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The History of Closed Captioning and Subtitling

April 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 88

iPods, BlackBerrys, laptops, and high definition television have taken our world to another dimension of technology. These advancements are progressively changing generations to think that everything is accessible with the touch of a button, but technology wasn't always as progressive as it is today. People with disabilities were often left in the dark, and it wasn't until the '70s when something as average as watching television could finally translate to a whole other community.

In 1970 ABC-TV tried sending digitally encoded information through the analog TV signal to the National Bureau of Standards as an experiment. The experiment was a flop, however ABC suggested that captions might be possible to send instead.

Nashville, Tennessee in 1971 the First National Conference was the first televised programming where captions were a proven success. In the '90s, closed captioning was being regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, otherwise known as the FCC. In 1990 the FCC mandated that all televisions 13 inches or larger be manufactured with a decoder chip for closed captions. In '96 The Telecommunications Act required closed captions on all distributions of programming whether satellite or cable. In 1998 the FCC established an eight year transition period where all television programming prior to '98 and on, would by law be required to adopt closed captioning services thereafter. In the years after, the FCC would rule that a certain percentage of all televised programming (dated pre January 1st, 1998) would have to be captioned as well and then in 2002 it was mandated that 100% of all TV programming was to be captioned.

With the influx of government regulations on the captioning industry, it has become another budgetary process for every television network. There are only a few exceptions to these FCC regulatory demands for captioning, most of which do not meet the mass programming on our day-to-day cable programming. These exceptions file under the "undue burden" clause of the closed captioning mandate. This means that payment of captioning for all programming could potentially be a risk in the continuance of the network/station. The monetary amount a station would need to be making to fall under this exception would be $2 million annually, which again, most television networks/stations hardly fall under that category.

With every household containing at least one television and there being over 10 million deaf and hard of hearing persons in the United States (roughly the population of all New York City) closed captioning services are in high demand. Also with the ever-increasing number of independent programming stations, it's no wonder captioning companies are booming in business.

Technology has even made it so far that there can be different styles and methods for closed captioning services to offer; basic roll-up, premium roll-up, and pop on are three of the more common methods, each of which can be customized according to client preferences. Based on the type of programming and the budget of the consumer--the station/network--they can choose between the listed captioning services so that it can meet their needs as well as the deaf and hard of hearing community. Also included in the majority of these captioning services is subtitling.

Subtitling had its start in the very beginning of filmmaking. As only few can remember, in the start of film (early 1900s) dialogued audio had not been introduced until 1928 with films like Lights of New York and Disney's Steamboat Willie. Before this began to take over the film industry, filmmakers had no other option of producing dialogue between characters than to draw or print text on pieces of paper and show them in between clips of film. These were originally called intertitles but after a few advancements when this text could be superimposed onto moving images, it was soon referred to as subtitling.

Subtitling grew in popularity with the increase in production of foreign films making their way across international borders. Films from the Netherlands and France quickly took lead in developing techniques for subtitling and since it was a cheaper method than dubbing the dialogue over the film, this became the most used outlet for translations.

Subtitling soon faded with the progress of audio and dubbing onto films, but was brought back in popularity with a new rise in foreign films in the 1980s and new technology which made subtitling even easier to produce. Nowadays, subtitling services are mainly used in the movie industry and are offered on the majority of mass produced DVDs. With no regulations or mandates by the FCC to provide subtitling on all movies, it is usually a common practice.

Recently, the United States federal government has been progressive, though slow-moving, in making captioning mandatory on all media platforms, including the Internet, and tightening the exemption rules in order to have more institutions and organizations provide closed captioning on their programming. These baby steps have not been in vain as they are directly improving the lives of others, and the future of closed captioning will depend on societal needs, economy, and innovative technologies. It's hard to say what the next five years will hold for closed captioning, but it is sure that the right direction is to continue forward.

Jenn Rogers is a senior caption editor for Video Caption Corporation, a company that offers high quality closed captioning. To learn more about the different types of captioning and how Video Caption Corporate can suit your captioning needs, please visit:

Source: EzineArticles
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