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Subtitle (captioning)

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thumb|Example of a television broadcast with subtitles

Subtitles are textual versions of the dialog in films and television programs, usually displayed at the bottom of the screen. They can either be a form of written translation of a dialog in a foreign language, or a written rendering of the dialog in the same language, with or without added information to help viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing to follow the dialog. Television teletext subtitles, which are hidden unless requested by the viewer from a menu or by selecting the relevant teletext page (e.g., p888), always carry additional sound representations for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. Teletext subtitle language follows the original audio, except in multi-lingual countries where the broadcaster may provide subtitles in additional languages on other teletext pages.

Sometimes, mainly at film festivals, subtitles may be shown on a separate display below the screen, thus saving the film-maker from creating a subtitled copy for perhaps just one showing. Television subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing is closed captioning.

Contents

Creation of subtitles

Today professional subtitlers usually work with specialized computer software and hardware where the video is digitally stored on a hard disk, making each individual frame instantly accessible. Besides creating the subtitles, the subtitler usually also tells the computer software the exact positions where each subtitle should appear and disappear. For cinema film, this task is traditionally done by separate technicians. The end result is a subtitle file containing the actual subtitles as well as position markers indicating where each subtitle should appear and disappear. These markers are usually based on timecode if it is a work for electronic media (e.g., TV, video, DVD), or on film length (measured in feet and frames) if the subtitles are to be used for traditional cinema film.

The finished subtitle file is used to add the subtitles to the picture, either directly into the picture (open subtitles); embedded in the vertical interval and later superimposed on the picture by the end user with the help of an external decoder or a decoder built into the TV (closed subtitles on TV or video); or converted to tiff or bmp graphics that are later superimposed on the picture by the end user (closed subtitles on DVD).

Subtitles can also be created by individuals using freely-available subtitle-creation software like Subtitle Workshop and then hardcode them onto a video file with programs such as VirtualDub in combination with VSFilter which could also be used to show subtitles as softsubs in many software video players.

Subtitles can also be created using browser based tools that enable subtitling of videos. One of the available browser based tools for creating subtitles is dotSUB. As a browser based tool, there is nothing to buy or to download when using dotSUB.[1]

For multimedia-style Webcasting, check SMIL Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language.

Same language captions

Same language captions, i.e., without translation, were primarily intended as an aid for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Internationally, there are several major studies which demonstrate that same-language-captioning can have a major impact on literacy and reading growth across a broad range of reading abilities.[2][3] This method of subtitling is used by national television broadcasters in India such as Doordarshan. This idea was struck upon by Brij Kothari, who believed that SLS makes reading practice an incidental, automatic, and subconscious part of popular TV entertainment, at a low per-person cost to shore up literacy rates in India.

Same-Language-Subtitling

Same Language Subtitling (SLS) is the use of Synchronized Captioning of Musical Lyrics (or any text with an Audio/Video/ source) as a Repeated Reading activity. The basic reading activity involves students viewing a short subtitled presentation projected onscreen, while completing a response worksheet. To be really effective, the subtitling should have high quality synchronization of audio and text, and better yet, subtitling should change color in syllabic synchronization to audio model, and the text should be at a level to challenge students' language abilities.[4]

Closed captions

Main article: Closed captioning
The "CC in a TV" symbol Jack Foley created, while senior graphic designer at Boston public broadcaster WGBH that invented captioning for television, is public domain so that anyone who captions TV programs can use it.
The "CC in a TV" symbol Jack Foley created, while senior graphic designer at Boston public broadcaster WGBH that invented captioning for television, is public domain so that anyone who captions TV programs can use it.

Closed captioning is the American term for closed subtitles specifically intended for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. These are a transcription rather than a translation, and usually contain descriptions of important non-dialog audio as well such as "(sighs)" or "(door creaks)". From the expression "closed captions" the word "caption" has in recent years come to mean a subtitle intended for the hard of hearing, be it "open" or "closed". In British English "subtitles" usually refers to subtitles for the hard-of-hearing (HoH), as translation subtitles are so rare on British cinema and TV; however, the term "HoH subtitles" is sometimes used when there is a need to make a distinction between the two.

Realtime

Programs such as news bulletins, current affairs programs, sport, some talk shows and political and special events utilize realtime or online captioning.[5] Live captioning is increasingly common, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States, as a result of regulations that stipulate that virtually all TV eventually must be accessible for people who are deaf and hard–of–hearing.Template:Citation needed

Pre-prepared

Some programs may be prepared in their entirety several hours before broadcast, but with insufficient time to prepare a timecoded caption file for automatic play-out. Pre-prepared captions look very similar to offline captions, although the accuracy of cueing may be compromised slightly as the captions are not locked to program timecode.[5]

Newsroom captioning involves the automatic transfer of text from the newsroom computer system to a device which outputs it as captions. It does work, but its suitability as an exclusive system would only apply to programs which had been scripted in their entirety on the newsroom computer system, such as short interstitial updates.[5]

In the United States and Canada, some broadcasters have used it exclusively and simply left uncaptioned sections of the bulletin for which a script was unavailable.[5] Newsroom captioning limits captions to pre-scripted materials and, therefore, does not cover 100% of the news, weather and sports segments of a typical local news broadcast. It does not cover such things as the weather and sports segments which are typically not pre-scripted, last second breaking news or changes to the scripts, ad lib conversations of the broadcasters, emergency or other live remote broadcasts by reporters in-the-field. By failing to cover items such as these, newsroom style captioning (or use of the Teleprompter for captioning) typically results in coverage of less than 30% of a local news broadcast.[6]

Live

Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) stenographers, who use a computer with using either stenotype or Velotype keyboards to transcribe stenographic input for presentation as captions within 2–3 seconds of the representing audio, must caption anything which is purely live and unscripted,[5] however, the most recent developments include operators using voice recognition software and revoicing the dialog. Voice recognition technology has advanced so quickly in the United Kingdom that about 50% of all live captioning is through voice recognition as of 2005.Template:Citation needed Realtime captions look different from offline captions, as they are presented as a continuous flow of text as people speak.[5]

Realtime stenographers are the most highly skilled in their profession. Stenography is a system of rendering words phonetically, and English, with its multitude of homophones (e.g., there, their, they’re), is particularly unsuited to easy transcriptions. Stenographers working in courts and inquiries usually have 24 hours in which to deliver their transcripts. Consequently they may enter the same phonetic stenographic codes for a variety of homophones, and fix up the spelling later. Realtime stenographers must deliver their transcriptions accurately and immediately. They must therefore develop techniques for keying homophones differently, and be unswayed by the pressures of delivering accurate product on immediate demand.[5]

Submissions to recent captioning-related inquiries have revealed concerns from broadcasters about captioning sports. Captioning sports may also affect many different people because of the weather outside of it. In much sport captioning's absence, the Australian Caption Centre submitted to the National Working Party on Captioning (NWPC), in November 1998, three examples of sport captioning, each performed on tennis, rugby league and swimming programs:

  1. Heavily reduced: Captioners ignore commentary and provide only scores and essential information such as “try” or “out”.
  2. Significantly reduced: Captioners use QWERTY input to type summary captions yielding the essence of what the commentators are saying, delayed due to the limitations of QWERTY input.
  3. Comprehensive realtime: Captioners use stenography to caption the commentary in its entirety.[5]

The NWPC concluded that the standard they accept is the comprehensive realtime method, which gives them access to the commentary in its entirety. Also, not all sports are live. Many events are pre-recorded hours before they are broadcast, allowing them a captioner to caption them using offline methods.[5]

Hybrid

Because different programs are produced under different conditions, a case-by-case basis must consequently determine captioning methodology. Some bulletins may have a high incidence of truly live material, or insufficient access to video feeds and scripts may be provided to the captioning facility, making stenography unavoidable. Other bulletins may be pre-recorded just before going to air, making pre-prepared text preferable.[5]

In Australia and the United Kingdom, hybrid methodologies have proven to be the best way to provide comprehensive, accurate and cost-effective captions on news and current affairs programs. News captioning applications currently available are designed to accept text from a variety of inputs: stenography, Velotype, QWERTY, ASCII import, and the newsroom computer. This allows one facility to handle a variety of online captioning requirements and to ensure that captioners properly caption all programs.[5]

Current affairs programs usually require stenographic assistance. Even though the segments which comprise a current affairs program may be produced in advance, they are usually done so just before on-air time and their duration makes QWERTY input of text unfeasible.[5]

News bulletins, on the other hand can often be captioned without stenographic input (unless there are live crosses or ad-libbing by the presenters). This is because:

  1. Most items are scripted on the newsroom computer system and this text can be electronically imported into the captioning system.
  2. Individual news stories are of short duration, so even if they are made available only just prior to broadcast, there is still time to QWERTY in text.[5]

Offline

As a woman walks away from a man, she says, “Thank you.” He screams, “Let me help you!” The pop-up closed captions are an offline style, which appear staggered below each of the two characters to identify the speakers, appearing in all caps, typical, but not pervasive, of closed caption dialogue, and “{{screaming}}” is a non-dialogue identifier for viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to understand the tone of the man's voice, which is in lowercase and in italics, typical, but not pervasive, of closed caption identifiers, however, the two braces {{” and “}}”) are uncommon, since most closed caption identifiers use parentheses (“(” and “)”) or square brackets (“[” and “]”).
As a woman walks away from a man, she says, “Thank you.” He screams, “Let me help you!” The pop-up closed captions are an offline style, which appear staggered below each of the two characters to identify the speakers, appearing in all caps, typical, but not pervasive, of closed caption dialogue, and “{{screaming}}” is a non-dialogue identifier for viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to understand the tone of the man's voice, which is in lowercase and in italics, typical, but not pervasive, of closed caption identifiers, however, the two braces {{” and “}}”) are uncommon, since most closed caption identifiers use parentheses (“(” and “)”) or square brackets (“[” and “]”).

For non-live, or pre-recorded programs, television program providers can choose offline captioning. Captioners gear offline captioning toward the high-end television industry, providing highly customized captioning features, such as pop-on style captions, specialized screen placement, speaker identifications, italics, special characters, and sound effects.[7]

Offline captioning involves a five-step design and editing process, and does much more than simply display the text of a program. Offline captioning helps the viewer follow a story line, become aware of mood and feeling, and allows them to fully enjoy the entire viewing experience. Offline captioning is the preferred presentation style for entertainment-type programming.[7]

SDH

"SDH" is an American term the DVD industry introduced. It is an acronym for "Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing", and refers to regular subtitles in the original language where important non-dialog audio has been added, as well as speaker identification, useful when the viewer cannot otherwise visually tell who is saying what.

The only significant difference for the user between "SDH" subtitles and "closed captions" is their appearance: SDH subtitles usually are displayed with the same proportional font used for the translation subtitles on the DVD; however, closed captions are displayed as white text on a black band, which blocks a large portion of the view. Closed captioning is falling out of favor as many users have no difficulty reading SDH subtitles, which are text with contrast outline. In addition, DVD subtitles can specify many colors, on the same character: primary, outline, shadow, and background. This allows subtitlers to display subtitles on a usually translucent band for easier reading, however, this is rare, since most subtitles use an outline and shadow instead, in order to block a smaller portion of the picture. Closed captions may still supersede DVD subtitles, since many SDH subtitles present all of the text centered, while closed captions usually specify position on the screen: centered, left align, right align, top, etc. This is very helpful for speaker identification and overlapping conversation. Some SDH subtitles do have positioning, but it is not as common.

DVDs for the US market now sometimes have three forms of English subtitles: SDH subtitles, English subtitles, helpful for viewers who are Hearing and whose first language may not be English (although they are usually an exact transcript and not edited into Simple English), and closed caption data that is decoded by the end-user’s closed caption decoder. Most Anime releases in the US only include as subtitles translations of the original material, therefore SDH subtitles of english dubs ("dubtitles") are uncommon.

[8][9]]] High definition disc media (HD DVD, Blu-ray disc) uses SDH subtitles as the sole method because technical specifications do not require HD to support line 21 closed captions. Some blu-ray discs, however, are said to carry a closed caption stream that only displays through standard definition connections. Many HDTVs allow the end–user to customize the captions, including the ability to remove the black band.

Use by those not deaf or hard-of-hearing

Although same-language subtitles and captions are produced primarily with the deaf and hard-of-hearing in mind, many hearing film and television viewers choose to use them. This is often done because the presence of closed captioning and subtitles ensures that not one word of dialogue will be missed. Bars and other noisy public places often make closed captions visible for patrons where dialogue would otherwise be drowned out. Films and television shows often have subtitles displayed in the same language, if the speaker has a speech impairment. In addition, captions may further reveal information that would be difficult to pick up on otherwise. Some examples of this would be the song lyrics; dialog spoken quietly or by those with accents unfamiliar to the intended audience; or supportive, minor dialog from background characters. It is argued that such additional information and detail will enhance the overall experience and allow the viewer a better grasp on the material. Furthermore, people learning a foreign language may sometimes use same-language subtitles to better understand the dialog while not having to resort to a translation.

Translation

Subtitles can be used to translate dialog from a foreign language to the native language of the audience. It is the quickest and the cheapest method of translating content, and is usually praised for the possibility to hear the original dialog and voices of the actors.

Translation of subtitling is sometimes very different from the translation of written text. Usually, when a film or a TV program is subtitled, the subtitler watches the picture and listens to the audio sentence by sentence. The subtitler may or may not have access to a written transcript of the dialog. Especially in commercial subtitles, the subtitler often interprets what is meant, rather than translating how it is said, i.e. meaning being more important than form. The audience does not always appreciate this, and it can be frustrating to those who know some of the spoken language, due to the fact that spoken language may contain verbal padding or culturally implied meanings, in confusing words, if not adapted in the written subtitles. The subtitler does this when the dialog must be condensed in order to achieve an acceptable reading speed. i.e. purpose being more important than form.

Especially in fansubs, the subtitler may translate both form and meaning. The subtitler may also choose to display a note in the subtitles, usually in parentheses (“(” and “)”) or as a separate block of on-screen text. This allows the subtitler to preserve form and achieve an acceptable reading speed, by leaving the note on the screen, even after the character has finished speaking, to both preserve form and allow for understanding. For example, the Japanese language has multiple first-person pronouns, and using one instead of another implies a different degree of politeness. In order to compensate, when translating to English, the subtitler may reformulate the sentence, add appropriate words and/or use notes.

Captioning

[10]}} Swiss television often has captions in multiple languages.]]

Realtime

Realtime translation subtitling, usually involving simultaneous interpreter listening to the dialog quickly translating, while a stenographer types, is rare. The unavoidable delay, typing errors, lack of editing, and high costs regard very little need for translation subtitling. Allowing the interpreter to directly speak to the viewers is usually both cheaper and quicker, however, the translation is not accessible to people who are deaf and hard–of–hearing.

Offline

Some subtitlers purposely provide edited subtitles or captions, to match the needs of their audience, for learners of the spoken dialog as a second or foreign language, visual learners, beginning readers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and for people with learning and/or mental disabilities. For example, for many of its films and television programs, PBS displays standard captions representing speech the program audio, word-for-word, if the viewer selects "CC1", by using the television remote control or on-screen menu, however, they also provide edited captions to present simplified sentences at a slower rate, if the viewer selects "CC2". Programs with a very diverse audience also often have captions in another language. This is common with popular Latin American soap operas in Spanish. Since CC1 and CC2 share bandwidth, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends translation subtitles be placed in CC3. CC4, which shares bandwidth with CC3, is also available, but programs very seldom use it.

Categories

Subtitles in the same language on the same production can be in different categories:

  • Narrative This is the most common type of subtitle. Narrative subtitles are those in which spoken dialogue is displayed. These are most commonly used to translate a film with one spoken language and the text of a second language.
  • Forced These are common on DVDs and Blu-rays. Forced subtitles only provide subtitles when the characters speak a foreign or alien language, or a sign, flag, or other text in a scene is not translated in the localization and dubbing process.
  • Content Content subtitles are a North American Secondary Industry (non-Hollywood, often low-budget) staple. They add content dictation that is missing from filmed action or dialogue. Due to the general low budget allowances in such films, it is often more feasible to add the overlay subtitles to fill in information. They appear most commonly seen on America's Maverick films as Forced Subtitles, and on Canada's MapleLeaf films as optional subtitles.
    Content subtitles also appear in the beginning of some higher-budget films ( eg Star Wars) or at the end of a film (eg Gods And Generals)
  • Titles only Dubbed programs use this sort of subtitle. Titles only provide only the text for any untranslated on-screen text. They are most commonly forced (see above).
  • Bonus Bonus subtitles are an additional set of text blurbs that are added to DVDs. They are similar to Blu-ray Disc's in-movie content or to the "info nuggets" in VH1 Pop-up Video. Often shown in popup or balloon form, they point out humorous blunders in the filming or background/behind-the-scenes information to what is appearing on screen.
  • Localized Localized subtitles are a separate subtitle track that uses expanded references (i.e. "The sake [a Harsh Japanese Wine] was excellent as was the Wasabi") or can replace the standardized subtitle track with a localized form replacing references to local custom. i.e from above, "The wine was excellent as was the spicy dip").
  • Extended/Expanded Extended subtitles combine the standard subtitle track with the localization subtitle track. Originally found only on Celestial DVDs in the early 2000s, the format has expanded to many export-intended releases from China, Japan, India and Taiwan. The term "Expanded Subtitle" is owned by Celestial, with Extended being used by other companies.

Types

While distributing content, subtitles can appear in one of 3 types:

  • Hard (also known as hardsubs or open subtitles). The subtitle text is irreversibly merged in original video frames, and so no special equipment or software is required for playback. Hence, very complex transition effects and animation can be implemented, such as karaoke song lyrics using various colors, fonts, sizes, animation (like a bouncing ball) etc. to follow the lyrics. However, these subtitles cannot be turned off unless the original video is also included in the distribution as they are now part of the original frame, and thus it is impossible to have several variants of subtitling, such as in multiple languages.
  • Prerendered subtitles are separate video frames that are overlaid on the original video stream while playing. Prerendered subtitles are used on DVD and Blu-ray (though they are contained in the same file as the video stream). It is possible to turn them off or have multiple language subtitles and switch among them, but the player has to support such subtitles to display them. Also, subtitles are usually encoded as images with minimal bitrate and number of colors; they usually lack anti-aliased font rasterization. Also, changing such subtitles is hard, but special OCR software, such as SubRip exists to convert such subtitles to "soft" ones.
  • Soft (also known as softsubs or closed subtitles) are separate instructions, usually a specially marked up text with time stamps to be displayed during playback. It requires player support and, moreover, there are multiple incompatible (but usually reciprocally convertible) subtitle file formats. Softsubs are relatively easy to create and change, and thus are frequently used for fansubs. Text rendering quality can vary depending on the player, but is generally higher than prerendered subtitles. Also, some formats introduce text encoding troubles for the end-user, especially if very different languages are used simultaneously (for example, Latin and Asian scripts).

In other categorization, digital video subtitles are sometimes called internal, if they're embedded in a single video file container along with video and audio streams, and external if they are distributed as separate file (that is less convenient, but it is easier to edit/change such file).

Comparison table
Feature Hard Prerendered Soft
Can be turned off/on No Yes Yes
Multiple subtitle variants (for example, languages) Yes 'Though all displayed at the same time Yes Yes
Editable No Difficult, but possible Yes
Player requirements None Majority of players support DVD subtitles Usually requires installation of special software, unless national regulators mandate its distribution
Visual appearance, colors, font quality Low to High, depends on video resolution/compression Low Low to High, depends on player and subtitle file format
Transitions, karaoke and other special effects Highest Low Depends on player and subtitle file format, but generally poor
Distribution Inside original video Separate low-bitrate video stream, commonly multiplexed Relatively small subtitle file or instructions stream, multiplexed or separate
Additional overhead None, though subtitles added by re-encoding of the original video may degrade overall image quality, and the sharp edges of text may introduce artifacts in surrounding video High Low


References

  1. "dotSUB - browser based tool to create subtitles in any language" About dotSUB - Any video Any language - Web site: http://dotsub.com/about.jsp (visited Feb 16, 2010).
  2. Brij Kothari from Ashoka.org. Accessed on February 10, 2009
  3. Biswas, Ranjita (2005). Hindi film songs can boost literacy rates in India
  4. McCall, W. (2008). Same-Language-Subtitling and Karaoke: The Use of Subtitled Music as a Reading Activity in a High School Special Education Classroom. In K. McFerrin et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2008 (pp. 1190-1195). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.http://go.editlib.org/p/27350
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12
    • {{{last}}}, {{{first}}} and {{{coauthors}}}. Colorado. {{{date}}}. {{{work}}}. {{{publisher}}}. Accessed on 2007-10-24
  6. 7.0 7.1
    • {{{last}}}, {{{first}}} and {{{coauthors}}}. Colorado. {{{date}}}. {{{work}}}. {{{publisher}}}. Accessed on 2007-10-24
  7. Template:Cite video
  8. (in English)


External links