This webcast posted by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is a good introduction to current US captioning regulatory requirements and new requirements due to come into play in the USA. All US broadcasters must caption content online that has previously been broadcast on linear TV by the end of this month. This includes pre-recorded content that has been edited for broadcast online. By March 2014, this also applies to live and near live content. Whilst the webcast is US-Centric the technical problems and solutions it discusses around captioning formats for online, and multi-platform broadcast content is relevant to all global broadcasters. The webcast covers both pre-recorded/block style captioning as well as live subtitling. It is captioned and you can view it below:
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So far on this blog when discussing access to video content on the web I have focused on catch-up services provided by traditional linear TV broadcasters. But increasingly there is some content that is available on the web only, usually refered to as a web series.
A web series is a series of videos, generally in episodic form, released on the Internet or also by mobile or cellular phone, and part of the newly emerging medium called web television. A single instance of a web series program is called an episode or webisode.
Web Series shouldn’t be mistaken for being small-fry, it is an industry big enough to have its own awards called The Streamys. The number 1 subscribed web series on You Tube is currently Smoosh with over 7,000,000 subscribers! This kind of content is not subject to the same regulatory rules as web catch up services in any country so far as I am aware (readers please correct me by commenting on this post if I am wrong). Unfortunately much of this content is without captions or subtitles but there are some fantastic individuals working hard to advocate and educate producers of web series to encourage them to include it. Captioned Web TV is a fantastic blog that lists all web series it finds that includes captions. It also contains useful information for web producers to take steps in captioning their videos. If you know of any web series with captions that is not listed you can submit that information to the site.
In addition to web series created by individual producers, OTT platforms such as Amazon and Netflix are starting to produce their own exclusive shows. Netflix’s first produced show is a remake of the TV series House Of Cards. To my pleasant surprise the trailer which is already online has been captioned and so I hope the same will be true of the series itself:
In a similar vein Amazon Studios has greenlit several productions but have not yet completed production. And in the US Hulu has several exclusive series, the captioning of which seems to be a mixed bag:
It is not just the OTT companies, traditional Film & TV production companies also produce series exclusively for the web. One of the series I would very much like to watch but cannot because it is not captioned is from Crackle (run by Sony) called Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. It’s success in bringing viewers to the site has meant that a second series is being produced, and according to paidContent, “2013 is the year of the web series second season”. What I’d like to see is “2013 – the year of captioned web series”. I’ll settle for 2014 if I have to. I’m not convinced changes will happen this quickly. For a start because of its very nature – anyone can upload a web series anywhere at anytime once they have made it, how to keep up with it all? Here’s a list that is fairly current of the many ways to watch web series. I don’t doubt this list could be out of date fairly quickly. But what if The Streamys gave an awards category for the most accessible content? I’d like to see producers whether individuals, OTT platforms, or web content from traditional production companies all competing for that as much as they are for subscribers/hits/views at the very least. Right now, a lot of us are missing out.
How was everyone’s holiday break? Christmas seems ages away already but one of the best Christmas present’s I got was staying at my parents and watching lots of great television on their new internet connected smart TV. Up until this point in time, all the internet connected TV I had tried to use was completely without subtitles support, or if it was there, I had yet to find the subtitled content. So imagine my surprise when I selected BBC iplayer to find an option to turn the subtitles on. Very exciting! It meant I could watch catch-up services via connected TV on a big high quality TV screen rather than a smaller PC screen or an even smaller laptop screen or smart phone. Here’s the photo I took illustrating BBC iplayer on an internet connected TV with subtitles options:
I too have a connected TV, and it too is a Sony model. A different model but only approx a year older than the model my parents bought. So I was hopeful that if I went into my connected internet TV settings and checked for a software upgrade that the next time I log into BBC iPlayer, I too would get the subtitles support. As soon as I got back home, this is exactly what I went to do. So imagine my disappointment when logging into iPlayer after the upgrade to find that I still do not have subtitles support. Worse than that, how confusing is it to consumers that different models from the same TV manufacturer (in this instance, Sony) appear to have different capabilities. My parents connected TV is a brand new model, I bought mine less than a year ago. It wasn’t cheap, and I feel like I want a refund. Or am I doing something wrong? It’s not that easy to know – how do I know I have the latest update? Also, there is no way for me to know prior to buying which models will provide me with the subtitle support. Sony cannot provide that information to me as it is probably down to the provider (in this instance the BBC). All in all it’s a bit of a mess. I don’t see that changing any time soon, and I’m not sure what the solution is. I can only hope that once internet connected or smart TV’s become the norm that there is consistent behaviour between models and manufacturers and the connected TV services provided on it – including its access services.
What are other people’s experiences so far with using connected TV services and accessing subtitles or captions? Please comment below.