|Q: What is closed captioning?
A: Closed captioning is an assistive technology designed
to provide access to television for persons who are deaf and
hard of hearing. It is similar to subtitles in that it displays
the audio portion of a television signal as printed words
on the television screen. Unlike subtitles, however, closed
captioning is hidden as encoded data transmitted within the
television signal, and provides information about background
noise and sound effects. A viewer wishing to see closed captions
must use a set-top decoder or a television with built-in decoder
circuitry. Since July 1993, all television sets with screens
thirteen inches or larger have had built-in decoder circuitry.
Q: Who is required to provide closed captions?
A: Federal rules require people or companies that
distribute television programs directly to home viewers ("video
program distributors") to make sure that those programs
are captioned. Video program distributors include local broadcast
television stations, satellite television services (such as
DirecTV, Primestar, and the Dish Network), local cable television
operators, and other companies that distribute video programming
directly to the home. In some situations, video program providers
will be responsible for captioning programs. A video program
provider could be a television program network (for example,
ABC, NBC, UPN, Lifetime, A&E) or other company that makes
a particular television program.
Q: Once a program appears on television with captions, will
it always be shown with captions?
A: In some cases, but not always. Repeats of captioned
programs must be shown with the captions intact only if the
program has not been edited before it is repeated. Editing
a captioned program can destroy the captions, and captioned
programs which are edited before re-airing often need to have
the captions reformatted.
Q: What is "real-time" captioning?
A: "Real-time" captioning means any methodology
that converts the entire audio portion of a live
program to captions.
Real-time captions are white
letters with a black background. They typically scroll up
to three lines and the captions come after double chevrons
(>>) and the top line of the
three lines disappears as a new bottom line is added, allowing
the continuous rolling up of new lines of captions.
When is real-time captioning used?
captioning can be used in situations such as lectures (presentations)
and "live" telecasts.
- For lectures/presentations,
such as a training seminar, a corporate meeting, or "live"
presentations, real-time captioning simultaneously converts
the spoken word into printed format using computer-aided
translation, which appears on a large screen for anyone
to view. The letters are similar to what one types on a
- For "live" telecasts,
such as the local news or where on-the-spot programming
occurs, real-time captioning is used.
Q. What is the accuracy
are capable of writing at speeds of up to 250 words per minute,
or even faster in short bursts.
There is no governing body for
captioners, so look for credentials assigned either by the
state board overseeing court reporters, or by the National
Court Reporters Association (NCRA). The skills and knowledge
required for these credentials are similar to those required
For "live" real-time
captioning, most agencies insist that a qualified real-time
captioner must have an accuracy rate of at least 98.6%, which
is the standard set by the NCRA.
What is the difference between real-time captioning and CART?
A: CART is
an acronym for Computer-Aided Real-time Translation, and it
refers to the use of machine steno shorthand skills to produce
real-time text on a computer. CART encompasses use of straight
text on computer screens (no video picture) projected on walls,
or shown on large monitors.
CART consists of a reporter
with a notebook computer and a steno keyboard, sitting next
to a deaf or hard of hearing person. The CART reporter writes
everything that happens, and the screen on the notebook computer
is turned so that the deaf or hard of hearing person can read
it. This differs from traditional court reporting in that
the CART reporter is not just there to create a verbatim record,
but to help the person understand the proceedings, which may
mean paraphrasing, interpreting, and two-way communication.
Real-time captioning can be
viewed as a subset of CART. For providing real-time at a live
event, it is often easier to find CART reporters than to find
captioners, since captioning requires more equipment (and
more expensive equipment, as well).
Q: What is the electronic newsroom captioning technique?
A: The so-called electronic newsroom (ENR) captioning
technique creates captions from a news script computer or
teleprompter and is commonly used for live newscasts. Only
material that is scripted can be captioned using this technique.
Therefore, live field reports, breaking news, and sports and
weather updates may not be captioned.
Q: How do video tapes
become closed captioned?
A: Taking into
consideration the time to make the dub of the original master
tape for the captioner to work from, all the steps in between,
and the time to encode the final master tape, a 1-hour videotape
can take anywhere from 8 to 20 hours to caption. Here are
the five steps involved in captioning:
An accurate transcript is essential
for captioning. If a transcript does not exist, it must be
created. Transcripts can be submitted in the following formats:
A disk is usually the preferred format. It can be
in any word processing application or an ASCII text file.
A text file can be faxed directly to the computer.
- Printed Script.
A printed script is useful if it can be scanned accurately.
The scanner works best with clean, even-toned, typed scripts.
- Court reporter or stenocaptioner
Must have a stop and start control on the VCR.
In the facility the script is
- divided into captions.
The quantity of text is decided to be shown on the screen
at a time. Where possible, the split is usually by sentences.
This step can be at least partially automated, and can
be combined with the prior steps.
- cleaned of extra columns.
- cleaned of extraneous text.
- checked for accuracy.
Usually text appears as two-line
pop-up captions, however, some have the capacity to use from
one to four lines in pop-up or roll-up fashion. Set the "look"
of the captions. Add italics, underlining, colors, speaker
identification, brackets around sound effects, music notes
around song lyrics, and so forth. Some people do this as the
script is entered, others go back and add it later.
3. Time Coding
- A worktape is made.
The worktape includes the original time code. The formatted
script along with the time code is then displayed on the
- Time code matched.
Matching time code is also called "scheduling."
time codes. "Absorbed"
as the tape plays, using the computer keyboard. This is
also where the captions may be moved up, down, left or
right. Captions are determined where they will appear
on the screen. Ensure that essential information is not
covered by the captions, and that the positioning gives
clues as to who is speaking.
4. Checking and Revision
- Viewing. The
video and the captions are run together to show what will
appear in the final captioned video.
- Checking and revision.
The captions must always be carefully checked for errors
before being recorded. Automated tools can perform spelling
checks, reading-rate checks, and look for technical timing
errors. Actually watch the video with the captions
on it in order to catch errors such as captions covering
graphics, speakers mouth, and others; or appearing
too early or late.
- Crunching. A
process called "crunching" fuses the time code
to the captions. Any problems with conflicting time codes
will cause the captions to move faster than the encoder
will transmit and as a result, this may cause a gap, or
incorrectly processed words.
After the results of the completed
captioning job are satisified, it is transferred to the videotape
using a caption encoder.
The captioner works closely
with an engineer to produce the finished captioned videotape.
The captioning file is transmitted from the computer to an
encoder, where the original video, timecode and new captions
are recorded on the desired videotape format.
How Do Closed Captions Work?
A: The captions
are activated by a decoder connected to the TV or a built-in
decoder chip to the TV. Either technology decodes the captioning
signal and then captions appear on the screen.
Closed-captioned shows include
prerecorded programs such as: feature productions, TV series,
cartoons, and other programs. A step-by-step procedure lists
this process of closed-captioning programs:
1. The TV network or home
video company (feature productions) sends a copy of the
program on videocassette to a captioning agency.
2. The captioner listens
to the program dialogue.
3. The captioner then types
in the captions, ensuring that the dialogue and captions
are in synchronization.
4. A captioned disk is sent
back to the TV network or home video company and is combined
with the master tape, which results in a captioned submaster
tape. This process is called encoding.
5. The TV set with the built-in
decoder chip decodes (brings out) the captions
on the TV screen.
Q: Do captions have to meet accuracy requirements, such as
having only so many spelling errors per program?
A: At present, captions are not required to meet any
particular quality or accuracy standards. The Federal Communications
Commission concluded that program providers have incentives
to offer high quality captions, in keeping with the overall
quality of the programs they offer. The FCC also concluded
that it would be difficult to develop and monitor quality
standards at this time. However, viewers may let video providers
know whether they are satisfied with the captions through
purchases of advertised products, subscriptions to program
services, or contacts with providers concerning the programs.
The above information has been excerpted from the FCC guidelines
and the Captioned Media Program of the National Association
of the Deaf.