In Edgewater, one company is mixing all the right ingredients of local talent and global technology to carve out a space for itself in the booming business of international dubbing.
“There was a time that if you were successful domestically, you didn’t need the rest of the world. And now the profits come from the rest of the world,” said The Kitchen CEO and president Ken Lorber. “Once you’ve produced that $5 million episode, the incremental cost of dubbing it into 40 languages is a fraction of what the production cost was.”
Out of The Kitchen’s 14 studios (there will be 18 by mid-May), a little over 100 hours of programming a week is reimagined for new audiences. Its core business is telenovelas, but The Kitchen also does documentaries, feature films, American television, kid’s programming, and even live dubs of special events.
It has scooped up contracts for big-name American television shows like Showtime’s Weeds, Californication, and Nurse Jackie, and Comedy Central’s South Park. One of Nickelodeon’s longest-running shows, The Fairly OddParents, was dubbed at The Kitchen, and the company will lend its voices to bring Russia’s popular Masha and the Bear to Spanish, English, and Portuguese language audiences in America and abroad.
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The Kitchen began in 1999, when Venezuelan media conglomerate Cisneros Television asked Lorber to establish a broadcast and dubbing center for them in Miami. He got to work — and quickly realized that despite being in high demand in a 21st century marketplace, dubbing wasn’t really equipped with 21st century tools.
“When I was writing the business plan for The Kitchen, I was kind of horrified to see that there was really no technology that handled the production of dubbing the way that Avid and Final Cut Pro was handling video production,” Lorber said.
Lorber found his solution in Caracas, where a man named Carlos Contreras had developed a software consolidating the once-decentralized — and partly analog — processes of translating, dubbing and subtitling.
Lorber bought the software on the spot, and when he left his parent company in 2005 — the operation had since changed hands to Argentina-based Claxson Interactive — he made sure to take it with him.
At the time an industry first — it even picked up an Emmy for engineering achievement — The Kitchen’s TM Software practically halved the time and cost of translating and dubbing. Because the system was fully digitized, those who licensed the software no longer had to ship VCR tapes across oceans to translators. And time-link codes for each line of dialogue made it much easier to re-translate video into several different languages.
“The importance of the template … is that if you have an opening line that says ‘Good morning, it’s a nice day.’ The time code in and the time code out of that line is edged. It will never be any different in any language that you do it in,” Lorber said.
The software also does one deceptively simple thing that makes the work of voice acting much more intuitive: It puts the lines of dialogue on the same screen as a video of the action.
“Our actors are really happy working here because in three hours, they may be able to do 400 lines, and somewhere else, maybe 200 lines without the technology,” The Kitchen’s vice president Deeny Kaplan said.
The company has seen revenues grow steadily — from $2.6 million in 2010 to $4 million last year — and expects dramatic growth this year. With already $7 million under contract in March, CFO Don Denkhaus projects $10 million by year’s end.
In 2008, The Kitchen leased a floor in a building on Northeast 24th Street. Seven years later, after the company took over all five floors, the city of Miami gave it naming rights and declared Feb. 24 “The Day of The Kitchen.”
“What’s become a tremendous market for us is Africa,” Lorber said. “The principal languages in Africa are English, Portuguese and French. And those happen to be the three languages that we do a fair bit of in Miami.”
Africa is also particularly lucrative for the type of content it consumes: telenovelas, limited-run serialized soap operas produced mostly in Latin America, although increasingly in Asia and Turkey, too.
The Kitchen is currently working on 12 different telenovelas for African markets — including four from Asia that are being dubbed in French from Mandarin.
“When you’re doing a U.S. series, typically you do 13 episodes and you’re done. With a telenovela, typically it’s 150 episodes,” Lorber said. “When you multiply that by multiple languages and multiple titles, suddenly you’re in a very dramatic growth spurt.”
Miami’s large French and South American expat communities mean The Kitchen has a big pool of native Brazilian Portuguese, French and Spanish speakers from which to hire their voice actors. But Miami has another advantage as well, according to Lorber. While studios could also look to Paris, New York or Los Angeles for the same languages, the city’s comparatively cheaper cost of living — and lack of unions — translates to much lower labor costs.
Like other local dubbing studios, The Kitchen’s bread-and-butter are English, Spanish, Portuguese and French dubbing. But the company’s global network of partners — with whom they share software and time-coded scripts — also allow The Kitchen to offer clients the possibility of dubbing an entire series in, say, Hebrew or Zulu. According to Kaplan, these partnerships will be “a big part of The Kitchen’s future.”
Locally, other dubbing studios include BKS and Universal Cinergía, but Kaplan says that The Kitchen’s competition is largely global; she named VSI, SDI Media, and BTI Studios as “friendly” competitors with whom The Kitchen has collaborated several times.
Denmark-based company M&M Productions president Tivi Magnusson discovered The Kitchen while vacationing in Miami a few years ago and said he’d consistently been impressed by the “very professional” and “high-precision” work the company had done for him on several feature films. He has hired them to dub Albert, a Danish children’s film and Disney release, into Spanish and English.
Dean Koocher, now the managing director at BrandVida, worked with The Kitchen when it dubbed the popular children’s show Lazytown into Spanish and Portuguese.
Children’s programming is a tricky business to dub and translate, he said, because so much falls on the quirkiness of the voices and the creativity of the translations.
“It’s a lot about the humor, the way it’s said, the names. Often there’s singing involved,” Koocher said. “And they do a great job of that.”
What: Television and film dubbing and subtitling company specializing in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Address: Headquarters and studios at 265 NE 24th St., Miami; sales office in Los Angeles.
Principals: CEO and president Ken Lorber, executive vice president Deeny Kaplan, chairman and chief financial officer Don Denkhaus.
Revenues: $2.6 million in 2010, $2.6 million in 2011, $2.8 million in 2012, $3.75 million in 2013, $4 million in 2014.
Employees: 36 full time. There are also over 300 freelancers — mostly voice actors, but also artistic directors, audio mixers and translators.
Contact: 305-415-6163; www.kitchen.tv.