Why are closed captions sometimes mistimed?

Aries

DTVUSA Member
#1
I've noticed that on a few channels and programs, most notably Comedy Central and the news, the captions are often delayed by about 4-5 seconds. Being that I'm fairly hard of hearing, I often have them on, but it does annoy me when they're saying one thing and I'm three seconds behind.

It happens fairly often on Adult Swim as well, and it's certainly not live news it happens on. This was back in Tennessee when I had Charter as my company.

Was it a fixable issue, or did they not pay the captioning guys enough cash?
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#2
I don't know all the technical details of this, but for recorded programming I can assure you that it isn't typically a human issue. You can expect this to some extent with all live, and recorded live, programming.

There are two kinds of closed captions. With one, the lines of text scroll onto the screen. You almost can feel the captioner doing the typing. This is used typically for live broadcasts. It does rely on the skills of the captioner, very heavily. A less talented captioner cannot just take their time to do a better job. So you get typos, and perhaps a more noticeable latency between the sound and the caption.

Note that while this is typically used only for live programming, there are a lot of shows that are recorded live, and broadcast hours later. We watch The Soup on E!, and it definitely falls into this category. I suspect Comedy Central's The Daily Show falls into this category.

Remember, too, that they now need to apply both EIA-608 (analog) and EIA-708 (digital) captions (most stations still put out both an analog and a digital signal -- only broadcast stations have gone digital-only, and even then, not all of them), so I could imagine that the technical arrangements for that, with live captions, could result in a much more noticeable latency with one or the other, since the work of the captioner has to be chained from one to the other somehow. (As I understand it, there is no one device that does both at the same time, nor a way to convert one to the other.)

The other kind of captions are used for recorded programming. The captions flash on, and then later flash off the screen. They don't scroll. They can be placed in specific places on the screen, if the captioner feels that makes the context of where the sound is coming from clearer. Latency is really inappropriate in this context.
 

Orrymain

, Blogger: Orry's Orations
#3
The thing that is curious to me is how inaccurate some of these captions are, and not for the live broadcasts; that I can understand, but it's weird sometimes to turn on the captioning on the DVD and see how far off it is from the actual dialog.
 

bicker

DTVUSA Member
#4
On a DVD? My wife relies on captions and we haven't seen that very much. On television, quite a bit, surely, but DVDs, that's new to us. There are some subtle differences sometime, but typically not a lot.
 

Lurker Lee

DTVUSA Member
#5
OK, dumb question, but are the closed captions supposed to be in regular English? I've seen some where the captioning is untelligible to me, just about gibberish. Is that some sort of short hand or maybe it's a problem with my cable company or something dropping 2/3 of the letters? Most are very well done with complete sentences, punctuation etc, so that's why the others look so odd to me.

The other thing that strikes me as funny is when the closed caption says something different than what the actor says. It basically has the same meaning, but they'll change a few words, and occasionally throw in a sentence that wasn't said.

I don't use cc too often, although I use it sometimes to go back and repeat (love my dvr for that!) if I couldn't understand what was said. Or I'll put the tv on cc when mute.
 

Aaron62

Contributor
Staff member
#6
OK, dumb question, but are the closed captions supposed to be in regular English? I've seen some where the captioning is untelligible to me, just about gibberish. Is that some sort of short hand or maybe it's a problem with my cable company or something dropping 2/3 of the letters? Most are very well done with complete sentences, punctuation etc, so that's why the others look so odd to me.

The other thing that strikes me as funny is when the closed caption says something different than what the actor says. It basically has the same meaning, but they'll change a few words, and occasionally throw in a sentence that wasn't said.

I don't use cc too often, although I use it sometimes to go back and repeat (love my dvr for that!) if I couldn't understand what was said. Or I'll put the tv on cc when mute.
I've seen that too and always thought it had something to do with the transcriber or the program that the TV station uses. Like they almost need to reboot or something. When it happens, it doesn't even look like letters or numbers, more like a whole other language.
 

JakesDTVBlog

DTVUSAForum Member, , , Webmaster of: Jake's DTV B
#7
A lot of times, I find that the CC goes to gibberish (or worse) when I'm not getting that great of a signal OTA. This will happen, more often than not, before the sound and/or picture start to break up if a signal is progressively getting weaker.
 

Lurker Lee

DTVUSA Member
#8
A lot of times, I find that the CC goes to gibberish (or worse) when I'm not getting that great of a signal OTA. This will happen, more often than not, before the sound and/or picture start to break up if a signal is progressively getting weaker.
Ah, that makes sense. Lately I've been having a lot of problems with my cable internet signal, but hadn't noticed any TV problems... or at least none that I recognized. So that may be related. Thanks.
 

Piggie

Super Moderator
#9
A lot of times, I find that the CC goes to gibberish (or worse) when I'm not getting that great of a signal OTA. This will happen, more often than not, before the sound and/or picture start to break up if a signal is progressively getting weaker.
Jake, the CC is part of the PSIP information. So unless you are watching a show that is right on the edge of the cliff going in and out, blocking at times, (like VHF in a lightning) then the CC is just like the picture, sound and everything else, it's all or nothing.
 
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