Voice Overs vs. Subtitles: Which Should You Choose?

voice overs or subtitles
April 13, 2021

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Whether you want to go global with your video content or target multilingual audiences at home, you must first decide how to translate it. Yet there’s an ongoing debate over which method is better. Some people hate reading subtitles, while others prefer them to voice overs

So, which should you choose? The answer is: it depends. The type of project, target audience, and budget all influence which option may be right for you. We’ll take a look at all three factors to help you decide.

Type of Video

Let’s start by going over some general guidelines for different types of video content.      

Marketing and Promotional Videos

Voice over typically works best for marketing and promotional videos because the speaker can convey the message in a persuasive voice. This is especially true when the video has an invisible narrator or one presenter.

If multiple speakers are featured, subtitling is usually the more affordable option because it doesn’t require multiple voice actors.

Training and Explainer Videos  

Subtitles work well for eLearning modules and training videos because the content matters more than the mood. They’re an excellent option for videos that demonstrate an action while a speaker describes it.

If the video includes explanatory texts or onscreen titles, voice over will make it easier for the viewer to follow along. Remember, it can be difficult to switch between reading the main text and the subtitles.

Target Audience

Although guidelines exist, always consider your target audience’s needs and preferences.

Cultural Norms

Some countries have a strong preference for one over the other. For example, Latin American audiences prefer voice over while Europeans are split by country. Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands prefer subtitles, but Spain, France, and Italy prefer voice over.

Reading Level  

Don’t forget to consider the target audience’s average reading level, either. An eLearning course for young children may need voice overs regardless of cultural preferences. The same may be true for training videos aimed at workers in lower skilled jobs. If your audience doesn’t have strong reading skills, they may struggle to follow along with subtitles.

Accessibility

If you’re publishing video content in the United States, you may also need to meet certain accessibility requirements for the hearing impaired. When this is the case, you’ll need to add an option for subtitles in English—in addition to foreign language subtitles or voice over.

Budget

In an ideal world, costs would never be an issue. Yet whether you decide to use voice overs, subtitles, or a combination of both may depend on your budget.

Voice over can be significantly more expensive than subtitles. It involves script translation, hiring voice talent, recording, and file delivery. And that doesn’t include localization costs such as the translation of on-screen texts and graphics with embedded text.

When budget constraints are an issue, subtitles are likely your best bet. However, if you have a larger budget, consider giving your audience a choice by including options for voice over and subtitles.

How INGCO International Can Help   

At INGCO International, we offer the localization, voice over, and subtitling services that will make your video content shine. From commercials to corporate training to eLearning, we know how to adapt your message to a multicultural audience.

Ready to discuss your next video project? Contact us today!

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