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  • iheartsubtitles 1:18 pm on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Subtitles for VOD, whose responsibility is it anyway? 

    UK based charities behind the #SubtitleIt campaign received a letter from Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy. It was not the response that the campaign had hoped for.

    Action on Hearing Loss have summarised:

    Mr Vaizey has told us that, during autumn 2015, Department for Culture, Media and Sport officials met with platform operators, content providers and broadcasters, and that the discussions gave clarity into the problems limiting the availability of access services and what’s needed to improve provision levels.

    The Minister has concluded that a lot has been achieved by broadcasters, content providers and platform operators towards increasing the provision of subtitles, and that “the 2013 commitment is being met”. He states that the introduction of legislation and the prescription of targets “could have a detrimental impact on what the sector has shown it is able to achieve on a voluntary basis”. In short, he has refused to take decisive action to end the digital exclusion faced by people with hearing loss due to the lack of subtitles.

    SOURCE: Action on Hearing Loss – Government decision on subtitles, April 2016

    And the crux of the issue:

    Mr Vaizey states that it was “encouraging to hear that several players throughout the supply chain of access services are working together” to overcome problems that limit the availability of access services.

    In reaching this opinion Ed Vaizey has ignored the evidence of the regulator, ATVOD. They reported that a “stalemate” persists between the broadcasters (content providers) who provide the programmes (e.g. ITV and UKTV) and the set top box operators (platforms) who pull together content from lots of different providers (e.g. Sky and Virgin), and a lack of clarity about whose responsibility it is to make content accessible.

    SOURCE: Action on Hearing Loss – Government decision on subtitles, April 2016

    This issue keeps cropping up. Whose responsibility is it?

    Netflix who do subtitle the majority of its content have published an article on their subtitling workflow. It’s interesting to read how Netflix tackles the problem of different devices requiring different formats, and how different languages can sometimes require different rendering capabilities that may not always be available on the device being used by the end user, and how before all of that is tackled, quality control checks are put in place. They have chosen to take on much of the responsibility in the sense that if a content provider does not provide a subtitle file in the correct format, they have invested in systems to overcome the problem and solve the problem of different devices requiring subtitles in different formats (phones, tablets, smart TVs, PC etc) The industry has made similar steps in this regard to with agreeing industry standard subtitling formats (such as EBU-TT which the UK regulator recommends is adopted). BBC iPlayer have also subtitled content as the “norm” for years and have very detailed guidelines documented here. I haven’t found many other articles on this subject, but it would appear the iTunes platform in the US have taken responsibility – sort of. It’s not that the platform is saying it will take responsibility to provide closed captioning, but iTunes (US) will remove content supplied by providers if they have failed to include a closed captioning file. It’s an interesting tactic, but its a move that I feel reflects regulatory requirements in the US, rather than a bold statement from Apple that they will only accept accessible content. (If anyone disagree’s with this conclusion – please do comment).

    Blackboard with a chart written in chalk saying if not us who? if not now when? if not here where?

    VOD subtitles – whose responsibility is it?

    So, back to the question, whose responsibility is it, and what is the right way to ensure accessibility via subtitling and captioning is implemented for VOD services? It’s a question the FCC in the US asked, and also recently answered. The UK VOD industry currently does not have this clarity, and the regulator cannot set it. In the interest of full transparency I should point out to those who are reading who may not be aware, I’ve been employed by a broadcaster, and a platform in my career so far. Whilst I have some insight into the differing workflows – it doesn’t make the answer to the question any easier except to say if both work together (that is a platform makes sure it has no barriers to access and can support accessibility features, and a broadcaster can provide those features (e.g. provide subtitle files / audio description files with its video content), it can be solved. I don’t necessarily think its and either/or answer here. The responsibility probably lies with both. Yes, there are challenges which some broadcasters will face more than others, and there are some platforms that will find it easier to do than others (for various reasons: do they make their own programmes, do they buy them from other content providers, do they control the full end-to-end chain? Has the platform been built to support accessibility features or do they have to tackle that first? etc) But it is absolutely technically possible for any VOD service to provide an accessible service. We know that, there are good guys who have been doing this for ages. The question is, how time-critical is this goal considered to be by either one of these parties? If it even is a goal for those services which are not accessible? Why not set a (regulatory) target – no goal is ever reached without setting a deadline. And whatever well-meaning action is currently being taken by VOD services that are planning to add accessibility features, if you need them, the progress certainly does not feel fast enough. And that is why Action on Hearing Loss are continuing their #SubtitleIt campaign, encouraging anyone who relies on subtitles to enjoy VOD services to contact their TV providers. The charity will also be targeting those working in the VOD industry by giving a talk at the VOD Summit taking place in London next month.

    • Robyn Carter 1:45 pm on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Facing similar problems x 10 here


    • Probably shouldn't say 12:24 am on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t believe that any such “stalemate” exists – in most cases the providers of VOD content are the same TV channels who already create and provide subtitles on their broadcast TV channels. The problem is wholly with the TV platform providers – Sky, Virgin, YouView, etc. I work for a VOD content provider and we have never been able to get the platform providers to accept subtitled content – they are just not interested.

      ATVOD failed because they pressured the content providers to provide subtitles, but ATVOD had no power over the platforms. If the platforms don’t provide the ability to carry subtitles (and AD) then no content provider can offer accessible content, end of story. This is why even BBC iPlayer content – accessible nearly everywhere else – has no subtitles or AD when viewed on-demand on Sky or the non-TiVo Virgin platform.


      • iheartsubtitles 7:00 am on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for your comment. I do believe it takes work from both content providers and platforms. It’s frustrating to hear that a content provider wants to be accessible but has difficulties in getting platforms to support accessibility features😦


    • Dean 2:48 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Another great article Dawn. This is such a contentious issue. Sadly, the technology is available for VOD content to carry subtitles but it’s difficult to get the platform providers to engage with it as there’s no legislation. Also frustrating is that my local MP when approached never backed the Action On Hearing Loss SubtitleIT campaign, and turned down my offer to talk to her about the available technology. I don’t see this happening any time soon.


  • iheartsubtitles 11:57 pm on January 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    A look back at 2015 

    2015 saw a lot of accessibility advocacy around subtitles/captioning and audio description with some great victories. This is by no means a complete list but it does summarise some of the highlights for me.

    Amazon Instant Video UK finally started added subtitles to their VOD service after some great advocacy which had its origins in the Love Subtitles campaign.  In 2014, there were no subtitles at all, and by the end of 2015, approximately 50% of its content is subtitled (see ATVOD report detailed later in this article). Let’s hope that percentage figure continues to rise in 2016 .

    Animated gif of Matt Murdock aka Daredevil

    Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix

    Netflix US / UK found itself the target of an advocacy campaign to add audio description to its content after it released an original series about a blind superhero Daredevil based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name without making it accessible to blind and visually impaired viewers. Thanks to the efforts of The Accessible Netflix Project,  there was a pretty fast response from Netflix in releasing audio description tracks for this series and more on its platform.

    The Action On Hearing Loss #SubtitleIt! campaign succesfully obtained a public comittment from Sky that it would increase the amount of  subtitled VOD content on it’s services by summer 2016 following a petition from Jamie Danjoux. I think a lot of people will be watching this one closely and look forward to seeing the comittment being met in 2016.

    All of these campaigns are far from over and many are continuing their advocacy into 2016. The #SubtitleIt campaign just published a useful summary of ATVOD’s final report  (before being taken over by Ofcom) into the Provision of Access Services published at the end of 2015.

    There were many other interesting publications around accessibility in 2015:

    There were many other successful advocacy and awareness campaigns in 2015.

    I had great fun taking part in the UK’s first #CAPaware week launched by Stagetext to celebrate its 15th birthday which amongst many activities that week included tweeting alongside watching a captioned play from Digital Theatre.

    Turn On The Captions Now  was a campaign that successfully passed a local city law in Portland, Oregon USA which states that all public televisions in public areas such as bars and restaurants must have closed captioning switched on. The Portland: Turn On The Captions Now! group have since published a website that includes instructions for turning on closed captions and advice for Portland residents on how to request captions if they spot non-compliance.

    American Airlines showed everyone how not to respond to a query on social media to a request for closed captioning to be made available on their in-flight entertainment.  It lead to a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #DeafInTheAir

    But it wasn’t just airlines, Braam Jordaan was successfull in getting the White House to make its video content accessible with a campaign predominantly on Twitter using the hashtag #WHccNow

    In fact it seems when it comes to social media, (whisper it carefully, I don’t want to jinx it) but it seems that the knowledge that subtitling and captioning your video media leads to other benefits outside of accessibility is starting to become mainstream. Video marketing websites have been quick to report research showing that adding subtitles can increase the video completion rate and  the video share rate. I for one have noticed more and more videos on social media with auto-play *and* open subtitles.  I hope that this trend continues as it can only lead to more accessible content online for everyone. Roll on 2016…


  • iheartsubtitles 4:00 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    #SubtitleIt campaign and other UK regulatory news 

    Earlier this year Action on Hearing loss created a survey to gather the experiences and thoughts of subtitle users access to video on demand (VOD) services in the UK.  The results have been published and the report titled Progress on Pause is well worth a read.

    It’s part of the #SubtitleIt campaign which is a joint effort from multiple UK charities that wants to see VOD accessibility regulated as a mandatory requirement as is currently the case in the UK for linear TV.  Individual advocates alongside the charities efforts has resulted in some success so far including a statement from Sky to commit to increasing their on demand subtitled content.

    Graphic of Houses of Parliament and #SubtitleIt logo

    The deadline to ask your MP to back the bill is November 2015.

    The campaign is far from over however. For any legislation to become a reality, it needs support from MPs. If you do not see your local MP listed here please write to them asking them to back the bill. (Note this also includes other important accessibility features such as audio description and signing). Please don’t miss the deadline.

    ATVOD logo

    From 1st January 2016, ATVOD will no longer exist as a co-regulator and its responsibilities will be carried out by Ofcom

    In other regulatory news that effects VOD services in the UK, the regulatory body Ofcom announced that it would take over the role of ATVOD:

    The regulation of ‘video-on-demand’ programme services is being brought fully within Ofcom to sit alongside its regulation of broadcast content.

    The move follows an Ofcom review to ensure regulation of broadcast and on-demand content remains as effective and efficient as possible for the benefit of consumers, audiences and industry.

    The review included the current co-regulatory arrangements for video-on-demand services. These can include catch-up TV and on-demand services on the TV and the internet. Ofcom designated the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) in 2010 as a co-regulator to take the lead in regulating editorial content for video-on-demand services.

    Following the review, Ofcom has decided that acting as sole regulator for video-on-demand programmes is a more effective model for the future than having two separate bodies carrying out this work. This will create operational efficiencies and allow editorial content on video-on-demand to sit alongside Ofcom’s existing regulation of broadcasting.

    SOURCE: Ofcom brings regulation of ‘video-on-demand’ in-house

    This (in my opinion) is good news. It means a far less confusing regulatory model and that all TV will sit under the same regulator.   Ofcom recently published its results into access services on UK TV for the first six months of 2015.  With Ofcom to take over the duties of ATVOD in 2016, wouldn’t it be great if we could have the same level of transparency on how each VOD service is performing with more regular (and legally required) statistical reporting on levels of access services here too?

    • virginia 12:15 am on January 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Hi there,

      I’ve read a few of your posts as have been researching ‘live captions’ for news websites. The live captions to display on a screen would read a bit gobblydeegook if you know what I mean? So they are in a flat text file, so the image you show in the post below “How subtitles add value, not just access” about Video Metadata.

      Any thoughts on how best to display this for news stories and videos that have not been captioned properly? Was thinking of an accordian drop down.

      Obviously this is a big SEO plus if it can be done correctly.

      The video content has to remain on the actual news website.



      • iheartsubtitles 12:09 pm on January 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Virginia – Are you talking about live news being captioned online when it is no longer live, or are you looking to improve live captioning of live news? If so this is something that is in its infancy compared to other media that is captioned or subtitled online.


  • iheartsubtitles 10:04 pm on April 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    Live Music & Live Lyrics & Live Subtitles 

    Last month I did something I’ve never done before, and I don’t think many others will have done it either. What was it? I attended a live music gig with live subtitles! The gig was called Club Attitude. It was organised by Attitude is Everything and the live subtitling was provided by StageTEXT.

    Having been to several StageTEXT captioned plays, and live subtitled talks I was pretty confident that the quality of the live subtitles would be excellent. But I also know that high quality subtitling doesn’t just happen without a lot of prep, a lot of technical set up, and of course skilled subtitlers.

    I am sure that this gig had its challenges, especially considering it hadn’t been done before but I was really pleased to see that even for this first ever subtitled gig, the access worked well. I felt for the stenographer wearing their headphones listening intently in order to deliver the lyrics in a time accurate manner in what was already musically noisy environment. Talk about powers of concentration!

    The subtitles were displayed on both sides of the stage at a high height on the right so that the screen could still be seen at the back of the venue (as per the Vine above) and also on a screen at a low height on the left side of the stage in case wheelchair users also wanted to read the captions throughout the gig. I should also point out there was also a signer on stage translating the lyrics into BSL for BSL users. None of this got in the way of the band members performing. It was lovely to see full access had been thought of and was indeed being provided including an accessible venue (if only this was the norm and I wouldn’t even point it out in a review like this but sadly it is not always the case).

    I’d love to have known what the artists performing at the gig thought of the live subtitles (although they cannot really see it from their position on the stage.) But if they are reading this article, or any other bands who might be thinking about captioning or subtitling their gigs, an overlooked but massive benefit isn’t just the lyrics. I shall try to explain:

    Because the subtitling provided at this gig was live, the dialogue and conversation that the bands had with the audience is also subtitled. I am taking about the intro and chat between songs. “Hello everyone, thanks for coming.” etc That might not seem important but what if you happen to be talking to the audience about where they can buy your music or your merchandise?  Ordinarily this information is lost on me. The number of gigs I’ve been to where I can enjoy the music (because I’ve listened to the songs over and over and looked up the lyrics on the internet) but cannot understand any of the talking is well pretty much all of them without a hearing friend confirming what’s being said. Even if I am close to the stage, I can’t lip-read you – your microphone is in the way. And this means you’ve lost communication with me and a connection. What I often hear is something like, “And so fdfgddfas this is our next song that dfawesfasdf  and its called dfaefavdfa.” What this means is, I never catch the song title, so if I like the song, I can’t go home, search the title online, listen to it again, and you know maybe buy it!

    So, we know live subtitling of music can be done, so why isn’t it done more often? I do hope we have got rid of the misconception that deaf and hard of hearing people are not music lovers. I can relate to an awful lot written in this great article from @ItsThatDeafGuy especially the bit about getting the lyrics from Smash Hits magazine and subtitled music on TV! Being Deaf Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Care About Music.

    I too have blogged several times already on this subject including my frustration that music DVDs seem to be exempt from requiring subtitles, and how having access to subtitled music via TV was hugely important to me as a teenager. And it still is. Search the music tag for more articles.

    And who doesn’t love knowing what the lyrics are? The way we consume music has changed drastically in the last 20 years, and technology is providing new ways to get the lyrics. Recently the music streaming service Spotify launched lyrics integration and the company has been retweeting the positive feedback it is getting about it.

    I also can’t help but notice that the trend of official lyric videos being released by music artists isn’t going away. And that’s just fine by me because a probably unintentional side effect is that it gives me access to the song and allows me to consume the music in my preferred way by reading the lyrics alongside listening to the song. Arena and stadium artists have started to incorporate this into some of their video screen stage graphics during concerts. And naturally I love this.

    Given all of these trends maybe this reviewer of Club Attitude is right: Perhaps the most extraordinary thing is that this gig night does not feel extra-ordinary at all. Now that would be something.

    • Victoria O'Hara 5:47 pm on August 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Afternoon. I am working on a research proposal, and I was wondering if there was any way that I could ask you a few questions about closed captioning in the UK?


    • iheartsubtitles 3:43 pm on September 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Victoria, I have sent you an email.


  • iheartsubtitles 3:13 pm on February 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ASR, , captions, ,   

    #withcaptions Fixing You Tube’s auto-captions 

    Last month some high-profile vlogger’s that include Rikki Poynter and Tyler Oakley on the popular video sharing site YouTube got the attention of some mainstream press with a campaign that started with the hashtag #withcaptions.  It’s fantastic to see other’s campaigning and educating their audience as to the importance of not just captioning your online videos but captioning them accurately. I won’t repeat what mainstream media coverage reported but if you missed it or have no idea what I am talking about click on the links below:

    Animated gif of 1980s Apple commercial of a a kid at a computer looking impressed and giving a thumbs up to the camera

    To anyone who accurately captions their online videos. Good job. Thank you.

    It is so refreshing to get some positive mainstream press coverage about the importance of subtitling and its even more brilliant that the message is being spread by individuals outside of the subtitling, captioning or SEO industry. To all of you individuals doing this or perhaps have acted on this information and are now accurately captioning your own You Tube video’s – a massive thank you from me.

    As most of you reading should already know, You Tube does use automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology to automatically create captions from the audio track of uploaded video content on its site but these are very rarely, if ever accurate.  But what if you could fix these to make them accurate, rather than have to start from scratch to create accurate captions? That’s exactly what Michael Lockrey, who refers to these as ‘Craptions’ aims to solve with nomoreCRAPTIONS.  As Lockrey explains:

    nomoreCRAPTIONS is a free, open source solution that enables any YouTube video with an automatic captioning (‘craptioning’) track to be fixed within the browser.

    Craptions is the name coined by me for Google YouTube’s automatic craptioning – as they don’t provide any accessibility outcomes for people who rely on captioning unless they are reviewed and corrected. As this rarely happens and as Google rarely explains that they haven’t really “fixed” the captioning accessibility issue, we have a huge web accessibility problem where most online videos are uncaptioned (or only craptioned which is just as poor as no captioning at all).

    If you don’t believe me, then look at Google YouTube’s own actions in this space. The fact that they don’t even bother to index the automatic craptioning speaks volumes – as their robots hunt down pretty much everything that moves on the internet. So it’s obvious from these actions that they don’t place any value in them at all when they are left unmodified by content creators.

    There is also no way to watch the automatic craptioning on an iOS device (such as an iPhone or iPad) at present, unless you use the nomoreCRAPTIONS tool.

    Lockrey who is profoundly deaf has taught himself web development skills to solve a problem that he feels Google (You Tube’s owners) have largely ignored.  This hasn’t been easy as although there’s a huge amount of learning materials on YouTube and other platforms, most of them are uncaptioned or craptioned. Lockrey explains:

    Previously if I encountered yet another YouTube video that was uncaptioned or craptioned, I would often spend my own money and invest personal resources (my own personal time, effort, etc) in obtaining a transcript and / or a timed text caption file.  This usually also involved taking a copy of the YouTube video and then re-uploading the video onto my own YouTube channel so I could add the accessibility layer (i.e. good quality captioning).  Quite often I would end up being blacklisted from Google YouTube’s automated copyright systems, when I was only trying to access content that was freely and publicly made available by the content creators on YouTube and was not trying to earn revenue from the content (via ads) or any “funny” business, etc I knew that there simply had to be a better way.

    Screen grab of No More Captions hompage

    No More Craptions lets you edit You Tube’s auto-captioning errors

    With nomoreCRAPTIONS you simply paste in a YouTube URL or video ID and it instantly provides you with an individual web page for that video where you can go through and fix up the automatic craptioning (where there is an automatic craptioning track available).

    At the moment it’s a very simple interface and it is ideal for shorter YouTube videos of 4 or 5 minutes in duration (or less). It works in all languages that Google supports on YouTube with automatic craptioning. Here’s an example of the Kim Kardashian superbowl commercial which is very short and sweet.

    Screen shot showing edited auto captions via the No More Craptions tool.

    You can modify the text of the auto-captions to correct any errors via the yellow box on the right.

    Lockrey explains:

    There’s very little learning curve involved and this was intentional as whilst Amara and DotSub have great solutions in this space, they also have quite a substantial learning curve and I wanted to make it as easy as possible for anyone to just hop on and do the right thing. One the biggest advantages of the tool is that the corrected captions can be viewed immediately once you have saved them. This means it’s possible for a Deaf person to watch a hearing person fix up the craptions on a video over their shoulder and see the edits in real-time!

    We’ve even had a few universities using the tool as there’s so much learning content that is on YouTube, and this is simply the easiest way for them to ensure that there’s an accessible version made available to the students that need captioning – without wasting time on copyright shenanigans etc.  I’ve also been using it as a great advocacy tool – it’s so easy to share corrected captions with the content creators now and hopefully we can bridge that awareness gap that Google has allowed to fester since November 2009.

    noMORECRAPTIONS is still very much in the early development stage and there is more to come. The next steps are a partnership with #FreeCodeCamp to help with rolling out improvements and new features in the very near future. This includes looking at other platforms such as Facebook and Vimeo videos as part of the next tranche of upgrades as more and more platforms cross over to HTML 5 video.

    Lockrey is keen to get as much user feedback as possible so what are you waiting for – try the tool for yourself. For more information please contact @mlockrey.

    And when you’ve done that, you might also want to read: OMG! I just found out there’s only 5% captioning* on YouTube.

  • iheartsubtitles 4:54 pm on December 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Accessible film making or what if subtitles were part of the programme? 

    I was prompted to write this blog post by a recent tweet from director Samuel Dore who bemoaned the fact that he felt that film directors and distributors seem to ‘moan’ about the cost of subtitling content:

    And I’ve seen tweets from others with comments of a similar nature.  This is a tricky topic because it would be wrong to label everyone individual or company out there as having this belief or attitude. However it’s another repeated theme I’ve seen discussed at access and language conferences this year.  That’s a good thing – it means its recognised as a potential issue for some companies or individuals and others in the same industry are challenging this assumption and trying to change it.  At the 2014 CSI Accessibility Conference Screen Subtitling’s John Birch asked the question “What if subtitles were part of the programme?”  He pointed out that in his opinion funding issues are still not addressed. Subtitling is still not a part of the production process and not often budgeted for. Broadcasters are required to pay subtitling companies,and subtitling companies are under continued to pressure (presumably to provide more, for less money). It is a sad fact that subtitling is not ascribed the value it deserves.

    I would also argue that there is some lost opportunity with the current Ofcom Code on Access Television Services that gives new TV channels a one year grace period in which regardless of audience reach, if the TV channel is less than one year old it is not required to subtitle/caption any volume of its output at all. Whilst I understand the cost of doing so might be considered a barrier to even launching the channel in the first place, the problem is it promotes an attitude or thinking once  again of not budgeting for subtitling/captioning from the start of the business process.  So two or three years down the line when the grace period is over,the risk is that it becomes an additional cost that the channel has not budgeted for and could be perceived as hindrance or ‘punishment’ rather than something positive that adds value for the channel and its viewers.

    The same is also true for translation subtitling. At the 2014 Languages & The Media Conference Pablo Romero-Fresco gave this statistic: Subtitling and translation make up 57% of revenue generated from English speaking movies but translation subtitling only gets 0.1% of budget. He argued that there needs to be a shift of change in the production process of filmmaking.  His suggestion is that film production should recognise and create the role of Producer of Accessibility who is involved before the final edit is locked.

    Sherlock - text message - on screen typography

    Sherlock – text message – on screen typography

    He observed that in recent years text and typography effects like those seen in the BBC’s Sherlock, and Netflix’s House of Cards (and many, many more), which uses text on screen as part of the storytelling and is part of the post production process should also be integrated in this role.  I too have observed the increase in recent years of using typography on screen as part of the story telling process. It’s also being widely used in music videos. For lots of examples of kinetic typography be sure to check out this Vimeo channel.

    Romero repeated this vision and idea at the Future of Subtitling Conference 2014.  You can read more in-depth information in the Journal of Specialised Translation.  I’ve also collated further tweets and information on this topic at Storify: Why subtitles should be part of the production process.

    I think its a really interesting idea. I also think that it will require a monumental shift for this to happen in the industry but never say never. What is good, is that certainly between broadcast TV production companies and subtitling companies is that collaboration of a sort is happening. Information and scripts are shared well in advance so that subtitler’s can prepare as much as possible in advance of broadcasts. Clearly, Romero’s vision is to be much more integrated than that.

    Currently for broadcast TV that is licensed under Ofcom, the responsibility for access and provision of subtitling lies with the broadcaster/TV channel. If the creation of subtitles and captions is implemented wholly into the production process then should subtitling provision then solely lie with the production company?

    At the moment it would appear that the responsibility shifts between the two depending on a number of factors:

    1. Regulation, if there is any and whom is considered responsible for providing subtitles.
    2. The production company and/or the distribution company making the content (some will provide subtitles, some will not, and a broadcaster may have bought programmes from either one of these or they may be one and the same thing)
    3. The country broadcasting the content (what language do you need subtitles in and how many languages will a production company be prepared to produce?)
    4. The method of how content is viewed (digital TV, satellite, cable, online, download, streaming subscription, pay per view,)

    It really shouldn’t be complicated but there is no denying that with all these variables it is. A lot of the above is complicated further by distribution rights which is another topic entirely. I do like the idea a lot though as it has the potential to simplify some of the above. I also think production companies would benefit greatly from the knowledge and expertise gained from years of experience from translation and subtitling companies as to the best methods to achieve collaboration and integration. What do you think?

    • Claude Almansi 11:08 pm on December 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you, Dawn: so many creative proposals in your post. It reminded me of a tutorial that Roberto Ellero made for the Italian public administration in 2009, entitled rather sternly – well, due to the target audience – “Accessibilità e qualità dei contenuti audiovisivi”, Accessibility and quality of audiovisual content. It’s in , with Italian captions and English subtitles (1). I think you might agree with the part from 1:47:

      “Every audiovisual product begins with a text, a script, a storyboard, some writing geared towards visualization, which then gets enacted in a series of frames and sequences. Every video alway starts from a text and returns to a text (a book, being read generates images in our mind, and the reverse path leads to audiodescription, which, in turn, is also a text)…”

      (1) Apologies for the typos in the English subs: I translated them on a train journey with TextEdit and sent them from a station where I got a wireless connection: he needed them urgently for some talk he was to give the following day🙂


  • iheartsubtitles 10:08 pm on December 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Access 2020 – Languages & The Media 2014 

    Access 2020 was an interesting panel hosted by Alex Varley at the 10th Languages & The Media conference. The theme was for the panel to discuss what they thought media access might look like in 2020.

    Although it is difficult to summarise all of the discussions, Media Access Australia have written a summary of 20 highlights. Below is my two-cents.

    • Broadcasters have to start to think what is their role?  The industry still need content producers which broadcasters are likely to continue to play a big role in producing. There is likely to be a merge of broadcast and IPTV.
    • In Europe, there is a keen focus to develop in the areas of: Machine Translation (MT), User Experience (UX), and Big Data.
    • Subtitling is becoming a language technology business rather than editorial. Greater levels of interest and innovation in technology will lead to greater quality and lower cost.
    • The industry is aiming for interoperability by 2020 (if not before) to ensure no technological barriers to access exist.
    •  Two interesting ideas/questions raised:  Will access services start to go into/become a part of the production process for audio-visual content? Will we start to see closed signing?

    How to achieve all of this:

    1. Talk to end users more.
    2. Deal with the complexity. (interoperability)
    3. Different jobs will be created by new technology, but we still need humans to provide access.
    4. Regulators are not always the answer and can get it wrong. Target the businesses to provide access.
    Animated gif of the hoverboard from the film Back To The Future

    Personally I’m still waiting for the hoverboard.

  • iheartsubtitles 1:54 pm on November 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Smart Technologies, Smart Translations – Languages & The Media 2014 

    The  theme of this years 10th Language & The Media conference was Smart Technologies, Smart Translations with a panel and audience discussion on:

    1) Machine Translation (MT)

    Sketch of a robot reading a book and writing a translation

    Machine Translation (MT)

    I thought it was interesting to find out that two Spanish universities have rolled out auto machine translated subtitled recordings of lectures. (I assume with post-editing also). There are numerous companies, and academic institutions working in and researching in this area including SUMAT, EU Bridge, transLectures.

    2) Speech Recognition

    Sketch of someone using speech recognition with really bad recognition output

    Speech Recognition (SOURCE:

    Speech-to-text technology is already playing an important role in producing real-time or live subtitling and captioning. However there was also some interesting discussion about text-to-speech technologies and access to audio-visual media via audio description.  Particularly with regards to speech synthesis. Many expressed a concern that the quality of the machine voice is not, or would not be a pleasant experience for the end user. However  it was also pointed out that this would not replace current human based audio description but allow for bigger volumes of written content such as news to be made available to audiences that currently have no access such as illiterate audiences.

    3) Cloud Technologies

    A graphic illustrating benefits of cloud technology: infrastructure, platform as a service, software as a service

    The benefits of cloud technology.

    There is a lot of talk about this everywhere at the moment. Within the context of subtitling and translation workflows I can see a lot of benefits. It is already being done and where as previously (or currently) much of the business process management has been based on trust, a cloud based system can allow for greater transparency and even force checks. For example a translation manager or coordinator might currently communicate with a freelance translator via email but the actual work is done by someone else on their computer in a different location. The status of a project or job would be unknown and the co-ordinator has to trust that it is being worked on and will meet the deadline set. With a cloud-based application – a translation coordinator (or even the client themselves) could potentially log into the application and see the progress or status of a job being completed by anyone anywhere in the world. It also makes it easy for multiple access for multiple translators on a single project if required. And depending on how you build the application it could also force a task or process (for example only allowing a final subtitle file to be sent after a QC check has been made).

  • iheartsubtitles 4:53 pm on November 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    The Power of Accessibility: A Personal View from a Life-long Subtitling User 

    Below is a transcript of a presentation I gave to attendees at the 10th Languages & The Media Conference 2014 in Berlin. Thank you to the organisers for asking me to present.

    My name is Dawn and I run a blog and Twitter account on subtitling called i heart subtitles. And I currently work in broadcast TV so I think I understand both sides of the story. I both require access subtitling and I understand the challenges that have been overcome in the industry and challenges still to face.

    I was born in the early 80s in Oxford, England. I must have been in a hurry to get into this world because I was born three months premature and my hearing loss can be attributed to my early arrival. However it was not diagnosed until I was four years old. This meant that I was registered into a mainstream school and fitted with hearing aids and was never encouraged to learn sign language. I instinctively learnt to lip read as my parents discovered when I told them what a newsreader on TV was saying when the sound was turned down.

    A screenshot of a BBC Ceefax page (the BBC's version of Teletext)

    BBC Ceefax (the BBC’s version of Teletext)

    Image of a BBC1 Station Ident with 888 indicating subtitles are available.

    BBC1 Station Ident with 888 indicating subtitles are available.

    I first discovered subtitles for TV in the mid-90s when my parents acquired a new television with teletext facilities. Programmes that had subtitling were indicated by an 888 caption in the top right hand corner of the screen. 888 was the Teletext page number which provided subtitles

    Still of Neighbours opening credits from the 1990s

    Neighbours opening credits from the 1990s

    My earliest memories of subtitles are from an Australian soap opera called Neighbours and once I discovered them I never switched them off. However, this may surprise you, at first I found subtitles a bit depressing. Because it made me very aware of how much I was not hearing without them even with my hearing aids in and I took pride in coping in the hearing world. That quickly faded to loving them because it made TV viewing so much more relaxing. Hearing aids help a lot but wearing them is not the same experience as wearing glasses to help poor eyesight. I still unconsciously strain to hear everything – at work and at home all day . So to be able to rely on text and use my eyes to hear via subtitles is nothing short of amazing.

    A screenshot of Take That on Top of The Pops with subtitles.

    Take That on Top of The Pops with subtitles.

    In my teens subtitles gave me a peculiar benefit in that I could recite the words to the latest pop tunes which I had seen on a TV pop music chart show called Top of the Pops. If you’re a 90s music fan some of you may recognise the above screenshot of a subtitled Gary Barlow from the boyband Take That. I used to be and still am a big fan.

    In the mid 1990s I don’t remember seeing much, if any live subtitling for live television programmes. I always had the Teletext 888 subtitles page turned on. And so when programs without subtitles aired this would be indicated by a blue 888 icon showing on the top right of the screen. I used to refer to this as the “blue screen of death”. And I hated it seeing it because I knew it meant that I was going to struggle to follow what was going on throughout the rest of the programme.

    Seeing the “blue icon of death” instead of subtitles appearing left me feeling left out and frustrated so as a teenager I took my first steps in advocacy by supporting an RNID campaign to increase the amount of subtitled content on major UK channels. This small involvement in an effort from numerous parties led to the UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom, implementing the code on television access services.

    Seeing this change come about relatively quickly was the start of me maintaining an awareness of the issues surrounding SDH subtitling.

    By the end of the 90s/early noughties I had left home and gone to university. At that time real-time subtitling for university lectures was not available. However I had access to a note taker which certainly eased the task of picking up what was being said during lectures.

    During this time I also witnessed the move away from analogue to digital broadcast which I am happy to say had no negative impact on subtitling provision so far as I can remember as a subtitling user. It was also a time when VHS was being replaced by the DVD and blu-ray. As I am sure you are all aware, this had a hugely positive impact when it came to being able to access far more content that came with When I left university I got my first job in broadcasting. Both as a consumer and as a broadcast TV employee I have witnessed huge changes in the way we consume content, in particular the rise of video on demand (VOD) services. Some VOD providers are meeting the challenge of providing access to content via SDH subtitles despite no regulatory requirement to do so. For that I am grateful. However the majority do not and I find myself facing a blue icon of death in very different circumstances. I am not going to go too much into why I think this here today. But I have discussed this in various publications and on my blog.

    Screenshot of Twitter Image search results of #subtitlefail

    Twitter Image search results of #subtitlefail

    Instead I want to focus on another observation of change. Not only has the way we choose to watch content changed but the type of content has too. In particular traditional scheduled linear TV has seen a huge rise in the number of hours of live content. What was once limited to news and sport is now hundreds of hours of live entertainment programmes on prime-time TV. Format shows such as Big Brother, The X Factor, The Voice, Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing On Ice to name a few are shown as live broadcasts for months at a time.

    These shows are subtitled live and with the rise in social media attract a huge amount of public comments from viewers tweeting online as the show airs. The popularity of this sort of event TV viewing means subtitles and in particular live subtitling errors have attracted mainstream attention via social media. If you search the Twitter hashtag #subtitlefail you will see that much of the attention focuses on the hilarity of the errors and even I do often find them funny. What gets lost in translation sometimes is how lucky we are in the UK to have the volume of live subtitled TV content that we have. I won’t go into too much detail about how it’s done except to say there seems to be little mainstream awareness as to how live subtitling is produced and why errors occur. Again you can read more about this on my blog. I am hopeful that the technology behind it will continue to improve and improve faster in the next 10 years than it has in the last 10.

    Screenshot of BBC Genome project website

    BBC Genome project website

    Taking a pause for a minute, I’d like to reflect on how far we’ve come in the UK. Recently the BBC made available a TV and radio channel listings search facility called Genome.

    The first entry for subtitling came in March 1975 on BBC2. This was a subtitled opera programme and so doesn’t really count as access subtitling. Second entry was June 1975. On BBC1 a series called I See What You Mean. The synopsis states: “A series for hearing impaired people and in this episode a studio audience discusses a preview of Ceefax a new BBC technical development which provides some exciting possibilities for the subtitling of programmes for the deaf and hard of hearing.” It seems so understated!

    The next four entries were again subtitled opera and we have to wait until February 1977 for BBC2’s News On 2 Headlines with subtitles for the hard of hearing.

    In March 1980 the momentum begins when on BBC1 Life on Earth, a David Attenborough program is subtitled. By the end of 1981 subtitling of BBC programmes for the hard of hearing was just starting to slowly expand a little bit more.

    Coming back to the present day. Since working in the broadcast industry and seeing the operational workflow involved in getting a TV channel to air and attending industry events, I’m excited by the business benefits SDH subtitles can bring particularly in regards to metadata and search engine optimisation. I hope online Video On Demand providers are listening to this. Again you can read more about this subject on my blog.

    So SDH subtitles – why does it matter? The obvious answer is that it’s the right thing to do, to include all members of society. It should be the only answer required for businesses to act but often times it is not and that’s why I’m grateful for regulation in the UK. But to talk about regulation somehow dehumanises it all that’s the crux of it.

    You might think giving access to a trashy entertainment programme is trivial but it’s really not. It’s about the positive social impact that this access goes on to have.

    You remember earlier on I spoke about Neighbours and Top of the Pops as being early subtitle memories. The reason is because these TV shows were a talking point in the school playground and because they were subtitled it meant I could join in with such conversations about Neighbours plot points or I would know the lyrics of a song that has aired on Top of the Pops and subsequently could bond with a schoolmate over the latest chart music. My life could have been much lonelier.

    To give another example, in my first year at university I stayed in hall of residents but my TV reception in my room was so poor I struggled to get reliable subtitles. But not wanting to miss my favourite soap I plucked up the courage to ask my neighbour if I could watch EastEnders with her on her TV which had better reception. She happily obliged and we got to know each other quite well. This friendship that started over sharing a TV and watching a subtitled programme has stood the test of time and we remain close friends.

    Such social impacts are hard to measure but are not to be underestimated.

    Today I live and work in London and advocate for subtitling in all forms of media. The UK is one of the few countries that has open SDH subtitles in cinemas and whilst there are limitations with screening times this is a fantastic result and resource to have. I have also spent the last year volunteering for a charity called STAGETEXT which provide open captions for live theatre as well as talks and lectures in art galleries and museums across the UK.

    I’m excited about where else we can see SDH subtitles being provided. There are various companies offering live subtitles for lectures, talks at conferences, and meetings in the workplace. And you can access this live real-time subtitling through PCs, laptops, tablets smart phones and even Google Glass.

    There are always improvements to be made and battles to be won with access to audiovisual media via SDH subtitles. Some of the biggest challenges are the direct result of new technologies but I remain hopeful that new technology will also provide some of the solutions.

    To anyone who has ever typed, spoken, edited, or QC’d subtitles. Or if you have built and contributed to technologies that allow me to switch the subtitles on I thank you for doing so. Thank you for your patience and indulgence. I hope you enjoyed my story.

    Sound label subtitles image saying CHEERS AND APPLAUSE.

    • Michelle 6:13 pm on November 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! Turns out we have similar parellels in our lives! Although I was born in the 70s, like you I was probably born deaf due to complications but not diagnosed until 3 years old, and was in mainstream school most of my education! We got our first teletext tv in 1982 and I can remember all the first milestones of the various programmes – Cornation STreet, Grange Hill, Neighbours, Top of the Tops, Auf Weidershein Pet, Olympics, Doctor Who, Wimbledon and the list goes on!! I remember the first subtitled episode of Neighbours, we were on holiday at the time and we had to get back to the caravan especially to watch it!! Subtitles enhanced my social life at school too, especially in the playground as we talked about last nights episode!

      I do feel that a lot of people who have had subtitles all their lives (and the sheer volume) take it for granted and dont appreciate how slow progress can be. It took a long time to get to the stage where the terrestrial channels would subtitle a huge amount of their content, and that is exactly how it is for Satelite and VOD services. We cant have it all at once (as much as I would love that!) it has to be gradual. I accept that. What isnt acceptable is when they seem to make no effort at all and not bother with any percentage at all.

      Anyhow, I loved your blog and glad you shared it🙂


    • Sabrina 8:35 pm on November 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Great post, Dawn! Congratulations, and thank you for this informative and candid story.🙂


    • Claude Almansi 11:35 pm on November 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you, Dawn. Your post is very instructive for me as non-deaf.


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