The Film Dubbing Interview

Jason on an Amazonian tributary

Jason on an Amazonian tributary

While on a family trip in April of 2014 to Brazil I met up with a very interesting TCK (Third Culture Kid, in case you’re wondering) named Jason who was the technical know-how guy behind the project that dubbed The Hope into the Wayampi Indian language, Amapari dialect, of the Brazilian Amazon region. We got along famously as we really had a lot of interests in common. Brazil, travel, cross-cultural work, media, web design…

As I’m fascinated to learn what it takes exactly to dub a film into a lesser-spoken language, I thought a bit of an interview style article could be in order. Jason agreed to share about his experiences and I hope this spurs you, dear reader, on to something similar…

Jason, I’d like to begin with a background question. Who are you and how did you get interested in using technology for cross-cultural work?

I was raised at a training center in Brazil. For most of my childhood I was exposed to very little technology so naturally I was fascinated by it. In high school I finally purchased a computer. While I was setting it up the first time I remember looking out the window to see a baby of one of the missionary training candidates who had very little clothing on. The babies parents could hardly afford food and clothing. My immediate thought was here I am purchasing a computer for myself when others are in need and giving their lives to God.

That awareness of others’ needs grew into finally being convinced by God that the best thing to do with my life would be to meet the needs of others, spiritual and physical.

Technology has always been a sidepoint to that endeavor. Tools enable us to do things easier and quicker. The necessity of using technology in ministry is as obvious to me as using hands to eat.

You and I met up in the city of Macapá, Brazil earlier this year on the northern banks of the Amazon River. Tell us about the media project you recently completed in that area.

In Amapá cross-cultural workers have been working to reach indigenous people with the Gospel with the hopes of seeing a self-sustaining church. Because few of the indigenous could read using other forms of media, audio and video resources were identified as a high need.

As the New Testament translation of Wayampi in the Amapari dialect was being finalized we recorded 13 books of the New Testament into the native indigenous language. It was important to use native speakers for the projects so that they would be well received by the people. This presented several obstacles for quality and efficiency of recording, not to mention having to record in the middle of the jungle being powered only by solar panels.

We also dubbed a creation-to-Christ evangelistic video called “The Hope“.

In the end we recorded more than we set out to.

Jason (at right in the background) invited me along on a trip into the jungle with some of his Wayampi friend to find some açaí berries

Jason (at right in the background) invited me along on a trip into the jungle with some of his Wayampi friend to find some açaí berries

Really cool! So how did you come to be involved in dubbing “The Hope” for this language?

Evangelistic videos like The Hope are always handy tools for cross-cultural workers to use to recap teaching and give a big picture idea. Before going down to Brazil in 2011 to do the Audio Scripture recordings the Brazilian and expat Christians working in that language asked if we would be able to dub a video as well. The Hope was selected since it covered the whole span of teaching on creation-to-Christ.

What was the process you had to go through to get permission to do a translation like that?

To dub a professionally produced film we needed to have permission from whoever owned the rights. For The Hope it was Mars Hill productions:

In order to dub the video they required a few things: that the audio meet their quality standards, that the recording technician be certified, and that they approved of the translation before finalizing and signing off on the project.

Wycliffe’s technical institute, JAARS, offered this training to me.

Mars Hill productions wants to ensure the message of the gospel is not altered when having the film translated into another language so they require a back translation of the translated script for them to review. At the same time they want it to be culturally relevant.

The team in charge of the translation project first did a literal translation and afterwords revised it to make it more culturally appropriate. A team of 3 translators worked on different sections until they were finished. A literal back translation was then made for Mars Hill Productions. With the back translation explanations were given for apparent changes to the meaning. Often additions were made to the translation to explain American concepts in the video. These changes and additions all needed to be explained and approved by Mars Hill Productions.

One of the concerns when adding and removing ideas is that the topic stays somewhat in sync with the visuals in the video. Many times ideas were shifted around in the video and resubmitting the translation was needed.


What did the translation work involve? Can you give some step-by-step explanations?

To actually record the audio the process is much like you would expect. You watch a portion of the video and overlay the recording to see how it fits. We used a process that included 3 individuals: the recording technician, the native speaker, and a helper.

The helper was a cross-cultural worker who would speak a phrase of the narration which is in turn repeated by the speaker. Each phrase was repeated at least twice, with the second (or third/fourth/fifth etc.) time being actually recorded. This process allowed the speaker to focus on adding voice inflection and emphasis to the recording instead of having to read.

The native speakers we used could hardly read so it was very necessary to have the helper. The helpers were able to evaluate the subtle word changes the speakers were giving often inadvertently which improved the translation. The recording technician would pay close attention to the quality of the audio. After a phrase was recorded the technician would edit the audio by normalizing volume, removing pauses, and listening for any unwanted sounds (birds, coughing, breathing, or chairs scraping on the floor.) All this while the helper and speaker are rehearsing the next phrase.

With some gesture the technician would signal to the helper that we were ready to proceed. Once a rhythm is found the whole process can go quite smoothly, but it only comes with practice and having the whole team trained. I was very grateful for the training I was given by JAARS in how to handle scenarios and direct the team.

Lastly Jason, how can people get in touch with you if they have more questions about this important kind of media work?

I’d love to explain anything or answer more questions if anyone wants. You can reach me by email at jasonschuring AT or on Facebook at jason.schuring. You can also check out our ministry site at