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Closed captions

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The "CC in a TV" symbol The “CC in a TV” symbol Jack Foley created, while senior graphic designer at Boston public broadcaster WGBH that invented captioning for television, is public domain so that anyone who captions TV programs can use it.

Closed captioning is the American term for closed subtitles specifically intended for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. These are a transcription rather than a translation, and usually contain descriptions of important non-dialog audio as well such as “(sighs)” or “(door creaks)”. From the expression “closed captions” the word “caption” has in recent years come to mean a subtitle intended for the hard of hearing, be it “open” or “closed”. In British English “subtitles” usually refers to subtitles for the hard-of-hearing (HoH), as translation subtitles are so rare on British cinema and TV; however, the term “HoH subtitles” is sometimes used when there is a need to make a distinction between the two.

Realtime

Programs such as news bulletins, current affairs programs, sport, some talk shows and political and special events utilize realtime or online captioning. Live captioning is increasingly common, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States, as a result of regulations that stipulate that virtually all TV eventually must be accessible for people who are deaf and hard–of–hearing.

Pre-prepared

Some programs may be prepared in their entirety several hours before broadcast, but with insufficient time to prepare a timecoded caption file for automatic play-out. Pre-prepared captions look very similar to offline captions, although the accuracy of cueing may be compromised slightly as the captions are not locked to program timecode.

Newsroom captioning involves the automatic transfer of text from the newsroom computer system to a device which outputs it as captions. It does work, but its suitability as an exclusive system would only apply to programs which had been scripted in their entirety on the newsroom computer system, such as short interstitial updates.

In the United States and Canada, some broadcasters have used it exclusively and simply left uncaptioned sections of the bulletin for which a script was unavailable. Newsroom captioning limits captions to pre-scripted materials and, therefore, does not cover 100% of the news, weather and sports segments of a typical local news broadcast. It does not cover such things as the weather and sports segments which are typically not pre-scripted, last second breaking news or changes to the scripts, ad lib conversations of the broadcasters, emergency or other live remote broadcasts by reporters in-the-field. By failing to cover items such as these, newsroom style captioning (or use of the TelePrompTer for captioning) typically results in coverage of less than 30% of a local news broadcast.

Live

Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) stenographers, who use a computer with using either stenotype or Velotype keyboards to transcribe stenographic input for presentation as captions within 2-3 seconds of the representing audio, must caption anything which is purely live and unscripted, however, the most recent developments include operators using voice recognition software and revoicing the dialog. Voice recognition technology has advanced so quickly in the United Kingdom that about 50% of all live captioning is through voice recognition as of 2005. Realtime captions look different from offline captions, as they are presented as a continuous flow of text as people speak.

Realtime stenographers are the most highly skilled in their profession. Stenography is a system of rendering words phonetically, and English, with its multitude of homophones (e.g. there, their, they’re), is particularly unsuited to easy transcriptions. Stenographers working in courts and inquiries usually have 24 hours in which to deliver their transcripts. Consequently they may enter the same phonetic stenographic codes for a variety of homophones, and fix up the spelling later. Realtime stenographers must deliver their transcriptions accurately and immediately. They must therefore develop techniques for keying homophones differently, and be unswayed by the pressures of delivering accurate product on immediate demand.

Submissions to recent captioning-related inquiries have revealed concerns from broadcasters about captioning sports. Captioning sports may also affect many different people because of the weather outside of it. In much sport captioning’s absence, the Australian Caption Centre submitted to the National Working Party on Captioning (NWPC), in November of 1998, three examples of sport captioning, each performed on tennis, rugby league and swimming programs:

  1. Heavily reduced: Captioners ignore commentary and provide only scores and essential information such as “try” or “out”.
  2. Significantly reduced: Captioners use QWERTY input to type summary captions yielding the essence of what the commentators are saying, delayed due to the limitations of QWERTY input.
  3. Comprehensive realtime: Captioners use stenography to caption the commentary in its entirety.

The NWPC concluded that the standard they accept is the comprehensive realtime method, which gives them access to the commentary in its entirety. Also, not all sports are live. Many events are pre-recorded hours before they are broadcast, allowing them a captioner to caption them using offline methods.

Hybrid

Because different programs are produced under different conditions, a case-by-case basis must consequently determine captioning methodology. Some bulletins may have a high incidence of truly live material, or insufficient access to video feeds and scripts may be provided to the captioning facility, making stenography unavoidable. Other bulletins may be pre-recorded just before going to air, making pre-prepared text preferable.

In Australia and the United Kingdom, hybrid methodologies have proven to be the best way to provide comprehensive, accurate and cost-effective captions on news and current affairs programs. News captioning applications currently available are designed to accept text from a variety of inputs: stenography, Velotype, QWERTY, ASCII import, and the newsroom computer. This allows one facility to handle a variety of online captioning requirements and to ensure that captioners properly caption all programs.

Current affairs programs usually require stenographic assistance. Even though the segments which comprise a current affairs program may be produced in advance, they are usually done so just before on-air time and their duration makes QWERTY input of text unfeasible.

News bulletins, on the other hand can often be captioned without stenographic input (unless there are live crosses or ad-libbing by the presenters). This is because:

  1. Most items are scripted on the newsroom computer system and this text can be electronically imported into the captioning system.
  2. Individual news stories are of short duration, so even if they are made available only just prior to broadcast, there is still time to QWERTY in text.

Offline

closed-caption-example As a woman walks away from a man, she says, “Thank you.” He screams, “Let me help you!” The pop-up closed captions are an offline style, which appear staggered below each of the two characters to identify the speakers, appearing in all caps, typical, but not pervasive, of closed caption dialogue, and “{{screaming}}” is a non-dialogue identifier for viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to understand the tone of the man’s voice, which is in lowercase and in italics, typical, but not pervasive, of closed caption identifiers, however, the two braces (“{{” and “}}”) are uncommon, since most closed caption identifiers use parentheses (“(” and “)”) or square brackets (“[” and “]”).

For non-live, or pre-recorded programs, television program providers can choose offline captioning. Captioners gear offline captioning toward the high-end television industry, providing highly customized captioning features, such as pop-on style captions, specialized screen placement, speaker identifications, italics, special characters, and sound effects.

Offline captioning involves a five-step design and editing process, and does much more than simply display the text of a program. Offline captioning helps the viewer follow a story line, become aware of mood and feeling, and allows them to fully enjoy the entire viewing experience. Offline captioning is the preferred presentation style for entertainment-type programming.

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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