As someone who is relatively new to C-Dramas, I was surprised to learn that most C-Dramas are actually voice dubbed. And by dubbed, I don’t mean English dubbed or Filipino dubbed. All the characters are still speaking Mandarin–it’s just that the actors’ voices are dubbed over by voice actors.You would expect the audio and the video to be slightly out of sync, but you would barely notice it. In fact, I only found out about voice dubbing when I happened to watch a behind the scenes footage and wondered why the actor sounded so different from his character. After doing some digging on the internet, I found out that voice dubbing is a very common practice for C-Dramas, and they do it for the following reasons:
It’s a way of avoiding inconsistent accents
China is a large country with many different regions and dialects, so even if the actors are all speaking in Mandarin, there’s a chance that they will have different accents or slangs that would be difficult to understand for audiences who aren’t from the same region as them. Hearing the actors’ various accents would also be a little jarring because it’s the equivalent of hearing characters speak with a mix of British and American accents when they’re supposed to be from the same country. Western dramas might remedy this by subjecting the actors to accent training, but C-Dramas avoid these inconsistencies by hiring voice actors to dub over the actors.
It’s a cheaper alternative to eliminate background noise
There are a lot of busy cities around China, so the endless hustle and bustle in the background can usually be heard on set regardless of whether they are shooting outdoors or inside a studio. This affects the quality of the audio and may even drown out the actors’ voices, but instead of buying expensive equipment to eliminate the background noise, it’s much cheaper to hire voice actors to re-record the audio. Of course, the original actor could always come back to re-record their lines, but involving them in post-production is usually more costly, especially for big name actors who are likely already booked for their next project.
It’s a form of quality control
Separating the voice actor from the actor gives much more freedom in terms of casting for the characters. Sometimes, an actor may have the perfect looks for the character, but their voice might be too deep, too high-pitched, or too childish. Instead of rejecting the actor just because of their voice, they could easily hire a different voice actor who would be more suitable for the character. There are also instances where an actor is good at conveying emotions through their facial expressions, but the way they deliver their lines might be lackluster, so hiring a voice actor is a way to ensure quality for both the acting and the voice acting. This is not to say that C-Drama actors can’t act–it’s just that voice actors are trained to convey emotions through their voices, so they are naturally better at reciting lines compared to the actors.
It’s also for technical purposes
It’s inevitable that the actor might forget their lines and say things that are not related to the scene. They might also start to ad-lib, which is a practice that is usually encouraged for Western dramas, but C-Drama directors would prefer for the actors to stick to the script. Instead of doing multiple takes every time someone forgets their lines, the director would often ignore these errors and fix them during the voice dubbing process. In addition, hiring voice actors is a way of giving each character a unique voice. Oftentimes, actors would have similar-sounding voices, which could potentially make it difficult for audiences to identify who is speaking in certain scenes, so casting different voice actors ensures that no two characters sound alike.
Did you always know about voice-dubbing in C-Dramas? Or did you only find out about it in this article?