This article provides guidelines and requirements for dubbing studios to identify all instances in the content where a forced narrative is required for their dubbed audio.
The instructions presented in this article are for forced narratives for dubbed audio for long-form content commissioned by Netflix’s Dubbing team only.
Any other forced narrative use case is not subjected to or covered by these guidelines.
Table of contents
Forced narratives requirements
Forced Narratives (FN)
A forced narrative is a text overlay (a subtitle) that clarifies a story point not covered by the dubbed audio but needed to follow the story in the target language.
Forced narratives are called “forced” because they are displayed on-screen when subtitles are set to Off. They don’t play independently and exist only to complement the dubbed audio. Together, they provide the experience the audience needs to follow the story in their preferred language.
The most common use cases of a forced narrative include:
- On-screen texts, either added during post-production (such as location cards and other graphics) or part of the principal photography (text in the story's environment).
- Spoken dialogue in a language different from the primary language of the content.
- Song lyrics that provide vital plot information.
- Archival footage.
Forced narrative guidelines
Careful consideration when deciding what should be dubbed and what should be conveyed as a forced narrative is an important part of the dubbing process to achieve creative excellence. As creators of dubbed audio, dubbing studios should identify which elements in the content are not in the dubbed audio and need to be forced.
These are Netflix’s guidelines to select events for the forced narrative file:
- Dubbing studios should identify the events that require forcing based on the content, the cultural preferences of the target audience, and Netflix’s creative excellence guidelines for dubbing.
- Each event selected for forcing should be integral to the plot, providing information about the story (or the characters) that hasn’t been conveyed in the dubbed audio and is needed to understand the story.
- The events selected for the FN file should not conflict with the dubbed audio, provide excessive, repetitive, or unnecessary coverage, or lack coverage when needed.
- Be sure also to follow the FN guidelines and creative excellence guidelines specific to your language.
- Project-specific forcing instructions provided by Netflix (e.g., in Show Guide or CLP broadcast messages) take precedence over the guidelines in this document and the forcing guidelines for your language.
Forced narratives requirements
There are special elements in the content that require more attention, and dubbing studios should always follow the instructions below unless otherwise instructed by the Netflix Dubbing point of contact.
- The on-screen main title should be selected for forcing when there is an approved title for your language available in Terminology, and it doesn’t match the title that appears on-screen.
- Always use the approved main title. Don’t translate it yourself.
- Do not select the main title for forcing when the approved title for your language in Terminology is identical to the main title in the content.
- The episode title should be forced if it appears on-screen and is not voiced over in the dubbed audio.
- Check Terminology for approved episode titles for your language. Don’t translate the episode title freely.
- Do not select the episode title for forcing if it’s redundant in your language.
- Korean only: do not select the episode title for forcing. Regardless if it appears on-screen or not, if it’s voiced over or not.
- Do not select for forcing the Netflix original credit unless instructed otherwise by your Netflix point of contact.
- If requested to force the Netflix Credit, refer to the Netflix Original Credits document for the approved translation for your language.
- Use a maximum of two lines in each event selected for forcing.
- If two lines are not enough, split the event.
- Limit each line to a maximum of 42 characters for most languages.
- Korean: limit each line to 16 characters.
- Thai: limit each line to 35 characters.
- Traditional and Simplified Chinese: limit each line to 16 characters.
- Limit horizontal lines to 13 full-width characters.
- Limit vertical lines to 11 full-width characters.
Forced narratives use cases
- Events translating on-screen text selected for forcing should be in ALL CAPS if the language’s alphabet has capitalization.
- Events translating on-screen text should match the duration of the on-screen text while observing the minimum and maximum duration allowed.
- Minimum duration: 20 frames
- Maximum duration: 7 seconds
- When on-screen text fades in or out, experiment with different timings and aim for sync between the event and the on-screen text.
Foreign dialogue refers to dialogue spoken in a language other than the primary language of the content.
- Select for forcing events with dialogue in a foreign language that the audience is meant to understand and that hasn’t been dubbed in the target language (dialogue that provides information about the plot).
Every song in the content was carefully and deliberately chosen to help tell the story. They fit the creative vision of the content creators.
For songs left in the original version in the dubbed audio:
- Consider selecting for forcing songs that are integral to the plot, providing information about the story, or characters, that the audience wouldn’t have otherwise.
- Soundtrack, including opening and closing theme songs, should not be forced (unless instructed otherwise by Netflix).
- Italicize translated song lyrics selected for forcing.
- Use only question and exclamation marks at the end of a line translating song lyrics (no commas or periods).
- Songs should only be considered for forcing if the rights have been granted.
- Rights vary across various song categories: original (commissioned for the content), licensed, and public domain. Always seek clearance from the Netflix Dubbing representative regarding song rights.
- Select for forcing events that translate archival footage that hasn’t been dubbed and is integral to the story.
- Refer to your language’s creative excellence guidelines to understand what is considered archival footage and how it should be treated.