CaptionMax Hosts Open-Described Film Screening At 2016 ACB Convention

Posted by Anna on July 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm. Movies, Video Describers, Video Description
CaptionMax CEO Truck Morrison and head of Video Description Brian Gebhart introduce Shoulder The Lion

CaptionMax CEO Truck Morrison and head of Video Description Brian Gebhart introduce Shoulder The Lion

Last night, we hosted an open-described screening of acclaimed documentary Shoulder The Lion as a part of the 2016 ACB Convention that has been held here in Minneapolis all week.  This film is a visually rich exploration of the story of three artists who have lost a sense that defines their art, and it is some of the most challenging and rewarding work we have ever done in video description. It was an absolute delight to get such warm and affirming feedback from those in attendance. To watch the open described trailer, click here.

Brian talks with CaptionMax Quality Assurance Panel member Viola Cruz before the screening begins

Brian talks with CaptionMax Quality Assurance Panel member Viola Cruz before the screening begins

Hawaii First State To Require Theaters To Provide Open Captioning And Video Description

Posted by Anna on January 28, 2016 at 11:00 am. Captioning, Movies, Video Description
Consolidated Theatres Ward Stadium 16 in Honolulu

Consolidated Theatres Ward Stadium 16 in Honolulu

A new law went into effect in Hawaii January 1st requiring some theaters to provide open captions and video description.  House Bill 1272, which was signed into law by Governor Ige in May of 2015, requires any theater with more than two locations to provide open captioning. In addition, video description delivered via headsets must be provided upon request.

While closed captioning has been an option in some theaters for several years, there is a distinct advantage to open captions. “You don’t have to have the glasses on that can be cumbersome. You have to align your head just right to get the captioning,” said Billy Kekua, President of the Aloha State Association of the Deaf.

The Hawaii House of Representatives felt positive that the law would benefit a wide range of constituents:

“The law removes communication barriers and provides equal access to persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have poor vision through reasonable accommodations at movie theaters. It will also help seniors who have trouble hearing, as well as individuals who are learning English as a second language by providing the written dialogue on screen.”

To mark the occasion, Ward Theaters in Honolulu held the first showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with open captions and video description at 12:15 p.m. on January 2nd.  Representative James Tokioka, who introduced the bill, was very pleased with the movie selection, stating, “Star Wars covers so many generations that this is a great opportunity and a great fit for the first showing of deaf community for open captioning.”

CaptionMax has been providing clients with high-quality video description for over 13 years. To find out how you can add open or closed description to your content, contact

We’re Thankful!

Posted by CLeininger on November 23, 2011 at 10:43 am. Captioning, Movies, Subtitling, Video Description

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. How does the holiday season always sneak up so quickly?!

Our offline staff will get a much-needed day to rest their speedy fingers and indulge in too much turkey, stuffing, and all the fixings. We’ll all be back on Friday, rested, well fed, and raring to work.

Our realtime staff will work through the holiday to caption your favorite holiday events. We are working on a dozen basketball games, not to mention other fantastic holiday specials. Don’t worry; they will also be taking a couple of quick breaks to scarf down some holiday goodies too.

We could not keep doing this fantastic work if it wasn’t for you!

We are thankful for …

- all the viewers who keep us on our toes by suggesting new programs to caption and video describe.

- all our clients who choose to add accessibility to their videos.
(Clients like A&E, AIT, Allied Vaughn, APT, Ascent Media, Best Buy, BioMedia Associates, BKN International, Bravo, Bullfrog Films, Bunim/Murray Productions, CBS, Clear Channel Entertainment, Colonial Williamsburg, CSN, Comedy Central, CPB, Dreamworks, Embassy Row Productions, Faith & Values Network, Fanlight Productions, Films Media Group, Florentine Films, Fox Broadcasting Company, FremantleMedia, Google, Granada TV, GSN, Gurin Co., HBO, History Channel, HIT Entertainment, Holt McDougal, Image Entertainment, Hometime, IFC, ITVS, King World, KQED, Laureate Education, Lifetime Television, Lions GateLiveNation, Magical Elves, Major League Baseball, Mayo Clinic, McGraw-Hill, MG Perin, MTV, NETA, NASA, NASDAQ, NAD, National Black Programming Consortium, National Geographic Television, National Institute of Health, NBC Universal, Nickelodeon, Noggin, Outdoor Channel, Reveille Productions, SCET, SyFy Channel, Scripps Networks, Showtime, Sony Pictures Television, Spike TV, Starz, The CW, TV Land, TV One, Twentieth Television, United Way, University of Minnesota, USA Network, US Department of Education, US Park Service, US Postal Service, VH1, Warner Brothers Television, Wet Cement Productions, WNET-Thirteen New York)

- all the educators working to create inclusive educational communities with captions and video description.

- all the advocacy groups who keep our legislators on their toes.

Thank you, and we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Consumer Advisory Board Meeting 2011

Posted by CLeininger on October 5, 2011 at 8:17 am. Captioning, Consumer Advisory Board, Movies, Subtitling, Video Description

Welcome to CAB 2011.

We had another successful Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) meeting. The weekend was packed full of movie watching, interesting presentations, and invaluable discussions. Enjoy some of the photos of our meeting.

Joya Bromeland, Timothy Smitley, Josh Miele, Jordan Richardson, Ardis Bazyn, Michelle Rich, and Cathy Lyle.
Our fantastic board members. Joya Bromeland, Timothy Smitley, Josh Miele, Jordan Richardson, Ardis Bazyn, Michelle Rich, and Cathy Lyle.

Cathy and Kate talking at while getting coffee.
We started with some meet and greet. Cathy (Board Member) and Kate (Video Describer) grab some coffee while chatting about last night’s movie.

Mike Hanson talking about his Appalachian Trail Hike.

Mike and Josh discussing the hike.
Our guest speaker, Mike Hanson, presented stories from his experience on the Appalachian Trail Hike. Mike is a blind attorney who hiked the trail in 7 months; he is very amazing and inspiring. Check out his facebook page for pictures and videos. We can’t wait to see the documentary!

Lunchtimee in the cafe.
Lunch break in the cafe.

Mel and Jess presenting captioning examples.
At our meeting, we discuss different captioning situations. Our board members review our choices and give us feedback.

Jeremy presenting video description samples.
Our board members also review samples of our video description. This is why we have the best description in the business.

A thank-you to our board members.

Thanks to everyone who attended our annual meeting. Thanks to our staff, who made the meeting a great success. Now it’s time to plan for next year.

Our Top 5 Favorite Blogs

Posted by Emma on July 13, 2011 at 9:16 am. Captioning, Movies, Subtitling

There are so many amazing blogs about living with disabilities. Here are 5 on our ‘need to read’ list. Do you have any favorites?Thank you to everyone who have shares their story.

1. CaptionFish

This is a directory/search engine for captioned movies nationwide. There is nothing like it on the internet! Just type in your zipcode and find the nearest movie theater that displays closed captions! It’s a snap.

2. Speak Up Librarian

Read stories about deaf living by a hard of hearing librarian attempting to find her way in the world as a deafened adult. Her stories revolve around her everyday experiences. She talks about the latest TV trends, watching closed captioned movies in a theater, and issues around communication. She has a great voice!

3. BrailleWorks Blog

This blog has a wide range of articles about the need for braille, social networks for blind families, new technology, movie reviews, and parent resources. There are also current event updates.

4. Great Things About Being Blind!

This blog contains enlightening and uplifting stories about being blind. It was started in January 2011 to add a new voice to the disability community.

5. Hearing Your Voice

This blog has news, updates, and stories about being deaf & hard of hearing.

Gulliver’s Travels (1939)

Posted by CLeininger on March 2, 2011 at 9:36 am. Captioning, Movies, Subtitling, Translation, YouTube

by Jason Mitchell

Our resident public domain and creative content expert, Jason, is back to share his vast knowledge of early animation.

Gulliver's Travels 1939 Film Poster

I’ve talked about Fleischer Studios before, and I will undoubtedly talk about them again.  The studio was a major force in the early years of animation, and they are largely forgotten today.

Walt Disney did the unthinkable in 1937, releasing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated film.  Just two years later, Fleischer Studios released the second with Gulliver’s Travels.

Gulliver sits in the Lilliputian village

Max and Dave Fleischer, the brothers who co-founded Fleischer studios, had wanted to produce a feature-length animated film since Disney announced production of Snow White in 1934.  Paramount, their distributor, refused to allow such an ambitious project until Snow White proved to be successful.  Paramount’s desire to have Gulliver ready for a Christmas 1939 release meant that it had to be completed in a third of the time Disney took to produce Snow White.  Other issues also troubled the production, including a relocation of the animation studios from New York to Miami after a labor strike in 1937.  As a result, the film falls short of the technical achievements of Disney’s animated features.  Nevertheless, Gulliver was a box office success when it opened in 1939.

Gulliver implements some of the Fleischers’ animation innovations.  The character of Gulliver was animated using a rotoscoping technique.  The actor Sam Parker was filmed performing as Gulliver, and then the film of his performance was traced as an animation reference.  This technique gave Gulliver’s movements a very lifelike quality, which contrasts with the cartoon-like Liliputians.

Tied up Gulliver holds a Lilliputian

The opening title sequence features realistic footage of a three-dimensional ship.  Max Fleischer’s Tabletop 3D Setback invention was capable of photographing actual 3D background sets to be incorporated in animation.  The device was used more prominently in some of Fleischer Studios’ animated shorts.  Play Safe has an especially cool sequence with a train maneuvering through some cliffs and into a tunnel.  Disney’s competing multiplane camera wasn’t in use until three years after the Setback was introduced.

Gulliver’s Travels included several songs that became popular outside of the film and were used in later Fleischer shorts.  The character of Gabby also was given a series of spin-off shorts.  Mel Blanc, noted voice actor responsible for voicing many Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera characters, portrayed Gabby in Gulliver’s Travels and the later shorts.

Gulliver’s success would lead to the production of Mr. Bug Goes to Town, the Fleischers’ second feature-length film, but a growing feud between Max and Dave, along with growing financial issues for the studio, led to the studio being absorbed by Paramount in 1941.  Today, many of the films Fleischer Studios produced are in the public domain, including Gulliver’s Travels.

CaptionMax has recently added a captioned, video described, and Spanish translated version of the film to the CaptionMax YouTube page. Check it out to see if you notice the rotoscoping & 3D Setback techniques that made this a groundbreaking film.

Describing ‘Life in a Day’

Posted by CLeininger on January 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm. Movies, Video Describers, Video Description

by Jeremy Fisher

Describing 'Life in a Day'

Have you ever had the privilege of working on something that made you feel like you’d spent your whole professional life preparing for that particular project? If not, I wish it for you. It’s a great feeling, a feeling I had while describing Life In A Day, a behemoth of a film from a describer’s viewpoint.

Stream it with audio description: Stream it live with audio description and captions (by CaptionMax) on Friday, January 27, 2010 at 8:00 Eastern, 7:00 Central at Life In A Day. Only streaming with AD for a limited time!

Life in a Day is a feature-length film encompassing life on planet earth on one day: July 24, 2010. Filmmakers of all sorts submitted over 4,500 hours of footage of their own lives that Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and his team cut down to tell a story of our shared human experience.

The footage jumps across the globe from modern cities to developing countries, from the joy of birth to the pain of conflict, from mountaintop vistas to subway platforms. This broad scope and rapid pace presented myriad challenges for a describer: quickly setting new scenes, respecting the flow of the soundtrack and dialogue, and conveying the global feel without making blanket generalizations or race and nationality. And with footage provided from around the globe, it’s full of subtitled speech, a describer’s most troublesome foe! How do we describe the scene and characters and read subtitled dialogue all at the same time? (Yikes!) We tried something new to solve this problem: multiple describers reading as the voice of a single subtitled character in the scene. I think it turned out well and will sound much clearer to the listener than me having a back-and-forth conversation with myself while describing at the same time.

All told, just about every difficult situation a describer could come across presented itself in Life in a Day, but this project is filled with wonderful visuals that I’m thrilled to have been able to verbalize for the blind and low vision audience. In this one project, I got to describe: a giraffe giving birth, a Parkour walker climbing walls and jumping off rooftops, a field of people releasing tissue paper hot air balloons into the sky, a human tower, and more. Check it out while you can. It’s only streaming with AD for a limited amount of time before it moves on to other distribution channels. Catch it while you can!

Creative Commons Films

Posted by Emma on January 26, 2011 at 9:50 am. Captioners, Movies, YouTube

by Jason Mitchell

Sita Sings the Blue Poster
Sita Sings the Blues (2008)

Films fall into the public domain for many reasons.  Sometimes their copyright wasn’t documented correctly.  Sometimes their copyright period has expired.  In most cases, a public domain status goes against the wishes of the would-be copyright holders.  If it were up to them, they would retain their copyright forever.

In recent years, artists working in many mediums have found copyright laws too restrictive.  Some have opted to release their works under a Creative Commons license.  There are several different types of Creative Commons licenses, but in essence, they are less restrictive about how the work can be distributed.  Many licenses allow anyone to make copies of the work, hold public performances or displays of the work, or even make new works using aspects of the original work.

As opposed to films that are in the public domain, films released under a Creative Commons license are willingly made more available by their owners.  This is how filmmaker Nina Paley chose to distribute her 2008 film, Sita Sings the Blues.

Graphic of Sita sitting under a tree with a 16 armed god.

Sita Sings the Blues is a truly unique film that could only have been made in recent years.  I’m not sure there’s ever been a feature-length animated film that was animated by one person before.  (Apparently a second animator contributed to one scene in the film, but that hardly diminishes Paley’s efforts.)  The fact that Paley animated the entire film is even more impressive when you consider the varied animation looks and styles that are implemented in Sita.

Three different graphic styles represented in Sita.

Sita is a rather irreverent retelling of portions of the Ramayana, a Hindu epic.  Much of the story is told by three shadow puppet characters from memory.  Their dialogue is clearly improvised, and they frequently disagree over aspects of the story or forget them entirely.  You get a sense of how the story is perceived by modern India and how it might be passed on orally from one generation to the next.

The film contains many musical interludes where Sita’s situation is expressed using recordings of jazz singer Annette Hanshaw from the 1920s.  The juxtaposition of Hindu imagery and early jazz recordings is surprisingly effective.  Haley also introduces an autobiographical storyline that reenacts scenes from her personal life that parallel aspects of Sita’s story.

Sita on the water.

The way Nina Paley incorporates elements from so many different sources and time periods along with so many different animation styles makes for a really one-of-a-kind movie.  Filmmaking this distinctive is rare.

CaptionMax has recently added a captioned and audio described version of the film to the CaptionMax YouTube page.  There are also downloadable versions of the film in many formats on the film’s website. You can also read an interview that Nina did that is all about creative commons licensing.

The Description of ‘Sita Sings the Blues’

Posted by CLeininger on January 12, 2011 at 10:19 am. Movies, Video Describers, Video Description, YouTube

by Jeremy Fisher

Greetings, Description Fans.

We’re just wrapping our audio description for Sita Sings the Blues, a feature-length animated film that retells the ancient Sanskrit Epic, the Ramayana. In editing Annie’s description script, I came away both impressed and reminded of how hard our job is. In the course of writing description for this feature length film, Annie had to master Indian culture, fashion, names; a whole host of animation styles; and more.

I handpicked some of my favorite bits. Check ‘em out. Then watch the described film at our YouTube site and hear for yourself.

“An old bearded Brahma, his four heads revolving on one body, perches on a lotus that’s connected to Vishnu’s navel. Lakshmi massages Vishnu’s feet while he reclines on a five-headed cobra.”

“A palace rises above an ancient Indian city. Inside, Dasharatha holds a crown over Rama, who bows, his hands in prayer. The animation resembles traditional Indian paintings, with characters in profile.”

“High above, one-eyed Rakshasa demons in bird form fly. Pink bat wings propel their purple eel-like bodies. They swoop down and fly in the forest.”

Hanuman, with the body of a man and the face of a monkey, races off, tail flying behind him. He wears a crown and wields a mace. At the seashore, Hanuman grows huge and leaps over the ocean.”

“On a black background, the flickering heart montage pulses inside a woman rendered in simple white lines. The scene alternates between her body frozen in a dance pose, and her lighting a match.”

Sita Sings the Blues is a creative content film. With the blessing of the films producer/director, Nina Paley, we have posted the film, with audio description, captions, and Spanish translation on our YouTube site!

Superman Animated Shorts (1941-1943)

Posted by Emma on December 22, 2010 at 9:23 am. Captioners, Movies

by Jason Mitchell

Our resident public domain and creative content expert, Jason, is back to share his love of animated shorts.

I had intended to cover a public domain work with a holiday theme this month, but as it turns out, there really isn’t that much in the public domain that has a holiday theme.  Instead, I’m going to talk about a series of animated shorts that I consider one of the greatest gifts the Golden Age of animation has given us. [rimshot]

Superman standing majestically

Fleischer Studios is a name largely unknown today, but the company’s contribution to animation as an art form is immeasurable.  While Disney was and remains the leader in animation, the Fleischer brothers’ works were a strong competitor of Walt’s for years, even more so than the Warner Bros. animation division for a time.

While Disney’s influence has shaped the popular conception of what animation should look like and who its audience is, in the early days of animation, there was no prejudice that cartoons should be cutesy affairs for kids.  Before television, animated shorts played in theaters before feature films, and were meant for a mass audience.

While the Disney and Warner Bros. shorts primarily used animals as main characters, Fleischer Studios’ most iconic characters were human, such as Popeye and Betty Boop.  This is partially due to Max Fleischer’s invention of the rotoscope.

Drawing of a man at a rotoscope

Max’s invention allowed animators to use live-action footage as a reference for animation.  Actors would be filmed portraying the action to be animated.  The resulting footage would be projected onto glass and traced by an animator, frame by frame.  This allowed for extremely lifelike animation.  The technique of rotoscoping is still used today, although usually in digital form.

A rotoscope drawing of Clark Kent and Lois Lane

In 1941, Paramount Pictures, who had recently come to own Fleischer Studios, was interested in adapting the popular Superman comic books into a series of animated shorts.  The Fleischers were already working on their second animated feature and were not interested in the project.  In an attempt to dissuade Paramount from financing the Superman series, the Fleischers told Paramount that the shorts would cost an unheard-of $100,000 each to produce.  Surprisingly, Paramount approved a $50,000 budget for the first short, which was still around three times the budget the Fleischers were accustomed to.  With resources previously unavailable to them, the Fleischers decided to take on the Superman project.

The series is a landmark in animation history.  The huge budgets allowed for elaborate action scenes, beautifully detailed backgrounds, and a fantastic musical score.  The rotoscope animation techniques gave Superman realistic movements, and the already familiar cast of voice actors from the Superman radio series were used to voice Superman and Lois Lane.

Rotoscope image of police shooting at a giant robot

Unlike the West-Coast Disney and Warner Bros., Fleischer Studios was based in New York, an advantage in making the Metropolis of the Superman shorts feel like a living presence.  The lighting techniques, camera angles, and overall look would anticipate the film noir movement.

Clark and Lois in the office.

The series of 17 shorts would have a lasting influence, most notably in the modern depiction of another of DC Comics’ most popular characters.  Frank Miller acknowledges Max and Dave Fleischer’s work as being influential on his 1986 series The Dark Knight Returns, a major milestone in the Batman canon.  The Superman series was also highly influential on Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in 1992.  The series would become a milestone in its own right, launching the DC Animated Universe and promoting the idea that modern animation can reach an adult audience.

A cartoon image of Batman posing in the metropolis.

Any fan of animation, comic books, or just good action stories will love this series.  It really doesn’t get any better.  All 17 shorts are in the public domain and available for free download or stream on  Warner Home Video has also released a DVD set with restored versions from the original masters.

(PS….we’re also working on making these shorts fully accessible; with video description and captions! A choice few will be up on our YouTube page soon! We’ll be sure to announce it when they’re up and ready.)



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