Fun Book Friday!

Posted by Emma on August 27, 2010 at 8:56 am. Books, Fun Word Friday

Let’s switch up our fun Fridays a bit. There are so many amazing books about living with disabilities. Here are 5 on our ‘need to read’ list. Do you have any favorites?

1. Fixing My Gaze: A Scientists Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions, by Susan R. Barry
Review from Publishers Weekly
Barry, a neuroscientist at Mount Holyoke College, was born with her eyes crossed and literally couldn’t see in all three dimensions. Barry underwent several surgeries as a child, but it wasn’t until she was in college that she realized she wasn’t seeing in 3-D. The medical profession has believed that the visual center of the brain can’t rewire itself after a critical cutoff point in a child’s development, but in her 40s, with the help of optometric vision therapy, Barry showed that previously neglected neurons could be nudged back into action. The author tells a poignant story of her gradual discovery of the shapes in flowers in a vase, snowflakes falling, even the folds in coats hanging on a peg. After Barry’s story was written up in the New Yorker by Oliver Sacks, she heard from many others who had successfully learned to correct their vision as adults, challenging accepted wisdom about the plasticity of the brain. Recommended for all readers who cheer stories with a triumph over seemingly insuperable odds.

2. Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story, by Ray Charles and David Ritz
Review from Amazon
Ray Charles (1930-2004) led one of the most extraordinary lives of any popular musician. In Brother Ray, he tells his story in an inimitable and unsparing voice, from the chronicle of his musical development to his heroin addiction to his tangled romantic life. Overcoming poverty, blindness, the loss of his parents, and the pervasive racism of the era, Ray Charles was acclaimed worldwide as a genius by the age of thirty-two. By combining the influences of gospel, jazz, blues, and country music, he invented, almost single-handedly, what became known as soul. And throughout a career spanning more than a half century, Ray Charles remained in complete control of his life and his music, allowing nobody to tell him what he could and couldn’t do. As the Chicago Sun-Times put it, Brother Ray is “candid, explicit, sometimes embarrassing, often hilarious, always warm, touching, and deeply human-just like his music.”

3. The Body Silent: The Different World of the Disabled, by Robert F. Murphy
Review from Library Journal
The author, a well-known cultural and field anthropologist at Columbia University, was diagnosed as having an incurable spinal cord tumor in 1976 at age 52. He is now essentially paralyzed from the neck down. Within this frameworkin which his physical self of locomotion and effect loses all functionhe relates his own odyssey into “selfhood and sentiment.” Far more than a bittersweet first-person account of chronic illness, this is a masterfully written examination of the role of the disabled in society. The author draws upon the relevant literature, history, sociology, anthropology, and psychology as a basis for his views and his means of coping. This powerful and eye-opening commentary is highly recommended for social scientists, health care personnel, and informed and interested laypersons.

4. Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness, by John M. Hull
Review from Library Journal
In 1983, Hull, a university lecturer who had lived with sight problems from the age of 13, found that the dark discs he had fought for 36 years had finally overwhelmed his sight. The spiritual and emotional reactions to his vision loss form the basis of this poignant memoir, and the many questions he asks contribute to his eventual acceptance of his fate. A richly textured dream life adds to his exploration of the “other world” of blindness, and the understanding and meaning he finds coalesce into a powerful work.

5. Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World, by Leah Hager Cohen
Review from Publishers Weekly
Combining memoir and reportage, Cohen provides a sensitive, intimate portrait of a New York City school for the deaf and the issues facing the deaf community. Cohen is not deaf, but her father heads the Lexington School, and she grew up there. She tracks the progress of two students: Sofia, a Russian immigrant bravely learning a second sign language and a new American world; and ghetto-raised James, who finds stability after moving into the school dormitory. Cohen analyzes the fierce debates over mainstreaming the deaf, the value of oralism and whether new cochlear implants rob the deaf of their culture. She tenderly recalls her deaf grandparents, probes her father’s dilemmas, reports on her frustrated romance with a deaf man and her work as an interpreter in a program for deaf adults at the City University of New York. She portrays sign language with wonderfully tactile prose–the word “silence,” for example, is signed with “austere arcs.”

Short Form Captioning, YWKIS?

Posted by Emma on August 25, 2010 at 9:19 am. Captioners, Captioning, Subtitling

by Kati Stevens

Preface: The software we use to caption allows us to write in short forms. After typing in those short forms the software “auto corrects” and fills in the real phrase. This is an amazing time saver and one of the reasons we are so efficient and quick with our captioning! Just check out Kati’s list of most popular short forms.

The English language is rich and heavy with over 170,000 words in current use (according to the Oxford English dictionary), not counting the words made up by certain residents of the Jersey shore. Despite the great breadth of possible word combinations possible, people on TV, especially reality shows, tend to use the same expressions a lot. This is not so surprising when you think about it, and as caption editors, we like to save time by short-forming (creating an abbreviation that, when typed, compels the whole phrase to appear in the file) some of the most popular phrases.

A selection of short forms I currently possess:

YKWIM – You know what I mean?
YWKIS – You know what I’m saying?
YK – You know
WELB – Welcome back (great for game shows)
ATP – at this point
IDK – I don’t know.
TYG – There you go.
TYVM – Thank you very much.
WDW – What do you want to do?

We also have show-specific ones that include catchphrases, audio descriptors (ex: capple for [cheers and applause] is my most frequently used audio descriptor short form), titles, and names. Also helping to make captioning faster and more accurate are short-forming typos and common misspellings. I’ve typed “your’e” more times than I can count when I’m going at lightning speed, and my short form automatically corrects it. Even those chevrons you see in roll-up captioning have been short-formed since hitting two periods in a row is easier and faster than hitting those chevrons while holding down a shift key.

The one drawback of short forms is that, when I’m typing in other situations, like Gchat or in Final Draft, I often type “yk” and am frustrated when “you know” doesn’t show up. If only the short form were more widely available in all life’s practices. YKWIM?

The Best Things in Life are Free…Movies

Posted by Emma on August 18, 2010 at 8:42 am. Captioners, Movies

by Jason Mitchell

CaptionMax is proud to announce that our very own Jason Mitchell will be writing a monthly blog about his favorite free movies. He is our resident public domain and creative content expert, while also being a stellar caption editor. Check out his first column and get ready to watch some fantastic films with us.

When I was asked to write about my favorite movies that are now in the public domain, I was really excited about the project, but I faced a big problem.  Where do I start?  The number of really great films that have somehow lost their copyright in America is surprising, especially when so many are rightfully considered some of the best films ever made.

Then I happened to see the trailer for the upcoming film Unstoppable (no captions). A big-budget action movie centered around a train chase?  Sounds familiar.

The General was Buster Keaton’s personal favorite of all his films.  It was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry in the first year that the registry was enacted, and Roger Ebert considers it one of the ten greatest films ever made.  It’s pretty good.

The General recounts the true-life events of the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862, a raid by the Union forces against the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Keaton plays an train engineer rejected from enlisting with the Confederate army who becomes a hero through his efforts to stop the Union raid.  These efforts involve increasingly amazing stunt work by Keaton as he’s pitted against the mechanized steel of the locomotive.

Keaton was given one of the largest budgets of the silent film era, and The General includes what were then the most expensive action sequences filmed in cinema’s brief history.  The climax of the film features a bridge collapsing as a train crosses it.  The wreckage remained in the river bed below for nearly 20 years after, serving as a tourist attraction until the metal was salvaged during World War II.

For those averse to silent film, fear not.  The General manages to avoid the silent film conventions many take issue with:

There’s not a lot of dialogue. Although silent films found ways to minimize dialogue, there’s usually a lot of scenes where people move their mouths followed by intertitles explaining what was just said.  This tends to slow the action down and disconnect the dialogue from the performance.  The General is heavy on the action and light on the intertitles.

It’s not boring. Coming in at around 75 minutes, The General is particularly fast-paced and even short by modern standards, pretty much amounting to an extended chase scene.

It’s not a lot of people waving their arms around. Due to the lack of dialogue and acting’s roots in the theater, a lot of silent film acting is overly theatrical.  This melodramatic style is often exaggerated by silent films being played too fast in modern video transfers (A standard film playback speed wasn’t established until the sound era made it necessary).  Buster Keaton specializes, however, in a comedy of understated reaction.  The Great Stone Face is constantly assaulted with the unforgiving forces of the Industrial Age, and he takes it all in stride.  Keaton never questions why life’s obstacles are so numerous and severe.  He accepts fate’s cruelty and trudges on.

The General was a failure at the box office, and reviews faulted it for being neither a straight comedy or a straight thriller.  After its release, Buster Keaton increasingly lost creative control over his projects and began working under contract for MGM, where he was no longer allowed to perform his own stunts.  Keaton would later make a cameo appearance in Sunset Boulevard playing himself, a silent film star whose career was over in the sound era.

You can download The General at, along with many other works in the public domain, but Kino has made a great transfer of Keaton’s best-preserved film for DVD and Blu-Ray.  Get a taste of The General’s amazing stunt work in this clip from the documentary Buster Keaton Rides Again:

(this video has no captions — sorry, we’re just borrowing the content — but hopefully everyone will enjoy his fantastic stunt work)

Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on August 13, 2010 at 8:39 am. Fun Word Friday

It’s Fun Word Friday!

Here are some of our favorite words from this week:

obnubilate: cloud over, darken, or obscure

apolaustic: devoted to enjoyment

phalange: one of the segments of an insect’s tarsus

troglodyte: a member of any of various peoples who lived or were reputed to live chiefly in caves

prosaic: belonging to or characteristic of prose as distinguished from poetry

HDMI and the Missing Closed Captions

Posted by Emma on August 11, 2010 at 8:21 am. Captioning, High Definition, Techy

Has this happened to you: you scrounge and save and finally get an awesome TV (flat-screen, LCD, the works). Now that you have the sweet TV you want to hook-up your receiver (Comcast DVR, TiVO, DirecTV DVR, etc) with the HDMI cable for maximum viewing quality. Finally it’s all hooked up and the picture looks stellar but the closed captions have disappeared. Where did they go? You didn’t really change anything so why can’t you turn them on with the TV?

The problem isn’t with your TV or DVR. The problem is that the HDMI and componenet cables cannot carry closed caption information. The TV won’t be able to read closed captions because none will be transfered from your DVR to you TV. Yikes. Therefore, if you connect any device (Comcast’s DVR, Tivo, etc) by HDMI/component, you must use that device’s menu to decode the closed captions. Your TV’s closed caption button will never show captions when connected this way.

Why?? The TV’s closed caption button only works for the analog input, when the caption data is embedded in the signal. In this new fangled digital world, the receiver (aka DVR or set-top-box) must generate captions for the screen. Including closed caption info. on an HDMI cable has not been defined or agreed upon by the TV makers. Closed caption data is only well defined on the standard TV format. The closed caption information does not get transmitted by the HDMI cable.

The solution is to use that device’s menu to turn on the captions. Every DVR is different but we can give you a few tips and tricks here. Please comment and add more information if you’ve done this testing, too. The trick is to fool the TV into thinking that you’re setting CC for the coax input, then leaving it set to ON after that. It may be that what’s really going on with these TVs may not be that CC isn’t available in non-coax inputs, but that you can’t ADJUST CC in those inputs.

First, start by enabling the closed caption data in the general menu of the DVR. See our handy guide for more information on finding the closed caption menu on your DVR.

If this doesn’t work, then try to find your DVR’s “hidden” menu. (It’s not that spooky but it is tricky to find.) Most of the time, you’ll need to turn off your DVR and then press the Menu or Power button on the front panel. Here are a couple how-tos for Comcast, Motorola and Verizon. Send us more so that we can all help each other. Note: The digital captions will always be enabled! You need to repeat these same processes to disable the captions!

Comcast Hidden Menu:
1. Turn on your TV
2. Turn off the DVR
3. Press the Menu button
4. You will see the USER SETTING screen on your TV
5. Move down to the CLOSED CAPTIONS entry using the arrow buttons
6. Press the right-arrow to switch between ENABLED and DISABLED
7. Press the Menu button
8. Turn on the DVR
To turn CC off you have to use the same method!

Motorola DCH3416
1. Turn off the TV.
2. Press the Power button on the front panel of the DCH3416 unit to bring the unit into Stand-By mode.
3. Unplug the power cable from behind the unit to truly power-off the unit.
4. Turn the TV back again (should just be blank screen)
5. Connect the power cable to the DCH3416 unit and quickly press the Menu button on the front panel of the unit.
6. If all goes well, there will appear a rough looking screen on your TV titled “User Setting Status”. NOTE: If this does not work immediately, try steps (3) to (5) a few more times.
7. Notice that item “Closed Caption” is Disabled.
8. Use the Remote of DCH3416 unit to scroll down (using up/down buttons) to the “Closed Caption” line. Press the right arrow on the Remote to toggle this item to be “Enabled”.
9. Then press the “Menu” button on the front panel of the DCH3416 unit to get out of the “User Setting Status” screen. This saves your settings.
10. Press the “Power” button on the front panel of the DCH3416 unit to bring the unit out of Stan-By mode into full operation. The close caption should now work.
To turn CC off you have to use the same method!

Verizon FIOS HD DVR STB Model #6416 (and #6214)
1. Press power off
2. Press Select button
3. Press menu button to get this display. (not easy to get—there may be a specific amount of time required to hold down the button)

Verizon FIOS HD DVR STB Model #6214
1. Press power button off
2. Press menu button to get this display.

Good luck! If you find any more information, send it our way and we’ll continue to update this post.

Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on August 6, 2010 at 8:37 am. Fun Word Friday

Welcome to Fun Word Friday!

Here are some of our favorite words from this week:

pattypan squash: a roundish, green-white summer squash that has a scalloped edge

collation: a light meal

nidify: to build a nest

snollygoster: an unprincipled but shrewd person

riant: pleasingly mirthful

What’s Wrong with My DVD Captions?

Posted by Emma on August 4, 2010 at 8:53 am. Captioning, Techy

Another techy blog for those of you adding .scc closed captioning files to your DVDs.

First, the Scenarist Closed Captioning format (.scc) is used by several DVD authoring programs to encode line21 closed caption data into your DVD video. Virtually any problem with a .scc file is either a timing problem or a monitoring problem.

How do you know it’s a monitoring problem?
- Q: Are you are trying to preview the captions before you burn the actual disc?
- A:
You won’t see them. The “simulator” in most DVD authoring systems does not decode the closed caption data.  You must burn a physical DVD to test your captions.

- Q: Are you playing a disc and still don’t see captions?
- A: Make sure your television set has closed captions turned ON in the setup menu.  If you still don’t see captions, your DVD player might be stripping the CC data or not properly decoding the CC data.

- Q: Are you trying to play roll-up captions in the Apple DVD Player?
- A: You won’t see them. Apple DVD Player does not support roll-up captions.  Roll-up captions are best viewed using a DVD player and television.

How do you fix a monitoring problem?
- Make sure your television set has closed captions turned ON in the setup menu.
- Try playing the disc in a different DVD player that you are certain can play closed captions.
- Try routing the signal differently, using different cables, player modes and monitors.

How do you know it’s a timing problem?
- The captions will be out of sync with the sound, and it may get worse towards the end of the program.
- If the timing is drastically off, you will  likely receive an error message when importing the .scc file in your authoring system.

It’s usually a difference in timing between the MPEG-2 video asset and the proxy video you gave your captioning company.

- Check: Did you make any edits to your MPEG-2 video asset after you sent the proxy file? Are the start times the same? Are the frame rates the same? If the timecode of the proxy video and your final video do not match, you will have timing problems.

How do you fix a timing problem?
- Send the captioning company a new proxy video with burned-in timecode that matches your final MPEG-2 video asset.  Be careful to note Drop-Frame versus Non-Drop Frame timecode.
- Email your project manager the first timecode, last timecode, and frame rate of your final MPEG-2 video asset; they may be able to do an offset and send you a new file.

We hope that these help you fix any problems you have with a .scc file. As always, contact us if you have any more questions or need some help!



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