Tagged: Opinion Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • iheartsubtitles 1:18 pm on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Opinion, , , ,   

    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.


    • Nathalie 11:15 am on December 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply


      I came across this blog because i am doing my thesis on music subtitling. You have lots of very interesting information here!
      I am looking for any info I can get on music genres in music subtitles. Would you be familiar with anything/any styleguide being used anywhere? Is there any “reference list” used anywhere, is this being practiced? I can’t really find anything in my world of academia..especially not in German subtitling (which is what I am looking into)
      I’d be happy for any help I can get.


    • Jodene Antoniou 9:35 am on June 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Dawn, nice article!

      I believe a lot of the issues really come down to price. There is a huge gap in the market between incredibly cheap automated subtitling which is of a very poor quality and subtitles that are written by professionals but are incredibly expensive.

      Converting between subtitle formats is relatively simple with professional software and subtitles should be supported on most platforms. Most companies, including the BBC are shifting away from EBU-STL subtitles and more into Timed Text that can be used on more platforms. But supplying subtitles for all formats is still a cost and it’s far too tempting for providers to choose not to save money and not use VoD subtitles when still not all platforms support them.

      I have a son who has moderate hearing loss, and run a subtitling and closed captioning company, http://www.capitalcaptions.com. Our subtitles are ALWAYS written by professionals but offered at reasonable prices in order to encourage more TV providers to utilise them for all formats. But without the platform providers also taking responsibility soon, real changes are going to take a very long time.


  • iheartsubtitles 4:54 pm on December 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Opinion, production, ,   

    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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy34n09tvKo , 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
    Tags: , , , Opinion,   

    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 4:53 pm on November 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Opinion, ,   

    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.


  • iheartsubtitles 12:19 pm on June 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Opinion, , , ,   

    CSI TV Accessibility Conference 2014 – Live subtitling, VOD key themes 

    Photo of CSI TV Accessibility Conference 2014 brochure

    CSI TV Accessibility Conference 2014

    Earlier this month the CSI TV Accessibility Conference 2014 took place in London. I had hoped to be able to give a more detailed write up with a bit of help from the transcript of the live captioning that covered the event but I’m afraid my own notes are all I have and so I will summarise some of the interesting points made that I think will be of interest to readers here. It will not cover all of the presentations but it does cover the majority.

    i2 Media Research gave some statistics surrounding UK TV viewing and the opportunities that exist in TV accessibility. Firstly, TV viewing is higher in the older and disabled population. And with an ageing UK population the audience requiring accessibility features for TV is only going to increase.

    Andrew Lambourne, Business Director for Screen Subtitling Systems had an interesting title to his presentation: “What if subtitles were part of the programme?” In his years of working in the subtitling industry he questioned why are we still asking the same questions over recent years. The questions surround the measurement of subtitling quality, and if there is incentive to provide great subtitling coverage for children. 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 costs 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. With regards to live subtitling there is a need to educate the public as to why these errors occur. This was a repeated theme in a later presentation from Deluxe Media. It is one of the reasons I wrote the #subtitlefail! TV page on this blog.

    Peter Bourton, head of TV Content Policy at Ofcom gave an update and summary of the subtitling quality report which was recently published at the end of April. This is a continuing process and I’m looking forward to comparing the next report to this first one to see what changes and comparisons can be made. The presentation slides are available online.

    Senior BBC R&D Engineer Mike Armstrong gave a presentation on his results to measuring live subtitling quality. (This is different to the quantitative approach used by Pablo Romero and adopted by Ofcom to publish its reports) What I found most interesting about this research is that the perception of quality by a user of subtitles is quite different depending on whether the audio is switched on whilst watching the subtitled content. Ultimately nearly everyone is watching TV with the audio switched on and this research found that delay has a bigger impact on perception of quality compared to the impact of errors. The BBC R&D white paper is available online.

    Live subtitling continued to be a talking point at the conference with a panel discussion titled: Improving subtitling. On the panel was Gareth Ford-Williams (BBC Future Media), Vanessa Furey (Action On Hearing Loss), Andrew Lambourne (Screen Subtitling Systems), and David Padmore (Red Bee Media). All panelists were encouraged that all parties – regulators, broadcasters, technology researchers are working together to continually address subtitling issues. Developments in speech recognition technology used to produce live subtitles has moved towards language modelling to understand context better. The next generation of speech recognition tools such as Dragon has moved to phrase by phrase rather than word by word (the hope being that this should reduce error rates). There was also positivity that there is now a greater interest in speech technology which should lead to greater advancements over the coming years, compared to the speed of technology improvements in the past.

    With regards to accessibility and Video on Demand (VOD) services it was the turn of the UK’s Authority of Television Video on Demand (ATVOD) regulatory body to present. For those that are unaware, ATVOD regulate all VOD services operating in the UK except for BBC iPlayer which is regulated under Ofcom. In addition because iTunes and Netflix operate from Luxembourg, although their services are available in the UK, they are outside of the jurisdiction of ATVOD. There are no UK regulatory rules that say VOD providers must provide access services, but ATVOD have an access services working party group that encourage providers to do so as well as draft best practice guidelines. I cannot find anywhere on their website the results of a December 2013 survey looking at the statistics of how much VOD content is subtitled, signed, or audio described which was mentioned in the presentation. If anyone else finds it please comment below. However, in the meantime some of the statistics of this report can be found in Pete Johnson’s presentation slides online. What has changed since 2012 is that this survey is now compulsory for providers to complete to ensure the statistics accurately reflect the provision. Another repeated theme, first mentioned in this presentation is the complexity of the VOD distribution chain. It is very different for different companies, and the increasing number of devices which we can choose to access our content also adds to the complexity. One of the key differences for different VOD providers is end-to-end control. Few companies control the entire process from purchasing and/or creating content for consumers to watch right through to watching the content on a device. So therefore who is responsible for a change or adaptation to a workflow to support accessible features and who is going to pay for it?

    I should also mention that the success of a recent campaign from hard of hearing subtitling advocates in getting Amazon to finally commit a response and say that they will start subtitling content was mentioned positively during this presentation. You may have read my previous blog post discussing my disappointment at the lack of response. Since then, with the help of comedian Mark Thomas, who set up a stunt that involved putting posters up on windows of Amazon UK’s headquarters driving the message home, Amazon have committed to adding subtitles to their VOD service later this year. See video below for the stunt. It is not subtitled, but there is no dialogue, just a music track.

    You can read more about this successful advocacy work on Limping Chicken’s blog.

    Susie Buckridge, Director of Product for YouView gave a presentation on the accessibility features of the product which are pretty impressive. Much of the focus was on access features for the visually impaired. She reminded the audience that creating an accessible platform actually creates a better user experience for everyone. You can view the presentation slides online.

    Deluxe Media Europe gave a presentation that I think would be really useful for other audiences outside of those working in the industry. Stuart Campbell, Senior Live Operations Manager, and Margaret Lazenby Head of Media Access Services presented clear examples and explanations of the workflow involved in creating live subtitles via the process of respeaking for live television. Given the lack of understanding or coverage in mainstream media, this kind of information is greatly needed. This very point was also highlighted by the presenters. The presentation is not currently available online but you can find information about live subtitling processes on this blog’s #SubtitleFail TV page.

    A later panel discussed VOD accessibility. The panelists acknowledged that the expectation of consumers is increasing as is the volume and scale of complexity. It is hoped that the agreed common standard format of subtitle file EBU-TT will resolve a lot of these issues. This was a format still being worked on when it was discussed at the 2012 Conference which you can read about on this blog. The UK DPP earlier this year also published updated common standard subtitles guidelines.

    Were any of my readers at the conference? What did you think? And please do comment if you think I have missed anything important to highlight.

    • peterprovins 4:48 pm on July 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting blog. No excuse for TV, Film, website or even theatre not to be captioned…we do it all. Currently captioning university lectures and looking at doctors surgeries which are currently limited to BSL only. Keep up the good work.


  • iheartsubtitles 1:19 pm on May 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Opinion,   

    Guest blog post: A view on cinema subtitling technology 

    I received the following comments from a UK-based reader which they requested be published on this blog anonymously. It concerns subtitling and captioning technology that is currently already in use in cinemas in countries outside the UK. To be clear, there currently is no official word as to whether these personal technology solutions will be integrated into UK cinemas. I am hopeful that the CEA will publish results of the trials carried out in March very soon. For now here is the feedback I received on this topic. What are your thoughts?

    I would like to argue whether personal subtitling devices in cinema is better than nothing and convenient so one can go to the cinema at anytime without disturbing others, but is this the only solution?

    I feel in this case, deaf people are being treated as a second class citizen, make do with second best access provisions to please the majority without gathering real evidence. Even though the feedback have been negative in other countries but yet the cinema industry still pushes ahead for personal subtitling devices despite the protest/resistance from many deaf people who insists that on-screen subtitles is the only and best way forward.

    A friend of mine was there at the event where people tried out one device while watching a film (there were 3 different devices being tested) After watching the film with subtitles glasses for 15mins, my friend developed a headache from switching visions reading the subtitles on the glasses and watching the films. It made me realised that it is very unfair to expect D/deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people have to sacrifice their enjoyment for the benefit of the others. They pay tickets like everyone else. It does feel that the cinema industry is going back to the dark ages and ghettoising deaf people by introducing personal substandard experience for deaf people using personal devices. Also the way the experiment was carried out was rather biased and cleverly controlled.

    The participants did not get the chance to try all the equipment to give a fairer assessment of which was the best devices and neither the right questions asked, i.e. how much of the film visual elements was missed when reading the subtitles on the personal devices as when my friend left the room due to the headache, they went to another screen where the same film with on-screen subtitles was being played but started 10 mins later than the other screens with different devices and my friend realised how much visual information they were missing when using the personal devices in comparison to on-screen subtitles. And strangely enough, my friend’s headache eased after a few minute of reading the on-screen subtitles.

    That made me think, whether there could be another strategy. i.e. have designated screen at a multiplex for subtitled films on. So different films are shown at different times of the day in the week, so the trust is built between the deaf audience and the cinema and the attendance will increase because of the reliability/availability of subtitled screenings.

    I don’t see why this can’t work as after all cinemas never complain if there are under 5 hearing people in the cinema when the film is not popular or day time showing. In fact when you come to think about it, have there been any records of complaints from hearing people in relation to subtitles films? Why hasn’t the cinemas tried to screen a film with subtitles so everyone can go and watch it together instead of having two screens of the same film shown at the same time to make it more cost-effective.

    I think not enough care and thought has been put into this to change the attitudes. Instead they are spending millions to develop new devices which will also cost millions to install and still leave deaf customers with an unsatisfactory experience. With personal devices, it means that many people who are losing their hearing will still struggle to enjoy cinema experience because it is hidden and you have to be in the know about personal devices to use it whereas on-screen subtitles captures the recent deafened or hard of hearing people and enables them to come to terms with their hearing loss much quicker especially if it is visible and widely accepted.

    That is just my two pence worth.

  • iheartsubtitles 3:23 pm on April 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Opinion, , ,   

    Subtitles and Captioning – Regulatory requirements update part 2 and adding business value 

    As a follow-up to my previous post, I am going to discuss recent reports specific to UK broadcasters which are regulated by Ofcom.

    Last month the charity Action on Hearing Loss published the results of a survey carried out at the request of Ofcom to investigate the quality of subtitles seen on UK linear television. The results for me were not that surprising:

    The highest percentage of problems experienced with subtitles were in relation to news programmes, with nearly half of respondents reporting this as a problem in our survey. Entertainment programmes received 18% of complaints and drama programmes received 16%. Around one eighth of respondents complained about subtitles during a sports programme. A high proportion of these programmes are likely to have at least some live subtitling.

    SOURCE: Action On Hearing Loss – Research – Getting The Full Picture

    Of the live subtitling more than half the complaints were about delay and time lag between speech audio and the subtitles on screen. Again, not surprising. If you want to make subtitles completely unusable – being out of sync with the audio is the way to do it! What the survey does not cover and what I would be interested to see is how Ofcom as a regulatory body could measure the quality of subtitles that broadcasters provide on a regular basis. I have written about this in more detail in CSI User Experience Conference 2012 Part 2 – Live Subtitles & measuring quality.

    Ofcom have published the full year 2012 TV Access Report. The table illustrates the percentage of programmes certain channels are required to subtitle. The good news is that with the exception of ESPN, channels have met their required quota and some have done even better and exceeded it.

    The percentage of content that Ofcom require broadcasters to subtitle is based on the individual channels total audience share. This means that smaller channels are not legally required to provide subtitling and therefore those channels don’t even appear in the report. Is this right? I recently had a conversation via twitter with a TV viewer unhappy that the SyFy channel has not subtitled a brand new and exclusive show called Defiance. Take a look at the tweets I collated at Storify: UK broadcasters linear and VOD TV channels not subtitled.

    In response to a complaint about lack of subtitles SyFy wrote:

    Under current Ofcom regulations channels are obligated to provide access services according to their size. The bigger the channel, the more they must provide. On this basis we are not currently required to provided subtitles on SyFy, and unfortunately as the costs involved in creating those versions are high, we therefore cannot do so at this time.

    SOURCE: @topofthetree

    First off, it is good that SyFy sent a reply to the query (some channels don’t even bother with that). The answer is of course not what those of us who require subtitles to follow a programme want to hear. Whilst SyFy are correct with regards to regulations it the last sentence I question. The costs are high. Well yes there is a cost to subtitle a programme, but cost is relative. How expensive is creating subtitles for viewers compared to the costs spent on the UK marketing campaign promoting the series? I for one haven’t failed to notice the billboard posters promoting the series – the money was found for that. So here is my opinion:

    Really what SyFy is saying is that they have not chosen to budget the cost because it’s not legally required. This is a real shame SyFy because you can spend as much money as you want on promoting the show but having chosen to not provide subtitles, you’ve lost potential audience members before you’ve even began. How silly is that? It’s a kick in the teeth to see the publicity and the posters knowing full well you can’t tune into the premiere even if you wanted to because no subtitles are available! And here’s another thing, the value added by providing subtitles stays with that programme throughout its run on the TV channel. The marketing does not! Once this series has premiered, all that money spent on publicity, done, finished. If you choose to also spend money on providing subtitles, they can be used again and again and again every time the programme airs (and lets face it almost every linear TV channel out there has an awful lot of repeats) that is surely value for money right there? SyFy state they hope to provide subtitles in the future. Given the points I have made in this article, I ask SyFy and similar smaller channels, what are you waiting for?

    Going back to Storify: UK broadcasters linear and VOD TV channels not subtitled and a response from Sky with regards to no subtitles being provided on their VOD (Video On Demand) service:

    The technology used in providing subtitles for TV broadcasts is different for On Demand. Unfortunately it is not possible to just transfer these over as different versions have to be created…We are investigating options at the moment to increase the availability of subtitles On Demand but we cannot at this point confirm when this will be available.

    SOURCE: @Shelle02

    Unlike linear TV channels, VOD is regulated by ATVOD (Authority for Television On Demand) in the UK (except for BBC iPlayer), and unlike Ofcom they currently have no power to compel VOD channels to provide subtitles. I have written about this in more detail in CSI User Experience Conference 2012 Part 1 – Subtitling & Video On Demand Services.

    VOD is growing, in size and complexity. And with that comes technological challenges in providing the service, and access services. But here’s the thing, the content provider who solves the access issue in working out how to provide subtitles for VOD services, much like the SyFy example will be adding business value. According to an article by Red Bee Media, there are four ways add value to VOD:


    In my view, value for Video On Demand is added in four areas:

    1) Of course, the majority of the value is in the content creation and is generated when the item is first made. This, after all, is the reason content is purchased, watched, saved, shared and rewatched. This value drives all other values.
    2) Additional value can be added during content manipulation. For example when a French movie is translated and localised for German audiences.
    3) Content transcoding adds value by ensuring content will play on an end device like a tablet.
    4) The last value-add is the ability to return consumption, demographic and interaction data to content and platform owners to generate additional value, which includes simple upselling like “if you like this, you’ll like that…”. Also, given that 64% of Generation X and 74% of Generation Y use a second screen while watching TV, metadata gives us the ability to synchronise second-screen content with first-screen action.

    SOURCE: Red Bee Media – How Do We Handle The Growing Complexity In VOD

    Looking at (2) above, content manipulation includes adding subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, not just translation surely? Looking at (4) subtitles can be used as a metadata source to assist a broadcaster with its workflows. Subtitle files are a data source – it contains valuable editorial information (i.e. all of the spoken dialogue) for that programme with a time stamp. This data could be used for search functionality to pinpoint exact parts of a programme where ‘x’ might be mentioned, potentially saving hours of time for a human to manually look for such instances. For more information on metadata’s use in VOD read An Introduction to Video Metadata and CSI User Experience Conference – Part 4 – Access business models. For VOD channels operating online there is also the added benefit that subtitles and captions give to video SEO. I have written about examples of this in Captioning, subtitling and SEO and the second screen and if you want more information on this subject taken a look at 3 Play Media blog series on Video SEO.

    In conclusion then, adding subtitles provides access benefits and business value to broadcasters. Providing access is not a punishment because you’ve reached a certain audience percentage (linear TV), it’s a way to increase audience reach in the first place. Why wait until Ofcom tell you it is a legal requirement? And for VOD, it is no different. The quicker solutions are found for the technological issues in adding subtitles the quicker you can add business value and extend audience reach. The VOD service that does this, is the one that will get my money and customer loyalty.

    • Beth Abbott 4:09 pm on April 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Great, thorough and well-researched article – thanks Dawn!


    • oldmoan 4:12 pm on April 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      This is a very well constructed arguement, it is something I think needs to be addressed by OFCOM urgently. Using SyFy as an example, my biggest bugbear, saying subtitles are costly is, as you rightly state, shortsighted. There are thousands of deaf sci fi fans, surely a bigger audience potentially is worth fighting for! Bigger ad revenues?
      I am also at a loss as to why TV/ Film companies do not create a central repository for subs that can be accessed for a minimal fee controlled by, well, lets say an independent body set up by the industry itself!
      It is the 21st century, it is unbelievable that in this day and age of in your face technology that something that is available, actually isn’t!


    • Michelle 7:18 pm on April 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      An excellent piece of writing, very precise and informative! It seems technology is leaving deaf people behind as the competition hots up between the sky and cable channels and also streaming services. They all use the same excuse that it is not yet possible to subtitle their services but quite simply it isnt good enough. I have Sky with its huge number of channels, and yet I find despite OFCOM, I am restricted to only a number of channels with subtitles. Day after day I see programmes that I would so love to watch but cant due to lack of accessibility.

      I would never demand 100% access – I am not that unreasonable. All I ask is that they make some effort in subtitling more of their channels and programmes and increase that over the years.

      What we need is just one channel to be daring, to be the good guy and stand up and say they are going to be innovative and subitle some of their stuff despite not being legally required by OFCOM!

      I for one am going to contact a few of the channels, using emails, Twitter and Facebook and see what I get back. Would love to get something back from them other than the standard replies we are so familiar with!


    • Alan 10:22 am on May 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      The argument here is quite a valid one. I, too, emailed Syfy last year, (2012) asking about subtitling as they did before for the likes of Eureka,(up until the very last series of it). Then, suddenly, subtitles were nowhere to be seen on any of their popular output.I am disheartened. And, enlightened by your dissertation on this subject.


    • Kate B 12:10 pm on December 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hi, have just discovered this blog and this thread is very pertinent right now. How does Sky get away with no subtitling for a flagship programme on Sky One over the holiday season? Syfy is not a maonstream channel, but Sky1 is. I’m referring to Moonfleet. Who do I complain to? I don’t use Twitter, but have put a comment on Facebook – though I don’t expect anyone from Sky actually reads that 😦


    • Kate B 10:53 am on December 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you very much – I did find that (after a bit of searching) and have put in a complaint. Since then, Sky have finally managed to attach subtitles – they say – and these will be transmitted on Friday’s repeat. But I still think it’s scandalous to make so much fuss about a programme and then omit something vrey basic in the accessibility. I also got a rreply on Facebook, so something did get through!


  • iheartsubtitles 6:59 pm on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Opinion, , , , , , ,   

    Subtitles and Captioning – Regulatory requirements update 

    In the USA the deadline set by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVVA) passed at the end of March. This was the deadline for US broadcasters to ensure that any live or near live programmes captioned for TV linear channel broadcast are also captioned on online catch-up services. So for anyone living in the USA reading this should you wish to file a complaint due to lack of captions online you can do so by completing a FCC Form.

    Currently in the UK there are no regulatory requirements covering online catch-up services. The major broadcasters services such as BBC iPlayer, itv player, 4OD, and Demand 5 do provide subtitles where available. In addition BBC iPlayer and 40D provide audio description online if it has been providing during TV broadcast. This is assuming you are streaming the content online from a PC, as opposed to downloading for which subtitles are not yet available. So, a fairly good start has been made without regulatory requirements being put in place. The question is, is it enough? I don’t think it is. Not all broadcasters are doing it. This is not equal access to a catch up online service.

    A broader but related issue to this is that broadcast services and the technology behind it is moving at a fast pace. One of the poorest areas for captions and subtitles availability is in OTT* services. When connected TV becomes the norm, it makes sense that these OTT services will sit next to traditional broadcast channels and online catch up services. Maybe they will even appear in the same EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) on your TV. The issue here is, consumers aren’t going to know or be interested in the difference. Both are TV channels offering content to watch, both should provide the same kind of access through captions or subtitles. And why shouldn’t consumers think and feel like this? For OTT services, Netflix is probably currently leading the field in the provision of captions and subtitles (anyone disagree?) but it’s interesting that this appears to have come about as result of the company being sued by National Association for the Deaf (NAD) back in 2011 for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) for doing the exact opposite and failing to provide closed captioning! Maybe we do need more regulatory requirements. What do you think?

    *OTT refers to ‘Over The Top’ Television and refers to broadband delivery of video and audio without a multiple system operator being involved in the control or distribution of the content itself. For example Netflix provide content but to access their services you need a broadband connection that they do not control but ‘ride over the top’ of this service to provide content to consumers. Consumers can access OTT content through internet-connected devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, set-top boxes, Smart TVs and gaming consoles such as the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

    • Larry Goldberg 7:59 pm on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Though Netflix is definitely building up their inventory of captioned (subtitled) TV programs, Apple’s iTunes (available via their OTT Apple TV device or Mac or PC) probably has just as much captioned content.


    • iheartsubtitles 10:33 pm on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the info Larry. Good to know.


  • iheartsubtitles 10:24 pm on February 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Opinion   

    The DVD media format – is it the best example of closed captioning and subtitles workflow? 

    Screen shot of the Video Caption Reader logo explaining captions will appear if a decoder is connected to your TV and video recorder.

    Video Caption Reader – Some VHS players could decode captions that were provided on some VHS releases.

    Remember the above? When the DVD replaced the VHS it was a revolution in access to media for those of us that use subtitles or closed captioning. No longer did you require the more expensive end of the market of VHS players capable of decoding a captioning track that only some released titles on VHS had available. Distributors started to supply captions and subtitles with many titles released on the DVD format. And so I have heard many say that the DVD supply chain is the best subtitle or captioning model to follow when it comes to other ways that we are now choosing to view our media content be it streamed or downloaded to and from multiple devices. On a general level I would agree with this statement but there are still issues with it which I will discuss in this post.

    • Regions – DVD distribution globally is split into regions. This allows distributors to control release dates, content and price, according to the region in which it is being sold. I don’t actually think there is any benefit to the consumer for this, it is only a benefit to the distributors themselves. Please comment and correct me if you think otherwise. In fact when it comes to subtitles or captions it can lead to much frustration. To give an example, a region 1 DVD for a particular title may be subtitled or captioned, but in another region it is not. This can be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is because different distributors are responsible for the DVD release in different regions. Has anyone reading had to buy a different region DVD to their home region in order to get access to captioning or subtitles? I have.
      Animated GIF of a scene from the TV series Due South

      TV Series Due South, Region 1 DVD has English subtitles, Region 2 does not. Why? Because the different regions have different distributors responsible for the DVD rights. IMAGE SOURCE: tumblr

      My DVD home region is region 2 but the DVD release of one of my favourite TV shows Due South is not provided with subtitles because the distributor for region 2 Due South DVD has not provided them on the disc. Instead I had to purchase a Region 1 DVD released by a different distributor who has provided captions and subtitles on the disc. In order to play this disc however I have to ensure that my DVD player is multi-regional. What was a simple work-flow has become complicated by the creation of different regions for the sale of DVD media to the consumer.

    • Not all distributors choose to provide subtitles or captions for every single release. It is probably fair to say however that the DVD is the most widely subtitled/captioned format.
    • Many distributors for reasons I cannot understand do not subtitle media that they consider exempt. This is often applied to DVDs on sports, music (see my blog post here), and documentaries. Why should any of these be exempt?
    • DVD labelling – You would think that distributors could get this right. Now on the whole they do but I have purchased DVDs which according to the labelling has subtitles available only to find that when I insert the disc into my DVD player, there are no subtitles available. Even worse, some distributors are missing out on potential sales by not making it clear on labelling that subtitles are available for titles (this is a much rarer occurrence in my experience). This situation worries me more than it did recently. Over recent weeks in the UK there have been announcement of the closure of high street stores and DVD stockists HMV and Blockbuster. Changes in buying habits from the high street to online and from DVD to download have been some of the claimed reasons for the closure of these stores. I fear that the subtitle user has much more to lose from this. This is because online shops don’t always provide the information to the consumer for DVD titles as to whether subtitles are available. When this information isn’t listed online I have often picked up the DVD media in the shop to check the labelling which usually does provide this info. I might not be able to do this for much longer*. Moreover it is subtitle users that are probably more likely to purchase the DVD format over downloads or streaming since these formats currently are rarely subtitled.

    Do I want to go back to VHS? Of course not, DVD has certainly seen a massive step in the right direction with subtitles and captions availability. Wouldn’t it be nice if the new ways in which we are choosing to watch media eventually does even better than the DVD with subtitles and caption availability? Get rid of regions, provide captions for all titles – including music, sports, documentaries, and make it clear when subtitles and captions are available.

    *A fantastic resource for those in region 2 DVD and Blu-Ray zones is DVD subtitles which tries to correct where labelling and/or online shops go wrong. It provides detailed analysis of subtitle availability for all aspects including extras on DVD discs. This information is collated by volunteers so do help contribute if you find this useful. I know I do.

    • codeman38 1:53 pm on February 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      The situation with captioning on “Due South” is even weirder than you’ve suggested here.

      There are two different Region 1 releases of the show; it was originally distributed by a Canadian company (being a Canadian show), but then a US studio picked it up and started handling distribution on the American side of the border. The original Canadian release, which is still sold in Canada, is captioned. The US re-release isn’t.


    • iheartsubtitles 1:57 pm on February 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the info. The inconsistency is a nightmare!


    • Nick Tee 3:02 pm on February 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I thought you might be interested to see that the US Department of Education has just published in January 2013 – the first Research paper on the link between the use of subtitles and the ability to improve Reading and Literacy skills.

      This is wonderful for all of us here at Zane Education – and those of you that are supporting the use of captions. Although extensive research has been done by different parties over the last 20 years into this link, this is the first research published by a Government organisation. Furthermore most of those researchers have been forced to use either children’s Hollywood Movies or Karaoke videos.

      However here at Zane Education we provide subtitles on K-12 curriculum-based videos which enables each child or student to improve their reading and literacy skills AT THE SAME TIME they are studying school subjects in the classroom or at home.

      With the publishing of this Research we might all start to see a much wider acceptance and awareness of the value of subtitles beyond those who think subtitles are simply of use to the hearing impaired.

      Here is a link to that Research document:



      • iheartsubtitles 10:15 pm on February 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Nick, thank you for the link. It is great that the value of captioning is being recognised in more areas.


    • happyzinny 9:16 pm on February 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I downloaded the first episode of a massively popular series- I think it was Game of Thrones- off iTunes and was bitterly disappointed by the lack of subtitles. Perhaps they’ve added them by now, but this consumer is afraid of getting burned again!


      • iheartsubtitles 10:13 pm on February 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        iTunes does support closed captioning but for reasons I fail to understand the distributors often don’t provide them. They did for the DVD format, why stop for downloads? iTunes should listed when closed captions are available – you can filter searches to show only those results. I haven’t done this for a while because the results were so few titles. I hope this improves.


  • iheartsubtitles 3:23 pm on January 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Opinion, ,   

    Web Series – increasing in popularity? Where are the captions? 

    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.

    SOURCE: Wikipedia

    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.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
%d bloggers like this: