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Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about captioning, subtitling and our services by reading these frequently asked questions. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

How are closed captions incorporated into your program?

How do you know if a program is closed captioned?

What is the difference between open and closed captions?

What are the different caption styles?

What are the current laws regarding closed captioning?

Why does a program appear with captions on one channel but not on another?

Who benefits from captioned programming?

How are sound effects and music identified in a captioned program?

What are the key differences between offline and real-time captioning?

How are closed captions accessed on a TV?

If a captioned program is copied will the captions remain?

What is Video Caption Corporation's closed captioning process?

What is Video Caption Corporation's subtitling process?

How do I order?

How are closed captions incorporated into your program?
Closed captions are hidden in Line 21 of the Vertical Blanking Interval (VBI). Although the VBI is not visible on the television screen, it can contain video information which can be read by a caption decoder, enabling the captions to appear on your screen. Since July 1, 1993, all television sets with 13" screens or larger sold in America must have a built-in caption decoder. Set-top decoders for older TVs are also readily available.

How do you know if a program is closed captioned?
The common symbols used to identify captioned programs are a "CC", a "CC" within a television shape or the image of a small television screen with a small tail at the bottom.

What is the difference between open and closed captions?
Open captions are always visible, while closed captions require a caption decoder to make them visible.

What are the different styles of captions?
There are two major styles of captions currently being used in the industry: pop-on and roll-up. A third style, called "paint-on", also exists but this format is rarely used.

Pop-on captions do more than just "pop on" and off the screen in sync with the program's audio. They allow deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers to comfortably follow the storyline of the program. Pop-on captions are carefully placed on the screen to indicate the speaker, and include descriptions of music and sound effects. Pop-on captions are the ideal choice for entertainment programming and are preferred by deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.

Roll-up captions feature 2 to 4 lines of text that "roll up" on to the screen one line at a time. As each new line rolls up, the top line disappears. Roll-up captions are typically used for documentaries and other informational programming.

What are the current laws regarding closed captioning?
The principal laws mandating closed captioning in America are the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (the Telecomm Act) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Following the Telecomm Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued regulations requiring video program distributors (broadcasters, cable operators and satellite distributors) to gradually phase in closed captioning of their television programs. The schedule set by the FCC distinguishes between "new" programming (analog programming first shown after January 1, 1998, and digital programming first shown after July 1, 2002), and "pre-rule" programming (analog and digital programming first shown prior to such dates). In addition, there is a separate schedule for Spanish language programming. Currently, 75% of all new, and 30% of all pre-rule, English-language programming must be captioned. The caption requirement for English-language programming increases to 100% on January 1, 2006 for new programming, and to 75% on January 1, 2008 for pre-rule programming. Spanish-language programming is being phased in on a later schedule with 50% of the new, and 30% of pre-rule, programming currently required to be captioned. Captioning of new Spanish-language programming increases to 75% in 2007, and to 100% in 2010, while captioning of pre-rule programming increases to 75% in 2012. The FCC has exempted certain programming from their captioning requirements entirely, including most programming shown between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., advertisements under five minutes in length, public service announcements shorter than 10 minutes (unless they are federally-funded or produced), and programming provided by distributors with less than $3 million in annual gross revenues.

For more detailed information on the FCC's regulations governing captioning, please visit: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/closedcaption.html

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, coupled with the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, requires all electronic and information technology provided by Federal agencies to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and the general public. This means that all informational and training videos and other multimedia productions developed, procured, maintained, or used by any Federal agency must be open or closed captioned to provide access to the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

For more detailed information on Section 508 please visit: http://www.section508.gov

Why does a program appear with captions on one channel but not on another?
After a program is captioned, the captions will remain with that program for each rebroadcast, regardless of the channel, unless the captioned master videotape is altered. If a program is re-edited or compressed to fit a specific time slot or additional commercial breaks are added, it affects the time-coded captions. In these cases the captioning is typically garbled, and the distributor may have chosen to drop the captions entirely rather than have them reformatted. It is also possible that the latest program distributor was unaware that a captioned version was available.

Who benefits from captioned programming?
The benefits of providing captioned programming are twofold: it affords deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers greater access to televised programming, while offering the producer a much larger viewing audience. There are currently over one million deaf people in the United States, and over 28 million people affected by hearing loss. Captioning has also become a valuable tool for people learning English as a second language and those working to improve their literacy skills. The use of captioning has also become common in gyms, airports, bars and other public places where the audio cannot be heard or would be intrusive.

How are sound effects and music identified in a captioned program?
Descriptions of non-verbal sound effects and music can greatly enhance the narrative of a captioned program. Because these are not words contained in the audio, they are generally distinguished by brackets or parentheses. Sound-effect captions can also indicate the source of a sound or describe the way in which something is spoken by its placement above regular captioned text.

What are the key differences between offline and real-time captioning?
The difference is essentially live vs. pre-recorded. Real-time captioning is performed at the same time the broadcast is aired. A captioner is linked directly to the station and words are captioned as they are spoken. Offline captioning is done after the media is recorded, and meticulously edited before it is used to create a new captioned master.

How are closed captions accessed on a TV?
Since July 1, 1993, all television sets with 13" screens or larger sold in America must have a built-in caption decoder. Currently, nearly every home in American has at least one television with a built-in decoder. Set-top decoders for older TVs are also readily available. In most cases, a simple push of a button on your remote will display captions on your television screen.

If a captioned program is copied will the captions remain?
Yes, once captions have been incorporated into your standard or high definition video they become a permanent part of that program. Even if the format of the tape changes, as long as you do not interfere with Line 21 (standard definition) or the VANC (high definition), the captions will be copied. However, you can’t copy a standard definition caption master to high definition tape, or vice versa. In those instances, you will have to encode a caption master in the new format.

What is Video Caption Corporation's closed captioning process?
Video Caption Corporation has designed and implemented a proven 5-step process to ensure the delivery of high quality captioning services. For more information, please review: Learn More About the Captioning Process.

What is Video Caption Corporation's subtitling process?
Video Caption Corporation follows a proven process to ensure the quality of its subtitles. For details, please review: Learn More About the Subtitling Process.

How do I order?
You can schedule captioning, subtitling, or other services by following the instructions on our How to Order page.