Subtitles or closed captions are textual representation of audio that runs on visual screens, which may also include textual representation of visual cues. Subtitling or closed captioning helps your content to reach out to a wider audience including deaf or hard of hearing and people with different language capabilities. The captions or subtitles can also be easily translated into different languages.
Spending a little extra to create subtitles for your adverts make a lot of sense as this would allow your ads to connect with new viewers thus opening up opportunity for you to reach out wider. It is estimated that over 10 million people in the UK are facing difficulty with hearing loss and most of them are using digital TVs. This means, there is a significant chance for UK TV advertisers to extend their influence to this community if they have subtitles on their commercials. Likewise, it is estimated that in the UK, there are more than 3 million people for whom English is a second language, and advertisements are not really getting the message across to these people. Subtitles help people with language limitations to understand commercials even when they have really fast and accented dialogues.
Subtitling or closed captioning your commercials can help a great deal in reaching out to a wider audience. By subtitling your advertisements, they can be consumed in public areas and other noisy environments like restaurants, gyms, airports, bars, etc. If you have subtitles on your adverts, even if the volume is turned off, your advertisement communicates to your potential customers. Marketing studies show that subtitling significantly helped audiences to clearly comprehend ads, which in turn influenced user perception of brands in a positive way.
Companies that operate globally essentially communicate to a diverse set of audiences with different language capabilities spreading across the globe. It makes sense for these global players to subtitle their adverts in different languages before they are aired in different regions rather than recreating the content for each language. This essentially helps them to cut down the cost of creating commercials multiple times in multiple languages. Producing commercials multiple times in different languages is apparently very expensive as opposed to the cost of subtitling or captioning. Subtitling, your commercials in multiple languages, helps a great deal when your potential customers are spread across different regions.
In addition to reaching out to a wider audience; subtitling your advertisements also helps when you repurpose your commercials for social media. While ads are played on social media like Facebook or Instagram, often they are muted. When users interact with the commercials in social media, they do not have audio to give the context. Subtitling the adverts engages your users, which in turn increases the impact of your advertisements. So, subtitles are not only important for your broadcast TV, but it is all the more important when you repurpose your ads for social media.
Digital Nirvana, leading global provider of media solutions, has entered into a partnership with Clearcast to provide subtitles for commercials in the UK market. The service is offered through an easy-to-use online portal called subtitle-now.com. The advertisers can upload their videos and get them subtitled quickly through this portal.
Clearcast is the UK’s sole television clearance house that looks at about 61,000 TV commercials a year. Being able to upload commercials online and have subtitling done in minutes is going to be a big benefit for advertising agencies as it speeds up the process, and would reduce the barrier that is holding back subtitling in the UK.
Closed captioning, as we all know, is the textual interpretation of speech and non-speech elements presented on visual display screens. Closed captions help to reach out to a wider audience including hard of hearing and people with different language capabilities. There are many closed caption service providers operating in the market. Let us look at some best practices that can be adopted by the service providers while creating closed captions.
- Closed captions should be displayed on the screen in synchronization with the visuals.
- Captions should fade away from the screen once the corresponding visuals disappear.
- It is essential that the captions stay on screen long enough for the viewers to read them.
- Minimum display time can be set as 1.5 seconds for dialogs that are short as a word or two; however, this cannot be applied for rapid dialogs.
- Closed captions should be placed in a fashion that the visuals are not obstructed. Viewers should be able to read through the captions and at the same time follow the visuals.
- There should not be more than two lines of text at any given time on screen.
- Try not to end a sentence and begin another sentence on the same line and retain all the words as it is spoken.
- Do not avoid words like “so”, “because”, “but”, “too”, etc. These words are essential to convey the exact meaning of spoken words.
- Where ever there is an “inaudible”, place a label to explain the cause. For example; crowd noise sinks speech, noisy market, etc.
- Display closed captions describing sound effects in lowercase italics inside brackets/parentheses. For Example; (child crying) (car screeching).
- Identify speakers and display their names against the captions. Example; (Joe) How are you? (Mary) I am doing great.
- Inserting music icon is a method to indicate that a song is being played on the screen. A hashtag can also be used to indicate songs.
- Movies and TV content closed captions do not generally use full stops/periods, but it should be left to content owners’ discretion. However, question marks or exclamation marks should be used to give clarity to a phrase.
- It is always good to start sentences in capital letters. Capitalize an entire word only if it indicates screaming.
- Spell numbers out from one to ten and numerals for numbers higher than ten. For technical and sports terms, use numerals. Example: (scored 5 goals out of 6 penalties)
These are general closed captioning styles in practice; however, these rules can be tweaked or altered as per specific customer requirements.
CEA-608 and CEA-708 captions are the two closed caption standards for broadcast television. CEA-608 captions are the old standard used in analog television while CEA-708 captions are the new standard format used in current digital television broadcasts. (CEA – Consumer Electronics Association)
In the US, with the signing of DTV Delay Act in 2009, analog television was officially replaced by digital television. This required the captioning providers to switch from CEA-608 captions to CEA-708 captions. Although CEA-608 captions are still supported by digital television, CEA-708 captions are considered to be the preferred choice as CEA-708 caption standard complies with the FCC closed caption regulations.
With the DTV Delay Act, analog television slowly moved out from modern use; CEA-608 captions will also wean away from use.
CEA-608 Closed Captions (Line 21 Captions)
Analog broadcast television used to use 608-captions as their standard; however, 608-standard can also be embedded in digital television. These closed captions are displayed in conventional uppercase with black-box background. 608 captions can be viewed only if you have a decoder as they are concealed in the Line 21 data area of the analog television signal. This is the reason why 608 captions are also known as Line-21 Captions. There are two fields in Line-21; first field is normally used to transmit English captions while the second field is used for Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German and Dutch closed captions. The main problem with 608-caption standard is that it does not adhere to many of the FCC closed caption regulations.
CEA-708 Closed Captions
708 captions are low bandwidth textual, and it is the standard used by all digital television broadcasts. 708-caption standard is much more advanced than CEA-608 captions. This captions standard is used in both standard-definition and high-definition digital broadcasts; it is a misconception that 708-captions are only used in high-definition channels. With 708 caption standard, viewers can control appearance of the captions. This standard allows viewers to select font options, text sizes, text colors and background colors. In CEA-708 captions there are 8 options for font, 3 for text sizes, 64 for text colors and 64 for background colors. CEA-708 caption does not work in analog television broadcasts. 708 captions support almost all languages used across the world. This standard also supports any special character or symbol. 708 captions have multilingual competence, which allows the broadcasters to reach out to a wider audience across the world.