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Re: Argument against open captioning


From: Andrew Kirkpatrick
Date: Aug 28, 2001 9:01AM

The fact that there are many potentially distracting elements that may
appear on or at the same time as a web page does not diminish the legitimacy
of a person's belief that any one of the (captions) is distracting.
Fortunately, with captions, I believe that there is no reason (from the
user's perspective) that captions should necessarily be open, but I agree
that it is important to include instructions for viewing captions.
For clarification, if captions are able to be turned on and off, they are
closed captions, regardless of the state of display when the clip starts.
Open captions are always on.
So, the questions are:
1) Should I provide open or closed captions?
2) Should I choose closed captions, should they be on or off by default?
1) An advantage of open captions is that the author/producer has better
control over the appearance of the captions. If you require captions that
are 14pt Green Comic Sans font, you can only ensure that users will see that
by controlling their machines and the fonts installed therein, or by burning
the captions the way you want into the video presentation itself.
The downside of this is that burned-in captions can't be turned off, and
some people may complain that they are distracting. You could, then,
provide two separate versions of the video, captioned and not. A
disadvantage of burned-in captions is that if you resize the video in the
player, any loss in quality that the video suffers will be suffered by the
captions as well. Similarly, if the captions are added before the video is
compressed, any loss in quality in the video will be shared by the captions.
Take a look at some Webcasts with captions and see if the quality is
satisfactory. You can check out closed captions at the rich media
accessibility resource center
(http://ncam.wgbh.org/richmedia/showcase.html). Try resizing one of the
videos to see how the captions do not distort.
2) If you have closed captions, I think that what is important is for the
user to be able to set the captions as on or off, with ease. It is worth
looking at how the different players allow this:
Real: Uses SMIL for captions. There is a persistent setting that allows the
user to request captions all the time. Once turned on, captions display. I
think that it is important to provide instructions for changing this
setting, but if the developer is using closed captions in Real, the choice
about captions being on or off by default is up to the user.
QuickTime: Quicktime doesn't "understand" captions. All captions are is
another track, like audio or video. If the user has quicktime pro, they can
turn captions on and off by using the appropriate menu item and toggling the
caption track. If the user doesn't have QTpro, they can't do this. In this
case, providing captions on by default is one option that would ensure the
availability of captions. Another option is to use LiveStage to create a
'widget' that can be included in the movie and which provides direct control
over the display of a track names "captions" -- I have such an item
available at http://ncam.wgbh.org/richmedia/addcontrols.html. This 'widget'
will allow non-QTpro users to turn captions on or off.
Windows Media: Uses SAMI for captions. When the SAMI file (containing the
captions) is in the same directory as the video, the captions are available,
but it is up to the user to choose to view them. If I view captions for one
video, the captions area is going to be available for the next one, unless I
(or another user) changes that setting.

Hope this helps,

On 8/27/01 4:24 PM, Holly Marie ( <EMAIL REMOVED> ) wrote:
>> In actual practice, however, I find that open captioning can
>> be quite distracting when you _don't_ need it.
> there are many other distractions that are much worse or more
> offending...than captioning might be(pop up ads, blinking marketing
> banners, ads that look like computer GUI boxes with click here etc). so
> if someone does not want open captioning they can set their applicaiton
> to default off, unless they change it.
> or the tool people making these media players, could have an easy toggle
> off and on feature on the control panel with that widely known closed
> captioning icon? that may be a good solution for all?
> so the set up of on or off is right there and handier.
>> I think it depends on your audience and how many you think will want
>> captioning. But unless you think that a majority of your audience
> needs
>> the captioning, I would opt for closed captioning rather than open.
> Well, that certainly is a good argument from your standpoint, and find
> myself agreeing with that.
> And wonder how we can apply this to marketing tactics, pop up windows
> and ads out there?
> Would be very nice to be able to squelch those items and interferences.
> It is getting so that we cannot fully close a browser without those
> hidden pop under ads popping back in our way.
> holly
Andrew Kirkpatrick, Technical Project Coordinator
CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media
125 Western Ave.
Boston, MA 02134
Web site: ncam.wgbh.org
617-300-4420 (direct voice/FAX)
617-300-3400 (main NCAM)
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