Why Script Timing Is Crucial for Marketing Spot Voice-Over & Dubbing

3 Tips for Captioning & Subtitling Languages with Accented Characters
November 21, 2018
Subtitling & Video Localization Quote Checklist (Free PDF)
December 5, 2018

Script editing for timing is an essential part of all voice-over and dubbing video localization projects – but on radio, TV and online marketing spot productions it’s absolutely critical. Why? Because the particulars of marketing localization mean that text expansion can seriously impact project budgets, timelines and quality. Multimedia localization and marketing producers must understand script editing for timing to ensure the success of their multilingual spots.

This post lists the four reasons this service is critical to marketing voice-over, video localization and transcreation.

[Average read time: 4 minutes]

What is script editing for timing on voice-over & dubbing projects?

Translations are usually longer than their English source text – that’s just a part of the localization process. But timed voice-over and video projects restrict how long the foreign-language voice-over track can be. Thus, translated scripts have to be edited down so that they can be read within the time allowed by the English source.

This pass is done by a script timing editor, a native-speaker voice-over, dubbing and video localization professional who reviews the translated script against the source audio or video, identifying the sections that won’t fit, or that don’t synchronize to visuals. He or she then shortens those sections, balancing accuracy with the timing requirements of each piece. Finally, those changes are reviewed by the client or in-country team.

For more information on this process, see our post What is Script Editing for Timing? Why Is It Critical for Dubbing?

Why is it critical for radio, TV commercials & online marketing spots?

The production and delivery requirements of marketing localization mean that script editing for timing is particularly critical to avoiding serious project issues. Here’s why.

1. Marketing spots have very strict time limits.

There are several ways to tweak video and audio files to deal with text expansion. For example, corporate videos can be slowed down slightly during post-production to accommodate expanded scripts, or even re-edited for sections that are too long. Likewise, timed audio often has some flexibility – for example, phone systems (IVR) may just require that the foreign-language audio expands no more than 15%.

However, online pre-roll, radio and TV spots don’t get have the same leeway – in fact, they have no leeway at all. If a radio spot is slated for 30 seconds, it has to be exactly that length. A translated spot that’s 29.5 seconds or 30.5 seconds simply won’t work. Script editing is critical to ensure that the scripts fit just right.

2. Performance is everything – and timing affects it dramatically.

Marketing copy relies on rhythm and pace to engage its audience. Watch any high-quality brand spot or commercial – whether online pre-roll or broadcast TV – and you’ll see that the narration is tightly synchronized to picture, music and sound effects. And of course, localized scripts have to maintain that pace and rhythm. Laid back and friendly, for example, won’t sound very laid back and friendly in your German dubbing production if the talent is reading at a faster pace just to get the copy to fit.


Text expansion can affect transcreation as well, though in slightly different ways. You won’t need to line up the transcreated copy to existing visuals if they get re-created and re-flowed. And you’ll have much more leeway in terms of pace. But transcreated scripts – especially first and second drafts – are often too long to fit within spot time constraints, so make sure that they get a timing pass as well.

3. Legal spot content expands heavily – and can’t be shortened.

Many spots feature legal content, like the disclaimers at the end of medical and pharmaceutical commercials. These sections almost always expand significantly when translated, but must also be translated very accurately, allowing for very little editing. That makes the timing pass particularly tricky since the editor has to work on sections that will be recorded at different speeds, and which have very different text requirements.

4. Pick-ups present additional problems for marketing spots.

Pick-up sessions with foreign-language voice-over talents add to budgets, often unexpectedly, so it’s imperative to avoid them. For marketing spots, however, this cost isn’t the only incentive to avoid re-recordings. It’s critical to have spots air or go online as scheduled to maximize audience engagement, line up to a product release, and bolster your brand’s international presence. In short, delays can affect a spot’s performance.

What can multimedia localization & marketing professionals do to avoid issues?

Make sure your scripts are timed rigorously by a professional studio like JBI Studios, which hires experienced timing editors for every language. Don’t skip this step, even if your spot has built-in pauses or relatively simple copy. If your script has any legal disclaimers, be extra careful with these sections – they’ll require more work. And of course, allow enough time in your production workflow to get script feedback from all stakeholders, since changes often lengthen scripts, and may require an additional timing pass. It’s more work during pre-production, but a proper timing pass is the only way to guarantee your air dates, avoid costly pick-ups – and ensure that your spots engage your international audience, bolster your sales and increase your brand presence.