio translation, it’s beneficial to weigh the pros and cons of each service. Let’s start with voice-overs.

Voice-Over Pros

Adapting your video’s content using voice-overs allows your intended audience to enjoy the content without the distraction of text on the screen. Also, you don’t need to worry about the pace of the spoken audio or how quickly your audience is able to read. A voice-over actor will adapt the audio accordingly.

Voice-over translation is also best when there is a complex dialogue between more than one speaker, especially if they interrupt each other when speaking. Voice-over localization also allows voice actors to recreate the original tone and voice of the native dialogue in a new language.

Voice-Over Cons

In general, voice-over services tend to be more costly than subtitles or closed captions. In very basic terms, the process includes translating the dialogue into the target language, then hiring a voice-over actor to record the new script in the target language. In addition to hiring the voice artist, you will also need access to a studio space for recording. Both can rack up costs during the production, and the entire process can take some time.

Also, finding the right voice actor(s) for your content can be challenging. If the chemistry isn’t there or the voices do not align with the characters in the video, the audio may fall flat with the intended audience. Always ask voice actors for samples before hiring them for your content, so you can evaluate their tone and style before recording.

When Should You Use Voice-Over?

Voice-over narration tends to be most effective for videos containing important visual elements that viewers need to pay attention to, such as on-screen action, artwork, graphs, landscape scenery, or expensive graphics. In these cases, subtitles or closed caption text on the screen may distract viewers from the video’s content.

Examples of videos where voice-over translation may be preferable to text on a screen are: videos with complex dialogue, narrated videos, eLearning videos, video games, and commercial projects (i.e., advertising projects meant for TV or radio).

Pros & Cons of Subtitling

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Adding subtitles to your video content probably seems easy, but don’t be fooled by the innocent text that appears on the screen. Subtitling involves more than translating voice to text. Rather, it’s the art of adapting, paraphrasing, and capturing the original audio’s style and substance – then synchronizing the translation’s length so it’s easy to read as the video plays.

Subtitling Pros

Although subtitling requires some finesse, it tends to be cheaper to produce than voice-overs. It’s also a great tool if you need to maintain the original style and voice of your video content. Subtitling is also beneficial if you plan to translate the audio content into multiple languages.

Subtitling Cons

The main disadvantage of subtitling is that the on-screen text can distract from the video’s visual content. Also, it’s not a beneficial tool for complex dialogue between multiple on-screen characters, especially given the screen’s limited space for text.

When Should You Use Subtitling?

Subtitling works well for video content that relies on the character’s emotional and physical portrayal to tell the story, such as in cinematic films. Subtitling is also best when privacy and confidentiality are a concern for people consuming the content, such as e-learning, corporate, or educational/resource videos.

Pros & Cons of Closed Captions

video conference

Closed captions vs subtitles – they may seem eerily similar. However, the two have distinct differences. Closed captioning was created in the 1970s to cater to the deaf and hard-of-hearing television audience. By the 80s, captions were mandated for broadcast television in the United States because the service focuses on ensuring that the viewer understands all the audio in the video, not just spoken language.

Closed Captions Pros

Closed captions create accessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences when consuming video content. It’s also great for audiences that prefer or need to watch a video without sound, as it provides written descriptions for important audio elements that subtitling may not.

Closed Captions Cons

Like subtitling, closed-captioned text may distract from a video’s on-screen display or graphics. It can also increase the amount of on-screen text at any given time compared to subtitles.

When Should You Use Closed Captions?

Now that you understand the difference between closed captioning vs subtitles, you may notice that closed captioning is most commonly used for live broadcasts, sporting events, and live TV. However, since it provides critical access for specific audiences, it’s wise to make it available for your video content, if possible.

Translating your video content, no matter how accomplished, is about providing global audiences with the best video and audio experience possible in your target audiences’ language. There is no right, wrong, or better method among these three services, as each addresses language barriers. However, depending on the audience and the type of video, one service may be better suited for your project over another.

If you are still uncertain or require help with a project, let the experts at Dynamic Language help. We’ve been providing voice-over, subtitling, and closed captioning services – and more – to clients around the world for over 30 years. Our processes are highly efficient, reliable, and accurate, no matter the industry or subject matter.

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