Posted in Hearing Loss

DVD Subtitles: Information Needed

Where I live, it is difficult to obtain certain DVD titles from high street shops, particularly after the departure of Fopp and a couple of second-hand DVD stores. The supermarkets are small and tend to concentrate on the top titles of the moment – there isn’t much choice.

If you turn to online sellers, you trust them to give information on whether or not DVDs are subitltled. Unfortunately this information is quite often not given, and so we can’t buy the DVDs if we don’t know… or if we decide to risk it, it might turn out that we have wasted our money. I don’t entirely blame such sites; Amazon (for instance) seem aware of the issue, and have often said to enquirers that they can only give whatever information is provided by the studios and distributors. In one case I saw several DVDs by a particular distributor, so I emailed them direct to ask if they were subtitled. I got no reply.

I hoped I could obtain information from sellers on eBay, but, if anything, the situation there is worse. I might have been unlucky at the time I looked, but few were saying whether or not a DVD is subtitled. One said that the subtitles were ‘optional on/off’… seeming to fear that if he describes DVDs and videos as subtitled, hearing customers might assume that they are only for the deaf, and avoid purchasing them.

The other day when browsing online, I read a product review saying that a relative of the reviewer couldn’t watch an expensive box set because four out of six of the DVDs weren’t subtitled. Someone answered that the DVDs were surely worth more than one star, and the reviewer must have been in a bad mood when rating them. My jaw dropped when I read that!

These experiences frustrated me, and I joined DVD Subtitles. In my opinion, it’s one of the best things since sliced bread! It strives to keep deaf people informed of whether or not DVDs are subtitled – in full or in part (as sometimes the films are subtitled but not the bonus features). The site depends on information provided by individuals. People continue to contribute regularly, but it’s an uphill task… there are plenty of gaps in the information.

I wish I had joined much earlier. I always had faith that when people saw what was at stake, they would do their best to provide access, meaning that in time all DVDs would be fully subtitled… but, amongst other things, the (lack of) response I got from the studio caused me to doubt. I also assumed that most of my DVDs would already have been rated on the DVD Subtitles site – in fact, they were not.

I have now contributed information for exactly 50 DVDs… and I still have a way to go!

At a local charity shop I was delighted to find they had DVDs for £2 each, and I snapped up several… they remarked on it after a few days, saying “you must have a lot of DVDs!” Part of me feels guilty that I spend so much on this, but it’s more than just spending or collecting; it’s something I feel strongly about – a small thing I can try to do for people.

There are other charity shops that regularly ask £4 a DVD, but I only pay that price if there’s one I particularly want. I’m much more likely to buy DVDs when they are priced at £2 or less, and the charity shop ends up with a lot more of my money! I even bought one I knew perfectly well wasn’t subtitled, just so I could rate it on DVD Subtitles. After all, the information that’s most valuable is the negative information… “don’t buy this; it’s a waste of your time.” (I’ll re-donate it to the same shop later!!) If we don’t obtain these dud DVDs, we won’t be rating them them, hence some of those gaps – however, funds and storage space are limited.

The DVDs in hearing people’s collections are of special value, as there’s more likely to be a selection of unsubtitled ones. Somebody will be looking out for those – and you might be surprised to find they haven’t yet been rated.

Posted in Life and Family, TV and Films

Changing Lanes: Personal Risk

Watched Changing Lanes on DVD; this time with Mum. It was frightening how nervous I felt… I even considered ‘pulling the plug’ by saying “gah, let’s not watch this tonight!”

It’s not as if it’s a film that particularly means anything to me. I admired it and was relieved it ended well despite the rapid pace of disasters, but I remember how difficult it was to watch the first time.

It can be difficult to please Mum where films are concerned. She likes very light and funny things (The Ice Age and The Wind in the Willows); whodunnits (Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot); non-Hardy period drama if tastefully done (Larkrise to Candleford and Cranford); things we have read (Hornblower and Sharpe).

She’s less keen on anything ‘horrible’, ‘dreary’ or ‘boring’, though one day she put Die Hard II on and laughed at much of it! I’m inclined to think she is wary of anything she doesn’t normally watch, and would like some films better than she thinks she will. I had that kind of fear about Robocop, Terminator and Alien but finally watched and grew to respect them. There are still things I refuse to watch (Omen and Final Destination), but as I started watching both of them, I know for sure they’re not my cup of tea!

Tonight I suggested we watch a DVD, just for a change, and showed her our DVD collection (in about 5 boxes). Things like Johnny English, Robin Hood (Prince of Thieves), Legend, iRobot, Artificial Intellligence (AI), Emma, When Harry Met Sally, The Postman, Waterworld, The Hogfather… and she picked out something we have watched about three times very recently (National Treasure 2), saying “all the rest are boring.”

Since the whole point of watching a DVD tonight was because I was tired of sitting through repeats of repeats, I baulked. “You watch repeats of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? every night then call these boring? And we watched that one quite recently.”
She looked puzzled. “Did we?”
“Oh. Well, you pick one, then.”

Instead I found another box of DVDs. “That one in there, Changing Lanes, is quite good. I bought it recently.”
“Play that one.”

So we settled down to watch it, and my stomach was full of butterflies. What if she didn’t like it? It might be more violent or upsetting than I remember, and then I’d feel terrible for making us both watch it, especially as I had refused to accept her own choice. And though I find stuff hard to watch at times, I find them even harder to watch in company. Perhaps we should have gone with National Treasure 2 after all.

When I watch a film nobody else likes, I worry that it give away flaws in my character… “how could Diddums enjoy that?! It’s all explosions, aliens, bad jokes and drug dealers!”

I remember I wanted to watch a history thing when we were on holiday; I hoped it would be interesting and dramatic, but instead it was rather mean and horrible, and it got worse and worse… finally the others snapped at me and glared, as though to say “how could you want to watch this??” I felt betrayed by whoever made the thing! I didn’t like it either, but felt as though the producers had shown up my lack of judgement.

Wouldn’t it be safer to watch the films everybody else likes, and not suggest anything myself? But tonight it was too late; I’d tipped my hand.

Changing Lanes began, and the various characters were droning away about their own downbeat affairs, and all I could think was “this is boring. Do you think Mum is bored? Will they go on like that for the rest of the film? I don’t think they do, but what if I’ve forgotten how dull and gloomy it really is?”

I got so twitchy that I nearly said “this is depressing, don’t you think? Maybe we should just watch the other DVD.” But the film had only been running for two minutes! I asked myself how I would feel about the film if I was watching it on my own again… that was easy. I’d just settle down and watch it… quite happy. Give it time.

Mum seemed interested; even smiled when the two main characters ran into each other. I knew for sure she was enjoying it when she went out of the room and asked me to pause the DVD so that she wouldn’t miss any of it. (We were at the bit where the lawyer was having a heart to heart with his wife). We had a quick break and got something hot to drink, then finished watching it… it was good.

Great… but I’m going to have to stop hanging my own self-belief on whether or not other people like what I like… that’s daft! I know we couldn’t possibly like all the same things — and whether or not we do, it’s only because we see different things in the films. One person might see violence; another would see interesting characters or a vein of humour.

When we had finished Changing Lanes, we went back to Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, looked at each other scornfully, and said “that’s ridiculous, how can people not know that?” Secure (once again) in each other’s regard.

Posted in TV and Films

DVD Reclutter

I bought a few sale-price DVDs from Amazon.

Oh, I know, we are supposed to be decluttering, not recluttering. Part of the rationale, though, is that when the new ones turn up, I will be able to get rid of… ahem… at least a few videos.

There’s one film I’ve been craving for ages, and if it ever shows up on a non-subscription channel on TV, I’ve never been around to see it. The DVD was just under £6, but as it’s hard to get and I really liked it, I decided I’d go for it anyway. Popped it in my Amazon basket and went to look at a few other DVDs… added another, and the basket said:

“Important information: the price of an item has changed since you added it to your basket three minutes ago… your favourite DVD has come down from £5.97 to £3.08”.

Oh… thank you, Amazon. 🙂

Rushed to the checkout before they changed their minds.

Posted in Hearing Loss, Technology and Software, TV and Films

DVD Rant

When there’s nothing worth watching on TV, we turn to our stack of DVDs. I have a lot of videos too, but when we bought a combi DVD/video recorder we discovered the video side of it doesn’t decode closed captions. I could find no combi DVD/video player that did. That makes the video bit of it useless for us; we would have bought a plain DVD recorder if we’d realized.

I hope the people who designed these useless combi things wake up deaf tomorrow, then try to use their own equipment… only to find they can’t use them any more. It would serve them right.

I mentioned a few posts back that Mum only accepts some of my DVDs, so the pool of DVDs we can watch together is small and rapidly evaporating.

We tried Gosford Park, only to find it had no subtitles. I looked online to see if the Amazon reviews mentioned it, and…

…you know how Amazon customers send in reviews of certain products, and other customers can vote on the helpfulness of these reviews? I never saw much sense in that, but I still give positive votes on reviews that helped me. If I come across the sort of review that says “I’ve only just unpacked it and it seems all right,” or “I recommend it / this sucks” (without explaining why), I tend to ignore it.

A curious fact about Amazon reviews is that the approving ones have lots of people saying “very helpful, thanks”, whereas disapproving reviews are voted down… almost as though other customers automatically consider them negative or nasty.

As I was saying, negative reviews tend to get negative votes, but I was spitting with fury over something on the Amazon UK site (not US). The Gosford Park DVD had several reviews, and at least two said that it was such a quietly-spoken film that even the hearing reach for the subtitles, only to discover there aren’t any. One review was marked ‘4 out of 5 people found this useful’, and the other was marked ‘5 out of 20 people found this useful’.

Perhaps the grumblewarts found those points irrelevant, for whatever reason, or blindly downvoted them because someone had given their favourite film only a few stars (as they saw it)… but those were reviews that people like me would find relevant, and they do not deserve to be buried. I looked to see what the ‘highest rated critical review’ said, (3 out of 3 people found this useful), and it said it’s very quiet and recommended that we watch it the first time round with closed captioning. There were no captions, I thought? Why did it give the impression that there were?

My mouse was hovering over the ‘this is not helpful’ button but I thought I better doublecheck… and the review turned out to be directly attached to a US / Canadian version of the DVD (NTSC). I can’t tell whether or not it has captions as I couldn’t see that piece of information in the technical section.

Which leads me to something else that I don’t find particularly helpful, which is that all the reviews for different versions/editions/printings of the same general item tend to be pooled together, and so you might read a review saying the DVD has captions, when the specific DVD you were considering actually hasn’t… even supposing the reviewer was correct and not just making assumptions. I also find that some of the reviews in there were for videos, and that one reviewer was copying the same review onto different products… that very same review suggesting captions are available, when they aren’t.

Mum kept saying “ALL DVDs are subtitled” and wouldn’t believe me at first that some aren’t. She bought me Gosford Park, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and a boxed set of Creature Comforts, none of which have captions.

At the time of writing, there are 1,895 entries in the Region 2 (UK) DVD Hall of Shame (no English subtitles). It includes a lot of children’s stuff, Cold Comfort Farm (DVD released 2005), earlier DVD releases of Creature Comforts, Due South: the Complete Series, The Far Pavilions, at least some Farscape boxed sets (there’s only information for a couple of them), Flash Gordon: Season One (DVD released 2008), Foyle’s War… I got tired scrolling through the list so I stopped there. If there was more information submitted about some of the DVDs on the site, the list would probably be longer.

Anyway, I don’t want to end on a peevish note, so I direct you to this comical YouTube video: Four Deaf Yorkshire Men. It has subtitles. 🙂

Posted in Life and Family, Notepad Conversations

In a Delirium

I smell of Mango Delirium… couldn’t resist a blast of it from a tester perfume bottle in Boots. It’s light and yet hangs around; it doesn’t just disappear. And, while hanging around, it doesn’t seem to be going stale. Thinking of putting it on my Santa Claus list.

This is from today’s conversational notepad:

“I was hoping it’d be quiet in the bank.”
“It was. The trouble was: only two tellers.”
“There’s nothing a queue-hater can do, then – they’re determined we shall stand in them, otherwise they start to fret that they’re overstaffed. If we weren’t held back so much, we’d have more time in which to zoom around and spend, spend, spend!”

Bought a DVD of Castaway (starring Tom Hanks) for £3. I’m always looking for reduced-price DVDs in Woolworth and Amazon – I look there before I go to the charity shops. Some DVDs I recognize as having been sold new for £2, and there they are on a charity shop shelf for £4.

A dilemma we have with DVDs is that Mum is quite fussy about which ones she will watch. So while there are a lot of DVDs sitting there I’ve not seen yet and am dying to see, we are running out of DVDs we are both prepared to watch. The following are some of the DVDs she refuses to touch with a bargepole:

  • The Sixth Sense
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence
  • Alien
  • The Iron Giant
  • Blade Runner
  • anything starring Jim Carrey
  • The Polar Express
  • One Hour Photo
  • Labyrinth
  • Troy

I’m drinking less instant mocha than I was… for a while I couldn’t abide any of the tea Mum was buying, which tended to be Chai, Earl Grey and other light, fragrant teas. I’ve always preferred dark, strong teas (with milk and a little sugar), such as Assam and Darjeeling.

The other day I overheard Mum muttering that she and a friend of hers had tried a certain kind of tea and were going to throw it away because it was the worst tea they had ever tasted. I shrugged and thought, “it must be bad.” Then I thought again… I don’t like the tea she likes. It follows that tea she doesn’t like will be tea I like!

I said so, and soon found abandoned boxes of this ‘worst tea in the world’ sitting on my doorstep.

It was a good guess…. I love it! I’m now drinking more tea and less coffee, which is probably better for me and for our pockets.

Posted in Fantasy and Science Fiction, Hearing Loss, TV and Films

Them Nasty Hobbitses

I was online today, looking at some Lord of the Rings boxed sets (DVDs) to see if they had subtitles for the hard of hearing, and drew a blank. Not because the site said they weren’t subtitled, but because nothing was said about it at all – so you don’t really know if they have no subtitles or if the information was somehow omitted that they do. Or perhaps, because they’re boxed sets, some of the DVDs are subtitled, and some aren’t. I don’t know.

In particular, I was looking at the extended DVDs, and strongly suspect that if there’s any subtitling, only half the DVDs are subtitled – the ‘film’ half. That means half my money would be wasted.

Until I find out for sure (and perhaps other sites on the internet have the relevant information) I will not be buying.

The Lord of the Rings videos weren’t subtitled! I clearly remember the day I found out. I was having a bad day already, but was looking forward to seeing the film when it came out on video. I was standing in a Tesco queue with Mum. Mum spotted the video on a rack, looked at it, put it back, turned to me and said: “it’s not subtitled.”

I was stunned – this is the Lord of the Rings they’re talking about! The all-time fantasy classic! We’ve all been waiting for a film like this for years! How can it not be subtitled???

I pulled other New Line Cinema videos from the racks to see if they had subtitles – at that time, none of the ones I checked did. I don’t know what their reasons were; maybe they had a very good reason – that’s just how it was. It still didn’t seem right – not for something this big.

I think (but am not sure) that the extended versions had subtitles, but I couldn’t afford the shop price – I hoped they might turn up in the second-hand CD store or a charity shop, but so far all I’ve seen are the unsubtitled versions. Those were the regular ones that most people bought. I confess to a few moments of annoyance when thinking about this – “everyone should boycott the unsubtitled videos!” but I can’t expect that. A bit dog-in-the-mangerish. Everybody-focus-on-MY-problemsish. Ridiculous. “But they should still have been subtitled…” says a voice in my head, disbelieving. “Them nasty hobbitses forgot the captionses.”

Gollum, gollum.

So it was another while yet before I got to see the Lord of the Rings on TV. Other people were talking about it, raving about how marvellous it was, and how they had seen it three times already… and I hadn’t even seen it once. I fervently hoped I didn’t accidentally die before I ever got to see it. Wouldn’t that be annoying?

I remember I was storing up videos to watch and we were going on holiday, and I got to thinking “what if we all die in a motorway pile-up and I never ever see any of these videos because I was ‘saving’ them?” So I sat down before the holiday to watch some, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Since then I’ve snagged plenty more videos, so there’s always something new. I’m a firm believer in having something to look forward to, no matter how small.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this entry when it was hosted on Blogigo:

1. Pacian wrote at Nov 23, 2006 at 23:33:
I worry about this too. Subtitles can even be poorly done on films that aren’t in English, which is the main reason I try to always find out beforehand.

Quick googling turns up:
Is this the one?

For non-English films, DVD Times usually mentions if the subtitles are incomplete or correspond to a dub rather than the original language track.

2. Diddums wrote at Nov 24, 2006 at 00:29:
Thanks for the URLs! The boxed set you mention is partly subtitled, according to that site. Some of the ‘extras’ are not subtitled, but the films are. And what they have are ‘English subtitles, but not for the hard of hearing’ – presumably that means it doesn’t say “bell dongs” or “Balrog roars incomprehensibly” and things like that… doesn’t bother me all that much, though sometimes it’s important to know.

3. KatieK wrote at Nov 24, 2006 at 05:57:
Nasty Hobitses indeed! This is…incomprehensible. Spend 400 billion whatsits on film production and then leave out the subtitles. I am very disappointed in them and now I will think about this every time I watch my DVD version of the films. Bad Corporation, bad corporation!

4. Bunnyman wrote at Nov 24, 2006 at 19:36:
Hello Diddums. I’m a bit of a slow reader, but that’s me caught up now. You know, you really do have a lovely blog and it’s a real treat to read.

I’m very chuffed that I got a mention on one of your posts and even a place on your links list. An honour indeed, thank you!

On the subject of subtitles, I have the first two films as separate extended DVD editions for the UK (think that’s region 2 but I can’t remember), although they must both be over a year old. Both have subtitles for the film part. Not yet sure about the extras because I can’t get my DVD player to work properly right now – dratted thing’s being very badly behaved. If I do get it working, I’ll let you know 🙂

5. Bunnyman wrote at Nov 24, 2006 at 20:19:
Got it to work now on an old Windows laptop. Unfortunately, there is no setup menu on my Extras CD so it does indeed look like subtitling for the film part only. Seems to be just the voice bits too, no other sounds or hints. During that section where Saruman snitches to Sauron via the Palantir, it’s not that clear who’s saying what.

Don’t know whether any of this has improved in recent versions.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is brilliant – all that running across roofs and up walls. I tried it once but scraped my fingers then fell on my bum – quite painful it was too. Might need to take some lessons.

6. Diddums wrote at Nov 25, 2006 at 13:59:

Hi Bunnyman, thanks very much for the information on the DVD – that does sound right; sometimes I get confused about who said what. Then they suddenly start placing the text right over the characters’ faces, as though they think it will help. Then stop and go back to normal again – no idea what that’s all about. It’s as though different people are working on it, with different ideas of ideal text placement.

Does it say anywhere on Croughing Tiger, Hidden Dragon ‘don’t try this at home?’ Heh.

7. Bunnyman wrote at Nov 25, 2006 at 14:24:
Well at least on my copies, the titles aren’t over the faces. Mind you, they would be if anyone had to bend to tie their shoelace; they do seem to be quite large, in the lower part of the screen. Perhaps they’ll obscure some critical piece of hitherto unnoticed plot such as Boromir passing Frodo a secret note saying “I love you really, it’s the script, it made me do it!”