Subtitles, captions – some would say it’s the same side of a coin. Truth is that both define a process of showing text on screen or any kind of visual display to interpret or provide extra information. Closed captions are technically what you would say to audio transcriptions that occur verbatim or edited along with certain non-speech gestures. The truth also is that subtitle is explicitly used when the language becomes a barrier and needs translation for the sake of the viewer whereas captions are used for those who are impaired and cannot understand what is being spoken. Also, closed caption or CC as we all know it is a term as opposed to “open”, which indicates that unless one actually activates the captions, they are not rendered on the screen. Naturally, open captions are burned-in or hard-coded text visible to one and all.
To be more specific, subtitles have a legal difference from captions. Legally, subtitles work with the assumption that the viewer can hear but cannot comprehend the accent or language spoken. It is also used legally when the speech is not distinguishable or if a dialogue has a certain portion texted on screen for the purpose of reiteration. But legally speaking, Captions sole motive is to aid those who are hard of hearing or deaf in all forms of audio content such as non-speech and spoken dialogues providing the identity of speakers, mannerism, significant sounds, effects and music through words and at times symbols.
The First Uses Of Captions
Closed captions were the first to be used and it was the demonstration at First National Conference on TV held on behalf of Hearing Impaired in Tennessee in the year 1971. The second time it was held in 1972 in Gallaudet University for ABC and the NBS (National Bureau of Standards).
Regular broadcasting with closed captions were successful thanks to PBS station in the year 1973 following which in the year 1976, line 21 was exclusively set aside by the FCC for closed caption or CC transmissions. PBS followed suit developing exclusive editing consoles to encode captions for prerecorded programs.
As you would have noticed, closed captioning was until then used for recorded broadcasts but what about live shows as seen today? Well that happened in 1982 when real time captioning was used for the first time. Court reporters with phenomenal typing speeds of over 225 words a minute helped transcribe spoken words and gestures into text and gave access to live news, entertainment and sports for millions impaired with hearing problems.
Basically, the rise and popularity of closed captions was solely for the purpose of aiding the deaf community. Today they are also used to teach, to learn how to read, speak and master native languages.
The Rise Wasn’t Because Of Deaf And Hearing Impaired
Closed captions and captions in general might have been developed for folks with hearing impairment or deafness but it wasn’t this community that led to its exponential growth. National Captioning Institute in a survey noted that ESL or English as Foreign or Second Language group stood as the largest takers for captions in the late 80s and early parts of the 90s. This was right before decoders became a standard. A similar survey corroborated the facts across the Atlantic with 7.5 million viewers in the UK relying on closed captioning (we can now start calling them subtitles) out of which just 5 million were hearing impaired.
Where Is Captioning Used Today?
Captioning services are today used anywhere and everywhere. Restaurants, bars and public places all rely on it. Places where ambient noise is an unavoidable complication depend on captions to provide information without creating more noise. Online videos are treated by programs to add in captions so as to accurately and truly transcribe the data helping search engines index and make them available to users of all sorts online.
Captioning might not be as popular as making videos or recording but it is an art form that will exist forever unless people actually end up speaking a single tongue and fix deafness once and for all, at the same time!