Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Experiencing Open Captioning


So, a funny thing happened on the way to the theatre. Or, actually, when I was already at the theatre...

Last week when I went to Haywire * something unexpected happened. As I was nice and settled in and watching the film begin I noticed text on the screen. But, it was in English. I heard the creak of a chair and assumed someone when to go tell someone that something was off. Not the best assumption as nothing changed after a while, and then I remembered that in the lobby of the theatre there is sometimes a notation about open captioning when in turn was what I was experiencing.

I took a moment to decide what I was going to do. I decided the idea of leaving or seeing a different film simply because the film had open captions felt ridiculous. So I decided to favour being open to the experience and stayed to watch the film as it was presented. Here's what I noticed from the experience:
  • Character Names, Thank You! No second guessing to who was who, or trying to interpret someone's name from pronunciation (given one character is named 'Coblenz', I was ever more thankful to see that spelled out). That also really helped me think of the characters as characters, over 'seeing' the actors which I can often do. I might of slipped a bit and wrote "What is 'actor name' up to?" in my notes over writing a character, but it was much less than normal.
  • Focus to What You Hear It's not just the dialogue that's captioned, but also sounds of importance like 'door creaking' or 'heavy panting' or 'gun cocking'. I found in interesting to think about what was captioned, and which audio cues moments got their own caption. It made me curious to how they determine it...because of importance? Because it was off screen? To differentiate the focus between several people? I'm not sure, but it made me think. And I like to think.
  • Clarity I never had to think twice about the possibility of mishearing something, or if I missed something. If it was inaudible, it said inaudible. If something was said, you got to see what it was. That gave me a lot more confidence that I fully understood the story! Which is almost embarrassing to admit!
  • Quick to Adjust. Maybe because I see a lot of foreign films with subtitles and/or because I read quickly, but I found it surprizingly fast to adjust to viewing the film in this format so. Although I did try not to rely to heavily on the captioning, and even toyed with trying to not look at it at times, which was sometimes a greater challenge than I expected!
  • Not so Quick to Adjust Back. The only downside was one time when I was trying to actively not read the captions, there were some lines that were actually subtitles because the characters weren't speaking English, and I missed it. Luckily it was rather expressive and easy to interpret through the international language... of ACTION!
Overall, I'm very glad that I stayed to see what the experience was like. I found it really engaging to see a film in this way and I wouldn't think twice about doing it again. You just never know what's going to happen when you head out to the theatre, and as often with me something new and different can come across you path when you least expect. I'm happy to say this experience turned out well. Yay!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Theatre is an column by Shannon the Movie Moxie exploring the experience of film.

*review for Haywire is incoming, but in short it was pretty awesome


Anonymous said...

Hi there. Great blog. I work in the cinema industry and can tell you that the percentage of hearing people that complain about subtitled shows is FAR higher than the number of deaf people that complain that there is not enough subtitled shows.

If they don't like it, hearing people should shut up and go to one of the non-subtitled shows, available all day, every day, in every town! (Not you of course, as you are a lovely deaf-friendly person). And deaf people should let cinemas know that a better choice of subtitled films and shows would be appreciated. (I’m deaf by the way).

By the way, the film you saw, ‘Haywire’, is NOT subtitled/captioned in UK cinemas. Silly, because the subtitle ‘track’ could simply be emailed to a company in the UK, reformatted slightly, and used for UK screenings.

So if my friends and I want to catch it at the cinema the nearest one is probably New York…

Dean, http://www.yourlocalcinema.com

Suzie Ridler said...

I love the idea for this column Shannon. Makes me feel like I was there with you and I adore hearing hearing the backstory to your experience.

Just so you know, there were no subtitles when we went to see the movie and one of my friends had a hard time understanding the end and the captioning might have helped.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Hey Dean, Thanks so much for your comment!

It's so true that non-subtitled shows are widely available, and I'm sad to hear so many hearing people complain about it seeing with captions/subtitles, although I do admit leaving (not complaining!) crossed my mind, but I'm glad I didn't. I also did consider that doing so would be disrupted, and I never want to play a part in someone else having a less pleasant theatre-going experience.

That's so sad that Haywire wasn't available with captions/subtitles in the UK, especially if conversion is simple. It must be frustrating to have fewer viewing choices. Thank you so much for your insights & perspective! Your site looks like a wonderful resource. I'm very pro-accessible, and it's great to meet others who are too!

I'm glad you like this column Suzie! And how crazy was it that there were not actual subtitles for the Spanish? Ah, I just Antonio is expressive enough for the gist of it to come through :)

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