Closed Captioning Misconceptions

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Closed captioning is for everyone! Although closed captioning has provided accessibility to movies and television programming for people who are deaf or hearing impaired since the 1970’s, the frequent use of close captioning by those who are able to hear is often overlooked. In noisy public places, closed captioning is often turned on so that people can readily get a play by play of what is happening in the baseball game, follow the news or the plot of their favorite reality TV show. At first, the sight of these closed captions may seem to distract attention away from the program being watched. But rest assured, most of the time close captioning is specifically timed and regulated so that it can be followed easily. In no time, simultaneously reading the closed captioning and watching what is happening on screen is a piece of cake.

An assumption people make about closed captioning is that the captions are being typed in at the moment, or with a slight delay, while a program is being aired on television. This is not always the case. There are two different methods for close captioning; prerecorded and real-time. Prerecorded, or off-line, close captioning allows for a careful review of the material, to ensure that the captions are accurate and come on the screen at the exact moment they are being said. This process is performed before the program is aired. Real-time, or on-line closed captioning is added as a live event or program is airing. For example, when President Obama gave his National Address on television, real-time close captioning was being used. With this type of close captioning, there is a slight delay between when things are being said and when the captions come up on the screen.

The job of closed caption editor is not very common. The very frequently asked, “So, what do you do?” when meeting someone is not often answered with “I make closed captions.” Often times, people do not realize that closed captioning is a required part of the post-production process and in dependable companies, real people are typing out the dialogue, music, and sounds of programs. One such company is Video Caption Corporation, located in New York. There, the closed caption editors not only write out exactly what is being said, but dialects and slang can be used to ensure the captioning reflects the identical tone of what is being seen. This may seem like it is not important, but the difference when viewing it is evident. Indeed, such attention to detail and accuracy is considered a luxury in closed captioning and one that very few companies consistently provide.