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Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:26 pm UTC
by oxoiron
A recent discussion about foreign language films quite naturally meandered until we were discussing the merits of subtitling versus those of dubbing. I enjoy subtitled movies more than dubbed ones, because it drives me nuts when the voices and lip motions do not line up. I'd rather miss some on-screen details while reading subtitles than be constantly distracted by out-of-sync mouthings.

Which do you prefer?

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:27 pm UTC
by ZeroSum
Dubs. I like to be able to look away from the screen whether it's to get a snack or play a video game or chat online simultaneously.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:28 pm UTC
by wst
I like them subtitled.

I can't wait to get Intacto.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:29 pm UTC
by Hoags
I prefer subs, but that may be because I've never heard a dubbed film without voice actors who sounded like they were doing something for a cartoon.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:34 pm UTC
by Minchandre
Subtitles. It's always essentially impossible to match the mouths and the words, which bothers me. Also, I have yet to find a good dub, unfortunately - the voices always end up completely unsuitable (my favorite is James from Team Rocket from the Pokemon show - in Japanese, his smooth, deep voice combines with his feminine appearance to make him seem like a complete fop; in English, his high tenor just makes him seem like a stereotype of a gay man).

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:37 pm UTC
by Berengal
Subbed, but I prefer to know the language. Seeing as almost every movie on TV is subbed here in Norway anyway, I guess I grew up with that. I would really hate to have to watch dubbed english movies, except cartoons (maybe it's because of cartoon voices? I don't know).

Also, you forgot the third alternative: Narrated. Every christmas there is this foreign cinderella movie on TV in the morning of christmas eve, and the entire movie is narrated by a man, who also does all the lines for the characters. It works out pretty well. Also, I remember a few kids shows on tv were narrated in much the same way when I was a kid.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:43 pm UTC
by firer
Minchandre wrote:the voices always end up completely unsuitable

So true.

The chosen voice is an integral part of character; changing voices, generally, end up changing the character considerably. Also, I think the voice of the dubs are usually quite less expressive than their original counterparts.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:43 pm UTC
by Izawwlgood
Alas! Your shaolin tiger style is no match for my fly crane thrust! (actors keep talking)
(actors talk some more, then stop)
Now, we will finish what we have started! For you killed my father! Prepare to receive my vengeance (actors start talking...)

Toughie. I thought princess mononoke was done real well in the english. I think most kung fu is crap dubbed.It sucks to have to watch the bottom of a movie (not all flicks are action oriented, imagine keeping up with Clerks if it was dubbed). It also sucks to have crappy actors filling in.

I wish Ghost in the Shell 2 was dubbed.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:45 pm UTC
by oxoiron
firer wrote:
Minchandre wrote:the voices always end up completely unsuitable

So true.

The chosen voice is an integral part of character; changing voices, generally, end up changing the character considerably. Also, I think the voice of the dubs are usually quite less expressive than their original counterparts.

Or even worse, overly expressive.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:54 pm UTC
by Masuri
Subtitles for sure. I like going to Chinese movies with my boyfriend and having him crack up at the difference between the subtitles and what's actually being said. ;)

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:09 pm UTC
by SecondTalon
Anything other than Anime - Subtitled. Dubbing it usually ends up with.. worst case I can recall offhand was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon wherein Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yung Fat were quietly talking to one another. In the Dub, it sounds as though they're screaming at each other...

Anime - Dubbed. Mostly because what I've seen of it usually ends up with every damn female character having this insane high-pitched squeaky voice thing that gives me headaches and makes my ears bleed.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:12 pm UTC
by Azrael
I came across Crouching Tiger on TV over the weekend - I was soooo excited until they started talking and it was dubbed.

The cadence inherent in dialog spoken in the native tongue s completely destroyed by dubbing.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:24 pm UTC
by The Spherical Cow
Definitely subtitled. After a while, I tend to stop noticing that I'm reading and I "hear" in English.

I dislike dubbing for much the same reasons already listed.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:12 pm UTC
by mosc
If the dubbing is good, I prefer dubbing. 90% of the time it is not good though so generally I prefer subtitles.

Particularly with animated source material (anime comes to mind), lip syncing is not a big deal. Dubbing is best but crappy voice actors can easily ruin it.

I don't watch much other foreign language material.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:18 pm UTC
by SomeoneElse
Subtitling is nearly always better, as long as the subtitles accurately portray what the characters are saying, rather than being a rubbish direct translation. Dubs are usually worse, and really simplify or completely change the dialog. The only thing i can think of where dubbing made something better is the dub of Cowboy Bebop.

Oh, and the dub of Magic Roundabout is awesome, obviously.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:48 pm UTC
by Endless Mike
Dubs because even if they're bad, I can at least pay attention to what's going on. With subs, I'm reading the bottom half of the screen the whole time. Unless they do it like Heroes and put the subs right by the character.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:54 pm UTC
by b.i.o
Subtitles, any day of the week, even if the dubbing is good. I like to watch a movie how it originally was supposed to be viewed. I read fast enough that that's not a problem at all.

I honestly don't even notice myself reading subs when they're there--once I get into the movie it honestly seems no different to me than watching a film that's natively in English.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:58 pm UTC
by Fat Tony
Subtitles, unless it's a comedy. Then the more ridiculous it is, the better =D

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:58 pm UTC
by Angelene
Subtitled, without a doubt. It's far far too disconcerting and ultimately distracting for me to see their lips moving entirely out of sync with what they're saying.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:03 pm UTC
by Belial
Subs. Definitely. Better translation, fewer *awful* voice-acting choices.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:05 pm UTC
by Sneds
Subtitles. Especially if its a serious live-action film. If it was animated then I guess I wouldn't mind so much.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:16 pm UTC
by Masuri
SecondTalon wrote:Anime - Dubbed. Mostly because what I've seen of it usually ends up with every damn female character having this insane high-pitched squeaky voice thing that gives me headaches and makes my ears bleed.


I dated an anime geek in college and I swear if I ever hear another high pitched female anime squeal, it will be too soon.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:40 pm UTC
by Gelsamel
Subs.

There are only a few dubs I've seen where the voices match the characters well - and even then the translation nearly always missed a lot of information, or purveys a totally different character.

For instance in subs Kyon from Haruhi thinks to himself "You have to admire how well the laws of physics are written" (or something very similar). In the English dub he says "The laws of physics sure put a damper on things...".

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:55 pm UTC
by Jessica
If the dubbing is good, I'd rather watch it dubbed. But, it rarely is good.

If you watch enough subs, you get used to reading the bottom of the screen and watching the action, especially if the subs are done well.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 11:11 pm UTC
by Nimz
I prefer subs to dubs, but actually understanding what's being said in a foreign language film pwns all. Not that I actually understand all that often. :roll: This goes for live action and animated. For instance, I understand enough French that I could get alot out of Amelie, even if I hadn't had subtitles on. For anime, when I first started watching subbed episodes I had a hard time distinguishing between the female characters. I got used to it, though, so I don't really mind the high pitched voices anymore.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. I really like Cowboy Bebop. A big part of that is the music, but another big part of that is how well the dub was done. I watched the movie both subbed and dubbed, but it was still early enough on that I had a hard time distinguishing between Faye and Ed. I probably would enjoy the sub more now, but that doesn't change that the dub fits very well.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 11:37 pm UTC
by Ubik
I chose subtitles. I'm so used to them that they are not really a distraction - all movies and tv shows in foreign languages are subbed around here, except the ones targetet towards younger children. I can't make up any new reason that has not yet been stated, I just have to confirm that the voice acting just too rarely matches well enough with the original material.

Hmm, maybe one not-yet-stated point could be that the audio can easily be ruined with dubbing. As far as I know they just mix down the frequencies of speech from the original audio (or something similar) and add actors voices over it. I remember that in some dubbed shows the original speech could be heard faintly in the background.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:03 am UTC
by headprogrammingczar
For me it is not so much the inherent difference between subtitles and dubbing as its application in specific movies. An example of good subtitles is Pan's Labyrinth, for which the subtitles were written by del Toro himself. This completely eliminated any inherent problems the subtitling might have, because it is accounted for from the very start. I no good examples of dubbing done well, simply because I have not seen many dubbed movies. Dubbing has the same weakness that subtitling does, but that is easilly eliminated in a manner identical to my previous example. The other problem is finding a good voice for the characters. The best case scenario is that the actors themselves learn every language the film will be released in. I have a weak example of this in Pan's Labyrinth, as Doug Jones (the Faun) is an American actor, who knew no Spainish. In the months prior to filming, he learned as much Spainish as he could, and spoke his lines with a native accent. He was later dubbed over by a professional Spainish actor, but the job was much easier and of higher quality because the acting was already there from the start. It ultimately comes down to the attention the director gives to multilingual distribution of the work.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 1:55 am UTC
by Morphing Ball
For films, definitely no dubbing. It's ridiculous. It just looks so ridiculous and the acting is always bad.

For anime, pretty much the only dub I can watch is the Cowboy Bebop dub, which I actually think has a decent English script and the acting isn't godawful. I tend to avoid others like the plague. That being said, not all original voices are great; there are some Japanese voices that I have found annoying in the past, but I certainly don't agree that they're all squeaky. To take Trigun as an example, I absolutely can't stand Milly's Japanese voice, but Meryl's really isn't squeaky or objectionable at all. In fact, I can't think of another squeaky voice in the program. I could present a few other cases where really only one or two voices are too squeaky, but perhaps I have a high tolerance.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:02 am UTC
by BNOOOOGERS
I like subtitling better because the original acting is kept intact. This has the advantage (hopefully) of their acting as well as preserving the 'foreignness' of the movie because you can still hear the original language. Dubbing ruins the acting, the language, and the impact of the film.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:31 am UTC
by Midnight
i, like many, feel that you lose so much of the voice the actor was planning on having.. i mean there are good voice actors, but it doesn't really match--lip movement aside... you lose a lot of the emotion... one time I watched Vita e Bella on USA or whatever, and it was dubbed... sounded weird, but not only that... it only seemed an 'ok' movie. When i watched it in italian, with subtitles, it was one of the best movies i've seen in quite a while.

i shudder to imagine pan's labryinth dubbed; that movie was so good that when i remember it, I remember the characters speaking in english, even though i've only seen the spanish w/ subtitles, cause it's so visual that the meanings are RIGHT THERE.

edit: the best dubbing i've seen was in princess mononoke, but it's so far from your standard anime's shittastique dubbing that it's almost amazing to watch. I've seen the japanese subtitled version, and--and this is the only time i've seen or even heard of--it was equal to subtitles.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:55 am UTC
by Malice
I'm for subtitles--although the other day I was watching something subtitled and got so into it that I was "hearing" the English language, and then wondered why the lip movements didn't match up to the English.

I do think subtitles can get annoying sometimes, particularly if they choose a bad color for them, and you can't see them half the time. Or if the movie you're watching is very visual, and you have to keep looking away from the beautiful pictures to read.

I would like to point out a bit of film history--a long time ago, when the studio system still reigned, movies were occasionally made to be multi-lingual. It would happen like this:

They'd set up a stage for scene number one. The actors and director walk in and they shoot the scene. The actors and director walk out, and new ones walk in--these ones fluent in a different language. They'd shoot the exact same scene the exact same way, only in Spanish. Then they'd leave, and the scene would be shot in French. And so on and so forth until that scene was done and they'd move on.

Then the studio would distribute each assembled foreign-language version accordingly. That's how it was done after the invention of sound and prior to the establishment of subtitling.

It was easier before sound, because all they had to do was rewrite the title cards (or, in cases like "The Last Laugh", nothing at all). So I guess if I can't have subtitling, I might go with silent. :D

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:19 am UTC
by une see
Subtitles, although sometimes it's annoying to have to read the screen while you're trying to pay attention to what's going on with the characters and such. Distracts from the movie/show. Still better than dubbing, though, unless it's really well done (such as the Cowboy Bebop American dub).

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 4:24 am UTC
by EvanED
I never fully understood how almost everyone likes subtitles. It depends on what mood I'm in, but I'm almost always the opposite. I realize that dubbed acting is often pretty bad, but I like being able to look away from the screen for a short time and not miss much, or close my eyes and still mostly follow what's going on.

If I'm in the mood to actually pay full attention for a couple hours, then subtitles are better, but I'm rarely in that mood.

Then again, I very very rarely watch foreign movies. (For that matter I fairly rarely watch any movie.)

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:34 pm UTC
by SecondTalon
headprogrammingczar wrote:For me it is not so much the inherent difference between subtitles and dubbing as its application in specific movies. An example of good subtitles is Pan's Labyrinth, for which the subtitles were written by del Toro himself. This completely eliminated any inherent problems the subtitling might have, because it is accounted for from the very start. I no good examples of dubbing done well, simply because I have not seen many dubbed movies. Dubbing has the same weakness that subtitling does, but that is easilly eliminated in a manner identical to my previous example. The other problem is finding a good voice for the characters. The best case scenario is that the actors themselves learn every language the film will be released in. I have a weak example of this in Pan's Labyrinth, as Doug Jones (the Faun) is an American actor, who knew no Spainish. In the months prior to filming, he learned as much Spainish as he could, and spoke his lines with a native accent. He was later dubbed over by a professional Spainish actor, but the job was much easier and of higher quality because the acting was already there from the start. It ultimately comes down to the attention the director gives to multilingual distribution of the work.




That reminds me.. I need to check with a French-speaker and find out how off Ron Pearlman's accent was in The City of Lost Children... he did kinda a similar thing, minus the learning the language part. Just learned his lines.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:05 pm UTC
by Zohar
I personally prefer subtitles. Maybe it has something to do with English not being my first language. That means that I (along with I guess 90% of TV viewers in Israel) am used to reading subtitles to anything in English. At first because I didn't know English well enough (I think these days children start learning English here at the same age they learn to read and write in Hebrew), later because of force of habit.

So since practically everything I watch has subtitles, I don't mind them in other things. Also, I read fairly fast in English (at least, in comparison to the general Israeli) so I almost always have enough time to read the subtitles and watch the screen.

It's particularly funny when there's a joke that appears in the subtitles seconds before it is spoken on screen. Frequently you'll hear everyone in the theater (in an English-speaking film) laugh before the actual joke. :-)

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 6:06 pm UTC
by pinkgothic
Like many here, I would prefer subtitles if dubbing is going to end up obviously out of sync' with lip movements... which I've actually rare seen happen. Otherwise, I greatly prefer dubbing, for the reasons already stated about divided attentions. If I wanted to read, I'd pick up a book.

That aside, there is one thing I can't stand... but first, a bit of background: I live in and was born in Germany, but grew up bilingually, so I'm equally fluent in English as I am in German (actually, I'd argue my English is better, but anyway). My hithero-living boyfriend, while not bilingual, is similarly proficient, and so our movie life tends to look like this: we see a movie we like (in German) on TV or in the cinema, decide we want a DVD of it containing both the version we know, and the original version (if differing) and/or English version (if possible, and neither English nor German is the original language).

Every once in a while, we come across DVDs that will not let us turn off the subtitles of the English movies (without that the subtitles are part of the actual movie data, I mean; so by rights they should be removable). Now, I'm sure we could just watch the DVD on a computer with a decent computer software that would let us bypass all sorts of rules, and take the subtitles out, but frankly... we don't want to do that, it's tedious.

We usually just end up not watching it.

Anyway, I'd be interested in knowing how this breaks up by country - as in, how much faith people have in that dubs in their country will be done well. My faith in this is actually very high, in case it was somehow not obvious. :P

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:26 am UTC
by fukiyo
I cannot stand dubbing. I feel it usually butchers the intended dialog and often mistranslates, which can completely change a movie/anime/what-have-you. There are some good voice actors for dubbing out there (FLCL), but I always feel like I'm missing out on the actual meaning. It's like I only get half of the story and miss jokes and the like. Then again, come to think of it, I hate poor subtitles, too.

I would be a horrible fansubber for anime because I would end up not translating half of what the characters say and just putting in a ton of translator's notes. I hate it when dubbers/subbbers try to translate "untranslatable" slang or phrases. Itadekimasu does not mean "I'm digging in!" or "Looks tasty" or anything like that, damn it! Itadekimasu means itadekimasu...you can't translate it! And to me, it just takes away from the anime/movie when they put words into a character's mouth like that.

I also agree with most people in this thread, too, when it comes to more often than not the voice acting for the dub is annoying or just plain wrong (i.e. Osaka for Azumanga Daioh with her southern accent. WTF?).

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 9:30 pm UTC
by krick
Subtitles. Always. Unless we get babel fishes.

I like getting the intended voice and inflection from the original actor.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:46 pm UTC
by LatwPIAT
Hmmmm.

I can't say much since I all I've ever watched is GitS and GitS:SAC and a Korean movie about a former rapist who falls in love with a disabled person. (Really good BTW) The first two were dubbed and the latter subbed.

When it comes to other languages, I haven't tried French lately, but I prefer my German moves with English subtitles, my Englsih movies with English subtitles (I can't hear the actors from time to time....) and nothing, ever, dubbed to Norwegian, (except the old Cartoon Network shows, they had good voice actors in Norway back then.)

I prefer English to most other languages. Other languages, especially non-germanic, confuse me. I can't follow what is being said, which helps a lot. Although sometimes, if it is slowpaced enough, like the aforemented Korean movie, that won't matter much, becuase it is allways clear who is speaking, heck, I might even catch a word or two.

Re: Subtitling vs. dubbing

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 2:31 am UTC
by theonlyjett
Subtitles for sure. I, too, "hear" english when I watch them and usually don't even remember later that it was subtitled. I forgot Pan's Labyrinth was even subtitled until someone mentioned it in this thread. Same goes with Crouching Tiger. I seem to remember hearing the lines in english even though when it comes on tv dubbed, it annoys me and I always put in my dvd of it instead.

Dubbing is only good for anime and it's probably just as well for movies on tv as those of us who really want to sit down and enjoy a movie probably get the dvd anyhow.