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Hello, dear MDL readers! This is my first article, and I hope a did a good enough job in making this article readable. Ever since I've drowned my entire life in dramas, there was always one type that I kept avoiding — China dramas — mainly because of the production and also, Voice Dubbing. But over the years, I have become more open-minded and gave Chinese dramas a try! Not only did it change my life, but it also made me discover a new obsession of mine — voice dubbing!
INTRODUCTION TO CHINESE VOICE DUBBING
Those of you who are very familiar with Chinese dramas should probably already know how voice-dubbed a Chinese drama can be. I am mainly going to talk about Chinese dramas, clarifying because Taiwanese dramas can also be categorized as Cdramas, but Taiwanese dramas are not voice-dubbed. I was once also curious to know why China does not use the original voices of each actor because it can avoid a lot of syncing problems. Therefore, I did a little research on it and here is what I found out!
Let's start with why China always prefers dubbing voices.
China is a very big country. Thus, they have a lot of districts, provinces, and states. For each region, they tend to have their own dialects and slangs. There are even some actors that are not fluent in Chinese. Even if you have not watched a Chinese drama before, you should know a thing or two about how hard it is to understand a local's Chinese. Sometimes even someone like me — a fluent Chinese speaker — takes a while to process what they are saying. Therefore, it is a wise choice for the production team to just find someone to dub over. What voice actors do are provide a standard and easy-to-understand Chinese where accents, dialects and slangs are eliminated to keep the consistency.
2. Yes, visual! No, voice...
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Voice is as important as visuals. Sometimes, the actor's visual suits the character, but the voice might just not be the case. Here is when dub overcomes it! Voice actors are able to alter their tones and voices into the voice that suits the character; they are also able to control the dynamics of their voice without losing emotions since they are working in a quiet recording room (further explained in the next point). In conclusion, it is easier for the production team to sacrifice an actor's voice choice and cast the ones that are excellent in acting.
3. Surrounding Noise
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China is a very busy country. There are always noises in the background. Sometimes, these noises will wash out the actors' voices, especially when they are filming outdoors. As mentioned in the issue above, actors might try to overcome the background noises, causing their voice to lose its emotions and expressions as it is pretty disturbing. This issue also applies to when they are filming indoors. There are noises such as big fans — they can usually be seen in costume dramas behind-the-scene videos — and also director's cues. It is quite common to see a director giving cues while filming. For example, 'to roll now', 'to jump now', 'to look in a certain direction now', etc. Rather than spending more money on getting better equipment, it is much cheaper to just hire a voice actor to dub over!
Here is a link to see how a director giving cues during filming to give you an idea. :D
(For readers that have not watched Ashes of Love, this scene can be a spoiler.)
4. Actor's Whoopsies
Sometimes, actors can be forgetful and start to mumble something else or start to adlib instead of making NGs. Due to the budget and time, directors will prefer to just ignore those errors because it can be seen as an unimportant minor operation of the film, so they hire voice actors in post filming to finish. Not to mention, some actors are pretty monotonous despite excellent facial expressions. To maintain the production quality, it is best to just dub over their voice.
WHY I LOVE VOICE DUBBING
1. Brings Out Different Colors and Tones
Voice actors are trained to channel emotions through only their voice. Their medium of acting is also their voice. It feels as if, even without looking at the screen, I can tell what feelings they are trying to make me feel. Sometimes, just the voice alone allows me to feel butterflies in my stomach, where sometimes I can feel their struggle and pain. The voice plays a huge role in giving a character characteristics. It gives more life to a character. For example, sassiness, coldness, or carefreeness. Voice actors usually do a good job in detail portraying, making their own voice coherent to the acting while bringing out the character.
2. Makes Me Remember the Character More
It might only be me. Or, it might be because the author/scriptwriter kept giving the main leads several names. I am not very good with names. Especially Chinese names. But, I feel like I remember the character names or love that character more because of his/her voice. The voice is so memorable that you can actually hear it in your head without the audio; you can even feel the emotions they're trying to give with just the voice we remember in our head. If you have watched the dramas below, I'm pretty sure you can hear these scenes (and feel them)!
3. Suits the Character
Most of the dramas nowadays are adaptions of novels. I, as a novel reader, always have a set of imaginary voices in my head because they do describe what the characters sound like. Fortunately, the production team always do a well-done job in casting voice actors! It satisfies novel readers like me. A lot of times, when I watch behind-the-scenes videos, I find out that the actor's original voice does not suit the character. So I am glad that they choose to dub over! For example, Zhang Zhe Han in Word of Honor. His original voice is more silky and singsong compared to the voice in the drama — which actually suits the character more — where it is deeper in tone. Another example is Ryan Ding in The Romance of Tiger and Rose. His original voice is more child-like in comparison to the threatening yet deep voice in the drama.
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4. Increases Attractiveness and Makes the Character More Likeable
When the voices are clear, velvety and mellifluous, it makes a character 100 times more attractive. It applies to female characters, too. I realized there are a lot of times where I fell for the characters/dramas more because of a very handsome/pretty voice. There are times where it is the voice that made me like the actors even when I don't from the start. So, the addition of great visuals/acting brings the experience of watching drama to the next level, which I very much enjoy.
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*Me perking up my ears while listening to voice dubbing*
The only complaint I have towards voice dubbing is that sometimes, the voice and the actions in the drama do not match, expression-wise. It just ruins the moment. It is uncommon, but I was able to encounter one. I will leave a link to the video. For those who have not watched Ashes of Love, this scene can be a spoiler. :) It was the scene where Run Yu's biological mom got killed in Ashes of Love.
NOTABLE VOICE ACTORS
|Ji Guan Lin|
From the characters I've watched her voice-acting, usually, it suits a female character that is rather strong and capable. Also, the character usually belongs to a powerful, royal family, a lady that practices temperance in her daily life. Her voice is bolder and has an oomph to it that oozes out strong yet feminine vibes. It also brings along a serious manner in most of her characters to indicate that they are not ones to joke around with.
From the characters above, I guess you can already guess what kind of characters his voice always acts for. The cold and quiet but gracefully charismatic characters. They move swiftly, even when they're fighting. Enemies? Bring it on! Hurt someone they care for? You're dead meat! Characters voice-acted by him always make me SWOON and scream in the middle of the night (even when I don't like the actor)! I fell right into the bunny hole of voice-acting after knowing him. He managed to make a cold, expressionless character sexy! How cool is that!
She has a very feminine, honeyed and sweet voice. Personally, I don't prefer sweet voices. But somehow, her voice is sweet but a different kind of sweet. To me, the characters she voice-acted for do not emit innocent or silly vibes. Although, I'm pretty sure that is what she's aiming for based on the characters above! Maybe it's just me, but I feel like she voice-acted for characters usually matured from their innocence and playfulness. Or, the character felt the need to mature herself but was still a child at heart. Nonetheless, I very much enjoy her voice!
The characters he voice-acted for are usually serious guys. Not cold! But serious. They normally are characters that always say 'it's fine, I am okay' when they're obviously not. 虐 (Nüè) is the word that we use to describe these characters in Chinese, but I like to describe them as masochists. They do not share a single pain with others and keep it all to themselves until they suffer and die. But, if these characters are main leads, there is always a sidekick character to act as a spokesperson. The only thing I like about them (other than them being such a masochist) is how infatuated they are towards the person they love (in a good and love-your-flaws way).
ACTORS WHO VOICE THEIR OWN VOICE
Though most Chinese dramas are dubbed, it doesn't mean that the actors don't speak good Chinese. It is really up to the production team and the actors' decision. You are actually able to hear some of the actors speak in their own works! Here are some that I know who dubbed their own voices. The first three people, Deng Lun, Yang Zi and Luo Yun Xi, are the first set of main leads in a series (Ashes of Love) that I've encountered to voice their own voices. I felt so dumb not knowing earlier because whenever I watched their behind-the-scene videos, I always thought that it was because of how voice actors mimicked their voices so well. The last one is Li Dai Kun (Word of Honor). I did not know he voiced his own voice until he shared the video. Although I really enjoy voice dubbing, I also enjoyed hearing their own voices once in a while to get impressed.
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Yikes! This article has finally come to an end! This is embarrassing and bold of me to write such a long article on my first try. I guess I am a bit too excited to share my obsession. I hope you guys enjoy reading it and, if there is anyone out there who is as impressed by voice actors as I am, you should try venturing into audio dramas! :)
P.s. I don't claim to have watched all and know a lot about Chinese dramas. I basically write it out of my opinion. If I make any mistakes, please don't come at me, instead educate me. :')