While closed captions are essential and mandated for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, often their placement on the screen has been overlooked by broadcasters and video programming distributors. As part of the caption quality standard rules and requirements established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), captions should be properly placed on the screen and shall not block or obstruct other important visual content on the screen, including, but not limited to, character faces, featured text (e.g., weather or other news updates, graphics and credits), and other information that is essential to understanding a program’s content when the closed captioning feature is activated. SCC and Web VTT are the key caption formats that support on-screen placement.
Previously, closed captioning placement could be in any location on the screen. This became problematic because the captions blocked graphics, text or numbers appearing in the lower-thirds. Also, when positioned at the top, the captions would sometimes cover a speaker’s face or mouth, thus hindering the view of the speaker’s mouth while watching the closed captioning.
Therefore, the new FCC rules require caption providers to carefully position the captions on the screen. This has been typically achieved by a manual process where a captioner actually moves the captions away from the above mentioned obstructions. Further, timing also needs to be adjusted so that there is adequate time to read a caption line before it clears and moves to a new location on the screen. While this enhances the user experience of viewing the captions, it also significantly increases the time and effort it takes to produce captions.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to automate the process of caption placement using detection of on-screen faces, text and graphics. Upon detection of these elements, captions can be automatically moved to a suitable section of the screen to create minimal interference with these elements. The captioner just has to do a quick Quality Check pass before publishing the captions. Caption editor software enables the captioner to view the placement of the captions overlaid on the video, and adjust the positioning, if necessary.
We believe on-screen placement of captions is very important for the user experience, and should be taken seriously by captioning providers. Further, leveraging artificial intelligence and caption editing tools can significantly cut down the time and expense, and speed up the Quality Control phase of this task.