VITAC Caption Viewer Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re a caption viewer and having some issues with the appearance of your captioning, or perhaps are just curious and wanted to know more about the world of closed captioning, we’ve compiled some of our most Frequently Asked Questions by viewers.

Q: How can I complain about captions?

A: As it is the shared responsibility of the video programming distributor’s (cable provider, broadcaster, or satellite provider) and the broadcaster (network/channel) to pass through captions, please notify their captioning contact, located somewhere on your monthly statement, or listed online. You may also file a complaint directly with the FCC.

Q: How do I turn captions on my TV?

A: Newer televisions come equipped with remotes that have a “CC” button on them. Toggling on captions are as simple as pressing it!

However, if your television is an older model, you should be able to access the closed captioning menu still using your television remote, but accessing the cable/satellite provider menu, or actual television menu. Once you find the “CC” menu, there will be several options, such as CC1, CC2, CC3. 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. 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 make sure you switch it to “on.”

Q: How do I turn captions off my TV?

A: Using your television remote, access the closed captioning menu through your television set, or your cable provider menu. Once you’ve found the “CC” option, choose “off”.

Q: Why are captions garbled?

A: If you’re seeing strange characters and severe misspellings in your closed captioning, this is referred to as “garbling.” You may also be experiencing what is called “paired errors.” This occurs when two letters or characters are dropped out in repeated intervals. During some programs, errors aren’t as severe and it’s still easy to figure out the context:

>> I WALKED DOWN THE STREET becomes:

>> I WALK DO THE STREET.

But with others, it’s nearly impossible:

>> I WALKED DOWN THE STREET.

becomes:

>> I WKED DOWTH STRT.

This could be happening for a variety of reasons, but the most common is that it is a transmission issue with your video programming distributor—cable provider, broadcaster or satellite provider. Per the FCC, they must pass through captions, and make sure they’re passing through correctly.  To report a problem, see “How can I complain about captions?” above.

Q: How are captions created?

A: There are two types of closed captioning—live and prerecorded. You see live realtime captions during sporting events and newscasts—programs that are happening live.

Live programming is captioned by specially trained realtime captioners who listen to a program as it is airing and write what they hear, often at speeds up to 300 words per minute. These words feed into customized software which transmits the captions to display them live on your television screen.

Prerecorded captions are created by highly trained captioners who listen to the program audio, transcribe words, sound effects, and music to give the viewing audience a full sense of what is happening in the audio track of the program.  Captions are timed to sync with the program audio and placed to match the speakers on the screen.  The program is then watched all the way through to ensure accuracy in the timing, transcription, research, and overall readability.

Q: Why are captions delayed?

A: Part of the FCC Caption Quality Best Practices is that closed captioning must be synchronous with the program audio, but must also be on screen long enough to be read completely.

With realtime captioning, captions are usually 5-9 seconds behind, as the captioner takes the time to listen and “write” what they’re hearing, (2-3 seconds), captions are transmitted to the networks (1 second) and encoded into the video transmission signal (4-5 seconds.)

Prerecorded captioning shouldn’t have any delay at all, and should appear onscreen synchronously with program audio.

If you’re noticing a significant delay in closed captioning to where it’s hindering your understanding of the program, this could be a transmission issue with your video programming distributor—cable provider, broadcaster or satellite provider. Per the FCC, they must pass through captions, and make sure they’re passing through correctly. To report a problem, see “How can I complain about captions?” above.

Q: Why aren’t some online videos captioned?

A: The FCC only requires internet protocol (IP)-delivered content to be captioned if it aired on television, including clips and montages of shows that aired on television.  However, this may change in the future with content that was not broadcast on television. A lot of subscription-video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon caption all original programming so that it is accessible for everyone.

Q: How do I fix my captions?

A: If your captions appear irregular, meaning they are severely delayed, include strange characters and misspellings, are jumping from one place to another on-screen, or are missing altogether and you know you’ve turned them on, you may need to do a soft or hard reset your cable or satellite box. As these are commonly transmission issues, your video programming distributor (cable provider, broadcaster, or satellite provider) must pass through captions, and make sure they’re passing through correctly.  To report a problem, see “How can I complain about captions?” above.

Q: Why are some captions in mixed case, and others all uppercase?

A: When it comes to prerecorded captioning, VITAC captions in the case requested by our customers.

Most live captioning, such as that you see for news and sports, is captioned in all capital letters in order to retain the speed at which real-time captioners are required to caption, but we can caption live in mixed case if the customer requests it.

Q: Can I change the appearance of my captions? (color, size, etc.)

A: A lot of television sets and cable or satellite provider menus have the option to change the appearance of your captions.  You should be able to access caption options through your television remote. Once you find the “CC” menu, there will be several options for the captions such as size and color.