Voice Acting

What is Dubbing?

Keaton Robbins | March 28, 2023

A man wearing an orange hat and a brunette woman sit in front of a computer editing audio files.

Dubbing is more common in movies, television, and animated shows than many people may think. Sometimes, you may not notice when dubbing occurs because it can appear seamless for some productions. However, at other times you may hear or notice the voices sound a little off.

In this article

  1. Dubbing: What Is It?
  2. The History of Dubbing
  3. Reasons & Uses For Dubbing
  4. Language Barriers
  5. Poor Sound Quality
  6. Providing Context
  7. Animated Shows
  8. Corrupted Audio Files
  9. Dubbing Examples
  10. Sailor Moon
  11. Bluey
  12. Final Thoughts

But what exactly is dubbing, and what is it used to achieve? Read on to learn about dubbing and real-life examples of it.

Dubbing: What Is It?

Dubbing is when a portion of the audio is re-recorded for one reason or another. A dub is appropriate for a few situations, and you’ve likely seen a dubbed part of a movie or television show without realizing it.

Dubs are a common way to make audio more understandable and erase some background noise from the original take. In some cases, a dub can broaden the audience of a movie, show, or series and allow those who speak other languages to enjoy the program more easily.

The History of Dubbing

Dubbing is not a new concept. This type of audio recording first cropped up in the 1930s, when films started to take off and hit the screen more often. One of the first things movie producers noticed was the poor audio quality was distracting from the plot, making for a poor watching experience for viewers.

Sometimes, background noises and other essential audio components would be dubbed into the movies to make the content more immersive.

Reasons & Uses For Dubbing

There are many reasons that some audio clips may receive a dub to create a better sound. Some of these include language barriers or widening an audience. Dubs can handle poor audio quality or corrupted audio files.

Language Barriers

Language barriers are the most common reason for dubs and can cause a series to gain a greater global audience. For example, many television shows from South Korea or India may not have received as much of an audience without an English dub that helped those living in English-speaking parts of the world to enjoy.

Poor Sound Quality

When an original audio file has poor sound quality, the file may be re-mixed and re-recorded with a dub. The dub will help ensure the audio sounds better and remains clear enough for the audience to understand.

A dub can be necessary when a scene has a lot of background noise from cars or other loud objects. Even a thunderstorm can contribute to poor sound quality and require a dub.

Providing Context

Dubbed voice lines and sounds can provide additional context to a movie or show’s scene. These dubs can ensure that movie and show scenes make more sense and that the audience isn’t missing out on essential parts of the plotline. For example, a dub might include a car horn, ambulance sounds, or a baby crying.

These dubbing parts can help offer context clues and help the audience make predictions before the plot gives answers, increasing suspense and interest.

Animated Shows

Animated shows are the biggest reason for dubs. These shows are crafted using animated artwork and pictures that will need a dub to offer vocal work to a show. These shows have been in circulation since the invention of television and movies.

However, anime has become more and more popular in North America. These shows are mainly created in Japan and will need to be dubbed into English for those who don’t speak Japanese and cannot read subtitles fast enough.

Corrupted Audio Files

One of the least common uses for dubbing is when the audio file becomes corrupted. This doesn’t happen as much today since most files are backed up and saved to prevent wasting time and money in production. However, sometimes corrupted files can occur and mean that many audio files are unusable.

These files will need to be re-recorded and re-mixed to ensure they suit the work in progress. Corrupted audio files essentially mean all previous work is gone and cannot be recovered, making a dub necessary.

Dubbing Examples

These real-life examples can help you understand the uses of dubbing and how they appear on the screen. Although some are more common types of dubbing than others, each will require the actor or another actor to step in and perform voice acting for the re-recorded material.

Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon is an anime series from the early 1990s that was initially performed in Japanese. The series became so popular, it was dubbed in other languages to help those who enjoyed the show listen in their native languages. The show has been dubbed in a wide range of languages, including English.

Dubbing this show, and other anime series requires the studio to translate the material into another language and hire voice actors to act as the characters in a different language.


Bluey is an example of a show originally written and produced in English but required a dub for each episode because it’s an animated series. Although the voice actors produce the original content, some dubbing for sounds is required to make the scenes more genuine, funny, or interesting.

Final Thoughts

Dubbing is used a lot in modern television and movies. However, the most popular use for dubbing is typically in animated shows or those stemming from another country. Sailor Moon is a classic anime series that received a near-complete dubbing that helped English speakers understand the series.

Dubbing is a common practice in television and movies, too. Many times, a set of voice lines may be re-recorded and mixed into a movie’s audio to help the lines be more clear. This dubbing can be ideal if the audio has been distorted and needs to be clearer before hitting the theater.

Wondering whether to dub or create subtitles instead? Read our Dub vs Sub blog here.

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