March 4, 2014

Captioning for movies

Closed captioning is a mashup of two cultures: the deaf and those who can hear. The "mash" part sometimes rears its head in the form of odd captions for movies. I find this fascinating. Captions are essentially a translation sent from the hearing world to the deaf world -- but this translation is not always clear-cut. (BTW, my hearing is fine but I sometimes turn captions on because I find them interesting.)

Here are some examples from my recent viewing:
  • The caption said "stay there" as an actress sort of mimed the command. But she never actually said anything. I wondered about this. But then I realized that she had mouthed the words in addition to miming the meaning with her body (shush face, palms-down gesture). Perhaps the caption was included because deaf viewers might otherwise wonder what why "stay there" wasn't captioned. Mind you, deaf viewers would have already grasped her meaning because she said it so clearly with her gestures. Interesting!
  • When music plays, the caption often tries to define its mood. I get a kick out of their choices. "Ominous music" is a fun one. I also like the occasionally meaningless captions, such as "inaudible chanting". Indeed. (And I never heard any chanting, making this kinda weird. Maybe there really was inaudible chanting! Funny.)
  • In one movie, as a couple engaged in a sloppy kiss, the captioning said "Muah!" Gotta love that.
Of course, captioning can be helpful even to those who can hear. For instance, when I watched a movie that was set in New Orleans, I couldn't understand the heavy patios of one of the actors -- and I'm pretty good with accents. So I turned on captioning. It listed his sentences in clear, proper English, as if he had no accent. Very nice.

Have you had any adventures with captioning? I'd love to read comments from deaf readers. Are you satisfied with the captioning system? What needs to be improved?

I think it's great that captioning exists for any broadcast, though live shows are still problematic. There are lots of misspelled words and garbled phrases. Sometimes I wonder if they have two people typing the text, to keep up with the pace of the speakers. I say this because sometimes there will be one sentence haltingly typed on the screen, and then a full sentence or two will instantly appear after it. I'd love to know how they handle these live broadcasts. It would be interesting to be present as the typists create the captions. 

I'm gonna go put that on my bucket list.


Artichoke Annie said...

Maybe I should turn it on for some of the British shows I love. I really get lost sometimes, realizing that what I "hear" is not always what is "said".

Don't fret about spelling, it is going to be a thing of the past. I have been text/chatting with an under twenty and they write in shorthand. The odd thing is I understand what is written... and I guess in the end {sigh} that is the goal of communication.

[That sound you hear is millions of English majors crashing to the floor.]

writenow said...

Language becomes simplified over time. That's just how it works. I think this is part of that process. Hi!

cm said...

I love the Beatles picture up there.
I have to say, of all the things to put on a bucket list... That's great!
I like to read the captions too. A lot of times they have it on on restaurants. It makes me laugh sometimes.

writenow said...

There's the spirit! It's true: they're fun.