Captions or Subtitles…How do you choose?

Posted by Emma on July 28, 2010 at 8:55 am. Captioning, Subtitling, Techy

Thinking of adding accessibility to your YouTube video, broadcast program, DVD, etc? There are two main choices: captions or subtitles. But how do you know which one to use?  Keep this list handy so you can get what you need.

Is this program for television, the web, or DVD?
Broadcast television, choose captions.

- Captions are sent with the broadcast program master tape.

Web, it depends.
- Subtitles are the most reliable in software players because they are time-cued graphic overlays.
- Captions that are formatted for the web work well in YouTube and other common players. However, they can have reliability issues.

DVD, it depends.
- Captions are best for “autoplay” DVDs (DVDs without menus). However, some DVD players do not support them.
- Subtitles are much more reliable and stable but they require a button or menu system. So, if your DVD already has a chapter menu why not add a subtitle button?

Do you want control using the TV menu or the DVD menu?
Using the TV Menu, choose captions.
- Captions are turned on and off using the setup menu in the TV.

Using the DVD player, choose subtitles.
- Subtitles are turned on and off via a menu on the DVD.
- This menu is programmed by the DVD author.

Are you creating a NTSC, PAL or Blu-ray DVD?

- NTSC only.

- Compatible with any type of DVD.

Is the support different for captions versus subtitles?

- Most computer DVD players do not support them.
- Here’s a list of software players known to support closed captions:
1. Paid version of WinDVD.
2. Paid versions of PowerDVD.
3. InterActual Player.
4. Window Media Player v.10+ (though timing errors are common).
5. Apple DVD Player (does not decode roll-up captions and does not position pop-on captions properly).

- All DVD players and many computer players support subtitles.

Do captions and subtitles look different?

- The font is determined by the decoder. It will generally be monospace white text on a black background.

- Anything is possible. The usual choice is a sans-serif font, either white or yellow with black edging or a black box.

We think that adding accessible features like captions and audio description is a great way to give your content a wider audience. Overall, we like subtitles because they are more versatile, more compatible and more widely supported. However, they also cost more money. Captions can be less reliable than subtitles but they also cost less. Hopefully these quick questions can help you make the right choice for your program.

Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on July 23, 2010 at 9:21 am. Fun Word Friday

It’s Fun Word Friday: Tour de France Version!

This is the last weekend of the Tour de France. Let’s finish up strong with a few more Tour Terms we’ve learned this racing season.

la flamme rouge: the red triangle marker that is a kilometre from the finish.

la lanterne rouge: the last rider.

à bloc: riding as hard as you possibly can and going all out.

bonk: to lose all your energy, usually from overexertion and a lack of food or fluid.

hammerfest: a ride where everyone grinds (rides in a hard gear and really pushes).

Post Production: Making Hollywood Look Good

Posted by Emma on July 21, 2010 at 9:24 am. Captioners, Captioning, Movies

by Elizabeth Rojas

Anyone who has ever been to Hollywood can tell you that it is not everything the movies led you to believe.  It’s dirty, the traffic is terrible, and parking is impossible.  And if you’re trying to get in or out when there’s a show at the Hollywood Bowl, you better budget at least two additional hours into your commuting time.  In other words, it’s not particularly glamorous.  So just who exactly is adding all that glitz and gloss to TV and movies?  Why, your friendly local post production facilities.

Post production is a giant umbrella that encompasses all the work that goes into making a production watchable after shooting is over: editing, ADR, music for the soundtrack, special effects, the transfer of film to video, and, of course, closed captioning are all part of that process.  And since deadlines are the name of the game, many pieces of that puzzle are constructed simultaneously.  You’ve probably seen pictures of a TV set, where a living room only has three walls and no roof.  Well, putting the finishing touches on an episode of TV is kind of similar.

The video that a captioner watches will often have green screen instead of CGI, questionable language, temporary dialogue, and extremely dark un-color-corrected video.  If you’ve ever watched an episode of television where the captions only ID the main character as (man), you can begin to see why.  It’s because when the captions were created, the captioner was probably staring at a near-black screen while listening to an unknown production assistant attempting to recreate the lines that the star will later record in ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement, which involves actors re-recording all the lines which were unintelligible during the original shoot).  While this process often leads to some pretty hilarious temporary audio (Shot of Macho male star “I need to get my hands…” Shot over his shoulder as a cheery female voice finishes his sentence “On Aimee’s computer!”), what’s more impressive is the way that all these processes are able to come together for the final delivery.

With tight deadlines looming over everyone’s heads, the last minute details that post production covers are finished and passed on from one facility to the next like a baton in a relay.  Urgent emails are sent at 3:00 a.m.  Line substitutions are communicated over the phone.  A final video may not even be available until the morning of the episode’s airdate.  Final captions will be emailed, messengers on motorbikes (to better navigate the insane traffic) will deliver masters from encoding facilities, and shows will air looking as slick and polished as if they were produced with all the time in the world.  And that final illusion is what makes “Hollywood” so impressive.  Week in and week out, every level of production from the initial story breaking to the captioning, will work crazy hours to deliver a show.  And if you occasionally see a stray microphone or an slightly puzzling ID in the finished project, know that what you’re actually getting a glimpse of is the real Hollywood magic: all the missing microphones and correct IDs.  Which is pretty awesome, when you think about it.

Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on July 16, 2010 at 8:08 am. Fun Word Friday

It’s Fun Word Friday: Tour de France Version!

Have you been following the Tour de France? There are so many terms to keep up with. Here are some of our favorites!

Green Jersey: This shirt designates the points leader. Points are based on a rider’s placing in each stage and in the intermediate sprints along the route.

Bridging the Gap: Happens when riders try to move from the main pack to a group farther ahead,It’s a gutsy move that demands a huge effort.

Wheel Sucker: An unpopular rider who refuses to take his turn at the front instead preferring to draft in a rival’s slipstream.

Attack: A sudden acceleration meant to drop and demoralize other riders. Usually happens in the mountains.

Pace Line: A multi-rider formation designed for aerodynamic efficiency

Mike’s Realtime Roundup

Posted by Emma on July 14, 2010 at 8:37 am. Captioners, Techy

by Mike Hansel

Howdy boys and girls and welcome to Mike’s Realtime Roundup – a place where I take questions real or imagined and answer them to the best of my ability.

What does TOC stand for?
Technical Operations Center or Totally Offerman Command, either is correct.

Why so many monitors in your office?
With a network of 100 realtime writers from dozens of states, the primary focus of the TOC is to schedule, coordinate and monitor captioning feeds.  The rumors of it being used as an off-track betting site are completely unfounded.

How many hours of realtime captioning are there per month?
The realtime department has grown from just a few hours a month to thousands of monthly hours.  Our target is one billion billion hours per millennia.

How many people work in the TOC?
We are staffed 24 hours a day.  We have at least 5 working in the Burbank TOC.  Nate, who does scheduling, billing and heavy lifting, works in Minneapolis. There is always someone working realtime, 24/7/365.

What exactly do you guys do in the TOC?
I get this question a lot.  As a matter of fact, Gerald asked me just yesterday, “Mike, what the heck are you doing!”  Along with monitoring of captioned programming, we also do scheduling, troubleshooting, and routing of captioning.

What is routing?
The primary way caption data is delivered is by phone lines.  The writers send the data from their computer to the client captioning encoder using a modem.  Sometimes the clients ask us to send the data to two or more encoders so the TOC connects to the encoders via modem and has the writer connect to the TOC.  We then route the data from writer to the encoders requested by the client.  For more information regarding how realtime captioning works see the excellent FAQ pages at

Coming soon…a look back at the history of Hayes modem commands in “Where AT? They Now?”

Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on July 9, 2010 at 9:19 am. Fun Word Friday

It’s Fun Word Friday: Tour de France Version!

Have you been following the Tour de France? Here are some of the favorite terms we’ve learned from captioning!

Domestiques: Young “up-and-coming” riders who are required to do the dirty work for the team. They support ferry food and drinks from the team car to their teammates, protect the team leader from the wind, and chase down rivals.

Peloton: The main group of riders during ordinary stages.

Broom Wagon: The van that trundles along at the back of the peloton ready to “sweep up” any rider who drops out or fails to finish within the time allotted for the stage.

Teté de la course:  The course leader or leading group.

Lanterne rouge: The rider ranked last in the general classification. This translates as “red lantern.”

My Fifteen Minutes!

Posted by Emma on July 7, 2010 at 8:31 am. Captioners

by Robin Fogelson

Imagine feeling sick, wishing for a doctor and having Greg House magically step out of your TV and into your living room.  That’s what it was like for my husband, Jason, and me when the crew of one of our favorite HGTV shows, Hammer Heads, came to redo our front yard.  It was not a surprise, as we had to apply and go through a series of interviews to see if our project was a good match for them, but it was a shock on the day everyone finally showed up!  The three hosts (Carmen De La Paz, Steve Hanneman and Marcus Hunt) , plus a crew of camera, sound and support staff,  took over our house for four long days of hard work.  The backyard was filled with lumber, paint cans, power tools, mysterious cables and bustling crew members.

The staff had asked us many questions about what we liked in terms of design, but the whole project was kept a secret from us until the work began.  We wanted a yard which was drought-resistant, worked with our California heat and was really, really cool-looking. When you see the homeowners on these shows look surprised when the “big reveal” happens, well, it’s because they are!  We were not shown an overall plan, but went from project to project working with the hosts and learning as we went.  As we completed each project, we could see how it fit into the overall design.

If you wonder whether the hosts and homeowners actually do the work which goes into these projects, I can tell you that  they sure do. And that work goes on all day.  We started at 7:00am each of the four days, and finished around 7:00pm. During the shoot, we dug, painted, stained, hammered, and spread endless shovels full of gravel and mulch.  I learned to use a (very loud!) powder-actuated nailer as well as a (very hard to control!) giant power chisel.  The project was so big that we recruited friends and family, who generously donated their elbow grease to us in exchange for bragging rights and lots of barbecue.

The end result of all of this is a front yard which is more beautiful and more practical than anything we could have come up with ourselves. The expertise Hammer Heads brought was the magic touch which made it possible. The plants are all perfect for our climate and range from huge agaves to delicate acacias. There is a front deck with a built-in bench to watch the sunset, arbors to shade our front windows for the heat, and gorgeous wooden walkways welcoming people to our front door; all anchored by a unique wooden archway which will soon be overgrown by bougainvillea.

It was a great adventure  and great fun to have this experience.  If anyone comes out of your TV and shows up at your house, my advice to you is to welcome them with open arms!

CaptionMax is YouTube Ready!

Posted by Emma on July 2, 2010 at 8:37 am. Captioning, Subtitling, Techy

We are now qualified as “YouTube Ready.” This week, DCMP approved CaptionMax as a YouTube Ready Captioning Service Provider.

We are your one-stop shop for captions and transcripts for YouTube. We can also translate your video into any language you may need. To learn more, check out our “YouTube Ready” homepage. You’ll find video tutorials showing you just how easy it is to add captions.

While you’re here, take a quick tour of our company to see the great people working on your videos. We are so proud of our talented staff!



  • Minneapolis, MN
  • (CaptionMax World Headquarters)
  • 2438 27th Avenue South
  • Minneapolis, MN 55406
  • Phone: 612.341.3566
  • Fax: 612.341.2345
  • Burbank, CA
  • 245 East Olive Avenue, Suite 600
  • Burbank, CA 91502
  • Phone: 818.295.2500
  • Fax: 818.295.2509
  • New York, NY
  • 5 Columbus Circle
  • Suite 810
  • New York, NY 10019
  • Phone: 212.462.0060
  • Fax: 212.462.0061