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Latest entries
Do sirens always wail?

Do sirens always wail?

How often are sirens described as wailing in closed captioning? What else do sirens do in closed captioning other than wail? Does it matter?
Subtitles as visual art

Subtitles as visual art

Subtitles in foreign language films don't have to be visually boring, uninspiring, or ugly. But too often, that's exactly what they are.
Tracking sonic timelines in closed captioning

Tracking sonic timelines in closed captioning

Each sustained sound in the closed caption track creates a sonic timeline that continues to persist until it is terminated through a change in visual context or a stop caption.
Closed captions as identity markers (leitmotifs)

Closed captions as identity markers (leitmotifs)

When the same nonspeech caption is repeatedly associated with a specific character or recurring context, it comes to serve as a kind of leitmotif for that character or context.
When a yellow subtitle meets a character from The Simpsons

When a yellow subtitle meets a character from The Simpsons

Comparing the default yellow closed captions on Hulu.com with the yellow color of the animated characters on The Simpsons.
Reading Sounds: A new book and website on closed captioning

Reading Sounds: A new book and website on closed captioning

Check out Reading Sounds, my new book on closed captioning. The supplemental website at ReadingSounds.net includes all of the video examples discussed in the book.
Surveying the preferences and attitudes of regular viewers of closed captioning

Surveying the preferences and attitudes of regular viewers of closed captioning

Do you watch closed-captioned programming regularly? Take this anonymous survey designed to measure viewers’ assessments of caption quality.
"The main factor that drives captioning quality is what clients are willing to pay for it."

“The main factor that drives captioning quality is what clients are willing to pay for it.”

An email I received recently from a professional captioner. Posted with permission.
Drunk speech but sober captions: How manner captions do the heavy lifting

Drunk speech but sober captions: How manner captions do the heavy lifting

How writing homogenizes speech and how the non-speech manner caption attempts to re-embody speech...
The power of dots and dashes to tell the future

The power of dots and dashes to tell the future

Sometimes, punctuation in captions can provide important clues about what's going to happen, regardless of how well or poorly timed the captions are.
Humanizing nameless speakers

Humanizing nameless speakers

Speaker IDs can humanize nameless characters...
"That whole thing's your name?" Captioning names in The Fifth Element

“That whole thing’s your name?” Captioning names in The Fifth Element

On the importance of verbatim captioning, especially when names are involved.
“Subtitles I like to ride on”: When medium awareness extends to subtitles

“Subtitles I like to ride on”: When medium awareness extends to subtitles

Examples of fictional characters breaking through the fourth wall...
Captioned hypnosis

Captioned hypnosis

Recurring sounds on TV shows allow us to explore questions of consistency and accuracy in closed captioning.
Closed captioners don't caption sounds.

Closed captioners don’t caption sounds.

Closed captioners don't caption sounds in isolation. They caption shows.
Professional captioners wanted now for interviews! Earn $20 Walmart gift card.

Professional captioners wanted now for interviews! Earn $20 Walmart gift card.

Interview participants needed. Must have experience with offline/prerecorded closed captioning. Contact sean.zdenek@ttu.edu for details.
Busy signal or engaged tone? Captions, language variety, and localized accessibility

Busy signal or engaged tone? Captions, language variety, and localized accessibility

On the need to consider differences among varieties of English when captioning non-speech sounds...
Captioned silence?

Captioned silence?

In some well-defined situations, silence must be captioned.
Genre-defining sounds, even when they lie to us

Genre-defining sounds, even when they lie to us

Even when music is intended to deceive, it needs to be captioned if it's instrumental to the genre.
In a manner of speaking

In a manner of speaking

When a character's accent is meaningful or when a scene or line of dialogue hinges on how a character speaks, manner of speech needs to be indicated in the closed captions.
Logocentrism: The tendency to privilege speech over non-speech in closed captioning

Logocentrism: The tendency to privilege speech over non-speech in closed captioning

Does logocentric thinking shape closed captioning practices?
Captioning the faintest sounds when they're part of a repetitive series

Captioning the faintest sounds when they’re part of a repetitive series

Does every repetitive sound need to be captioned? What visual cues are sufficient to indicate a repeating sound in the absence of a caption?
Captioned puns and wordplay

Captioned puns and wordplay

In the case of captioned wordplay, the difference between writing and speaking, text and sound, is obvious.
Captioned irony: How captions manipulate narrative time and viewers' knowledge

Captioned irony: How captions manipulate narrative time and viewers’ knowledge

Inspired by the notion of dramatic irony, I offer a definition of "captioned irony."
Iambic pentameter captions?

Iambic pentameter captions?

Should poems and other quoted material be captioned as they were originally written?
[Groan] or Ahh? Series awareness and alternative captions

[Groan] or Ahh? Series awareness and alternative captions

Should a running gag be captioned the same way each time it occurs?
Sonic allusions and cultural literacy for captioners

Sonic allusions and cultural literacy for captioners

How should cultural allusions be closed captioned?
The running gag principle: Caption the series, not the episode

The running gag principle: Caption the series, not the episode

What would closed captions be like if diehard fans were in charge of captioning their favorite shows?
Zoom Zoom: Selling caption space

Zoom Zoom: Selling caption space

What if closed captions were bought and sold as a form of product placement?
Captioning 101: When music lyrics trigger an explosion, you just might want to caption them.

Captioning 101: When music lyrics trigger an explosion, you just might want to caption them.

When music lyrics are instrumental to a film's plot, they need to be captioned.
Stylistic standards for closed captioning and data mining

Stylistic standards for closed captioning and data mining

When speaker IDs, musical lyrics, and sound descriptions have their own distinctive stylistic treatments, they can be extracted from closed caption files and studied as separate units of discourse.
Why that zombie is really moaning (and not groaning)

Why that zombie is really moaning (and not groaning)

An analysis of three captions from Shaun of the Dead (2004) suggests how sound descriptions need to be informed by the sounds and captions that surround them. In this case, "moaning" is suggested as a better fit than "groaning."
If it weren't for Speaker IDs, I'd have no idea what's going on

If it weren’t for Speaker IDs, I’d have no idea what’s going on

An analysis of one scene from Moon (2009) starring Sam Rockwell. The scene's captions make use of Speaker IDs to identify speakers who are off-screen. But in doing so, the Speaker IDs fill in a major piece of the narrative puzzle.
How many TV commercials are closed captioned?

How many TV commercials are closed captioned?

Recently, I conducted an informal survey of two hours of TV in an effort to track which and how many ads were closed captioned.
Dialogue that wasn't intended to be read

Dialogue that wasn’t intended to be read

Speakers don't need to spell things out for caption viewers when these viewers can read it for themselves at the bottom of the screen. Speakers only need to spell it out for those audio-only viewers who don't have the added benefit of reading.
What the speaker really says doesn't matter?

What the speaker really says doesn’t matter?

Captioning is not always a simple transcription of what speakers are objectively saying. In some cases, captions are intended to reflect what the protagonist subjectively hears.
Screencast: How to do audio description using SMIL

Screencast: How to do audio description using SMIL

A screencast on how to use SMIL to make video accessible to users who are blind or have low vision. The screencast also makes use of an interactive transcript.
Curb: Five sounds that should have been captioned

Curb: Five sounds that should have been captioned

An analysis of five sounds from Curb Your Enthusiasm (Season 2) that should have been captioned. Only dialogue is captioned in this season of Curb on DVD.
Captioned thematics: How captions make interpretative patterns visible

Captioned thematics: How captions make interpretative patterns visible

Closed captions can help viewers recognize themes and patterns in movies that might otherwise remain latent.
The sloppiest captions ever

The sloppiest captions ever

Having closed captions is always better than not having them at all. But sloppy captions -- that is, captions that are misspelled, ignore rules of capitalization, or are simply illegible in one way or another (low contrast, too small, all caps) -- show a lack of respect for viewers who use them.
Stating the obvious: Subtitles need to be large with high contrast

Stating the obvious: Subtitles need to be large with high contrast

If viewers can't read the foreign language subtitles, they are worthless. Subtitles that are encoded onto the video track itself (so-called "hard subs") need to be large in size with high contrast.
Leveraging captions to serve up parody

Leveraging captions to serve up parody

How many words do you need to know to be able to host a national morning show? Captioned speech provides the foundation for this parody video.
Caption space is precious. Don't waste it.

Caption space is precious. Don’t waste it.

Speaker IDs are only necessary when it's not clear visually or from the context which person is speaking. A Speaker ID is not needed in this Windows 7 commercial.
Undercaptioning: Beyond subtitles in Curb Your Enthusiasm

Undercaptioning: Beyond subtitles in Curb Your Enthusiasm

Scratching sounds play a prominent role in this episode from Curb Your Enthusiasm. But because they are not captioned, the full significance of the episode is only available to hearing viewers.
Captioning the backchannel: How captions clarify and equalize sounds

Captioning the backchannel: How captions clarify and equalize sounds

When sounds in the background are captioned, they come forward. All sounds become equally "loud" on the caption track.
Overcaptioning: Which sounds are significant?

Overcaptioning: Which sounds are significant?

Which sounds are significant? How does the captioner choose which sounds to caption? Are some captions unnecessary? Why isn't it possible to caption every sound in the environment?
Twilight: Captioning the "gaspiest" movie ever

Twilight: Captioning the “gaspiest” movie ever

How should gasps, groans, sighs, grunts, scoffs, moans, pants and other assorted "breathy" sounds be captioned? When should they be captioned? What's the difference between them? Why does it matter?
What comedy needs from captions?

What comedy needs from captions?

Humor depends on timing and delivery. Captions should be sensitive to what comedy requires.
Captioning wordless movie trailers

Captioning wordless movie trailers

Are there options for signaling the tempo and mood of wordless music aside from the traditional musical note?
Exploring Pirates of the Caribbean 2 through closed captions

Exploring Pirates of the Caribbean 2 through closed captions

Movie captions should never reveal information prematurely. In this example, the captions give away a key plot detail before the narrative is ready to do so.
Caption watch: Hulu.com

Caption watch: Hulu.com

Over the last ten days, the percentage of full episodes and movies with closed captions on Hulu has actually gone down. Overall, that percentage of cc content is embarrassingly low, hovering at around 4.5% for full episodes and 6.5% for movies — and appears to be on the way down.
Exploring Twilight and music lyrics through closed captions

Exploring Twilight and music lyrics through closed captions

In this example, captioned music lyrics draw meaning out of hiding as the backchannel breaks through into the viewer's consciousness.
If movie characters could read closed captions...

If movie characters could read closed captions…

Caption users sometimes know what’s happening before the characters themselves. In this way, captions tell the future.
How captions tell the future

How captions tell the future

In this example, the caption user recognizes a heartbeat before the non-caption user that because the bad guy's captioned sentence is unfinished ("We can nego-"), he will be shot before he can finish saying "negotiate."
Whispers and other sounds you were never meant to hear

Whispers and other sounds you were never meant to hear

An analysis of attempts by fans to make audible the whisper at the end of Lost in Translation.
Captioning the cheese

Captioning the cheese

Every feature-length movie distributed over the Internet needs to be closed captioned. That goes without saying. But there's a special category of movie -- the low-budget cheesy feature -- that may be inaccessible to all viewers if the movie's production values are not sufficiently high.
XXX Captioning

XXX Captioning

Closed captions, when done well, provide access to dialogue and other important sounds for those who need them. But captions have the potential to do much more. Captions can make visible those layers of meaning that may not be readily available on the uncaptioned surface of things.
Captioning from beginning to end

Captioning from beginning to end

Videos need to be closed captioned from the moment the first movie logo appears on the screen, particularly in cases where theme music or other important sounds are playing over the logos of movie studios such as Warner Bros Pictures.
Captioning the 2009 Masters Golf Tournament

Captioning the 2009 Masters Golf Tournament

On Saturday at the 2009 Masters, TV captions were just as likely to be placed at the top as at the bottom of the screen. When captions are placed at the bottom, so much of the action is obscured. Bottom captions make for a miserable, frustrating viewing experience.

Spreading the word: NFB v. LSAC

On February 19th, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) filed a complaint in California Superior Court against the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) alleging that the LSAC's website is inaccessible to blind users. To date, the NFB’s press release is dominating the rhetorical landscape — indeed, the one-sided press release is passing for objective...

Having a voice in Second Life

In “Virtually Accessible,” a short article published in the Spring 2009 issue of Access: The inclusive design journal, Diane Carr reports on protests that erupted in Second Life among deaf and hard-of-hearing users when in 2007 “Second Life’s developers added a feature enabling residents to speak verbally to each other using microphones.” What’s especially interesting about...

The impact of disposable video on accessibility

Alex Reid has some interesting things to say about the “disposable” nature of web video. In a video response to a post by Paul Bradshaw at Online Journalism Blog, Reid considers the value and nature of web video at a time when anyone can create, store, edit, remix, mod, share, and delete video cheaply and...

Captions on the side (literally)

I'd be interested in seeing the results (if any) of usability tests for NBC.com's video player, which has built-in support for closed captioning on full episodes. Captions are displayed on the right side of the video player and automatically scroll either up or down. Rather than occupying a layer within (or on top...

Accessible podcasting — A preview

I just finished an article-length webtext on accessible podcasting. The webtext 1) is a critique of the dominant approach to podcasting, an approach that assumes (mistakenly) that everyone involved can hear, see, and move well enough to manipulate a mouse, and 2) describes a set of solutions for making podcasts (both audio and video) universally...

Deaf American Gladiator

While browsing Hulu.com the other day, I caught a glimpse (on the site’s scrolling image bar) of what looked like a cochlear implant attached to the head of a contestant on American Gladiators. Because I have an ongoing interest in how deafness and cochlear implants are visually and discursively constructed in the media, I located...

Support for video annotations on YouTube

YouTube recently added support for video annotations and in-video links. Three types of annotations are supported: speech bubbles, notes, and spotlights. As Bill Creswell rightly pointed out a couple days ago, YouTube’s implementation is similar to what users can do with “bubbles” on BubblePly.com. One key difference is that YouTube’s annotations do not fully capitalize...

Aggregating feeds to search for captioned web videos

On the subject of captioned programming on the Web, Closed Captioning Web suggests in a recent blog post that More major network channels are setting up video players on their sites..and the good news is, the players show captions! More and more captioned programming is now available through Fox.com (read the review at Disabled in the Digital...

Podcasting and embodiment

Mainstream discourse about podcasting rarely discusses the affordances of the body. It rarely makes explicit the minimum requirements for participating, at the level of embodiment, or the bodily differences among users and producers that threaten to exclude some people from profitably using web audio and video. Instead, mainstream discourse about podcasting tends to assume a...

Audio description as technical communication

So I’ve been thinking about audio description as technical communication, and in particular the value that an audio description assignment might have for technical communication undergrads. According to the BBC’s Ouch!, audio description is an extra audio commentary for blind or partially sighted people. When there is a gap in the dialogue on TV or...

Captioning tornado warnings on TV

We all know how terribly unreliable and inaccurate TV captions can be. On the local TV news in my area (Lubbock, TX), the captions are usually pretty good because the written transcript being fed through the teleprompter is also used for captioning. Problems with captions occur when announcers ad-lib, for example during sports and weather segments.  On the...

WiFi sensitivity and the ADA

“Dozens” of “electro-sensitive” residents of Santa Fe want a ban placed on public wireless signals because the signals are allegedly causing allergic reactions in people with radio wave allergies. Sufferers of “electro-smog” reportedly experience various degrees of sickness, including chest pains lasting a couple days.  According to USA Today, The [TV] station says Firstenberg and...