How Subtitling and Captioning Works

Computers & TechnologyMultimedia

  • Author Kathryn Dawson
  • Published May 12, 2011
  • Word count 648

Similarly, even without the Nike logo, we associate the phrase just do it as the Nike brand. It is the first thing that comes to mind. That is one perfect example of good branding and captioning to think that Nike commercials are not even complicated. They are actually very simple and have been that way for some time. Yet, people remember it and like watching it. It made such an impact not because of the commercial itself but because of the overall black and white theme, the perfect design to highlight its logo and the phrase just do it.

In summary, font, size of font and positioning plays a vital role in complementing the video itself to maximize the full potential of a caption or subtitle. Aside from the fact that you need to be creative in creating a good subtitle and caption, there is a process in how captions and subtitles are created and here we will attempt to explain it in very basic terms without using technical jargon.

Subtitles and captions can be prepared by utilising a specially built workstation. It uses software that can handle various formats. Managing captions and subtitles is a different matter especially when you need to make revisions or edit subtitles a few minutes before broadcasting live. Subtitle management software is used for this, workflows can be built using the software to allow edited subtitles and captions to be slotted into broadcast media at the last minute.

Now it is time for you to describe your content so it allows the deaf or hard-of-hearing to appreciate what you are displaying. The usefulness of subtitles and captions is not limited solely to people with disabilities however, in fact many people who have perfect hearing enable captions and subtitles simply because it provides assuredness.

Audio description can also make content easier to find which can help get even more viewers. Content can be described through the use of meta information (referred to as ancillary data) so that it is displayed for relevant keyword searches.

When adding subtitles to video timing and precision is essential so as not to overlap descriptions simultaneously with other dialogues. Now you need to encode and transcode as well as insert your subtitles and captions in such a way that it seamlessly integrates into the video. There is quite a challenge here, previously subtitle data was stored in a remote server, now it needs to be included with the video file because there are too many ways in which a video is accessed, through television, a computer or a mobile phone just to name a few.

This is not even mentioning downloads. Imagine seeing captions on the laptop but as soon as you download a video, it is gone. That is what we are trying to avoid here. And finally when you have gone through all the steps above, they need to be "bound" to the content so the viewer can see the captions as they are watching. This can be done through early binding when it is prepared way ahead of time before transmission, late binding when it is prepared near transmission and can only be achieved by advanced encoding techniques and live binding when it is prepared as close to air time as possible probably seconds earlier. The final stage in the process would normally include adding any ancillary data that is required.

People could be forgiven for thinking that subtitling and captioning are easy but that is simply wrong. It is really the fault of web applications that make things so easy and such a convenience for us that little do we know that it is such a complex process. But do not be disheartened, as always technology is the key in overcoming challenges like these. And usually there are companies that offer existing subtitling software for the whole solution from step one to the last.

Kathryn Dawson writes for Softel Group, a provider of TV and video technologies including subtitling and subtitle software.

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