Uncensored Caption Text

Published 13 years, 5 months ago

While watching a movie on TV this evening—all right, it was Volcano on the apparently mis-named cable channel American Movie Classics—I was amused to discover that the “bad” words had been edited from the audio track, but left completely intact in the closed captioning.  What, is there some kind of assumption that being hard of hearing also makes one hard to offend?


  1. Being hard of hearing, I have the captioning turned all the time, and I’ll tell, you, I’ve seen it do some strange things before.

    In some cases where profanity is involved, the caption text is properly replaced, and sometimes it isn’t. There are some cases where the text is not modified, even though the sound is. This only applies when watching movies on TV, of course. It’s not done on videos or DVDs.

  2. It’s funny, Eric. Whenever a separate version of anything exists supporting some minority group, that version is always lacking the detail and general polish of the original. Take sites that offer completely separate versions of themselves for impaired users (they don’t know CSS too well). You’d better bet the special version is lacking some serious detail. It’s always something…

    • the content is not as fresh as the original
    • embarrassing typos run rampant through the special code
    • it breaks somewhere because of the rush job

    The moral here? Hmmm…eat plenty of carrots to avoid becoming part of the group you currently neglect.

  3. Can’t say I’ve really understand why you’ll need to edit any words out from TV shows. Whenever I see an imported US program were the beeps are left intact it makes me laugh. I mean, with the amount of violence that is left in the shows, how can anyone take offense if someone utters a four letter word?

  4. Over here in Finland the TV channel broadcasting the Sopranos apologized for once accidentally running a cleaned-up version, because they were supplied with the wrong version. :-) OTOH, the way HBO shown exhibit the “freedom” of being HBO shaws is sometimes kind of silly and unimaginative. One would think that editing the alternative versions was expensive and a lot of trouble.

  5. I just hate editing.. If I do not want to be offended I do not watch the program not for me.

    simply that. (and for parents : educate and watch your kids, not let the tv on in the bedroom every time !)

  6. We started leaving the caption on long ago. It started with the “X-Files” (we got tired of saying “What did he say?”)

    We have since realized that there is a lot of humor in close captioning, mostly misspellings… but very often a line will get edited out of a show but not the CC, so you get a little bit more idea what was originally intended.

    It is funny to see the complete mistakes that they will make, as if the person doing the captioning wasn’t paying any attention to the story or the context. They’ll often put in a different word in that will change the meaning of an entire sentence.

  7. We turn on the captions on our DVDs when we need to to make out unintelligible lines. The funny thing is, the special offerings on DVDs aren’t consistent; some have English CCs and some only have Spanish and French. Luckily, I’m a Spanish speaker, so that’s what we use if no English is available. In one instance, we had to switch the spoken language to Spanish, too, in order to get the captions.

    How about it if in 1984 some high school French teacher said to her class, “pay attention, you’ll need this in 15 years when you’re trying to watch James Bond on DVD”.

    -X.

  8. Big mistakes in caption text for pre-recorded programs might be the result of negligence of laziness, but it must be hard for caption writers to keep up with news shows. Last summer while I was working out at the Y I saw a fluff piece on Popeye Doll Will Young, when it obviously should have read “Pop Idol.” I laughed so hard I almost fell off the treadmill.

  9. Oops. Should have written “negligence or laziness.” Sorry about that.

  10. I’m hearing-impaired and use close-captioning for DVDs and telvision.

    While watching Rudolph with our 3-year old, my husband and I were very surprised to learn the little dentist elf was actually named Hermie, not Herbie as we’d long believed.

    “Wow, I always thought it was Herbie,” Dave said in disbelief.

    We were reeling for a few days.

    Then, our daughter received a Rudolf book as a gift. And, there it was, Herbie.

    I think the quality-control on CC just isn’t there. Or, maybe someone thought it’d be funny for all the HI/Deaf people to be saying, “Hermie.”

  11. Were I live, the captions for the local news is pretty bad, to the point that often you can see them going back and deleting the text and retyping it! I didn’t even know they could do that until I saw it.

  12. The reason for the poor spelling/ apparent retyping in subtitles for news programmes is the system that is used for writing them. In the UK at least, the operators use a special phonetic keyboard to sound out the words as the newsreader says them, and then a computer system tries to then separate out the stream of phonemes into English words. Sometimes this means that you get “pop idol -> popeye doll”, sometimes a later word can change the meaning of previous phonemes and it corrects a previous bit of the sentence.

  13. The rightsholder is too cheap to pay to have the show recaptioned to match the clean audio. A typical production flow that would result in this case is: Finished tape → captioning → encoded tape → re-striped clean audio on that same captioned master.

    Alternatively, clean-CC/clean-audio versions are available but that isn’t the tape they got. In a third but rarer case, the wrong caption file may have been encoded.

    Real-time captioning is never more than 98% accurate and never will be. I love the way people point out real-time-captioning errors as though they were news, or even interesting. You can back up and delete characters in Line 21 captioning, unless you’re at the very end of the line. It’s quite preferable to do so rather than present a line of incorrect text.

  14. Being 70% deaf in both ears, I wear hearing aids and I leave the captions on all the time. I recall that sometimes there were extra captions, usually at the end of the program where there is music playing, and it was usually some type of dialog. My suspicion is that the dialogue was edited out at the last minute, but the captions weren’t. I seem to remember this in Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure.

  15. In Scotland, we have the problem that when we have a different programme scheduled to the default London content, we retain the English generated sub-titles. One case recently saw a scottish dance show which ran for a an hour with frequent swearing on the sub-titles, as per the police documentary the English broadcasters were showing…

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