What Exactly Is Closed Captioning?
By definition, closed captioning is the process of displaying text of the audio portion of a program on a video screen or visual display. The caption data is embedded into line 21 (for analog TV) or in the DTVCC Transport Stream (for digital TV) and is then decoded through the television in order to view the captions.
Is Closed Captioning Really That Important?
YES! 95 million Americans rely on closed captioning when viewing programs. 28 million of them are hearing impaired, 30 million are learning English as a second language, 27 million are adults trying to improve their literacy skills, and 10 million are children learning how to read. Furthermore, the FCC mandates nearly all programming to be closed captioned.
How Can Closed Captioning Improve Literacy?
Sadly, 42 million American adults are illiterate and 50 million cannot read higher than a 4th-grade reading level. Unfortunately most adults do not read books but watch a ton of television. This is where closed captioning comes in! With a click of a button, these adults are now being able to read as they watch their favorite programming. And studies have shown that children who view television with the closed captioning turned on have higher educational achievements and literacy rates.
What Is the Difference Between 608 and 708 Captions?
Basically 608 captions are for analog TV and 708 captions are for digital TV.
Characteristics of 608 captions:
- Referred to as Line 21 captions
- Standard display of bold white text against a black box
- Caption data is embedded into line 21 of the vertical blanking interval and becomes visible through a decoder in the television set
- Even though they are intended for analog broadcasts they are also sometimes present in digital transmissions
- Limited number of language and character-set capabilities
- Less prevalent since the switch to DTV
Characteristics of 708 captions:
- Referred to as DTV captions
- These are the captions used for digital television, whether standard or high definition
- There are eight different fonts, three different sizes, and 64 different colors available when viewing this captions (depending on the type of decoder you have)
- Due to their universal character set (Unicode) and support of special symbols, 708 captions can support any alphabet in the world
- Caption data is placed into MPEG-2 video streams in the picture user data, known as the DTVCC Transport Stream
Are There Different Styles of Closed Captioning?
There are different styles of captioning but to simplify, there are basically three categories: Roll-up, Pop-on, and Subtitles.
Roll-up Captioning: The text rolls onto the screen one line at a time. Typically three lines are displayed on the screen at a time. The captions may move around the screen (either at the bottom, lower third, or at the top) in order to avoid graphics or a speaker's face. In roll-up, the captions are white letters that resemble Courier New font and are set against a black background. Roll-up captions are used in some post-production programs but are used for ALL live programs.
Pop-on Captioning: The text pops onto the screen in blocks (typically one to three lines). The font is the same as in roll-up captioning (white letters against a black box). The captions can be placed virtually anywhere on the screen. This style is the preferred style of the hearing impaired.
Subtitles: Originally created for viewers who wanted to understand a program in a different language. Unlike captions, subtitles are burned into the video and do not need to be turned on through a decoder. If you are viewing subtitles on a DVD or Blu-ray disc, you may need to turn them on through the menu. Subtitles can be different size font, styles, and colors and typically do not have a black background.
What Is the Difference Between Live and Post Production Closed Captioning?
Live captioning is done in real-time by a captioner using a special steno machine. Because they are writing live, they do not have the ability to go back and fix any mistakes. This type of captioning is done for live programming, like a sports game, news broadcast, or awards ceremony.
Post production captioning is captioned by a caption editor who uses a transcript written by a professional transcriber. This is done for shows that are prerecorded for a later broadcast. The caption editor has the ability to fix up the program perfectly and make any additional corrections specified by the client.
Who Does the Actual Captioning?
Live Captioner: These captioners are typically trained as CPRS (court reporters) and use that training to become live writers. This job requires special training and years of experience.
Caption Editor: This is an offline captioner (post production). They use special computer software and import a transcript of the audio to create a caption file. They accurately time and place the captions, as well as perform all the research of proper spelling and terminology.
Transcriber: This person creates a written transcript of the audio portion of a program. They are trained to follow specific captioning guidelines determined by DCMP.
Quality Checker/Proofer: This is a seasoned caption editor or manager who reviews the post production caption files for complete 100% accuracy.