Re: Making non-captioned videos useable for deaf students

Ben Achtenberg (
Mon, 17 Feb 2003 09:52:40 -0800 (PST)

There are many excellent captioning companies around. The process is
moderately expensive, however (figure $400-800 and up per half hour) and,
since it involves duplication, permission is definitely needed from the
copyright holder. Many universities now seem to have the capacity to do
this in house as well, which would obviously cut the cost -- but permission
is still needed.

One alternative, of course, is simply to do a transcript of the audio and
have an ASL signer accompany the film. A narrowly focused spotlight can
illuminate the signer at the side of the screen without spilling light onto
the screen area. Many if not most schools have signing services available,
and this can be quite effective.

Some friends of mine recently came up with what I thought was a very
innovative solution to a problem like this. In their case, the challenge
was to add Korean subtitles to a film in which there is dialog in both
English and Korean (the Korean dialog was already subtitled into English).
What they did was to create a PowerPoint slide show timed to match the
film. The slides were solid black with white text, and they arranged the
text to be as near the TOP of the slide as possible. For the screening,
they used a video projector connected to a laptop computer (a separate
projector from the one used to screen the film). The for the PowerPoint
presentation was mounted and aimed so that the titles appeared just below
the film image. None of the visual information of the film (including the
English titles) had to be covered up, yet the Korean titles were close
enough to the film to be read easily without being distracting. A couple of
notes based on their experience:
* You can't put too much text on the screen at one time (watch a few
captioned films to get an idea of what works) but you actually can have a
bit more with this method, since covering up too much of the image is not
an issue.
* Timing is obviously very important. I believe it would be possible to
have the slide show run by someone manually, but it's a lot easier to have
it pre-timed. I'm told that it's necessary to time the show on the computer
that will actually be used at the showing, because the internal "clock
speed" of the computers may differ and that this may effect the show's timing.
Good luck. If you try the above, I'd be very interested in knowing how it
works out.

Ben Achtenberg

At 02:07 PM 2/15/03 -0800, you wrote:
>Hello all:
>One of our film department faculty has a deaf student in her Aesthetics
>of Cinema class. In reviewing her screening list, the vast majority of
>the features are closed captioned, and can therefore be used by this
>student. However, a number of the independent shorts (Brakhage, Connor,
>Deren, Campion) are not captioned.
>Have any of you had to deal with this type of problem? Are there
>companies that can make non closed-captioned videos into closed
>captioned? Are there potential copyright issues with this?
>Many thanks,
>Kimberly A. Hale
>Head of Collection Management
>Columbia College Chicago
>624 S. Michigan Ave.
>Chicago, IL 60605
>Phone: 312-344-7355
>Fax: 312-344-8062

Ben Achtenberg / Fanlight Productions
4196 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02131
(617) 469-4999 Fax: (617) 469-3379