Why Do Captions Look Garbled?

“That person doesn’t even know how to spell.”  “They can’t type correctly.”  “How come in today’s age of technology can’t they get the captions right?”  If you don’t know how captioning works, you’ve probably thought or said this yourself.  The captioner’s ability to spell and type is not usually the reason a viewer sees garbled captions.  So you ask yourself, “Why?”

The following are reasons why captions appear garbled:

• The most common is the combination of the quality of the video signal and the quality of the decoder chip in the television itself.  If the quality of either is poor, it will display words with missing letters, separate letters incorrectly or a miss a word entirely.

• The technology of encoders and decoders working together to reveal the captions properly

• When watching a live program, the captioner may mistroke resulting in a typo

• When watching a live program you may see a word spelled phonetically.  This happens when the captioner doesn’t have that particular word in their dictionary.   The more experience the writer has, the more words in their dictionary and typically better captioning results.

So the next time you view captioning, pass on the word as to “Why captions look garbled?”