When it comes to television and video entertainment, people can be seen as falling in two different categories: those that love subtitles and those that don’t… Closed captions are intended for deaf and hard of hearing audiences but can be useful for all viewers. Whatever your reason for loving or loathing text on-screen, you’re not alone. But besides battling over the remote, what can you do when one person loves captions and the other hates them with a passion? At Capital Captions, we love subtitles and we’re here to advocate for better TV accessibility for everyone. So we’re going to settle these arguments once and for all, and look at some of the top reasons why we need subtitling services!
On a personal level, for a long time my household was filled with regular debates which usually sounded something like, ‘Turn the subtitles on! Turn the subtitles off!’ Despite all of the banter over whether or not onscreen text is necessary, we now always turn on subtitles in our house. Here’s why…
Subtitling to Defeat Mumbling
We’ve all suffered through this one… Mostly this one is an issue during death scenes or hospital scenes. Yes, we understand you’re pretending you’re dying, and it would be hard to speak, but if the script writer intended you to say ‘gr mm bllo ss’, that’s what they would have written!
It seems sometimes we may be asking too much for someone who gets paid a $3.2m a film salary to speak audibly. Therefore, when actors mumble, we are usually left with three options.
Firstly, we could grab hold of the remote, repeatedly rewind and ask for second or even third opinions on what was said, only to eventually realise nobody else has a clue either.
Secondly, we could pause the television and spend 15 minutes googling the script. This usually means reading through forums where other viewers complain about how they couldn’t hear the same lines either. Eventually we’ll come across spoilers which result in us not even caring to finish watching the movie, as we now already know Bruce Willis is, in fact, a ghost.
Or lastly… we can turn on the subtitling services and enjoy uninterrupted viewing pleasure.
Using Onscreen Text to Drown out Background Noise
Background noise seems to be becoming more and more of an issue in modern day television and video services. The gap between the volumes used for speech elements and those used for action sequences are enormous. With screen sizes becoming larger at home, the idea of a home cinema experience is becoming more and more appealing. Visually, this is great – sound wise, not so much.
Whilst TV screens are expanding, homes are not. Many of us live in terraced houses, semis or in flats, and every time there is a fight scene, explosion or musical sequence, we have to grab the remote to turn the volume down. However, two seconds later, the volume decreases back to speech level and we can’t hear anything, so we turn things up. Effectively, we spend an hour and a half playing decibel yo-yos and have an argument as nobody can agree on which volume is best.
Or… we could just the volume down to an overall reasonable level and turn on the subtitles!
Closed Captions to Eliminate Distraction
This one is personal. Some folks can binge watch endless hours of television or VoD services and take in every word. Lucky them, because sadly, I can’t. For me, turning on closed captioning or subtitles when I’m watching a movie helps me to take in what is actually being said. Too many times, speech washes straight over me, and I don’t take in any what it means, but text – text needs to be read. Subtitles take effort to read and having and audio and visual representation of dialogue reinforces concentration and understanding.
Subtitles also help to keep me from grabbing my mobile phone or tablet in the middle of a movie, because rather than fooling myself I won’t miss anything when I do, I know I won’t be able to carry on reading the captions.
Spell it Out Against Dodgy Accents
I can think of a handful of movies and series that have featured some almost entirely incomprehensible accents. Besides films where the accent is part of the joke (think Brad Pitt’s character in Snatch), subtitles can take away a lot of frustration caused by strong accents. Let’s just avoid badly written subtitles that can come out as almost offensively verbatim.