Closed Caption Information
In a nut shell, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is requiring Closed Captions (or subtitles) for both television and internet based video for the hearing impaired. You can go onto their website Here to read the entire rules and regulations that they have set forth. I will forewarn you though, it does read like Chinese radio instructions; I mean hey, it’s the government and it’s law, so it’s always fun to try and read this stuff. But basically, like I said before, it’s pretty much a requirement to have CC information attached (in some way) to your video.
What does this mean for the independent filmmaker?
Welcome to a long and annoying process. It’s not really hard to create CC/subtitles, but it does take several hours to complete a .srt (subtitle) file.
Think of it this way, if you have a typed script (that your actors had to stick to) some of your work is already done. But if you have a lot of improv work…you will be typing all of that out verbatim.
Now, there are programs out there to help facilitate this process; an unfortunately, if you have a lot of background noise or accents, you will be doing a majority of it manually.
There are programs out there such as Voxcribe that do offer an “automatic” dialog recognition. But I will say (from personal experience), if you are trying to caption accents with their program, be prepared to have most of it botched. Example, recently I attempted to use Voxcribe to subtitle a video clip that featured English actors, after approximately five minutes of dialog detection, I ended up stopping the process because most of it was wrong.
If you are the type of person who already knows the subtitle format, you can simply write out everything in a notepad .txt format. For those who do not, I suggest something along the lines of AHD Subtitles Maker. The GUI interface of the program is not far off of most video editing software (like Adobe Premiere or FinalCut) and figuring out how to use the program is pretty straight forward.
But can’t you do dialog detection in Premiere?
Technically, yes…well you can try. Most of the clips that I have attempted to perform dialog detection inside of Premiere was a total botch job. I would have actually spent more time correcting the detection than I would writing it manually.
As an independent filmmaker, should I even worry about creating subtitles?
Yes! Like I said at the top of this blog, the FCC is requiring more CC services for video now. And let’s face it from a common sense view point; as an independent filmmaker you are, essentially attempting to please people. People who are hearing impaired will not want to watch something when try don’t understand what is doing on. Even in the early days of silent film, there were caption scenes explaining the concept of what was going on. Imaging trying at watch a movie with no sound at all, I’m pretty sure most people will be lost fairly quickly.
Whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it, it will eventually have to be done. Even more so if you are doing commercials or shows for TV. It’s better off spending a few days doing it after the final edit, than it is waiting until the last minute to do so. There is also the possibility (no matter how small of a chance) of getting fined by the FCC for not offering CC/Subtitles. And that is not a risk that I (or we) will be taking.