If I start talking about a movie called "La guerre des etoiles" or about one of its main characters called "Dark Vador" busy building a space station called "L'etoile noire" which is later on, for no apparent reason, re-branded "L'etoile de la...
Dubbing is the Cinderella art of film-making, it's all but invisible to the general public yet the final responsibility for the sound of Prince Charming's approaching footstep rest firmly with Cinders rather than with the Ugly Sisters of picture or sound editing.
So what is a dub?
The term originated in the US and may have applied originally to 'doubling' or copying the Vitaphone sound discs that were the first successful attempts at synchronising sound with picture. Or it may have originated with 'doubling' or post-synchronising the actors' voices, something that was necessary very early on. The rush to convert to sound was so intense that even films already shooting were literally converted to sound overnight. One such was The Canary Murder Case where the star, Louise Brooks, refused to reshoot the silent scenes so that another actor was brought in to 'double' her voice and match it to the sound scenes.
Whatever it's origins, dubbing as much as any other aspect of production has always been governed by available technology, and therefore any consideration of the art of dubbing has to take account of the development of film.
Bob Allen of the Association of Motion Picture Sound has been researching early audio patents and has found that many current ideas go right back to the early years of the century - for instance there's a patent for a radio mic as early as 1917, and optical stereo was patented in the early 20s, six years before combined optical prints were first available. But as Bob Allen points out "most developments had to wait, first for transistors & then for digital, to make them possible."
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