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.
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 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
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:
- FM radio disc jockeys
- FM radio newsboard announcers (girls who read the news hourly)
- Voice dubbing for radio and TV ads
- Building reconstructors (restoring burnt buildings and equipment)
- Rock band singers
- AM radio drama dubbers
- ABS-CBN anime dubbers
- UP professors
- TV magazine show camera crew
- TV news show writers
- Theater thespians
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:
- English subtitled bootlegs
- English translations from a Japanese translator
- 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
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:
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.
religiously sensitive stuff – no words like panginoon, diyos ko, susmaryosep, etc. [my work on trigun’s gunslinging pastor nick wolfwood is pushing the envelope]
violent language/verbs – no direct dialogue using the verbs patay, todas, baril, etc.
derogatory names – self explanatory. You only hear hangal, right? No tanga, bobo, walanghya, etc.
no excessive showing of skin. [GMA is giving us hell with Lupin III’s Fujiko]
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]
no gore – any human being cut open, impaled, etc.
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:
- [mind] – a guy is talking in his head.
- [back] – guy is talking with his back facing the screen and his mouth can be seen.
- [off] – guy is too far away for his mouth to be visible, or his mouth is concealed.
- [vo] – guy is speaking but the video shows something else.
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.