Sunday, June 30, 2013


You'll have to pardon my continued interest in closed captioning, but what I read on the screen so often falls short of what I hear.

As far as I can tell, there are two ways to do CC.  One is pre-packaged, where the material comes with captioning already done.  The second, generally used for talk shows and other vehicles that don't allow enough lead time, is for the CC typist to listen and respond in real time.  This is not only a far less accurate method of approximating what is spoken, but can be exhausting to watch, as the typist regularly falls behind and then skips ahead.  Oddly, some old shows, made decades ago, have the "type as you go" CC--perhaps because no one ever bothered to retrofit them with proper closed captioning, so the channel that airs the episode hires its own service.

Which brings me to The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis. In particular, a third season episode entitled "Names My Mother Called Me."This is an important episode in the Gillis canon (if such a thing is possible) in that the plot deals with how the titular character got his name. Turns out his mom named him after a childless Nobel Prize-winner.  So there.

He meets with the guy, who's retiring from public life. Dobie admits the world is in a horrible mess (after all, this was 1962, the most awful time ever in recorded human history), and feels people should be kinder.  The older Dobie agrees.  Young Dobie tells this to the media gathered outside as the Nobel guy's final statement.  (How that for hilarious sitcom material?)

But the part of the plot that interests me regards that latest of Dobie's many loves, Giselle Hurlbut.  She insists he change his ridiculous name if they're to be together.  By the end, Dobie decides he shouldn't change and she's okay with that. Why?  Because she's now going with another (very handsome) guy whose name is so complex I won't even try to write it.

Which is exactly the problem.  The CC typist couldn't figure it out either.  So what did she do?  Something I've never seen before in the annals of CC--she wrote her own joke.  She has Giselle say "I'm changing my name." I'm not sure if the gag plays in any case, but really, unless you're blind (which would mean CC is of limited use), you can clearly see she's with another guy, so the line is at best a non sequitur.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I'm surprised CC captioning on the fly is done by live transcribers. Dictation software is pretty sophisticated these days (my car can understand a whole host of names when I'm trying to place a hand-free cell call). Sure, the computer is going to misspell homonyms, miss silent letters, etc., but at should give a fairly good phonetic rendering of what is being said.

8:42 AM, July 01, 2013  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Phonetic dictation on TV would be weird but fun. But actors don't always speak that clearly, so I'm not sure if the experiment would work.

9:47 AM, July 01, 2013  

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