Friday, May 1, 2009

Closed Captioning Secrets

I started using closed captioning on a fairly regular basis about two years ago. Chalk it up to me getting older and hard of hearing or all the people speaking in whispers on TV shows. What is it with Jack Bauer on 24 always talking in a whisper? Does he have a sore throat? Did this whispering naturally lead to the whispering shows: Ghost Whisperer and Dog Whisperer?

If I were actually deaf and fully needed closed captioning, I would immediately face a big problem. Most closed captioning appears at the bottom of the screen, where most networks and stations are displaying other info.: logos, promos for other shows, alerts, etc. You cannot read it in such cases, which happens too frequently. I wrote to one of my local stations and asked them to consider displaying CC at the top of their screen. No response. No change. I guess when I challenge their license renewal, they will wish they had listened.

There is a bonus to using CC, which are the secrets I refer to in the title of this post. Sometimes, you will read one thing in CC, only to hear or not hear something different. Last night, for example, I was watching Supernatural on the CW (does that mean country western, BTW?). As the opening scene began, the CC indicated with the song name and lyrics that Green River was playing. In the soundtrack, it was missing. Did someone forget to add the soundtrack or was the CC wrong? Who knows.

Sometimes the dialog is different. In particular, when I watch foreign film DVDs with English soundtracks and CC, the curse words will be more powerful in the audio. It's as if the CC company just cannot type those words into the CC track of the DVD. Also, at times the CC track is gibberish and totally useless. I have seen that on movies from more low-end TV stations.

While all of these secrets are not earth-shattering, the unfortunate secret is that deaf people must have problems with inaccurate or unreadable CC tracks. I have a first cousin who is deaf. I can better understand what he must experience watching TV or DVDs.

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