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About Dubbing

The Low Down on: Dubbing
by Urge Macleod

Telesuccess has been one of the most prevalent anime dubbing companies here in the Philippines, with successes such as Voltes V and its kin. In this article, one of the voice actors for the company, under the alias Urge Macleod, gives us a glimpse of what dubbing is like in the company. Chichiri and Mitsukake from Fushigi Yuugi is just an example of the roles he has recently played. Without further ado, here is Macleod’s article which was also posted at the Anime PH Mailing List (http://www.egroups.com/list/anime_ph).

-Editor in Chief

     This is basically the lowdown on anime dubbing, at least with the outfit I work with. I have been working as a dubber/scriptwriter for about 10 months. I hope you people find this informative, and I leave it to the aspiring seiyuus to ponder on whether they still want to take a crack at this.

Working Conditions

     Dubbing is done Monday to Friday weekly. Dubbing usually starts around 5-6pm, and ends when the episode[s] to be dubbed is finished. Sometimes 3-4 episodes of an anime are dubbed in a day, depending on availability of scripts, and availability of dubbers. A quick dub of an ep would last 2-3 hours.      Dinner is delivered from just about any food outfit that can deliver. From pizza to Chinese. However, we don’t have much of a pantry and we don’t have a ref so we have to take turns bringing ice and water every night. Water is an essential thing in dubbing. The place is hot and dubbers can’t afford to have their throats dry.

     If there is anything I am thankful for is there is a clean toilet with running water. Staying in a building like that for 8-10 hours a night, nature is bound to call you at one point in its many forms.

The Facility

     The studio isn’t really a studio. It’s an office converted into a studio.

     The outer part of the office is where the archives are located, with lots of boxes of scripts that were already dubbed, materials such as Japanese translations, and other junk the marketing office doesn’t want to put up with. A lot of broken obsolete equipment are also in the outer room, such as old TV’s, broken computers, mixers, etc. we have a computer without a printer [a dubber owns the dot matrix printer we use] a small TV and a VCR in the outer room, used by scriptwriters who need to make a script at the last minute and type it up.      The dubbing rooms each have 2 rooms. The technician’s room and the dubbing room. The technician’s room has all the equipment, tape players, recorders, mixers, amplifiers, character generators and stuff. The technician works the machine. Most of the time the technician is also the director and dubbing supervisor. Sometimes the tech is also a dubber. The dubbing room is where the dubbers sit and deliver their lines. There is a monitor in it, with seats and a microphone. It’s insulated and it’s hot inside.

Voice Over Roles by “Urge Macleod”

Flame of Recca: Daikoku of the Ku team
Fushigi Yuugi: Chichiri, Tetsuya, Mitsukake, Iking, Tomite, Ashitare, Tokaki
Master of Mosquiton: Franky Negger, Old Butler, Earl St. Germain
Monster Rancher: Golem, Gali, various leaders of enemy monsters
Hell Teacher Nube: Tetsuya a.k.a. Kakuya
Ghost in the Shell: Dr. Willis


     I am the second to the newest dubber in the outfit. By that I mean I was hired and trained at the outfit, and wasn’t from another outfit like ABS-CBN or GMA’s other dubbing outfits.

     My coworkers work experiences range from 5-20 years. Some have been in the outfit since the mecha shows in the 70’s. they are a blast to work with. Opinionated, intelligent, witty and friendly. They are literally from all walks of life. There’s a lot to be learned from every one of them because they have all been in another line of work and I get to hear about so many things in the world today, everyday. Like I mentioned before, dubbing doesn’t pay enough to be a full time job. Here are some of the dubbers’ other jobs:

  1. FM radio disc jockeys
  2. FM radio newsboard announcers (girls who read the news hourly)
  3. Voice dubbing for radio and TV ads
  4. Webmasters
  5. Building reconstructors (restoring burnt buildings and equipment)
  6. Rock band singers
  7. AM radio drama dubbers
  8. ABS-CBN anime dubbers
  9. UP professors
  10. TV magazine show camera crew
  11. TV news show writers
  12. Businessmen
  13. Dentists
  14. Scriptwriters
  15. Theater thespians
  16. Dubbers of American and local movies (we have dubbed some Jet Li and Philip Salvador movies)


     Here is where some of the blame goes for inconsistencies in the story and indeliberate name changes. If we are lucky, translations come from the Japanese anime outfit good, clear, consistent and on time. If we are unlucky [which is most of the time] the master tapes don’t come with any translations, and we are given as basis for our scripts:

  1. English subtitled bootlegs
  2. English translations from a Japanese translator
  3. English translations from a Chinese translator, who works with a complete set of the anime, in bootleg VCD format subtitled in Chinese.

     Now don’t get me wrong. If the Japanese owner of the anime sends us translations, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are accurate. In the case of Combattler v, the translations we got were scripts from Toei Japan, but the flow of events in the scripts were different from how the events took place in the episode itself. We have the same problem right now with hell teacher Nube.

Terms Used by Dubbers

  1. PICK-UP: When a dubber can’t make it to a dubbing session, they will have to dub without him and he will have to dub his part later. This is known as a pickup. This is an absolute last resort and will only be done if it’s really late already and dubbing has to commence. Why? Because the owner of the outfit can’t be billed for an ep not fully dubbed, and so it isn’t really fair for the dubbers, technicians and supervisors who were at the session on time not to be paid on time.
    Another meaning for pickup is to go back on a line. Let’s say your line spans 4 sentences. You deliver okay for the first 3 sentences, but mess up on the fourth. The tech would look for a space between the 3rd and 4th sentence, and you pick up from there.

  2. CURE: When a line is dubbed but has a flaw, whether it be quality or content wise, it is redubbed, or otherwise known as cured.

  3. OFF-MIKE: When a dubber’s voice doesn’t register on a microphone level equal to the rest. Usually means the dubber has to redo the line.

  4. EP CLOSED: If the dubbing session goes well and there is no pickup to be done, all lines are dubbed, then the ep is closed and ready for mixing.

  5. TRACK2: Surprisingly, we are still dubbing on 2track recorders. Usually dubbing is done on track1. All voices that need special effects like monsters are dubbed on track2 and is indicated on the tech’s copy of the script. Also, voices that need to be heard at the same time as the dialog are done in track2 like crowds [running townspeoplel, students in a classroom, market crowd, etc]. As much as possible, dialogues are done on track1 but sometimes in pick-ups have to be done on track2. The reason why is the original Japanese dialog is in track2, so if you dub over track2 you erase the guide.

  6. M/E: Music and Effects. When an ep is mixed, track1 & 2 are integrated into 1 track and the other track is for music and effects. There are things that are sometimes in the m/e that don’t need to be dubbed, like screams of monsters, but sometimes it’s left open for the dubbers to make their own version.
    Like in Fushigi Yuugi, there was a concert scene in the last few eps where Tamahome was walking in modern Japan. He passes by an open air concert. The singer sings a song where the lyrics imply that a true person in love must fight for love or something like that. Since the lyrics of the song are supposed to mean something and is meant to strike Tamahome, the audience then must understand the lyrics. So we dubbed them in Tagalog, one of the dubbers sang it. She’s currently auditioning for ms. saigon.

  7. CHARACTER: On the monitor screen there is an indicator or a counter. This is displayed because it shows when the tape is rolling or recording, and therefore should tell the dubber when he’s supposed to jump in. Sometimes this feature is turned off, especially when the mouth of the character talking is at the bottom of the screen. I heard from the veterans that in the old days there was no such thing. Back then the supervisor would tap you in the shoulder when it was time for you to say your line!

  8. SAME QUEUE: When a line has to be redone from the beginning.

  9. CALL TIME: The time when the dubber should be at the studio.

  10. SYNCH: When a scriptwritten line is perfect, meaning time of delivery “synchronizes” with the duration, from the opening to the closing of the character’s mouth. whether a script is synched or not also decides how long the dubbing session lasts.

  11. STRETCH/TIGHTEN: When a line is messed up but the line is synch, the line must be stretched or tightened. This means the delivery of the line was either too slow or too fast.


     Now let me see… PD1986, GMA, religion, excessive violence… take all the stuff they don’t want in anime and what you see is what you get. If there are any cuts in an anime, at least one of the aforementioned can be blamed. What is up with them? Cultural sensitivities. The Japanese don’t really care if we are offended with the way they handle the Christian faith or whatever faith for that matter, and whatever is supposed to offend the local viewers is left on the cutting room floor. Among the restrictions are:

  1. brand names – we never know which channel might buy the show or which channel might buy the show after one channel is through with it. So no brand names or TV shows must be mentioned in the anime. I’d like to see how they omit the SMB beer can in ghost in the shell.

  2. religiously sensitive stuff – no words like panginoon, diyos ko, susmaryosep, etc. [my work on trigun’s gunslinging pastor nick wolfwood is pushing the envelope]

  3. violent language/verbs – no direct dialogue using the verbs patay, todas, baril, etc.

  4. derogatory names – self explanatory. You only hear hangal, right? No tanga, bobo, walanghya, etc.

  5. no profanity.

  6. no excessive showing of skin. [GMA is giving us hell with Lupin III’s Fujiko]

  7. no excessive gunfire – Lupin’s firepower and the gunfire in the show is toned down, and whatever is left is aired with the audio suppressed [makes us look like we can’t mix audio properly]

  8. no gore – any human being cut open, impaled, etc.

  9. no stories involving religion or occult – even if the episode shows everything short of the devil himself [who shows up quite often as it is], the story must be changed.

Preservation of the Original

     It has been a practice since the 70’s that names and stuff are changed to make the anime a little more close to home. Only with the internet going mainstream did fans suddenly start asking why the names were changed, and prior to this there were hardly any complaints because back then they didn’t know better. The local English version of Voltes V has been the accepted version for most of the fans both local and international. Even in European countries anime in terms of character names and stuff are changed [Grandizer is changed to Goldorak].

     Only recently has this trend been changed and changing names is slowly being discouraged. Besides, it’s easier to retain an ugly unpronounceable Japanese name than think up a better name for it. Here’s some trivia for you, the list of choices for the local names of the male members of the Combattler team were names of delivery boys who deliver our dinner at dubbing: Glenn, Jason, Kevin, Bob.


     Without mentioning any figures, put it this way. A dubber earns just as much as an office worker, minus the benefits like SSS, Medicare and stuff. A dubber never gets paid on time either. And when you realize how much rights to an anime is really worth, and you know how much it’s being sold to GMA, and how much you’re getting for dubbing the damn thing, without getting any royalties no matter how many times they air it again, you’d be wondering what the hell you are doing in this line of work.


     Somebody is probably not doing their homework in the office of the outfit, or GMA thinks we’re magicians. Sometimes the deadlines are outrageous, especially for an OAV like Grandoll, we had to dub it in one night because it had to make it to the MTRCB the next day to be aired Monday the week after. Sometimes we aren’t provided translations well in advance, and GMA is pressing us for advance episodes so they can make teasers.


     I’m concentrating on scriptwriting more than dubbing, because at the moment, I can make a script faster than anyone else in the outfit.

     A decent script has to have all the lines, including reactions like grunting, screaming and stuff. Here are some markers in the dialogue for easier guidance:

     Every new scene is indicated with a sequence number.

     The line begins when the character’s mouth opens, and ends when it shuts. A scriptwriter must know the dubbers dubbing his script, because different dubbers speak in different speeds.

     The content of the line must be as true to the Japanese line, or if the story must be changed must abide with the guidelines mentioned in “restrictions”.


     Why is it hard to be a new dubber and actually make it? Because dubbing is a work in progress. It’s basically an on the job training thing. There are time constraints and in times like now when the outfit is dubbing everyday and what we dub is being aired as fast as we dish it out, it’s hard to find time to train neophytes, especially since we all have our day jobs.

     A dubber has to have many consistent voices. Male dubbers must know how to talk like a kid, a teenager, a mid-age, an old man, a monster, a robot, just about anything the show calls for. You never know how you’re supposed to sound like, like in monster rancher. A female dubber has to have the same variety of voices, and since they have higher voices than the males, the role of kids male and female go to them.

     Dubbers also have to be able to make a line on the spot, just in case the scriptwriter missed a line, or wrote a line that doesn’t conform to the restrictions. Therefore, dubbers need to have enough experience in the business to have a firm idea of what can and cannot be said.

     None of the dubbers are underaged. So if you want to dub but you’re still below 18 years of age and go to school, forget it for now. Minors need a work permit from the department of labor and even if they did get a permit, there’s no way they can balance schoolwork and dubbing. Something’s got to give. And dubbing for a summer job wont work, because we can’t replace your voice if the series isn’t completely dubbed and vacation is over.


     The owner of the dubbing outfit I work in doesn’t fully declare his taxes, so only your friends will know you’re a dubber. Don’t expect your name to appear in the credits of the anime.



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