Sunday, August 28, 2016

Closed captioning

I've probably never depended on the closed captioning runners on my television screen more than I do now during this political season.

No, it's not because I've learned how to turn down/off the sound whenever a candidate speaks (although doing that might save my sanity).

But every morning, when I work out at the YMCA, I'm occasionally in front of a muted television screen. And there, before my very eyes, were the actual words allegedly coming out of the speakers' mouths running across the bottom of the monitor.

Sometimes I wonder how this technology works, because it's not always perfect.

For example, one day I was reading "leg is later" when I realized the intended word was "legislature." Well, did the auto correct suddenly cut in? Or cut off? I don't know.

The other day, I was watching a story about the earthquake in Italy when the CC crawler told me rescuers were "pourless to do anything." Hmm. I can almost see the logic in that one, except that I'm powerless to explain how.

Even this morning, I was watching a story about a Southwest passenger jet that lost one of its two engines. Because of the skill of the pilots, the plane landed safely, with the passengers giving the pilots "aorund of applause." Well, that was a simple spelling error. I've managed thousands of typos like that in my journalism career.

Then came a story about the immigration issue, especially that part where one of the candidates wants to remove "thousands of illegal grimmigrants." Well, no wonder they're grim. They're threatened with removal.

Sometimes you just don't know where the CC is going. Somebody was telling one of the candidates to "stake out your volalues." What? Do you mean values? Volatiles? Valuables? What?

I'm not quite sure how closed captioning works. Not that long ago I had an image of some guy sitting in front of a television screen in some broadcast booth furiously typing away the spoken transcript he was hearing into some kind of encoding device. Presto, seconds later, we can read (sort of) what the speaker is saying on our TV screens.

I thought this because sometimes, on the monitor, as the closed captioning is being typed out, it will erase a word — like "leg is later" — letter by letter and start over until it gets it right. Surely only a human can recognize their own error, right?

Then I thought, No, we live in an incredibly technological era. Surely the closed captioning device is voice activated. That's why we get all those synonymic typos.

But then I read this after a Google search: "Most programs are captioned in advance of transmission, but the nature of some programs, such as live news broadcasts, requires real time captioning. For real time captioning, a stenographer listens to the broadcast and types a shorthand version into a program that converts the shorthand into captions and adds that data to the television signal."

Yikes. So there really is a guy locked in a room somewhere furiously typing away, like a court stenographer, on some kind of an Ultra Secret Enigma machine.

Jeez. Makes me wonder if he's a former journalist.

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