Substandard Subtitles

OK, so I am a deaf old bar steward with a grumpy disposition, so this probably won’t irk you like it irks me, but… I am flaming incandescently with Sky and other broadcasters whose subtitles fall woefully short of the mark.

I’m going to blame the whole of the USA for part of the problem. Some faceless TV executive somewhere decided that the 30 seconds it would take to run credits for the stars and programme makers at the beginning of a show could be better used trying to sell us unnecessary crap so started bunging the credits randomly in the first segment of the show. Soon everyone was doing it. Whoever is now responsible for providing subtitles doesn’t want them to clash with the credits so doesn’t bother to provide any for the first seven minute slot (the amount of programme one tends to get before the first six minutes of ads). As this scene sets the rest of the scenes in the show us deafies don’t have a clue what’s going on.

Then there is the seemingly random subtitling by Sky who miss out entire episodes.

When I had a series binge and caught up with five series of Game of Thrones one episode had so subtitles at all!

I’ve started watching ‘The Good Doctor’ which, ironically is about a doctor with Asperger’s Syndrome. I can cope with his communications disability but not the communications disability of the broadcaster whereby I never know whether all, part or none of the episode will have subtitles.

While I’m letting off steam… let me castigate the good old BBC and their captioning of news. I can forgive the nonsensical computer generated titles that sometimes accompany a live report. That the live titler can’t keep up is understandable, but not that sometimes an item finishes with a long delay in titles which are not given at all. What I cannot forgive is that half of the reports are pre-recorded so COULD have titles added before broadcast!

Then there is the idiocy of putting the titles up in such a way as to obscure the most important visual information… such as obscuring the questions on ‘Pointless’ or covering the score on live sports matches.

There are around seven to ten million people in the UK who have hearing issues. Yes we are a minority but are a massive one far bigger, say, than all members of all UK political parties!

Those of us with some hearing might attempt to view some documentaries without subtitles but this is rendered impossible by the apparent need to have everything with a musical accompaniment. Surely there must be others who do not want musical scores backing wildlife action, its not necessary at best and obscuring at worst. It cannot be beyond the bounds of reason to offer a music free version as well!

One more thing before I ride this hobbyhorse into the sunset… idiot directors.

There is a current convention of ‘realistic’ dialogue (meaning mumbling) coupled with our apparently overwhelming need to see the reaction from the non-speaker. After nearly a century of filming of the person talking we now get shots over their shoulder of the person listening making it impossible for lip readers. Most of those whose hearing is compromised are aided by watching the lips and facial expressions of the speaker so we can fill the sound gaps.

Good design is not about fancy frills its about making something fit for purpose… good direction is not about trendy and arty farty nonsense but about communicating accurately. We don’t need to see a reaction to the Mona Lisa to appreciate her enigmatic smile!

Spread the bad!
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