What is new in the market of dubbing and ‘adattamento-dialoghi’?

What is new in the market of dubbing and ‘adattamento-dialoghi’?

By Silvia Maragliano

In a recent post last year, we introduced a bit about how the so-called adattamento-dialoghi works in Italy. We also talked about a big stakeholder in the Italian market, that is the professional association representing a fair share of Italian adattatori-dialoghisti: AIDAC.


We briefly introduced its goals and pointed out how it tries to reach them also by organizing and supporting professional meetings, open both to AIDAC members and non-members.


In 2018, AIDAC’s meetings[1] focused on what is new in the market of dubbing and adattamento-dialoghi. The series concluded on November 20th, 2018 at Laboratorio Formentini in Milan (Italy), with a final encounter about the state of the art in the field of what we call adattamento dialoghi and audio description.


The main speakers of the meeting in Milan were:


Cortesi’s speech focused on how the market has changed in the last few years, while Giordani talked about audio-description, a not-so-recent but ever-growing task that promotes accessibility for the blind.


Cortesi talked about the differences between how adapting work used to be done before major stakeholders such as Netflix and Amazon have entered the market as opposed today’s practices.

At a time when it was not a requirement to broadcast programs at the same time all over the world, broadcasting seasons used to begin at about fall and end the following summer. Adattatori-dialoghisti used to receive one entire program at the end of the season, in order for it to be dubbed and broadcast one year later than its original.

That meant for adattatori-dialoghisti to have a reasonable amount of time to adapt the script into the target language and for dubbing actors to be able to see a scene more than just once, before recording it.

These days, adattatori-dialoghisti receive so-called ‘preliminaries,’ which are videos or scripts that are potentially going to be edited further. Sometimes just one line is missing, sometimes it’s chatter. Yet sometimes entire scenes are yet to be inserted, which may be more or less crucial to the plot. On other occasions, cuts have not been defined yet. One of the speakers had even received a black-and-white video of the movie they were working on, only to find out at a later stage that the program was actually a color film. This changed everything! The speaker said that black and white had induced the need in them to use a slightly old-fashioned tone, and that–of course–it did not fit the real movie.

So, what does one do to cope with this new way of working? It’s simple: one adapts to it. In Cortesi’s opinion, a good strategy is to maintain the same musicality of the original. That way, the work is simpler, both for adattatori-dialoghisti and for dubbing actors, who–as we mentioned before–do not have time to watch a scene more than once before recording it.


In what way is this different than before?


Well, Italian dubbing had always relied on a maniacal choice of words, enjoying some freedom in choosing them.

However, the price to pay for this was many hours spent on one single line. As we saw, nowadays time is precious, and professionals do not have enough of it to go through one single line again and again. Also, more often than not, they will receive a preliminary, and they run the risk of spending more time on an unfinished version trying to perfect it, which results in them not having enough time to work on the final one.

Musicality, as Cortesi argues, helps save a lot of time, while still achieving a satisfying result.

The roles involved in broadcast internationalization are another aspect that has changed. While back in the day, there used to be human supervisors with whom a professional could have a conversation in case an issue arose, now it is far less the case. This is especially true when working with major stakeholders other than the more traditional production companies.

For example, despite the fact that there are human QCers working for the big N, according to the speakers’ statement the company still seems to rely on algorithms to check that work is done properly, and sometimes these are not able to recognize adattamento-dialoghi best practices. This leads to instances where translating a saying such as ‘it is raining cats and dogs’–which corresponds to the Italian saying ‘piove a catinelle’ or ‘a dirotto’–with the correct correspondent in the target language is marked as a mistake.

When something like this happens, there are at least two consequences:

  1. A wrong usage of language is spread;
  2. Cultural differences are flattened.

Discussing why both of these consequences are–or may be–a problem, is perhaps beyond the scope of this article. Something we would like to say, however, is that these practices should not be encouraged. In fact, something that has never changed–and that probably never will–is that the first and foremost stakeholder of this market is its audience.

These are the people we really work for and whom we should always be thinking of in our work. And if the audience sees something that is not right, they complain, and rightly so.

So, instead of finding a way to adapt to this, the speakers encouraged us to watch with a critical eye, and to make the audience’s voice–to whom we also belong–be heard.


The paramount role of accessibility


A specific audience that surely complains, and most rightly so, when their experience is hindered in some way is the blind community.

During the meeting, Laura Giordani talked about another fairly new trend in the market: audio description.

To be honest, audio description is not a complete novelty, rather, with accessibility becoming more and more important, it is now certainly gaining momentum.

Giordani has been working in this subfield for many years now. She is actually one of the first adattatori-dialoghisti to work for accessibility for the blind, an initiative that in Italy was first undertaken and supported by our national public broadcasting company RAI (which stands for Radiotelevisione Italiana).

RAI is the major stakeholder in this subfield. Being also the first to make audio description available to the Italian blind audience, back in the day it also set the price to be paid to adattatori-dialoghisti who take care of Italian audio descriptions[2].

Given the importance of accessibility and the determination of the blind community in Italy, a great number of associations and organizations supporting the blind have been founded. Of course, many of them also discuss the theme of media accessibility for the blind. The blind community itself listed thorough guidelines[3] for audio description, that–as Giordani pointed out–in Italy may sometimes be more specific and peculiar than for other markets.


The most important principles to follow for well-done audio descriptions are:


  • Always describe what is happening on the screen;
  • Do not adopt a paternalistic or patronising approach: blind people are not able to see, but they are able to think and understand;
  • Always answer the W questions Where? When? Who? What?
  • Do not offer any interpretation of the scene. Describe it as precisely and as objectively as possible;
  • Be clear.

Some practical examples are:


  • Do not write ‘A handsome man is approaching.’ Rather, chose something like ‘A 40-year-old, muscular man is approaching.’ This is because the idea of ‘handsomeness’ is not universal, so it would not be a helpful suggestion.
  • Avoid obvious pairs. Do not write ‘The cold snow…’ or ‘The hot sun…’
  • Match colors to something of which the audience is supposed to have a clear idea. E.g.: ‘as blue as the sky’ or ‘as white as milk.’
  • Take advantage of silences and pauses to give further useful information to the audience.


What are our takeaways?


In conclusion, both speakers gave us an idea of how the market of dialogues adaptation and dubbing has now changed its face and is filled with new challenges.

Yet, there is no reason to panic as a strong community in which professionals support each other is a powerful tool to face challenges.


The path leading to this world may have changed, but it certainly is possible to close potential gaps in knowledge and expertise, especially if young professionals try to pair to a more experienced colleague to help them shape their career.


Also, there is at least one thing about this job that is still the same: this is a craftsman’s job, an art in its own right, to be learned in workshops just like painting and sculpture used to be during the great time of Italian Rinascimento.

Author: Silvia Maragliano

[1] As we mentioned in a previous blog post, before this meeting in Milan, AIDAC helped organize three more in Rome. The topic discussed were: so-called simil-sync programs, which–in brief–are broadcasts for which no accurate lip synchronization is required (such as reality shows); the collective agreement, which is not as well and widely known as it should be, especially by young professionals; and cartoons, the adaptation of which helps shaping a country’s culture and is a form of education.

[2] Giordani claims this price to be EUR 7.00 every 10 minutes of video.

[3] Here are the guidelines listed by the non-profit organization The Blindsight Project (full text, in Italian): https://goo.gl/3R4cWm