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Encyclopedia > Closed captioning
A commonly-used symbol indicating that a program or movie is closed-captioned.
A commonly-used symbol indicating that a program or movie is closed-captioned.

Closed captioning (CC) allows deaf and hard of hearing / hearing-impaired people, people learning English as an additional language, people first learning how to read, people in a noisy environment, and others to read a transcript or dialogue of the audio portion of a video, film, or other presentation. As the video plays, text captions are displayed that transcribe, although not always verbatim, what is said and by whom and indicate other relevant sounds. Image File history File links This is a generic Closed Captioning symbol, which I drew myself and I am releasing into the public domain Gary D Robson 16:09, 25 August 2005 (UTC) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to... Image File history File links This is a generic Closed Captioning symbol, which I drew myself and I am releasing into the public domain Gary D Robson 16:09, 25 August 2005 (UTC) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to... The word deaf can have very different meanings depending on the background of the person speaking or the context in which the word is used. ... A hearing impairment is a decrease in ones ability to hear (i. ... It has been suggested that Teaching English as a Second Language be merged into this article or section. ...

The term "closed" in closed captioning means that not all viewers see the captions—only those who decode or activate them. This is distinguished from "open captions," where the captions are visible to all viewers. Open captions are sometimes referred to as "in-vision" in the UK. Captions that are permanently visible in a video, film, or other medium are called "burned-in" captions.

In the US and Canada, "captions" are distinguished from "subtitles". In these countries, "subtitles" assume the viewer can hear but cannot understand the language, so they only translate dialogue and some onscreen text. "Captions" aim to describe all significant audio content, as well as "non-speech information," such as the identity of speakers and their manner of speaking; sometimes music or sound effects are also described using words or symbols within the closed caption. The distinction between subtitles and closed captions is not always made in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where the term "subtitles" is a general term. For other uses, see United States (disambiguation) and US (disambiguation). ... A subtitle can refer to one of two things: an explanatory or alternate title of a book, play or film, in addition to its main title, or textual versions of a film or television programs dialogue that appear onscreen. ... Music is conceptual time expressed in the structures of tones and silence. ... Sound effects or audio effects are artificially created or enhanced sounds, or sound processes used to emphasize artistic or other content of movies, video games, music, or other media. ...

It has been suggested that the largest audience of closed captioning are now in fact hearing people in ESL communities. In the US, the National Captioning Institute noted that ESL learners were the largest group buying decoders in the late 1980s and early 1990s (before built-in decoders became a standard feature of U.S. television sets). It has been suggested that Teaching English as a Second Language be merged into this article or section. ... The National Captioning Institute is a non-profit organization that provides closed captioning for television and movies. ...


Television and video

For live programs, spoken words comprising the television program's soundtrack are transcribed by an operator using stenotype or stenomask type of machines, whose phonetic output is instantly translated into text by a computer and displayed on the screen. This technique was developed in the 1970s as an initiative of the BBC's Ceefax teletext service.[1] In collaboration with the BBC, a university student took on the research project of writing the first phonetics-to-text conversion program for this purpose. [2] (PDF) Automatic computer speech recognition now works well when trained to recognise a single voice, and so since 2003 the BBC does live subtitling by having someone re-speak what is being broadcast. Soundtrack refers to the recorded sound accompanying a visual medium such as a motion picture, television show, or video game. ... A stenotype or shorthand machine is a specialized keyboard or typewriter used by stenographers for shorthand use. ... A stenomask is a mouth mask with a built-in microphone. ... 1970 (MCMLXX) was a common year starting on Thursday (the link is to a full 1970 calendar). ... The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world. ... A BBC Ceefax page from 10 September 1999 Ceefax (phonetic for See Facts) is the BBCs teletext information service. ... A BBC Ceefax page from the 10th September 1999. ...

In some cases the transcript is available beforehand and captions are simply displayed during the program after being edited. For programs that have a mix of pre-prepared and live content, such as news bulletins, a combination of the above techniques is used.

For prerecorded programs and home videos, audio is transcribed and captions are prepared, positioned, and timed in advance.

For all types of NTSC programming, captions are "encoded" into Line 21 of the vertical blanking interval – a part of the TV picture that sits just above the visible portion and is usually unseen. For ATSC (digital television) programming, three streams are encoded in the video: two are backward compatible Line 21 captions, and the third is a set of up to 63 additional caption streams encoded in EIA-708 format. NTSC is the analog television system in use in Korea, Japan, United States, Canada and certain other places, mostly in the Americas (see map). ... EIA-608, also known as line 21 captions, is the standard for closed captioning for NTSC TV broadcasts in the United States and Canada. ... The vertical blanking interval (VBI) is an interval in a television or VDU signal that temporarily suspends transmission of the signal for the electron gun to move back up to the first line of the television screen to trace the next screen field. ... The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) is the group that helped to develop the new digital television standard for the United States, also adopted by Canada, Mexico, and South Korea and being considered by other countries. ... It has been suggested that Digital terrestrial television be merged into this article or section. ... EIA-708 is the standard for closed captioning for ATSC digital television streams in the United States and Canada. ...

Captioning is transmitted and stored differently in PAL and SECAM countries, where teletext is used rather than Line 21, but the methods of preparation are similar. Note that, for home videotapes, a variation of the Line 21 system is used in PAL countries. Teletext captions can't be stored on a standard VHS tape, although they are available on S-VHS tapes. PAL, short for phase-alternating line, phase alternation by line or phase alternation line, is a colour encoding system used in broadcast television systems in large parts of the world. ... SÉCAM (Séquentiel couleur à mémoire, French for sequential colour with memory) is an analog color television system first used in France. ... A BBC Ceefax page from the 10th September 1999. ...

For older televisions, a set-top box or other decoder is usually required. In the U.S., since the passage of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act, manufacturers of most television receivers sold in have been required to include closed captioning. High-definition TV sets, receivers, and tuner cards are also covered, though the technical specifications are different. Canada has no similar law, but receives the same sets as the U.S. in most cases. tv-card A TV tuner card is a computer component that allows television signals to be received by a computer. ...

There are three styles of Line 21 closed captioning:

  • Roll-up or scroll-up or scrolling: The words appear from left to right, up to one line at a time; when a line is filled, the whole line scrolls up to make way for a new line, and the line on top is erased. The captions usually appear at the bottom of the screen, but can actually be placed anywhere to avoid covering graphics or action. This method is used for live events, where a sequential word-by-word captioning process is needed.
  • Pop-on or pop-up or block: A caption appears anywhere on the screen as a whole, followed by another caption or no captions. This method is used for most pre-taped television and film programming.
  • Paint-on: The caption, whether it be a single word or a line, appears on the screen letter-by-letter from left to right, but ends up as a stationary block like pop-on captions. Rarely used; most often seen in very first captions when little time is available to read the caption or in "overlay" captions added to an existing caption.

A single program may include scroll-up and pop-on captions (e.g., scroll-up for narration and pop-on for song lyrics). A musical note symbol is used to indicate song lyrics or background music. Generally, lyrics are preceded and followed by music notes, while song titles are bracketed like a sound effect. Standards vary from country to country and company to company. It has been suggested that Third person limited omniscient be merged into this article or section. ... Lyrics are the words in songs. ...

For live programs, some soap operas, and other shows captioned using scroll-up, Line 21 caption text includes the symbols '>>' to indicate a new speaker (the name of the new speaker sometimes appears as well), and '>>>' in news reports to identify a new story.In some cases, '>>' means one person is talking and '>>>' means two or more people are talking. Capitals are frequently used because many older home caption decoder fonts had no descenders for the lowercase letters g, j, p, q, and y, though virtually all modern TVs have caption character sets with descenders. Text can be italicized, among a few other style choices. Captions can be presented in different colors as well. Coloration is rarely used in North America, but is often used in the United Kingdom and Australia for speaker differentiation. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The descenders are the parts of the characters that lie below the baseline, highlighted in red. ... In typography, italic type refers to cursive typefaces based on a stylized form of calligraphic handwriting. ...

There were many shortcomings in the original Line 21 specification from a typographic standpoint, since, for example, it lacked many of the characters required for captioning in languages other than English. Since that time, the core Line 21 character set has been expanded to include quite a few more characters, handling most requirements for languages common in North and South America such as French, Spanish, and Portuguese, though those extended characters are not required in all decoders and are thus unreliable in everyday use. The problem has been almost eliminated with the EIA-708 standard for digital television, which boasts a far more comprehensive character set. This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...

Captions are often edited to make them easier to read and to reduce the amount of text displayed onscreen. This editing can be very minor, with only a few occasional unimportant missed lines, to severe where virtually every line spoken by the actors is condensed. The measure used to guide this editing is words per minute, commonly varying from 180 to 300, depending on the type of program. Offensive words are also captioned, but if the program is censored for TV broadcast, the broadcaster might not have arranged for the captioning to be editted or censored also. A television set top box is available to parents who wishes to censor offensive language of programs, the video signal is fed into the box and if it detects an offensive word in the captioning, the audio signal is bleeped or muted for that period of time. The term set-top box describes a device that connects to a television and some external source of signal, and turns the signal into content then displayed on the screen. ...

There are some instances when the audio track of a TV program is altered -- useless dialog is silenced, words are bleeped, a licensed song in a syndicated TV episode is removed, etc. -- however, the captions of the removed dialog or lyrics remain. This can have serious consequences, as when a person's name is bleeped in the audio track for legal reasons but is included in the captions.

Caption channels

Line 21 captioning allows for four distinct "channels" of captioning information, known as CC1 through CC4. CC1 and CC2 are both in the first field of line 21, meaning that they share bandwidth. If there is a lot of data in CC1, there will be little room for CC2 data. Similarly CC3 and CC4 share the second field of line 21.

Since some early caption decoders supported only CC1 and CC2, captions in a second language were often placed in CC2. This led to bandwidth problems, however, and the current FCC recommendation is that bilingual programming should have the second caption language in CC3. The abbreviation FCC can refer to: Face-centered cubic (usually fcc), a crystallographic structure Federal Communications Commission, a US government organization Farm Credit Corporation/Farm Credit Canada, a Canadian government organization Families with Children from China, an adoption support organization Florida Christian College, a college in central Florida Fresno City...


NTSC DVDs may carry closed captions in the Line 21 format which are automatically sent to the TV and turned on and off by the TV remote or the set-top decoder. All video DVDs may carry closed captions as a bitmap overlay which can be turned on and off via the DVD player – as by selecting a subtitle track labeled either "English for the hearing impaired" or more recently, "SDH" (Subtitled for the Deaf and Hard of hearing). Both Line 21 and DVD bitmap subtitle formats can co-exist on the same DVD, providing two very different methods of displaying captions from the same DVD. On some DVDs, the captions may contain the same text, while on other DVDs, the Line 21 version contains more captions to cover non-speech information than the DVD bitmap subtitles.


There are several competing technologies used to provide captioning for movies in theaters. Just as with television captioning, they fall into two broad categories: open and closed. The definition of "closed" captioning in this context is a bit different from television, as it refers to any technology that allows some of the viewers to use captions while others in the same theater at the same time do not see captions.

Open captioning in a theater can be accomplished through burned-in captions, projected bitmaps, or (rarely) a display located above or below the movie screen. Typically, this display is a large LED sign.

Probably the best-known closed captioning option for theaters is the Rear Window Captioning System from the National Center for Accessible Media. Upon entering the theater, viewers requiring captions are given a panel of flat translucent glass or plastic on a gooseneck stalk, which can be mounted in front of the viewer's seat. In the back of the theater is an LED display that shows the captions in mirror-image. The panel reflects the captions for the viewer, but is nearly invisible to surrounding patrons. The panel can be positioned so that the viewer watches the movie through the panel and captions appear either on or near the movie image. A company called Cinematic Captioning Systems has a similar reflective system called Bounce Back. The Rear Window Captioning System is a method for presenting, through captions, a transcript of the audio portion of a film in theatres for deaf, hard-of-hearing, or hearing impaired people. ... External links LEd Category: TeX ...

Other closed captioning technologies for movies include hand-held displays similar to a PDA (Personal digital assistant); eyeglasses fitted with a prism over one lens; and projected bitmap captions. The PDA and eyeglass systems use a wireless transmitter to send the captions to the display device. palmOne Tungsten T5 Dell Axim X51v Pocket PC Personal digital assistants (also called PDAs) are handheld devices that were originally designed as personal organizers, but became much more versatile over the years. ...

Video games

Closed captioning of video games is becoming more common. One of the first video games to feature true closed captioning was Zork Grand Inquisitor in 1997. Many games since then have at least offered subtitles for spoken dialog during cutscenes, and many include significant in-game dialog and sound effects in the captions as well; for example, with subtitles turned on in the Metal Gear Solid series of stealth games, not only are subtitles available during cutscenes, but any dialog spoken during real-time gameplay will be captioned as well, allowing players who can't hear the dialog to know what enemy guards are saying and when the main character has been detected. Computer and video games A screenshot of Tetris for the Nintendo Game Boy A console game (better known as a video game) is a form of interactive multimedia used for entertainment, which consists of a moveable image displayed on a screen that is usually controlled and manipulated using a handheld... Zork universe Zork games Zork trilogy Zork I Zork II Zork III Enchanter trilogy Enchanter Sorcerer Spellbreaker Wishbringer Beyond Zork Zork Zero Return to Zork Zork: Nemesis Zork Grand Inquisitor Encyclopedia Encyclopedia Frobozzica Miscellaneous Timeline   Calendar   Magic Double Fanucci Companies Infocom   Activision Zork Grand Inquisitor is a graphical adventure game... 1997 (MCMXCVII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Metal Gear Solid Packaging Artwork Metal Gear Solid ), commonly abbreviated as MGS, is a stealth-based game developed by Hideo Kojima and first published for the PlayStation video game console in 1998. ...

Video games don't offer Line 21 captioning, decoded and displayed by the television itself; but rather a built-in subtitle display, more akin to that of a DVD. The game systems themselves have no role in the captioning either: each game must have its subtitle display programmed individually.

Currently there is a big push from Reid Kimball, a game designer and one who is hearing impaired to educate game developers about closed captioning for games. Reid started the [http://gamescc.rbkdesign.com/ Games[CC]] group to close caption games and serve as a research and development team to aid the industry any way it can. Reid writes articles, designed the Dynamic Closed Captioning system and speaks at developer conferences. Games[CC]'s first closed captioning project called Doom3[CC] was nominated for an award as Best Doom3 Mod of the Year for IGDA's Choice Awards 2006 show.


While opera houses have used captioning for their productions since 1983, live theatre captioning has only recently begun appearing. Display techniques vary, with subtitles, surtitles and individual displays being used. 1983 (MCMLXXXIII) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ... In printed material In printed material, a subtitle is an explanatory or alternate title. ... Supertitles or surtitles are commonly used in opera or other musical performances. ...


Closed captioning is now starting to be applied to telephones for the hard-of-hearing and deaf. See Captioned telephone. A captioned telephone is a telephone that displays real-time captions of the current conversation. ...


  • The Closed Captioning Handbook, by Gary D. Robson (ISBN 0-240-80561-5)
  • Alternative Realtime Careers: A Guide to Closed Captioning and CART for Court Reporters, by Gary D. Robson (ISBN 1-881859-51-7)
  • Realtime Captioning... The VITAC Way, by Amy Bowlen and Kathy DiLorenzo (no ISBN)

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Closed Captioning (1733 words)
Closed captioning allows persons with hearing disabilities to have access to television programming by displaying the audio portion of a television program as text on the television screen.
Closed captioning provides a critical link to news, entertainment, and information for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
The rules provide that open captioning or subtitles in the language of the target audience may be used in lieu of closed captioning.
Closed Captioning, Closed Captioning Service, Closed Captioning Company, Open Captions, Closed Captions, Close ... (518 words)
Our closed captioning is done in-house from start to finish -- from transcription to encoding -- allowing us to offer our clients fast turnarounds, strict quality control and extremely competitive prices.
For example, when captions are moved to avoid covering onscreen graphics, we do not simply relocate the three-line block of text.
Pop-on captions are carefully placed on the screen to indicate the speaker, and include descriptions of music and sound effects.
  More results at FactBites »



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