Voiceovers or Subtitles? – Know Which to Use for Video Content

There was a time when voiceovers and subtitles were limited to narration for old black and white cartoons, or as a visual aid for those who were hard-of-hearing.

However, today, with the extraordinary rise of video content available online, subtitles and voiceovers are being used more than ever before.

Businesses that wish to capitalise on the video medium for their global customers need to consider the various options open to them in a bid to reach to as many customers as possible – so, which should be used – Voiceovers or Subtitles?



Voiceovers generally give a more personable, ‘real’ feel to on-screen translations and videos than subtitles.

There is a personality linked to the voice which can convey emotion, nuance, humour, and so on, that is not readily available through use of subtitles.

A factor that must be considered with voiceovers is that there are several types available such as, lip-syncing and dubbing, but these are generally well-suited to video content where people aren’t seen talking for any length of time such as in animation, or when there are very ‘wordy’, lengthy speeches (documentaries and narrated non-fiction) which would take up a huge amount of on-screen space, especially factoring in text expansion in certain languages.

Fast-moving action films, children’s movies, marketing promotions, interviews, training and instructional videos, can all benefit from voiceovers.

Of course, voiceovers can also be a lengthy and costly process. Several voice actors may need to be hired, and finding the right one to suit your requirements, languages and target audience can take time and effort.

A poorly executed dubbing can also ruin viewing pleasure, and your credibility, so selecting the best professional translation/voiceover service provider for your needs is essential.



Subtitles can save money and time when compared to voiceovers, as it is far cheaper to use translation, localisation and subtitle services than it is to hire voiceover actors who will read the translated scripts.

Subtitles also lend a certain amount of kudos and credibility to projects while simultaneously allowing viewers to hear the speaker’s tone and variations in the original sound, even if they do not understand all of the words. The original video is preserved, aiding immersion in viewing experience for globalization purposes.

One drawback of subtitles is the fact that many people do not enjoy reading text while viewing a video or movie, as they find it detracts their attention from the picture and scene. The words can literally, and figuratively, get in the way of the images as they appear on-screen.

Text expansion is another common issue with subtitles due to the fact that some languages are more ‘wordy’ than others, so once translated, the text often does not fit the given parameters. This may necessitate a re-write of subtitle scripts which can cause a loss of some essential information or important meaning.

However, subtitles are generally considered to be best for fiction videos, or longer narrative content, especially when sound sensitive environments need to be considered. Training videos, educational short-films, or videos where sound is less important, are perfect for subtitling.

Finally, there is another element which should be considered, no matter if you are choosing subtitles or voiceovers – that of localization.

Localization is the process of translating content and modifying it so that it makes sense to a particular audience.
For instance, if sharing an English vlog with an Arabic audience, there are certain cultural differences that should be accounted for when translating content, such as, humour, idioms, and tone which may not translate well between audiences.

Localization adapts the original message so that it is culturally acceptable to the target audience while ensuring that the purpose or theme of the original still remain intact.


Choosing subtitles or voiceovers for your video content is a matter of preference which will be influenced by budget, language, intended use, and time constraints. Selecting the right one for your requirements can be done with help from experts who understand the processes involved and can advise you on best practice in particular instances.

Consider using a professional language service provider for your translation and localization needs as this will guarantee a higher standard of voiceover or subtitles than would other be achieved.

If you require assistance with any aspect of voiceovers, subtitles, transcription, translation or localization, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts at Creative Word who are more than happy to help.

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