Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Lost in dubbing!

I have to confess to never having seen a single episode of the series Lost. Maybe it’s bacause failed to catch the beginning of the very first series which meant that it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to me. Maybe it was one description of it as a mixture of a thriller and a reality TV game show that put me off; I saw odd bits – never a whole episode - of the series Survivors and wasn’t impressed. Maybe it’s a generation thing; I know hoards of people the age of my own children who watch it avidly. Whatever the reason, I’ve never seen any of it and don’t intend to go out and buy it on DVD or download it from the internet.

However, the latest and final series began on Spanish TV last night, dubbed of course into Spanish and just the other day I came across an article about the doblaje súper acelerado which is going on. Apparently the American film and television companies used to take their time dubbing films and series for release in non English speaking countries but nowadays the pressure is on. People are downloading stuff from the internet as soon as it is released in the USA and this means that the companies lose money, as usual the driving factor in getting something done faster!

As a result the dubbing team for Lost – around 70 people - will be working about 14 hours a day from now until the last episode goes out here some time in May. Presumably they get weekends off but the whole thing is on a high stress cycle. Four days before each episode goes out in the United States it is sent to the dubbing company in Spain where they translate the script, work at matching the length of each bit of Spanish speech to the lip movements of the original actors, record it, add the music, mix the whole thing and then transmit the finished item, one week after its transmission in the states. This process is repeated week on week on week.

Now you might think it would be sensible to send the whole lot in plenty of time and reduce everyone’s stress levels. After all, they have to do that with films so that they can get as close as possible to simultaneous release in the USA and Europe. However, the secrecy element comes into play as well. There is a great fear, not to say paranoia, that someone will leak events in the series prior to release on TV. The more episodes dubbed in advance, the greater the possibility that someone will give in to the temptation to sell the secret of the ending to the press. Now, that would never do and so everyone is sworn to secrecy and drip-fed the story of the series.

One of the Spanish actors, Lorenzo Beteta, who is the voice of Jack, main man of the series, I believe, is a little concerned about what would happen if he were to lose his voice. The dubbing company have understudies ready but, as he points out, it would be rather like changing the actor half way through a series. Spanish viewers, of course, have grown used to hearing Lorenzo Beteta’s voice coming out of the mouth of Matthew Fox who plays Jack in the series. It must be very confusing as Beteta is also the voice of David Duchovny (X Files and Californication) and Robert Sean Leonard (House). I know a number of people who really admire actors such as Merryl Streep and Hugh Grant (!tan guapo! they always say, so maybe in his case it’s just his looks) but have no notion of what they sound like. Personally, I find it strangely disconcerting if I accidentally see a film dubbed into English and hear an actor whose work I am familiar speaking with someone else’s voice!

I wonder what they do when they dub an episode of The Simpsons where they have a guest appearance of a famous actor. Well, of course, they must use whichever Spanish actor regularly dubs that person’s roles. But what about singers? That strange breed know just as “celebrities”? Even the occasional politician?

At least with series like Lost they change the name to Spanish – Perdidos. Why, I ask myself and anyone else who can offer an answer, did the children’s film Up! not change its name to ¡Arriba! – a perfectly good Spanish word?


  1. Anthea it's because of the paranonia of english they have in Spain and its 'coolness'..... so, film titles like Up! are left in ingles.... eieieieyayeyeeeeiii

  2. I've been reading you for a while and this post is really interesting. I'm Spanish so I'm used to the dubbing, but for many many years I've only watched films/series in original version (having Digital+ at home helps a lot). I agree that dubbing is about voices and how strange it is when you hear the real voice of an actor after years of Spanish dubbing (compare Dr. House!), but it also affects the story (the accents, the jokes that doesn't make sense once they're translated, etc). It's really a shame that we still dub films, but more and more people are starting to prefer V.O.S. I love Lost and I couldn't be bothered to watch any episode in Spanish. Out of curiosity I watched a bit once, and the horrible Sayid accent they've made up and Desmond not having a Scottish accent, it's so weird. But then I also understand that not everybody speaks English so I can't expect them to be that comfortable watching a film in a foreign language. (people in the UK see foreign films in original version with subtitles, but how many people see those anyway?). Saludos from a Galician in England!

  3. Hola Pandacola,

    Whereabouts in England do you live?

    I've been used to watching foreign films with subtitles for so long that I don't see why people have a problem with it. But you are right, many English people just wouldn't bother. Manchester is fortunate to have the Cornehouse Cinema which specialises in foreign and arthouse films but otherwise it's difficult. Non-English language films just don't get a fair showing in mainstream cinemas but at least when they are on TV they are in the original version.

  4. I'm in Birmingham at the moment (I'm here only this year). Not the best place to be! I know the Cornerhouse in Manchester. They used to have a Spanish cinema festival if I remember correctly.

  5. The Spanish Film Festival was always a highlight of the year for my students. I don't know if they still do it. They do excellent study days for foreign langauge films as well. Have you got a Brummie accent when you speak English now?

  6. No, I don't have a Brummie accent (phew!). I haven't been here long enough and in fact, I don't talk to many people from here anyway. I remember seeing Mar Adentro at the Corner House. Still don't know if they still have the festival but I know there's one in Glasgow every year.