Voice-over and Translation
Spanish (Castilian & Mexican), Italian, Dutch, Turkish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Bulgarian
George Orwell’s 1984 is arguably one of the most famous and influential novels of the 20th century. The phrases he used in his story about the corruption of state power are now embedded in the English language, such as “newspeak”, “Big Brother”, “thought police” and “doublethink”.
The challenge with revisiting this classic text is there have already been countless iterations of the tale: the original novel, comic books, movies and traditional audiobooks. Storytel didn’t want to simply create another e-book, but instead dramatise the story to bring new audiences to the Orwellian novel. It’s much more than a traditional audiobook with a single narrator. This is a dramatised re-versioning of the political and dystopian story, with actors portraying each character within an impressive soundscape, helping to create a real sense of atmosphere and tension. The result was launched to huge acclaim as their first global audio drama, nominated in the Best Audio Drama Category for the 2023 Audie Awards, the leading awards ceremony of the audio industry.
Storytel tasked us with helping them prepare for the release in nine different languages in their respective territories: Castilian Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Turkish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Bulgarian.
The way 1984 was recreated by Anna Lea, with the focus on creating an immersive experience, meant we approached the localisation workflow more like a complex dubbing project than a standard audiobook.
Storytel engaged VSI early in the pre-production process, which meant our teams worked closely not only with our client, but also those involved in creating the original English version. Whilst establishing the creative brief, it was clear to us that the true weight of the main characters, including protagonists Winston Smith, Julia and O’Brien, was critical to the success of the localised versions. But we also shouldn’t discount the value the walla and background dialogue adds to the overall experience, contributing to crafting a modern, industrial vibe that sounds authentic to local audiences.
There were four main phases to the project: casting, translation, recording and audio post-production.
From the very beginning, a key focus was the casting process, as a voice can make or break the final outcome. We explored all avenues, working in collaboration with the clients’ local offices and our in-territory studios to select the perfect voices for the story, engaging star talent for a few of the languages.
Lining up a strong regional cast to bring life to the audiobook was key for this project, but it only adds true value if the intent and the nuance of the original are fully captured throughout the translation process. This is also where we shine. We deeply understand the importance of ensuring that content resonates with the final intended audience whilst safeguarding the sentiment of the original version. For this interpretation, it was critical to use language reflective of the present day, analysing the world around us and what it means to live in 2022. Our translators got to work ensuring they created an accurate and appropriate localised script for each language, ready for the talent to head to the studios and do what they do best: bring life to the scripts.