Captions for Videos and Live Events

Video Captioning Format and Grammar (Part Three)

Developing an Understanding:

Sound is complicated and captioning is an art that should not be treated as an afterthought. Captions are complex, rich text that make video accessible but also add to the viewing experience. They are interpretive and involve a number of decisions about which sounds to caption and how to caption them. Sometimes sound overlaps and competes or there are multiple speakers. There may be a persistent hum and other times single and distinct sounds. There can also be indistinct speech sounds and ambient noises, background music, a variety of pronunciations, and close and far away sounds at different volumes. (Zdenek, 2014).

While captioning is primarily intended for viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, it also benefits diverse audiences: people of all ages who are learning to read, seniors who don’t hear as well as they used to, people who don’t want to wake up their sleeping partners or families, people who are working out at the gym, people learning English or other languages and bar and restaurant patrons watching a muted TV from across the room. (Zdenek, 2014).

Some people may use captions to help understand an accent or when the speech is mumbled or quiet and others use captions as a way to read and understand the film script and dialogue.

Deepening Your Understanding

There are a number of recent TV shows that feature text messages on screen including “Glee”, “Jane the Virgin”, “Sherlock”, “House of Cards”, “The Mindy Project”, “True Detective”, and more. These words on screen are not really captions but add to the script and story of a film, TV series or video.

illustration of gears in motion


Watch A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Filmopen new window by Tony Zhou which gives a brief look at how texting and the Internet are portrayed in film and television.

Answer the following questions. Select the answer(s) from the options. More than one answer may apply. Correct answers will appear with a checkmark and incorrect answers will appear with an X.

1. According to Tony Zhou, why does some texting in films and TV fall short?

Question 1 Right answer: All of the above

2. How do captions add to the viewing experience? Select all that apply:

Question 2 Right answers: TCaptions identify sound and music, You can watch even when the sound is off, Captions identify multiple speakers

Creating captions can also be an artful and creative practice that challenges the typical captions we are used to seeing. Animation, kinetic typography, using different colours, fonts and icons to identify speakers and repositioning the captions in the frame can present text on screen as content-rich and explore the potential to add meaning, creating a more accessible experience (Zdenek, 2016).

Petra’s Poem, from the National Film Board (NFB) features an example of creative, artful captions.

And, this music video, “Mike’s Song” by Walk off the Earth includes the lyrics as text on the screen.