Closed captioning is often perceived as an add-on service that broadcasters provide as part of a legal obligation. However, for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, high quality closed captioning can ‘make or break’ a video. Closed captions can be the difference between some viewers engaging with video content start to finish, or switching off almost immediately in frustration. Unfortunately, from company to company, the variance between subtitle and closed caption quality is enormous. This blog looks at five main signs of a great closed captioning company, in order to help your video you choose the best closed captioning company for your projects.
Intelligent Closed Captioning
At Capital Captions, above all else, we value onscreen text that makes sense. We believe the only way to ensure well written, coherent subtitles is to use fully trained, experienced humans to take on captioning work.
With constant developments in technology, many companies out there are seeking to offer lower prices for clients by cutting costs themselves through the use of automation software. Especially when it comes to online video subtitles (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, etc), some subtitles are being created using only voice recognition and subtitle software that creates automatic timings.
Human written closed captions mean:
- Accurate punctuation and grammar, making closed captioning easy to read
- Eliminating or at least significantly reducing mishears
- Improved selection of spellings in terms of homophones (eg. NOT ‘The night wanted to sale across the see.’)
- Accurate spelling of names and places in subtitles, based on effective research and knowledge
- Sensible decisions on what to include and exclude within onscreen text (e.g. fillers, repetitions, ahs, erms, etc)
Closed Caption Timings
The timing of closed captioning should reflect the pace and flow of a video, whilst also maintaining sync with speech. Automated closed caption timings work on the basis of using two methods alongside each other: voice recognition and equal division of time. Whilst using automatic timings for subtitles can mean work in terms of captions generally syncing with the audio, it can lead to other issues.
Closed caption readers need to have time to read the onscreen text before it disappears and similarly, lingering subtitles can be distracting. Just imagine watching a show with actors flittering between talking too fast to be understood and talking so slow that you lose interest! Aaargh!
Any respectable professional closed captioning company will pay a lot of attention to caption timings in terms of the following:
- Editing closed caption timings to ensure adequate reading speeds for viewers to digest the textual information
- Monitoring minimum and maximum subtitle duration’s in order to ensure a steady flow for readers and viewers
- Making editing decisions to improve timings. (e.g. Placing multiple speaker dialogue together within one subtitle. Also, removing superfluous dialogue that has a large negative impact on the characters: time ratio is important).
Captioning Line Splits
For audiences using subtitles and closed captions, line splitting can actually make a considerable difference to the viewing experience. In addition to ensuring that closed caption timings are accurate, a great closed captioning company should always take line splitting into account when it comes to quality assurance. When splitting lines on subtitles, there are a few things to consider. A top closed captioning company will typically ask subtitlers to split lines lines according to the following guidelines:
- Where possible, two line captions are desirable over one line as they typically allow viewers more time to read the subtitles.
- Subtitlers should split lines before conjunctions and prepositions and after punctuation marks.
- Captioners should split lines with talking speed and pauses in mind. Also, where multiple speakers talk in quick succession, their speech should cover two lines within one caption (usually following a hyphen).
Closed Captioning as a Literary Style
The care, attention and skill that goes into subtitling and closed captioning is a contentious issue within the writing profession. Laymen may consider the process of copying spoken dialogue as something which does not require much skill. Surely transcription only requires the ability to listen and type! However, this is far from the truth. A good closed captioning company will thoroughly vet subtitlers and transcriptionists prior to taking on work. They will also provide ongoing feedback and training for professional development.
In terms of closed captioning as a literary style, there are two elements at play: speech transcription and audio description.
Closed Caption Transcription
Surprisingly often (even in scripted dialogue) people will often add in unnecessary filler words. They can also continuously use verbal ‘ahs and erms’ to fill in silences and repeat themselves. Whilst the standard guidelines for most closed captioning dictates to include everything present in the dialogue, in the interests of coherence and reading speeds, some words inevitably wind up being emitted. A professional closed captioning writer should always choose the best option in order to accurately convert sound to text whilst maintaining tone and meaning.
Closed Caption Descriptions
Audio description is difficult. Closed captions for deaf and hard of hearing audiences include the description of sound effects. They should also include off screen events/speaker identifications for viewers without access to sound. Closed captioning companies should have exactly what should be included and excluded around sound effect description within their guidelines. In addition, guidelines and specifications should also include when to identify speakers and rewrite forced narratives.
Sounds can be incredibly difficult to describe. It’s the job of a closed captioning company to provide captions which effectively describe sound and also stick to the style of a show. The internet is full of hilarious and sometimes even controversial caption bloopers. Many of these centre around audio descriptions which are either insufficient or overly elaborate. Just think Orange is the New Black and the online ‘snickers’ debate or the occasion where Dr Who ‘angrily fixes [his] bow-tie’. Good caption writers will always make good literary decisions. Captioning descriptions should be consistent, in-keeping and contribute to the viewing experience and understanding.
Writing and Styling Consistency for Captions
Checks for consistency in writing and formatting styles may seem like nitpicking. However, truly professional closed captioning services always take consistency very seriously. For people who rely on closed captions entirely for access to audio information, quality is crucial. Inconsistencies can be confusing, distracting and ultimately highly frustrating. Quality assurance should key for closed captioning companies and consistency checks should include:
- Consistent use of symbols for sound descriptions, multiple speaker indication and forced narratives. Eg. square brackets, hyphens, use of italics and upper case letters.
- Subtitlers should write captions in a consistent style, e.g. Intelligent Verbatim, Verbatim or Edited Transcription.
- Consistency in formatting is also important in terms of fonts, colours, backgrounds, sizes and placements.
So there you have it; the top five signs of a great closed captioning company. If you’re interested in finding out more about our closed captioning services or any of our other services including transcription services and translation services, get in touch with us today for more information.