2003.11.03 – Updates coming this week.

2003.09.16 – Audio of movies rendered as streaming Flash. Who would have thought?

Why not run the described versions? Gladiator, Sexy Beast, Star Wars, whatever “Indiana Jones” refers to, and X-Men all exist with descriptions.

Oh, but that’s right. They’re not exactly easy to find on home video.  

2003.09.15 – Reproduced with permission from the ADInternational mailing list.

I’m really looking forward to this.
I am too. I’ve been wanting to see this movie.
Well, we’d better get in line. The movie starts in ten minutes.
The line’s not too bad tonight.
Good thing. Traffic was terrible. It took us almost an hour to get here.
Ticket Agent
May I help you?
Yes. Two tickets to Seabiscuit on screen Nº 6.
Ticket Agent
That’ll be $18, please.
Here you go.
Ticket Agent
Sir, why did you want screen Nº 6?
I’m blind. That’s the theater where I can get the description for blind and visually-impaired people.
Ticket Agent
I thought so. I saw the cane when you walked up. It’s not working.
What’s not working?
Ticket Agent
The thingamajig for the blind.
What do you mean it’s not working?
Ticket Agent
It’s just not working. Something about the disk being bad or something. They just told us ten minutes ago.
[Blank stare]
Do you know how long it takes us to get here?
Ticket Agent
I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.
[Blank stare]
Ticket Agent
[Blank stare]
Ticket Agent
I’m sorry, sir. There’s nothing I can do about it.
Have a nice evening.

This little Saturday Evening Vignette has been brought to you by Really Really Really Pissed Productions.  

2003.09.12 – Learn all there is to know at a seminar on how to insert caption codes into high-definition TV. (Program.)

Conducted by ATSC, the goal of this unique seminar is to provide tutorial information and hands-on applications details for station engineers and operators, and other persons involved in the PSIP distribution chain from program production through to the consumer. Since the FCC is considering adopting PSIP as a required element of DTV transmission, this seminar is especially relevant at this time. The seminar will also include an afternoon of valuable closed captioning education.

Rock out with your socks out.

PSIP, BTW, is “program and system information protocol.”  

2003.09.12Jay Fraser:

I went to watch Star Wars Episode 1 in Mexico: English, Spanish subtitles. The average audience member was age 7 – ergo, couldn’t read the subtitles. The mothers had to read the subtitles to the kids, and the movie was so loud they had to shout to be heard. I ended up reading the subtitles.

Gunnar Swanson:

I went to see Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan in Taipei. The first twenty minutes of the movie consists of apes grunting. There were Chinese subtitles through all of it. Nineteen years later I’m still wondering what they said.

And of course Anthony Burgess wrote the dialogue for Quest for Fire.  

2003.09.12 – About as hard as everything accessibility-related is for our dear British friends. In 2000, there were so few receivers for audio description that even a broadcaster didn’t have one.

Notwithstanding the currently limited penetration of the DTT platform throughout the UK, the nonavailability of a set-top box with an in-built closed audio-description facility, and the consequent introduction of a separate add-on module available at a cost to those who need it, means that very few people are currently able to access the audio-described services provided. BSkyB’s understands that the add-on modules have yet to go on sale in the open market, and that as few as 30 may exist in the current trials, a shortage which has meant that BSkyB itself has been unable to procure the device to monitor its own audio-description services on-air.

I have read other estimates of the current number of description receivers in the U.K.; they’re always either 50 or 100. Bit of a farce there, really.  

2003.09.12 – It’s slow for jobs these days.

Now, what the hell does that mean? What kind of environment does WGBH run in which applicants must be warned up front not to call coworkers names?  

2003.09.12 – Or McDonglism, to correct their spelling.

As devout readers will be aware, Ewan McGregor’s mom (“mum”) runs a small audio-description outfit, IADA. They described Moulin Rouge, a film that starred, of all people, Ewan McGregor. (Slow delivery, but credible.)

Well, now she’s a film producer, and openly plays golf.

It was while she was at Scottish Screen that [Janice] Cutting got to know McGregor, who had taken early retirement from teaching and was developing a second career in movies, first as her son’s personal assistant and then providing audio descriptions of films for the blind.

Cutting left Scottish Screen four years ago to work as a consultant and she accompanied McGregor to Los Angeles to lobby the major studios to put audio descriptions on DVDs. ’We got on really well. I did English at university and Carol’s very creative and loves films, so we ended up thinking about ideas for films....

A keen golfer, [Aidan Quinn] had appeared in a pro-celebrity event for her audio-description charity.

Since when is IADA a charity?  

ATI Multimedia Center screenshot2003.08.30 – Well, it appears there are a few software DVD players here and there that can also display Line 21 captions. (Hey, why not?) If you check the PDF for the ATI DVD player, you get a nice little screenshot, really.

>> Let me ask you a general question before we do this. But the brits do a lot of things well, but british cuisine is kind of an oxymoron. Why would we want to copy their food?

>> The pudding

You said a mouthful!  

2003.08.28a – WGBH releases 12,000-word guidelines on making DVD and set-top-box menus accessible. I need 7,700 words to correct it (with extensive quotations from the original).

Next: RNIB.

It’s nothing personal. If you don’t want technical documentation fact-checked, don’t publish it. This isn’t marketing, and we don’t have to accentuate the positive.  

2003.08.27 – “Closed Captioning and DVS” explicitly associates NCI with an absence of captioning. Is this like the old line about British cars and the maker of their electrical systems – “Lucas is the prince of darkness”?  

2003.08.21 – Months late and long anticipated, WGBH’s “Developer’s Guide to Creating Talking Menus for Set-Top Boxes and DVDs” is finally available.

I note the simply high-larious tidbit that the hypothetical blind user featured in its scenarios is named Joe.  

2003.08.19a – After hours and hours of work, I have now retyped the very first article I got paid for, “Typography and TV Captioning,” Print, January/February 1989.

And I retypeset the copy in InDesign and added it to the scan of the original article’s pages I’ve been sitting on forever. The result is one of the few tagged accessible PDFs in existence.

And I gave my articles for Print their own page. You’ll find everything there.

We thus have the complete Caption Typography Ring Cycle available online. I’ll have more to say about this as I get closer to my ATypI presentation on the typography of online captioning.

I would anticipate that my assessments will continue to be ignored by Windows apologists who know as much about typography as they do about nuclear physics. Your unwillingness to accept that you’ve been making mistakes all along does not make me mistaken for pointing it out.

Of course, I should try to keep it light.  

2003.08.19b – Anime News Network constantly talks about subtitling and dubbing. Of course, it’s only ever concerning anime, which one can take only so seriously, but still.

  1. Fortune Quest: “To top it all off, the subtitling job is full of typos and very strange translations (‘Digesting your thoughts will push open the door of mystery’). The dub voices are kind of annoying, but the dub script itself is pretty good, with some liberties taken to make the dialogue flow better in English”
  2. Gasaraki: “Unlike the last volume, [they don’t] bother to subtitle every little nuance in the script. Many of the background news reports and ethereal whispers heard within the Gasaraki are neglected, which is shame. Overall, the subtitling is still well done, but it would have been nice to have the various tracks subtitled like in the preceding volume. Fortunately, the small annoyances experienced at not being able to follow the mumblings in the background are quickly forgotten as the viewer is quickly entranced by the art in the series”
  3. Mobile Suit Gundam: “Bandai did only an adequate job subtitling the dialogue. There were multiple scenes in which lines of dialogue were left untranslated, which is unfortunate for viewers who are not well endowed with knowledge of the Japanese language. It is interesting to note, however, that while the subtitled script matched the dubbed script on the series release for the most part, there were some areas involving the Newtypes that were altered in the dubbed release. This makes it worthwhile for viewers of the dubbed series to pick up the movies, if even just to better comprehend certain aspects of the series”
  4. Eat-Man: “AnimeVillage hired ZRO Limit for this subtitling job, and their post-production skills work wonderfully here, with a great translation, nice subtitles, and complete credits. (Some of the opening credits are obstructed by the song translations at the bottom... but those are more important)”
  5. The Vision of Escaflowne: “Technically, I was as impressed with Escaflowne as I was with’s subtitling job. In a world where the post-production abilities of budgetless fansubbers often outshine those of commercial companies, AnimeVillage has taken great care to maintain the top quality in production, even outdoing all existing fansubs of the series (despite using the now-infamous Captions, Inc. for the production). The timing is perfect, as are the translations. The credits are entirely translated, and replace the Japanese ones.”
  6. Video Girl Ai: “Contrary to what some may have heard, the dubbed version is not cut, but the subtitled version accidentally had the prologue to the second episode removed by the always-inept Captions Inc.
  7. Mysterious Play: “originally subtitled by Karen Duffy of Tomodachi Anime. Now heralds the release of the commercial releases by Pioneer, which is causing former dub-obsessed newbies to wonder if the new version will be as good as the subtitled version.... I was quite impressed by Pioneer’s packaging scheme, calling the dubbed version Mysterious Play with a small Fushigi Yugi subscript, and then having the subtitled version inverted, making them quite easy to tell apart. Less impressive, albeit still passable, was the dub itself. No doubt the most annoying feature of the dub is Miaka’s voice, which is so incredibly ear-grating that she brings back memories of C-ko from Project A-ko and Hikaru from Kimagure Orange Road, adding yet another on the list of girls to throw on a deserted island and bomb out of existence.... The songs are subtitled by the notorious Captions, Inc., with their equally notorious green song font. Due to this font’s extraordinary size, the end theme and credits are left totally untranslated until the end, which kind of puts a damper on the cliffhanger fun at every episode. One nice unexpected bonus was the ‘Omake’ (video extra... yes, they actually called it ‘omake’!), a creditless version of the opening subtitled with singable Japanese romaji (English letters). I’m looking forward to seeing if the tradition of romaji is followed through with every volume”  

2003.08.19c – Indeed, why are the crack Anime News Network reviewers on Captions, Inc.’s case so very much?

I checked Usenet. I was feeling nostalgic.

Just because fans scream for a accurate word-for-word translation doesn’t mean that the literal subtitles are (a) enough to fit the mouth flaps, or (b) flawless. The “literal” subtitles on this DVD, in this case, were not as well written. I felt that they seemed sparse and incomplete, and weren’t as well-timed as the ones on Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away. (Perhaps because Captions, Inc. was not responsible for the captions?)

I dunno. I’ve talked to Captions, Inc. “president and sole shareholder” Lee Jordan twice. They’re as uninterested in outside suggestions for improvement as anybody else, and much more willing to do absolutely anything the client asks even if the choice is actually bad for accessibility. However, I have fewer complaints about the outright accuracy of its captioning than I do for any other captioner. When people ring me up and ask for references to qualified captioners, I tend to include Captions, Inc. on the list, with caveats. (There’s always a list – for captioning for prerecorded programs, at least – and there are always caveats.)

And Captions, Inc. is less hostile to me than others are, though they have absolutely the worst graphic design, identity system, and Web site in the business. Their taste is the absolute worst.

However, I believe they’re a victim of their own success, and the history of the captioning industry – both of those things exist: a captioning industry and a history thereof – indicates that leadership positions shift every five years.   

2003.08.19d – Well, why didn’t this occur to me before? All those bootleg DVDs in China have to be bootleg-subtitled in bootleg Mandarin.

Shen Sheng[’s site]... grew into a site where Chinese fans of foreign films can swap subtitles and software for copying films from the Internet. [...]

“I often go on the Web to see what’s new,” said Cherry Ma, a Guangzhou college student who would be identified only by her English name. “You can check out on specialized sites what’s out, what the subtitles are like, the packaging.” She added that she had not been to a cinema this year. [...]

Much of the work of providing Chinese subtitles is done by college students in Guangzhou and elsewhere, who are grateful for a few extra dollars. Cherry Ma, the student, said she had done subtitling for a couple of years.

The pirate manufacturers often pushed for quick results, she said. “When time is tight, you just cover the basics and fill in the gaps,” she said, “and if it’s full of slang you just have to guess and hope it makes sense. A lot of pirate films have problems like that, because they’re done in such a rush.”

She often took the work home, receiving about US$12 for a film, though more experienced translators received up to US$30. Films can earn student translators a few dozen to a couple of hundred dollars, depending on the subject matter and on whether they have a script to work from or must work solely from a video copy.  

2003.08.19e – I’m amazed and embarrassed it took me this long to find out about it. It’s a good start, shurely, though heavily weighted toward anime fansubbing.

The purpose of this guide is intended to be both a reference and a starting point for those with interest in subtitling. This guide contains all you will need to know to get started in subtitling, including good practices and tips/tricks to make learning an easier process. This guide is intended primarily for beginners, although accomplished subtitlers or anyone in between who wishes to learn new techniques can use it. This is not a definitive guide nor is it universal in scope, but it will cover most of the aspects of subtitling you will need to know. This is merely a compilation of methods and means used by myself as I have learned from the ground up how to subtitle.  

2003.08.19f – This is one of those cases where I should not really distrust the veracity of the source merely because the domain name is the echt-Christian I immediately flash on the harlot in The Rapture breaking into song as her jail cell’s bars disintegrate lo the Apocalypse.

Anyway, they’re doing their own captioning and can barely keep up. A typical story, really. Nobody ever hires the number of captioneers they truly need.

However, because the department doesn’t have its own captioning machine, progress has been slow. It currently has a few hours of access twice a week to a machine owned by UVSC’s Distance Education, which provides closed captioning for its own videos, said Laurie Watts, UVSC manager of deaf services.....

A federal mandate has made the project even more critical, requiring the college to have 75 percent of older films and videos and 95 percent of its newer films and videos closed captioned by 2006. [What? Is this Section 508?]

“If we can get a captioning machine and somehow get funding for it, then we will be saving the college thousands and thousands of dollars” by completing the project in-house instead of hiring an outside company to do it, Watts said. The machine costs about $10,000.

...In the final step, the video is re-recorded with the closed captioning, with a worker adding the captioning line by line as the dialogue is said [i.e., scrollup for everything]. Watts estimated it takes 8 to 15 hours of work to provide closed captioning for one hour of video [which is way out of whack if all they’re using is scrollup]. [...]

“We’re getting backlogged already,” Watts said.  


I am in possession of a tantalizing passel of “collateral” from the Australian Caption Centre. They publish their own brochures! Can you believe it?

Perhaps later I will reread them and log some of the bons mots. The screenshots of World System Teletext captions are just as terrifying as ever.

At any rate, the ABC in Oz is finally cancelling programs to compensate for lower budgets. But:

The real operational funding of the ABC (not including such things as transmission costs) has declined 23.2% from 1985’s $613 million. The ABC didn’t cut programs. Under this Government, it has built an online operation [and] the NewsRadio network, expanded Triple J, begun the digital channels, seen costs of overseas programs increase, absorbed closed-captioning costs, blown up its advertising budget for money-making arms such as the ABC shops – something had to give.  

2003.08.19h – Well, here we go again with the same-language subtitling. The Indians are acting like it’s a novel and useful concept. I guess it is, for language learning, in this specific case, though it remains to be seen just how much language you can learn from Bollywood musical numbers.

Now, why not make them actual captions and serve two groups simultaneously? (Or do the deaf in India all read perfectly already?)

Hence the simplicity of his idea subtitling television programmes, but in the same language in which they are broadcast.

“It struck me that early literates – those who cannot read a newspaper or a letter, cannot write or even read a bus board in India – could benefit if Bollywood songs had subtitles in Hindi. Hence, the concept of Same Language Subtitling (SLS) [sic],” he says.

The seeds of the idea were planted in early 1996, when Kothari was watching a Spanish movie with English subtitles. “If only the subtitles had been in the language of the movie, it would have enhanced my Spanish-reading abilities,” he points out. [...]

When asked how song subtitling helps, Kothari is quick to reply, “It improves the reading skills of those who would generally not read a book and promotes the country’s literacy campaign.” [...]

An ambitious Kothari has the last word: India can contribute this idea to the world. Foreign countries could send their programmes to us and we could subtitle them.

Well, show me the money. Prove it. Would his Spanish really be improved by Spanish-language “subtitles”? If you can’t read a second language and you’re already listening to it, how are you also going to read it? I can see it working if you have good fluency, but not otherwise. (I can see it working because I do it myself in French. I do find it hard to keep up sometimes, depending on the incompetency and arrogance of the French captioner.)  

2003.08.19i – “Some days, the [captions] didn’t start till six in the evening!”

Maybe this is because the [captioning] service is not up to the standard we have come to expect in the north. Deaf people in Dublin and other eastern parts of the country can tune into services from the mainland whereas western areas such as Cashel are out of range and limited in scope. Supplying [captions] is a hugely expensive operation and we are fortunate in the wonderful service we receive at home where almost every programme is accessible.

I don’t get this. It’s not as though the television program travels with two jet engines and the captions travel with only one. If the program shows up in your TV, the captions are either there or they aren’t. I can see that interference or poor transmission could impair teletext captions because they aren’t as robust, as engineers love to say, as crappy ol’ Line 21, but that does not seem to be what they’re talking about. (In HDTV, if your signal isn’t strong enough you don’t get anything – picture, sound, captions.)  

2003.08.19j – I seem to recall that my copy of Life of Brian has French subtitles and a French dubbing track. So I find the following article ahistorical.

It’s one of Edinburgh 2003’s unlikeliest offerings: the first theatrical staging of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. By a French company. In French. [...]

“I said to them, ‘Why don’t you ever give the rights for the Flying Circus on stage?’ Their reason was that some of them didn’t want their parts to be played by English actors. So I said, ‘what about a French-language production?’ ” [...]

From the outset, Renoux’s intention was to steer clear of mimicry in favour of free interpretation. The cast aren’t comedians, they’re theatre actors. “It is nothing like copying what the Pythons did,” says Renoux. [...]

The sketches, says Renoux, were selected to include “some really visual moments, so the English audience wouldn’t be too bored with subtitles.” ...On first night at Edinburgh, the buccaneering atmosphere was only heightened by failing technology and a cast who seemed to find their on-stage subtitles quite the funniest thing in the show. Subtitling, says Renoux, is “a matter of rhythm.”

I managed to completely screw up Sing-a-Longa Sound of Music, so this I gotta see.  

2003.08.07 – Well, you thought I was joking about ridiculous errors in subtitles, but I was not. Two examples from Amélie, three from La haine:

Page St.

Page St.: Actually, she says “page 51.” If you render “51” in a shitty font, like, say, Arial, and run it through a shitty Windows scanner, shitty OCR software will attempt to turn it into a word or abbreviation, hence St.

I’ll be back

I’ll be back: Actually, according to palsied, ossified subtitling idiom, that has to be I’LL BE BACK in capitals, because the subtitle renders visible words. And no period.

Screenplay, Editor, Director: Mathieu Krssovitz

I guess we can’t even write out the name of the writer–director (Krssovitz) despite the fact that it’s already written out (Kassovitz).

Said Trghmroui

It thus stands to reason that we can’t get the name of the costar (Saïd Taghmaoui) right, either. Who or what is a Said Trghmroui?

For cash, I’d even a murder!

I know this is the Korean DVD pressing of La haine, but could we have native speakers doing the subtitling, please? For cash, I’d even a murder! I’d like to buy a verb, Pat!

So you think there’s no problem with subtitle interchange, huh?  

2003.07.28a – Vitac does adequate captioning of prerecorded programs and quite good real-time captioning. I don’t much care for what is dismissively referred to as caption “style” as engaged by Vitac: They have no idea about alignment whatsoever, they still use all capitals (for which there is no excuse whatsoever), and spaces inside brackets are simply not permitted in English. If you think those are small issues, try watching an entire show captioned that way. (If you think those are small issues, I don’t know why you’re interested in captioning. It’s all about small issues. Dismiss “trivia” and you dismiss the entire field.)

Vitac made a capital error in allowing itself to be bought by a firm with the tongue-twisting, artificial name of WordWave. Apparently they’re mostly concerned with profit, never a good sign in a detail-oriented field like captioning.

And now, of course, Vitac commits the same error every other captioner makes: Captioning is just like [competing field X], so I can do that too, right? Here, [competing field X] is subtitling. Usually it’s audio description. (Do you really want your description done by a company with the word “Caption” in its name?)

“Closed-captioning company adds DVD subtitling to services” (or read press release):

“There is great potential. We’re going to do everything we can to capitalize on the marketplace,” said Pat Prozzi, president of the 17-year-old company. “We’re shooting for a 20 to 25 percent share in the next 18 months.” That’s ambitious considering that currently Vitac’s share of the market for offering subtitling for DVDs is just a pixel-puny 1 percent. [...]

To make the most of such new opportunities, Vitac also launched a new re-engineering program last week. Through it, the company is shifting the methods its employees use to add subtitles and closed-captioning, targeting staff expertise to specialize on more specific tasks to improve speed and efficiency. [...]

Generally, that means reassigning staff to do nothing but transcribe all day, for example. How long would you last?

For one, such technology still can’t translate accurately the way human staff can, she argued, and subtitling often requires people to make decisions when trying to match translated dialogue to pictures.

As opposed to captioning, where sound–image correlation does not matter?

That human element at Vitac is facing not only new demand, but new challenges for the new technology.

Dina Smith, Vitac’s director of off-line captioning... notes that providing subtitles for DVDs requires a different style and working with different technology. She added that it can also take longer to provide subtitles for DVD than developing closed captioning.

And here’s where our troubles begin.

In short, Vitac needs to do much more homework. It also has to avoid another common pitfall of the captioning industry: Stubborn refusal to listen to outside advice. The way Vitac does things is not always the best way; the same can be said of every other house in the industry.

If you want to be a “player” and actually succeed, you have to avoid recapitulating everyone else’s mistakes. I wonder if Vitac has enough integrity to go to all that trouble, or if WordWave will declare that doing things right costs a fiftieth of a cent more in one job out of ninety, hence is out of the question altogether.

But Ms. Smith also notes as a point of pride that the name Vitac also is now being printed on the boxes of DVDs throughout the country along with the rest of the credits.

That’s a new one. Anyone care to name an example?  

2003.07.28b – Now, would you even bother to watch a movie entitled Colorz of Rage? It seems to be full of howlers, including one that is rather unexpected.

The dialogue is mostly banal, the characters providing us with a sort of Descriptive Video Service (after Tony and Debbie head for NYC, there’s a cut to a shot of the two of them in bed, and Debbie says “Finally, we’re in an apartment in New York!”).   

2003.07.28c – Well, here’s my question. If the manager of this product hadn’t been “hearing-impaired,” would Encarta have been captioned?

At Microsoft, hiring Bill Graham as managing editor of the Encarta multimedia encyclopedia a few years ago brought to light a flaw in the product that others had overlooked. Graham, who is hearing-impaired, realized that Encarta’s extensive audio files were useless to him. Starting in 1997, Microsoft began offering closed captioning on Encarta videos for the hearing-impaired.

“That works nicely into our idea of why you have diverse perspectives -- to produce something that would enable folks to realize their potential and also helps us in that marketplace,” said Pate, who said minorities make up nearly 26 percent of Microsoft’s workforce.

Apparently accessibility will be provided if someone in power needs it. Or is that too accurate an assessment?  

2003.07.28d – “ESS Technology’s DVD Chipset Enables Polaroid® Consumer Electronics’ Recordable DVD Players,” reads the press release in fluent Business English. Love that ®.

Other unique advanced encoding capabilities available... include Time Base Correction [sic], which permits the recording of fast-forwarded VCR video content without any A/V synchronization loss, and a feature that permits the recording of closed-captioning information.

If it’s an NTSC DVD recorder and the manufacturer is on the ball, there should be no trouble recording captions on a DVD. The Australians keep thinking that it’s even possible to record teletext on a PAL DVD, but, you know, some of us enjoy clinging to our illusions.  

2003.07.15e – That’s the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation.

The hearing-impaired have not been left out of these changes. Sign language is now done throughout the local news broadcast as opposed to just the top stories. This is a decision which has been well appreciated by the hearing impaired and equipment is already on island to facilitate closed captioning in the near future, said Dr. Leacock.

Wouldn’t captioning be simpler, if not cheaper? Or does this suggest that the typical deaf viewer in the Caribbean cannot read captions?

Also, couldn’t CBC pass through captions on the U.S. programming it runs?  

2003.07.28f – Americans are supposed to be a hardy, self-reliant people, yet one of their film critics, Kael rival Jon Alvarez, is stupefied by our dear British friends. Their accents, I mean, not their appearance or their poor choices in accessibility.

British actors scare me more than zombies. I cannot for the life of me understand what the heck they are saying. At home I can overcome this via closed captioning, but I doubt the rest of the theater patrons would appreciate me activating the closed-caption mode.

In his universe, there is a “closed-caption mode” you can “activat[e]” in a movie theatre. Does this critic’s problem run deeper than poor listening?  

2003.07.28g – I see the Brazilian subtitlers, already whining about being underappreciated, are at it again. Even transcription bores them.

In addition to teaching, I also did freelance work for Home Box Office (HBO) of Brazil. My job was to transcribe the dialogue for films, movies, television series, news programs, documentaries, and other shows for the History Channel (Civil War Journal), the SuperStation (Biography), and the NBC Television Network (The Today Show, Dateline).

It was a lucrative and challenging area for an English teacher but an extremely cliquish one as well, and very difficult to penetrate. It was also exceedingly demanding of my teaching time and all too regularly crept into, and interfered with, my social life.

As an example of what I mean, transcribing an hour program such as Great Chefs of the South or Modern Marvels can translate into approximately six to eight hours of non-stop, butt-busting work on the computer, television, headphones, and VCR. You are stuck in your home for all this time while you’re trying to complete the task.

It was a boring, tedious, and meticulous job whereby every word and line of dialogue was listened to, typed, repeated, checked, and then saved to diskette for eventual dubbing or subtitling prior to being aired.

Indeed. I should not make light here; transcription is dull, and it breaks up a captioner’s day to do transcription only part of the time. It makes the job livable. But this is the sort of job stratification Vitac has decided to pursue.

Note that a proper dictaphone apparatus makes transcription easier. Every time you pause and restart, the recording backs up three-quarters of a second so you never miss a syllable. Transcribing or describing from a VHS VCR, which I have done, is like inscribing a wedding invitation with a crayon.  

2003.07.28hFrom Hell (done by Captions, Inc.) includes the caption [ Tools Lacerating Flesh ].

Which they were.  

2003.07.11a – Aaron Barnhart (op. cit.) does MoPix:

Wearing a wireless headset, she was able to listen to a special enhanced version of the movie’s audio track [sic – everything accessible also has to be “special”] in which a narrator described key visual portions. [...]

WGBH, which promotes its service at the Web site, lists 50 accessible theaters across the country, half of which are owned by AMC. Spokesman Rick King said the chain eventually intends to offer these services in most of its theaters. [...]

Video description, on the other hand, includes the movie’s regular audio plus a narrator describing what blind users can’t see [not at MoPix – narrator’s voice only]. It’s transmitted by radio inside the theater [infrared, shurely?!]. The description track is seamless, because the narrator only speaks when there is a break in the dialogue [nope!]. [...]

Pennington called the company’s financial chief, who said that a retrofit of one screen at the Oak View 24 would cost about $16,000. Pennington asked Burns: How about raising half of that?

The Omaha chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, of which Burns is president, pledged the first $2,000. Then the Lions Club got involved. Donald R. Hieb, the district governor in Nebraska, arranged for Burns to speak to Lions meetings. They raised $6,000 in three weeks.

My question is why disabled people have to pay for the accessibility they need and to which they have a legal right. Is it OK for black people to pay extra not to be called nigger?

At the Finding Nemo screening I tried on both devices. At first neither my wife nor I could get our headsets to work. Since the trailers weren’t broadcast over the headsets, we didn’t know there was a problem until the movie was under way. Luckily, Burns was in the next seat, and he deftly located the on switches to our headsets while continuing to listen to the film.

I’m continually amazed at people who cannot turn the headsets on or adjust the volume. They think it’s gonna happen by itself or something.

Burns advised me to leave one ear uncovered so I could enjoy the richer surround sound booming through the theater.

More evidence that we need new headsets.

Yet consider the booming DVD market. Hundreds of movie titles are released each year on DVD, and nearly all of them are closed-captioned. Only a handful of DVDs, however, come with video descriptions, according to Joe Clark, a Canadian who tracks accessible video on his Web site.

That’s weird, because most major studio releases today are described [nope!], so it costs nothing to add the description as an alternate audio track on the DVD.  

2003.07.11b – Shurely the New Brunswick of the United States. At any rate, learn to stenocaption in the South!

A grant from the U.S. Department of Education will enable Huntington Junior College to establish a new program in the growing field of broadcast captioning.

The college received a grant for $894,150 to train students in real-time reporting, which includes broadcast captioning services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The associates degree program begins Sept. 22....

“This unique program seeks to fill a gap in the communications workforce with highly trained individuals who can work in fields from court reporting to broadcast,” [some politico] said.  

2003.07.11c – The FCC’s rule requiring audio description was overturned. Now maybe they’ll be given unambiguous legal power.

2003.07.11d – What is the purpose of same-language subtitling? I know it’s provided as a claimed accessibility measure for deaf people (subtitles and captions are the same, after all), but isn’t it actually there so that viewers with a half-arsed fluency in English, like maybe the Thais or Indians, can follow along?

Why do it for Americans?

In recent years, [Ken] Loach films have been subtitled for American audiences, an addition that’s theoretically good. But as a Scot myself, I continue to be astonished by the incompetence of the subtitling, which often merely transcribes the Scottish word instead of translating it. For example, “stookie” (a plaster cast) and “wean” (a child) are not translated, along with other, more crucial, colloquialisms.

Well, that’s merely one of the thicket of contradictions involved in same-language subtitling. Are you transcribing or translating? Why aren’t you using speaker identification and placement, and why aren’t you notating non-speech information?