Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Kitchen's Language Service Make Front Page

Miami drubs competition in TV dubbing
Posted on Fri, May. 16, 2008
By DOUGLAS HANKS, Miami Herald

The Kitchen, a recording studio in Miami, handles dubbing for programs around the world. Two of the shows, South Park and Fairly Odd Parents, were being dubbed for Brazil. - Marta Rhaulin works on a South Park script.
Video South Park... in Portuguese?

When Kenny dies on Brazilian television screens, the final words of the cursed South Park character get their start in a cramped Miami recording studio.

That's where Paulo Carvalho voices the unlucky 9-year-old in muffled Portuguese for the Brazilian version of the raunchy cartoon.

In the same studio, Armand Berger faces the daunting task of sounding both awkward and French as he dubs dialogue for the American reality show Beauty and the Geek.

''High-pitched, very emotional, very fast,'' Berger said, describing the speech patterns of his nerdy first-season counterpart, Richard. ``You want to sound like him. . . . You want the people in France to feel what people in America felt when he was speaking.''

Their moonlighting work as bilingual voice-over artists -- Carvalho is a sound engineer, Berger a pastry chef -- highlights one of the more entertaining corners of Miami's place in the globalization trend.

As studios pursue more profits abroad with homegrown content, Miami's polyglot populace allows some producers to find cheaper foreign voices here than in target audiences' home countries.

Carvalho and Berger work for The Kitchen, a dubbing firm with a roster of voice-over artists and studios available for hire around the world. But it only owns a recording facility in Miami and another in Caracas, which opened three years ago.

''One of the reasons we built the Venezuelan facility is because it is cheaper to do Spanish in Caracas,'' Kitchen partner Deeny Kaplan said. ``On the other hand, we find it's easier to do native Portuguese and native French here.''

Kaplan said a minute of French dubbing in Miami costs a client about $100, compared to $300 in France. But a minute of Spanish dubbing in Miami runs $42, compared to $30 in Caracas.
Cost is a big reason why Miami can't compete with the hemisphere's major Spanish dubbing centers, including Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela. Artistic concerns play a role too: foreign audiences don't like it when accents and inflections sound imported.

''They can detect when the talent is not based in the region,'' said Desiree Marquez, director of language customization for Discovery Networks' Latin American and Hispanic division.
Though headquartered in Miami, Discovery Latin America farms out almost all of its dubbing work to Central and South America.

Actors there ''are up to date in the language [in a way] that no one in Miami can really be,'' Marquez said.

Since Latin American audiences can span nearly two dozen countries, dubbing producers seek actors who can sound as generic as possible.

Even so, Miami does export some famous Spanish voices to Latin America.

Isabel Rodriguez Sarasa filled in as Hillary Clinton during presidential debates for live broadcasts by Telemundo and Univision.

''It's a great responsibility,'' said Rodriguez Sarasa, a Miami translator who spends most of her time interpreting for legal hearings and conferences. ``As a woman, I was very proud to do it.''
She auditioned separately for both jobs, and wound up the Spanish version of the former first lady for competing media outlets.

''Hillary, everybody knows. Everybody has a sense of what she sounds like,'' said Guillermo Santa Cruz, a Telemundo vice president. ``We had to find someone who met those expectations.''

But as Sen. Clinton's nomination prospects diminish, so does Rodriguez Sarasa's earning potential, since she would likely be cast as President Hillary Clinton's voice, too.

With more people listening to a show while cooking dinner or checking e-mail, consistency in dubbed voices becomes even more important.

That has given Miami Herbalife saleswoman Arianna Lopez a side career as the Latin American voice of Timmy in The Fairly OddParents cartoon. The Kitchen cast the 43-year-old about four years ago, and the show was spared the shift to Caracas for continuity purposes.

''Kids are particularly sensitive to that,'' said Tomas Rodriguez, head of customizations for MTV Latin America. ``The minute any voice is changed, they immediately pick up on it.''

The Kitchen also uses its Miami studio to dub Spanish telenovelas into French and into English, primarily for African audiences.

When French audiences see Americans at their worst -- during episodes of the COPS reality show -- the dialogue also is usually dubbed by The Kitchen in Miami.

The company hopes to recruit enough German-speaking South Floridians to pitch their low-cost dubbing to producers hoping to export content to that country, too.

The company's South Park work would be more costly in Brazil, given that country's regulations of the dubbing industry, union rules and other complications, said Ken Lorber, Kaplan's husband and CEO of The Kitchen.

Such concerns help explain Carvalho's three years as South Park's Kenny, who usually dies mid-episode only to be resurrected the next time the cartoon airs. He's also known for keeping his hood so tight that his voice comes out as a squeaky muffle.

''It's like this,'' Carvalho explains between takes. He pulls up the right sleeve of his shirt, and rattles off words in high-pitched Portuguese.

Marta Rhaulin, a singer from Brazil living in Sunny Isles Beach, tries to channel her home country while playing her South Park roles.

She voices two main characters: mild-mannered Kyle Broflovski and the explosive Eric Cartman.
''With Kyle, it's a Sao Paolo voice. Because it's more urban,'' Rhaulin said during a break from recording a South Park scene. ``Cartman is more Rio de Janeiro. It's more open-minded. He has a big personality.''

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