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The 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2010

Posted by Emma on September 30, 2010 at 8:49 am. Captioning, Subtitling, Techy

by Gerald Freda

The 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (aka S.3304) was passed by the HoR on Tuesday, 9.28.10. What does the passage of S.3304 mean for closed captions and video description (aka audio description) accessibility services? Well, glad you asked!

Closed Captions
The new law will require programs that contain captions when broadcast for television to also have captions when distributed and delivered over the Internet. It gives the FCC the latitude to either approve or deny exemption requests for Internet caption delivery under the new rule within the first 12 months. Programs (clips, shorts, webisodes) created specifically for the Internet are not required to have closed captions.

Video Description
Under Section 202 of the new law, the top 4 broadcast channels and the top 5 cable channels in the top 25 most populated markets in the country must provide 4 hours per week of video description. After 2 years of the video description service, the FCC must provide a report to Congress on the overall service implementation. The law gives the FCC permission to increase the hourly amount to 7 per week after 4 years from the service launch date by the top channels and in the same demographic markets mentioned above.

The law also states that after 6 years, the FCC must ensure that the video description service is expanded to reach the top 60 markets of the country. At the 9-year mark, the FCC must report to Congress if there is a need to broaden the reach of the service to additional markets. At the 10-year mark, the law gives the FCC the right to further expand the service to 10 new markets yearly until the 100% nationwide coverage is achieved.

We’ll continue to update you as the law comes into effect. Congratulations to everyone who advocated on behalf of increased accessibility.

My Missed Opportunities: Part 2

Posted by Emma on September 29, 2010 at 8:34 am. Captioners, Captioning, Subtitling

by Davis Wille

I’m back with my final two top-ranking missed opportunities:

Sports

Davis stares at a laptop instead of the TV. "Monday Night Football... or Monday Night Google Reader?"

General sports knowledge—definitely in the lacking department for me. I’ve been forced to work on various “classic” games—their words, not mine–in baseball, basketball, football, and boxing, and the chances of me recalling anything of significance upon captioning them would be slim to none. I could have finally had my in with sports-minded peers, but, once again, I dropped the ball (that’s a sports thing, right?).

Health

Davis examines the back of a pill bottle. "Wait... What is this thing you call a multivitamin?"

Health-related programs are more common than I would have guessed coming into the job, but their abundance is unavoidable, whether the topic be of physical health of one’s body or of the environmental health of Mother Earth. “Surely, Davis, you must have picked up something from this category of programming,” you might postulate. “You must be getting all kinds of relevant insight to better yourself.” First, see Missed Opportunity #1. Second, you should know better by now.

Of course, this list is only a sprinkle of missed exploration out of dozens. Not many people can say they have new areas of interest consistently intersecting with their professional life. The variety that comes with being a closed captioner is far and away one of the most refreshing aspects of the gig and allows all of us to maintain just the right amount of sanity (although I cannot vouch for everyone). Subsequently, this requires a sort of “on to the next one” mentality, disallowing any long-term connection with a subject. Of course, one could take work-introduced interests into their free time, but at that point, the line between work and play becomes too blurred for my liking, and next thing I know I’m fine-tuning my entredeux stitching technique. Maybe it’s not too late, though. Maybe there’s still time to liven up my introductions.

My Missed Opportunities: Part 1

Posted by Emma on September 22, 2010 at 8:35 am. Captioners, Captioning, Subtitling

by Davis Wille

When questioned about the closed captioning profession, there’s a fairly routine checklist of questions triggered internally. In fact, the song and dance has become so habitual, my mind nearly clicks over to autopilot when entering these examinations by fascinated inquirers. My role in the Q&A typically includes one, if not all, of the following replies:

“No, my typing skills are not otherworldly.”

“No, I didn’t know such a company existed in Minneapolis either.”

“Yes, we caption shows you may actually watch.”

“The type of captioning you’re complaining about is called ‘realtime.’ That is not what I do.”

A rehearsed explanation is then prompted regarding the differences between realtime and offline captioning, ultimately ending with a life-altering appreciation on their end for the craft, as well as for those who have sacrificed their lives for it. Or something to that extent.

But amongst these banal-yet-appreciated curiosities, one notable inquiry tends to pop up every so often: “Oh, so I bet you’ve picked up some unusual new hobbies along the way, right?”

Usually I’ll just shrug and give a “No, not so much,” or maybe “Har, har, har. No, I don’t go home and attempt elaborate French recipes after captioning a cooking show.”

But why not?

With this plethora of knowledge flowing in and out of my headphones on a daily basis, it’s a shame I’m letting such potentially grand opportunities for new arenas of interest pass me by. Hours and hours of research for intensely specific topics disappear from my mind moments after a projects’ completion. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have let this happen; I would utilize this varied knowledge to expand my character and perspective of everyday existence. Instead, they’ve become nothing short of missed opportunities. This is a two part blog listed here are my three top-ranking instances. The other two will follow next Wednesday.

Cooking

Puzzled, Davis looks at the back of a frozen pizza. "The only cooking instructions I need are found on a white sticker underneath a circular piece of cardboard."

So many cooking shows, so many recipes. Sure, most of the food items were absurd and intended to provide something closer to entertainment than realistic weekday dinner cuisine, but these dishes would have impressed. I mean, really impressed. Alas, my mother continues to accept my meal variety to not stray too far from the frozen pizza aisle at Target or the nugget-based food group  under the golden arches.

Hunting

Davis points an imaginary gun at a laptop screen. "The closest I've ever gotten, or will get, to hunting."

A controversial hobby, no doubt, and not something I necessarily have any interest in. Nonetheless, I’ve captioned an exorbitant amount of hunting and fishing shows. Seriously. Had I been a hunter of any kind prior to my CaptionMax life, my skills would be insane at this point. By now I’d be winning competitions on a weekly basis from the tips and secrets just dropped in my lap, thus inevitably leading me to a lucrative career. Classic missed opportunity.

Arts and Crafts

Davis sews a blanket. "I don't think this is right. Isn't this blanket already finished?"

As soon as I realized I was going to be captioning a seemingly endless amount of arts and crafts shows—sewing, scrapbooking, beading, costume making, you name it—I should have jumped on at least one of them. The stress reduction of gift giving alone would be worth it, even with the unavoidable scrutiny coming from my social circles.

Maybe I will develop a new talent. Check back next week for more of my missed opportunities.

Talk Like a Pirate Day, Yar!

Posted by Emma on September 17, 2010 at 8:38 am. Fun Word Friday

by Chris Leininger

As CaptionMax’s pirate-in-residence, I’ve been asked to write a bit about International Talk Like a Pirate day (ITLAPD).  September 19th is ITLAPD. It’s always on September 19th!

Arrr! International Talk Like a Pirate Day September 19

To honor this day, you simply talk like a pirate.

Not sure how to talk like a pirate?

Here are some guidelines (because pirates don’t care for rules):

- Add attitude by speaking a little louder and with more growl to your voice.

- Replace MY with ME, YOU with YE, YES with AYE, HELLO with AHOY

- Add these adjectives wherever possible: SCURVY, BARNACLE-ENCRUSTED, BLACK-HEARTED

- Throw in colorful phrases like: SHIVER ME TIMBERS, BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES, DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

- Use direct address…
Friend: ME OLD CHUM, ME HEARTY
Foe: SCURVY DOG, LUBBER
Captain: CAP’N

By Jove, now ye have it, me lad!

Need more inspiration?

Here’s some sound clips featuring the quintessential pirate-talker, Robert Newton. Ablast! Blue Fire! Long John Silver Clips Ahead!

The intrawebs be full of pirates.  Search Google Pirate for more.

Next month, we’ll discuss global warming and how pirates can reduce it.

For now, Cap’n C-Dog

Why does my head look so fat?

Posted by Emma on September 15, 2010 at 9:12 am. Techy
Why does my head look so fat?
Pixel aspect ratio.  Huh?  Unless you spend your day immersed in the details of video, this term may cause you to glaze over.  But have no fear, it’s actually quite simple.  It is often the answer to your more pressing question, “Why does my head look so fat?”
Here’s an example.  You have some video footage.  You decide to post the video online, and it would be great to grab a still picture from that video to use on your blog post.  You crank open your favorite video editing software and save the picture you want.
When it comes time to post the image, something doesn’t look quite right.  The picture appears unusually wide, things are stretched out horizontally.  But why?
A digital image is made up of many small units called pixels.
On a computer screen, these pixels are square.  They have the same width and height.  The pixel aspect ratio is 1:1.  One unit wide for every one unit tall.  Easy to understand, right?
(Image of square pixels)
When you capture video from your camera into your computer, the pixels that are recorded are often non-square.  They do not have the same width and height.
For standard definition video,  the pixel aspect ratio is considered 10:11.  Each pixel is slightly taller than it is wide.
(Image of NTSC non-square pixels)
“But it looks fine when I watch the footage in my video software…  Why does the picture look so fat when I save it?
The software is often “adjusting” the playback to look correct on your computer monitor.
When you save the picture, each of those little non-square pixels are stretched out horizontally so that they become squares.  Therefore, your noggin looks a little too wide.
(Image of Video on display getting stretched)
“How can I make the picture look correct on my computer?”
You can adjust the width of your picture using your favorite image editing software.  You can even do this using Microsoft Paint if you have to.
(Table of Conversions)
At the end of the day, if you are still concerned with the excessive size of your noggin (and it doesn’t have anything to do with video pixels), rest assured that we all are quite special in our design.
I think your head looks very nice.

by Corey Scherbing

Pixel aspect ratio. Huh? Unless you spend your day immersed in the details of video, this term may cause you to glaze over. But have no fear, it’s actually quite simple. It is often the answer to your more pressing question, “Why does my head look so fat?”

Here’s an example. You have some video footage. You decide to post the video online, and it would be great to grab a still picture from that video to use on your blog post. You crank open your favorite video editing software and save the picture you want.

When it comes time to post the image, something doesn’t look quite right. The picture appears unusually wide, things are stretched out horizontally.
But why?

A digital image is made up of many small units called pixels.

On a computer screen, these pixels are square. They have the same width and height. The pixel aspect ratio is 1:1. One unit wide for every one unit tall. Easy to understand, right?

When you capture video from your camera into your computer, the pixels that are recorded are often non-square. They do not have the same width and height.

“Why” is another topic, and if you’re super nerdy about details, Wikipedia should lead you in the right direction.

For standard definition video, the pixel aspect ratio is considered 10:11. Each pixel is slightly taller than it is wide.

“But it looks fine when I watch the footage in my video software… Why does the picture look so fat when I save a picture?

The video software is often “adjusting” the playback to look correct on your computer monitor.

When you save the picture, each of those little non-square pixels are stretched out horizontally so that they become squares. Therefore, your noggin looks a little too wide.

“How can I make the picture look correct on my computer?”

You can adjust the width of your picture using your favorite image editing software. You can even do this using Microsoft Paint if you have to.

Adjusting a video picture to look good on your computer:

Standard Definition:

  • Fullscreen 720×480, adjust to 640×480.
  • Fullscreen 720×486, adjust to 640×480.
  • Widescreen 720×480, adjust to 853×480.
  • Widescreen 720×486, adjust to 853×480.
  • PAL Fullscreen 720×576, adjust to 768×576.
  • PAL Widescreen 720×576, adjust to 1024×576.

High Definition:

  • If it’s already 1920×1080, you’re good to go.
  • It it’s already 1280×720, you’re good to go.
  • Widescreen 1440×1080, adjust to 1920×1080.
  • Widescreen 1280×1080, adjust to 1920×1080.
  • Widescreen 960×720, adjust to 1280×720.

At the end of the day, if you are still concerned with the excessive size of your noggin (and it doesn’t have anything to do with video pixels), rest assured that we are all quite special in our design.

I think your head looks very nice.

Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on September 10, 2010 at 8:16 am. Fun Word Friday

It’s Fun Word Friday!

Below are some commonly confusing words we’ve been playing with this week.

  • allusion: an indirect mention of something. (She made an allusion to a quote by Mark Twain.)
  • illusion: false perception. (Magic tricks are illusions.)
  • ambiguous: to have more than one meaning. (The ending of my favorite movie is very ambiguous, it’s unclear what the main character will do.)
  • ambivalent: to have mixed feelings. (He’s ambivalent about his new, old house.)
  • reek: to smell bad. (It reeked of stall smoke in the pool hall.)
  • wreak: to cause trouble. (They wreaked havoc on the enemy.)

Life’s a Charade!

Posted by Emma on September 8, 2010 at 8:36 am. Captioners, Movies, YouTube

by Jason Mitchell

Our resident public domain and creative content expert, Jason, is back to share his film knowledge.

Hey, have you heard of Charade?  I hadn’t ever heard of Charade until I saw it on TCM some years back.  Why don’t people talk about Charade more?  You’ve got Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn together in the same movie being charming and looking good, and it’s not even that creepy that he’s kind of old for her.  Hey, it’s Cary Grant.  I buy it.  I don’t buy the Fred Astaire thing in Funny Face, but Cary Grant I get.

As if Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn aren’t enough to get you to see a movie, you’ve also got a young Walter Matthau.  People don’t talk about Charade enough, but when they do, they definitely don’t talk about Walter Matthau enough.  You didn’t need him for this movie to be awesome, but he sure makes this movie a lot more awesome.

Also, did you know Alfred Hitchcock directed it?  Okay, he didn’t, but you’d believe it if I hadn’t told you otherwise.  And I guess if you don’t read opening credits, but you’re going to read these opening credits:

Okay, now you’re not going to watch this movie?

I feel compelled to give some kind of plot summary or talk about what is so great about Charade, but I really loved being surprised by this movie when I saw it knowing nothing about it.  It’s a comedic thriller with movie stars giving you exactly what you want from them.  They go to some locations that look pretty in the big widescreen Technicolor format, and I really don’t understand why it’s not counted among the all-time classics more.  Grant and Hepburn certainly did better work, but not together.  It’s definitely a Hitchcock knockoff, but it’s the best one ever made.  Plus, Walter Matthau’s in it.  Walter Matthau in a Cary Grant movie.  Seriously, what else do you want?

For those of you on the cutting edge of home video, Charade is coming to BluRay later this month, and this is a movie that will look great in HD.  Oh, and look at that, CaptionMax has already captioned and audio described Charade.  What do you know?

Fun Word Friday

Posted by Emma on September 3, 2010 at 8:57 am. Fun Word Friday

It’s Fun Word Friday!

Here are some of our favorite words from this week:

alacrity: promptness in response, cheerful readiness

obstreperous: stubbornly resistant to control

tittle: a very small part

churlish: difficult to work with or deal with

capricious: impulsive, unpredictable

‘Lost’ in a ‘Tale of Two Cities’

Posted by Emma on September 1, 2010 at 8:23 am. Books, Captioners

by Erik Martz

I’m currently reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities—you know, the one that begins, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  Though I’m only halfway through it, the book has already revealed all of the hallmarks that cause people to either love or hate Dickens.  Sentences run on forever, sometimes for entire paragraphs, somehow fused together by a Victorian mess of colons, semicolons, and commas.  The book is endlessly thoughtful and tangential, even for Dickens, who was never known to shy away from being verbose.

A Tale of Two Cities, like all Dickens books, was written serially for magazines and later compiled into one volume.  This meant that Dickens had to write episodically, which naturally begs the question of whether he would have been a good TV writer.  Anyone familiar with the television show Lost knows that the show profusely cited the author as an influence, even titling an episode “A Tale of Two Cities.”  The producers of the show often talked about the kinship they felt with Dickens, unfolding a tome of a TV series episodically, being accused of making it up as they went along.

Well, they were making most of it up as they went along, but so did Dickens.  It’s clear when you read his work that the man was driven by sudden thoughts and impulses, barely stringing them together in a cohesive narrative.  A personal reflection from the chapter “The Night Shadows” in A Tale of Two Cities is a good example:

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.  A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of  breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!

That second sentence is enough to make any captioner hide behind their keyboard.  It’s one of Dickens’ many moments of profound lucidity, but it’s also the reason he could never have written for television.  Dickens thought too much.  A Dickens sentence was a journey; every clause was an excursion; every semicolon was a detour.  Television is a friend to character study, but it’s an enemy to long-windedness.  Dickens rarely wrote the former without the latter.

But Dickens is still beloved today for his redemptive story arcs and the boldly drawn characters that inhabit them, and his work will likely always be considered influential.  You can of course find reruns of his work in syndication at your nearest library or bookstore.  Don’t expect any new episodes, though.  Not even Charles Dickens is that good.

 

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