Captions are the visual representation of a video's soundtrack. They are created according to a specific set of style rules by trained captioners and are available on almost all television programs and television sets. Captions are mandated by the FCC and have been proven to not only help audiences that cannot hear their television, but also serve as a valuable tool for educators and people learning English as a second language.
Captions appear and disappear, “popping” onscreen in sync with the audio. These captions tend to contain one or two lines of text that can be placed essentially anywhere on the screen, such as under the specific speaker of the dialogue. See a sample clip in our services library.
Captions start on the top or bottom left-hand side of the screen and “roll” out to the right side of the screen in sync with the audio. Roll-up captions typically roll two or three lines before the top line disappears completely, constantly being replaced by new text as the program audio continues. See a sample clip in our services library.
Closed captions are captions that are encoded, or embedded, into the video and cannot be seen unless turned on using your television menu. Open captions are always visible and cannot be turned off. They are burned directly into the video and are a part of the picture. See a sample clip in our services library.
These menu items represent different captioning “fields.” CC1 will always represent the primary caption data, with captions representing the language as it is spoken onscreen. Other fields are used for different languages or reading speeds. You can see VITAC’s Spanish captioning on CC2 during NBC Sunday Night football. Newer televisions, specifically digital and high-definition models, have begun using the “Service” titles to represent the captioning fields. For example, Service 1 contains the same information as CC1 – the primary caption data.
Transcripts are also produced by highly trained personnel who listen to the program audio, transcribe every word spoken, every sound effect, regional-accent descriptors, and even onscreen action and time stamps – depending on the level of detail the client requires. The script can be formatted in a variety of different ways.
Subtitling is a method of making the soundtrack of a video recognizable to viewers who do not understand the language being spoken or viewers unable to hear the audio. Subtitles may appear as translations to foreign languages from the spoken language or straight transcripts of the spoken language. See a sample clip in our services library.
Encoding is the process whereby closed captions are embedded into a video, or subtitles or open captions are burned onto the video. After a caption or subtitle file is created, it can be fed through a caption encoder, which marries the caption file with the original video, and the end result is a separate captioned master. Once the captions are encoded onto tape, they will be part of the program with each airing or with each dub created.
Audio description offers blind and low-vision audiences the opportunity to enjoy filmed programming. It is a narrative description of onscreen actions, visual cues such as characters and costumes, and text appearing in graphics or the video. The track can be found on the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) available on most television sets, accessible through the television’s menu. SAP is sometimes used to provide Spanish audio for English-language programs in the United States. See a sample clip in our services library.
There are several reasons why a misspelled word might slip through onto air. It may be a wrong key-combination stroked by the realtime captioner, a misheard word, or even a unique spelling not pre-entered into our software’s dictionary. They can also result from technical glitches in your television caption decoder that cause the wrong characters to appear.
If you are seeing jumbled or scattered characters in your captions, especially in prerecorded programming, you are probably experiencing a technical error. Contact your cable provider or see our CaptionsON Viewer Relations Bureau.
When you screen a favorite program you want the full experience. Captions give you access to that experience, despite personal, environmental, or cultural barriers. But what do you do when captions fail? Almost all programming on television is required by the FCC to be captioned. If you are not seeing captions, start with your service provider.
New FCC rules require video distributors (the company that gets the signal to your house - cable, satellite, etc) to provide contact information specifically for caption issues. Check your monthly bill or the company's website for this contact information. Or check the FCC's caption complaint website for details.