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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Subtitling And Dubbing Your Internet Video - Part Two: Audio Dubbing Video Guide

Subtitling and dubbing Internet video is a great way of expanding the reach of your own video, and of bringing whole new audiences to pre-existing content originally created in another language. In this second part of my guide to subtitling and dubbing on the cheap, I talk you through the process of dubbing Internet-bound video.

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Photo credit: Picpics

The focus of part one of this guide was on adding subtitles to your Internet videos using two completely free web applications.

Subtitling can be a great way of adding comprehensibility to foreign language materials, not to mention the value added by bringing a new level of accessibility to your videos for those with hearing impairments (or indeed, the urge to watch videos on the sly at work). Subtitles are an excellent fit for content with a lot of people on camera, given that the results of lip-sync dubbing can often turn out unintentionally comic. However, there are other circumstances where dubbing is a far better solution.

Take for example the screencast genre. Here you typically have a video of someone's desktop and applications, with a voice-over running on the audio track. Adding text to what is already a visually and textually crowded space doesn't always help the situation here. That aside, there is no real reason not to go for the dubbing option, given that there are seldom any lips to sync. By going for the dubbing option of such type of video material, localization becomes seamless in each and every language.

In this guide to dubbing your Internet video I don't have a single online destination that will let you dub your video clips in a perfect way. A few come close, but not close enough. To better support your curiosity and desire to learn more about video dubbing I have therefore included some useful information on dubbing using the standard software already bundled with your computer, as well as providing links to a few paid solutions.

The emphasis of my own selection is on accessibility and affordability.

As such I don't talk about professional and semi-professional solutions, such as Apple Soundtrack Pro and Adobe Audition, which are well geared up to doing the job, but at a price.

What you have here is a guide to dubbing your video without having to reach into your pocket.



Group one - semi-online, cross-platform solutions



Overview

As I discussed in the first part of this video subtitling and dubbing guide, it is a very simple prospect to get subtitles onto your video using totally free, browser-based solutions.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the dubbing process (at least to my knowledge - I would love to be proven wrong on this one - feel free to drop your own solutions into the comments at the end of this post).

What's even more frustrating is that there are at least two solutions that come very close to offering the functionality needed, but both fall short in one way or another. Both are web-based and can be accessed from any computer system.

Here the details:



Splashcast, Video Downloader and VLC

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Splashcast, the new multimedia syndication and publishing tool recently reviewed on these very pages, comes very close. I was excited to learn about the fact that this very nicely featured platform has the option to quickly and easily record audio straight from your mic, and overlay it over your original video. Splashcast also allows you to add background music, which you can set the volume level of.

There's just one problem that prevents Splashcast from being useful to anyone looking to re-dub, rather than freshly dub a video - Splashcast does not have the capability to replace the original audio track. Now obviously this tool wasn't designed for dubbing work, and has been included primarily as a way for users to add a voice over to their photo collection, or silent video footage. That in itself is groundbreaking, and is not something I have seen elsewhere.

If you want to create an original audio recording, Splashcast is indeed your tool. But if you are looking to redub your video, you are going to need to first download the source file using Video Downloader, then remove the audio track with a free tool like VLC, and finally upload it to Splashcast. This is a needlessly long process, but one that you might consider if you are looking to do your dubbing on the cheap. On the bright-side, it is an entirely cross-platform solution that will work for you regardless of your operating system.



Jumpcut and Audacity

jumpcutslogo.jpg

The other semi-online, cross-platform solution available to you is to make use of the online video remixing tool Jumpcut alongside the free desktop audio editor Audacity.

Jumpcut has a very nice, easy to grasp, feature-rich video editing environment that almost cuts it in terms of redubbing video, but for one vital flaw. You see, with Jumpcut, I can bring in my own audio files, I can lower or mute the sound levels of the original video clip I am working on, and I can even add background music. So while I can place my own, new audio over a video clip, I can't record directly the new audio through the Jumpcut editing interface. This means that I need to first record my audio separately, then upload it to Jumpcut, and finally make my adjustments in the Jumpcut editing console to replace the original audio track with my new version.

This isn't the most intuitive process, given that I have to record my audio into a free audio recording and editing tool like Audacity while watching the source video simultaneously to get my timing right. No problems there until I want to cut, when I'll need to switch between two applications to stop both the playing video and the recording audio. The same goes for starting them rolling.

Still, with the new audio track completed, with or without the addition of music (Audacity is a 'multi-track' recorder that will allow me to layer audio tracks together) I can upload the file to Jumpcut, and lay it over the video track to create my final dub. It's not an elegant solution, but it works.

If either Jumpcut or Splashcast were to borrow a single, simple feature from one another, this would of course be a lot more straightforward, and hopefully one or the other will do so in the course of time.





Group two - simple desktop solutions



Overview

The alternative to the above cumbersome approaches , at least if you are running a Windows or a Mac, is to use the free software that came bundled with it.

While there are also GNU/Linux solutions available, I do not currently have access to them. However, Kino comes highly recommended by the GNU/Linux community, and would doubtless prove a safe starting point. Not last, its feature-set does include audio-dubbing.

For the unenlightened rest of us there is the Apple's Mac-basediMovie and Microsoft's Windows-based Windows Movie Maker. Both come installed with their respective operating systems and offer a quick way to overdub your source video, ready to be exported to the web.

Let me show you how to use each one for dubbing your video clips:



iMovie

In the following short video tutorial I take you through the simple process of dubbing your video using iMovie. The version I am using in the video is iMovie HD, and may look slightly different to your own iMovie if you are running an older Mac. The principles are the same however.

In this video I:

  • Import a video into iMovie
  • Kill its original audio track
  • Record my own new audio track
  • Export the video, ready to be upped to the Internet



Windows Movie Maker

Windows Movie Maker, which should be on your PC if you are running anything including or later than Windows ME (Vista Starter aside, sorry), is a very straightforward and easy to use tool. In this short video tutorial I take you through the process of dubbing a video by:

  • Importing a video file
  • Recording my audio narration
  • Exporting the file ready for web delivery





General dubbing advice

When dubbing your videos, you might want to keep in mind the following quick pointers:

  • Make sure that your system audio input is set to a high enough level, but not so high that your audio will be 'clipping', which will produce a distorted recording. The audio meter should be occasionally touching the yellow, but mainly staying in the top part of the green bar, with all but the most rare entries into the red. You can adjust your audio recording volume through your audio system settings to get this just right.
  • To avoid 'popping' your p's and s's it's a good idea to keep a safe distance from your microphone and not to place directly in front of your lips. If you can taste your mic, it is too close and is going to produce a horrible sound. The use of a mike popshield is, when available, the best solution of all.
  • Invest in a semi-decent microphone for recording if you want to avoid tinny-sounding vocals and annoying background hums or buzzes.
  • Allow yourself more than one take. The beauty of editing video is that you can chop up your sound and video files. Don't try to record all of your narration in a single take. You can stop after every sentence if you like, or as many times as you feel comfortable, and it is quite usual to go back and re-record certain parts of your audio if they don't sound too good.
  • If you can, monitor your audio as you record to see how it sounds. Otherwise check carefully your recordings at the end of your dub take. If you pay close attention, you are likely to hear all sorts of mistakes and verbal ticks you'd rather not include
  • Rehearsal is key. Trying to wing it invariably leads to amateurish "uhms...", "ahhhs..." and "soooooos....". Likewise, if you are not a trained actor or professional voice dubber, trying to read off a piece of paper ends up making your voice over sound like, well, someone reading off a piece of paper





Conclusions

Dubbing your videos, or those that you have managed to syndicate online, brings a whole new lease of life to them, opening up the experience of viewing your content to speakers of other languages, or giving you the chance to add critique or commentary to existing video footage.

While it isn't quite as easy as creating subtitles, a process that is now entirely possible using free web applications, dubbing your own audio track is a relatively straightforward task if you have the free, bundled software that come with every PC and Mac computer, and a not entirely painful chore if you choose to use the combination of free web applications and desktop tools covered in this guide.

[Note: I would be very happy indeed if Splashcast decided to add a way to turn off the original video's audio, if Jumpcut decided to allow direct recording of your microphone, or if an as yet undiscovered party decided to incorporate both of these features into their video interface. We can only hope that this isn't too far off in the ever expanding world of Internet video.]





Additional resources

In addition to the applications featured above, there are a host of paid dubbing alternatives. Here is a summary list for those of you looking for something better than the solutions listed above.

Far from being a fully comprehensive list (feel free to suggest additional tools in the Comments section at the end of this article), here is a handful of the audio-dubbing options available in the marketplace, listed here in order of price:

  • Crystal Video Dubber is a Windows-only application specifically for the task of dubbing your video's audio. It is free to try, and $24.95 to register
  • Apple's Mac-only iLife 06 features excellent dubbing options in both iMovie HD and Garageband. Well worth updating for those with earlier versions. It costs $79.00 at the time of writing, but is about to be updated with a 2007 edition.
  • Along with it's host of other screencasting and interactive content authoring features, Techsmith Camtasia Studio is a very capable audio dubbing tool. It is Windows only at the time of writing, and costs $299.
  • Adobe's Windows-only Adobe Audition 2.0 is featured as part of their production package, and handles the dubbing of video very well, among its other great features. As a professional audio tool however, it will set you back a cool $349
  • Apple's Mac-only Soundtrack Pro is a beautiful piece of software that will make dubbing a breeze, but unfortunately it can only be purchased as part of Final Cut Studio. At $1299 for this complete production studio solution, Soundtrack Pro is the Rolls Royce of audio dubbing applications. Fortunately there is a pared-down version, Soundtrack, included in the cheaper Final Cut Express, which costs a mere $299.00, but also includes a full video production studio.



Original article written and published by Michael Pick and edited by Robin Good for Master New Media as:
Subtitling And Dubbing Your Internet Video - Part Two: Dubbing Video Guide

 
 
 
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posted by Michael Pick on Wednesday, February 21 2007, updated on Saturday, April 24 2010


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