Tag Archives: subtitling

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. 🙂

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Industry’s Failure to Progress

It used to be possible to obtain commercial videos (such as Jurassic Park or You’ve Got Mail) which included closed captioning. A couple of times when looking at old videos on eBay, I wasn’t sure whether or not they were captioned, and wrote to the sellers to ask if they were. They were confused – they had no idea that any of their videotapes had this ability.

To start with there was a little box thingy (a decoder) which cost £100 (around the time I discovered it) and could be run with an ordinary VCR to decode the closed captioning on Jurassic Park, You’ve Got Mail and others of that ilk. Eventually they stopped making and supporting the little decoder (that’s what I was told when mine broke down). By this time it was possible to obtain VCRs with the decoders built in. Not all VCRs; just some. You had to be careful which you bought.

The Panasonic VCR I have here in this room can read closed captioning. My sister took my old (very expensive) Grundig VCR along with the little decoding box (which appears to work for her).

My mother’s ancient VCR could never read closed captioning as it was too old, so she threw it out about a year ago and bought a DVD/VCR combi. We can watch subtitled DVDs on this, of course, but for some reason (we’re normally so careful when choosing new technology!) it came as a shock when I tried to watch a captioned video on it, and discovered it couldn’t decode the captions. In other words, it’s a normal bog-standard VCR.

I couldn’t understand this… one half of the machine is a DVD player with the capability of reading captions, and the other half of the machine is a VCR without. That makes it 100% useful for the hearing, and only 50% useful for the deaf. If you’re not going to build a decoder into the VCR, what’s the point of having any part of this machine decoding subtitles? That facility is probably only used by a small percentage of the hearing. You might say it’s too clever for some and not clever enough for others.

I said to Mum maybe we should get rid of that one and look for a combi I would find 100% useful… so tonight I looked in the Argos catalogue, and on Amazon, and on other sites. I drew a complete blank. It might just be that they fail to mention it in the marketing information, but as far as I can make out, none of the new VCRs (in the UK) have decoders.

I’ve seen hints that old videos don’t play well on new VCRs anyway… I saw a complaint by an Amazon customer who said old videos played badly on his new machine but beautifully on his old machine. The manufacturers told him he had no business playing old videotapes on their shiny new VCRs anyway.

We are all expected to change eventually… videos are out on their ear. But it incenses me that though hearing people still have the option of purchasing new machines to play their old videos (even if rather badly, it seems), the deaf no longer have that option at all.

Inclusion in the World of Film

Today I was catching up on my blog-reading (slipped a bit) and found a post I enjoyed by Liz in Fate is Chance, Destiny is Choice: Inclusion.

I know exactly where she’s coming from when she speaks of the feeling of panic you get when everybody in the classroom starts a mad scramble, and you don’t know what is going on because you didn’t hear the statements that led up to that moment. Gosh, that brings it all back! I didn’t have any notetakers and wouldn’t even have thought of it. To catch up, I read books, and they were as often my family’s choice of books as the school’s, so maybe I knew things the others didn’t, and vice versa. I was always a little ‘not fond’ of school, and I’m sure uncertainty was the main reason why.

Malfunctioning subtitling equipment, gosh, yes. I haven’t tried the ones in cinemas, but the ones in TV are malfunctioning all the time; or the TVs and receivers garble the subtitles/captions for whatever reason. Someone like me isn’t able to pinpoint why, and even if the experts knew why, they won’t be in a hurry to explain it to their customers – they don’t want us interfering or making ‘unreasonable’ demands. That sounds paranoid, I know, but that comes from general life experience and observation! There is so little out there that’s subtitled… for reasons of cost and hassle, apparently. I like to think folk are doing their best to change this situation, and I’m sure some are, but I can’t help suspecting that other people don’t care, and yet others are more interested in an easy life and profits.

I’ve always felt that film editors should consider this a little more (if allowed by the management)… you know how some pictures are very fast moving… take a look at Disney’s Hercules as an example. It’s almost impossible to watch the film AND read the subtitles. In extreme examples I have resorted to rewinding DVDs and videos in an effort to catch something that whipped past. I’m a fast reader; I have learned to absorb chunks of subtitling in the blink of an eye, as in the next instant it could be gone… but sometimes I’m just not fast enough. I’m pretty sure speedy filming makes life harder for the subtitler as well as for the subtitle-reader. The subtitler’s mission is to place as much meaning as possible in a small space and increasingly small amounts of time. My point is that film editing could be more inclusive but isn’t much considered, if at all. Does film need to zip past quite as fast? Why? Quite often the commercials are slower and better subtitled than the movie we have just barged through.

That’s all I want to say for the time being; I think I’ll get a soothing mug of coffee now!

Home Again

Sharky likes Yorkshire Lemon Cheese (lemon curd from the fudge shop). I should have got him a jar of his own, but I bet he would still try and muscle in on mine.

I said to Mum it was a good holiday despite all our nitpicking about sleeping arrangements, shoogly tables, no soap being provided, almost no hot water, a toaster that only toasted one side of the bread, an oven whose door wouldn’t open when you tried to get the supper out, not enough hangers, the house being on the dark side except for the upstairs sitting room, dull and rainy weather two days out of three, dryer not to be used (for whatever reason), torch batteries run down and not replaced, Harpic nearly finished, rotting bench out the back, wash basins being too small and set so far back so that you couldn’t turn the taps properly, carpet not being properly hoovered in my room when we got to York (ugh), and the only carpet cleaning solutions in the house being Woolite and a Vanish stick.

“Oh yes, very nice,” Mum agreed.

I added it was the first holiday we’ve ever had in which we didn’t have a blazing row over nothing.

She thought about this for a second or two and then laughed, and said “yes, you did VERY well. And E too. Usually you are the one who starts mumping first, and then E goes all silent. But this year I didn’t really want to go home, and could have stood an extra two days.”

I was speechless with all this praise. True, I tend to get a little ‘mumpy’ about nothing much, but I remember plenty of times when I was reasonably relaxed and friendly, and suddenly got roared at for not hearing, or for missing something that was said. I’m not perfect, but I’m not always the loudest or the grumpiest.

Maybe we got on better because it was a bigger house which we could spread out in, and because I got a break from the other two on Thursday. That trick might be worth remembering for future holidays. Also when you’re thinking “I could blog about this”, your humour tends to stay good…

Of course the house had its plus points and we weren’t nit-picking the entire time. The car was easily parked. There was that lovely view from the back, and the patio. The sofas upstairs had spring-out foot rests. There was a ‘proper’ shower downstairs which was lovely and hot, but I think I was the only one to use it as the others prefer baths (they had to carry hot kettles to make sure the bath was hot enough). In particular, we loved the fact that both televisions in the house were subtitled.

In the past it was almost unheard of to find a Teletext television in a holiday house. It’s not that holiday house owners have stopped to think about this and changed their habits – it’s just that all modern sets (digital) have subtitles now. It’s that easy, really. Incorporate the technology wherever possible. It shouldn’t be optional.

Comments for this entry (during its life on Blogigo):

1. Pete wrote at Jun 2, 2007 at 20:14: you looked for carpet cleaner !!

2. Diddums wrote at Jun 2, 2007 at 20:46: I had to – I spilt my stout…

3. Bunnyman wrote at Jun 4, 2007 at 19:27: It’s funny how blogging has that effect. Those things I would once have ignored or gone into a huffy about, I now try to work out whether they’d make good blogging material, which makes me see things quite differently.

4. Diddums wrote at Jun 4, 2007 at 20:21: Blogging seems to be a mechanism for making us step back and see the funny side of things – and I didn’t realize for a while that it was doing that. Mostly we think of it as a way of ordering our thoughts, protesting, or letting off steam.

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: http://dvd-subtitles.com/
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!”

Racing Against the TV

I raced the television tonight. It was showing GoldenEye (a James Bond film) on ITV2. I always watch this because Alan Cumming is Boris Grishenko – and then there is Sean Bean as Alex, or 006.

A little way into the film, when the characters had got past all the dramatic introductory stuff and started talking to each other, I realized there were no subtitles. This was one of ITV2’s things which was supposed to be subtitled but didn’t appear to be. How that happens, I don’t know.

Well now Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan are galloping about, up to no good in Ouromov’s wash house, and I shuffle over to the corner to fetch my GoldenEye video. I know this has got captions, so I can watch this instead. I put it on, and watch it from the beginning, from the point where James Bond comes running along the top of the dam and jumps off.

Occasionally I stop the video to get coffee. Out of curiosity, I check back to see how ITV2 is doing. It’s falling behind! The subtitles have still not surfaced, and often I find myself tuning into a commercial – it always seems to be the same one.

When I finally reach the end of GoldenEye (happily our heroine doesn’t get killed in this one) I switch to ITV2 to see where they’ve got to, and James Bond and the girl are just starting to roll down the big dish towards the gap in the middle. They have a way to go…

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

1. Pacian wrote at Nov 8, 2006 at 21:53:
Apparently advertisers are demanding more and more air time because people are ignoring their adverts more and more…

(Spot the vicious cycle.)

2. Diddums wrote at Nov 9, 2006 at 20:40:
There has to be a breaking point somewhere, and something tells me it’s not us who’s going to break.

Weighed Down by Wealth

Television subtitles and captions (or rather the typos and mistakes we are regularly treated to) can be entertainment in their own right. Watching The People’s Museum just now, they were showing us a large and extremely ornate object – the Mayor’s Coach. It was apparently covered from ‘tip to toe’ with gold leaf and guilt.

Sounds about right to me.

Toothy Gaps in the TV Schedule

I’ve not seen The Angry Beavers for a while – where did they go? I liked them very much and didn’t get to see all the episodes. The two beaver brothers reminded me of my own family. I picked Norb for my sister E, the popular laid-back blonde who does everything wonderfully. Dag is me, the dark and jittery one who has grandiose plans but makes a mess of everything. They fight a lot but really miss each other if anything goes wrong.

Another thing they stopped showing here in the UK was Bernard and the Genie, starring Lenny Henry and Alan Cumming (my favourite Scottish actor). I don’t know why they stopped showing that – this film really made me smile. My favourite bit is when Bernard’s girlfriend dumps him at Christmas, and he’s left all alone in his apartment with his memories…

Then there’s Northern Exposure. Sure, it was showing on one of the digital channels (ITV2?) when I finally got hold of Freeview – but it wasn’t captioned. How frustrating. There are other good shows running that I can’t watch because they’re not captioned:

  • Andromeda
  • Due South
  • Jeeves and Wooster
  • Mapp and Lucia
  • Monkey
  • Poirot
  • Quantum Leap
  • Rumpole of the Bailey
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Cosby Mysteries
  • The Practice
  • The Water Margin

Edit Jan 2008: also Deep Space Nine on Virgin 1.

Thankfully The Avengers do have subtitles – bless you, BBC4.

I have just found something in the Wikipedia about a controversy surrounding The Angry Beavers. It adds that the series returned to Nicktoons TV on 20th June 2005. I only get Freeview so it seems I’m fresh out of luck and Angry Beavers. Nuts!