UN-style is probably the least familiar kind of video translation voice-over.
It’s certainly not as well-known as Off-screen Narration or Lip-sync Dubbing (which is so common that poorly synchronized dubbing is a cliché. However, our customers are always pleased with this option because it’s cost-effective, allows for very accurate script translations, and is suitable for many kinds of content like documentaries, testimonials, interviews and speeches.
But seriously, what is it?
Before describing it, it’s much better to watch a very short sample of UN-style:
The English-language voices of on-screen speakers play for a short time, and then the foreign-language voices start 1-2 seconds after. The English-language volume is lowered to about 20%, so the viewer hears the foreign-language voice clearly, but still registers the original audio, specifically the emotion and cadence.
If a video also has sections of off-screen narration (common in documentaries), UN-style recordings generally replace this audio completely, since it’s not tied to an on-screen speaker.
UN-style was specifically developed for documentaries and news footage because it retains the authenticity, and integrity, of the source content.
For example, if you have video footage of a speech by Antonio Villarraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, you don’t want to replace his voice with an actor’s. This would seem like a disingenuous way to translate the video, and, moreover, the viewers want to hear his voice. With UN-style, you get enough of Villarraigosa’s voice to register its emotion, cadence and tone; plus an easily-accessible audio translation, as in the video that follows:
Marketing videos also rely on authenticity, especially customer interviews or testimonials. UN-Style is a good option for them because it retains the integrity of the original footage, which is crucial for building brand trust and loyalty. Likewise, UN-style is great for corporate videos (especially CEO videos), as well as for skills training or instructional films, infomercials and educational content.
Aside from the degree of authenticity it lends to projects, UN-style has three key advantages:
- Lower recording costs: Because the synchronization doesn’t have to be as close as lip-sync, the sessions are less labor-intensive, and this is reflected in the overall cost.
- Fewer talents used: The most common casting strategy is to use 1 talent for all narration (if it’s present in the video), 1 male talent for all male speakers, and 1 female talent for all female speakers. This means UN-style projects usually can be completed with 3 talents (most dubbing projects require 10-15), dramatically lowering session fees.
- Translation accuracy: Translations for UN-style only have to be edited for timing (to account for text expansion, which we discussed in a previous blog), and not for lip-sync, so they can be much more accurate. This is especially useful for videos that contain legal language, difficult terminology, or even skills training… basically, any content for which accurate translation is crucial.
Because UN-style doesn’t hide the video translation process, some people think of it as an «honest» voice-over. It doesn’t rely on an illusion, like lip-sync dubbing, but instead it actively tells viewers that they’re listening to a translation, and even suggests that they can check it against the original content. This transparency and integrity is the key to its power as a voice-over option.