Once upon a time, inserting subtitles was a laborious task and the bane of broadcasters. As the technology involved has improved, both in terms of capabilities and ease of use, the task has become easier and faster. However, the newest versions of subtitling software now offer the most complete service yet, integrating with the varying elements that make up the intricate web of files, programmes and technology that runs the media systems of the world.
Interaction between all of the varying types is unavoidable for any broadcaster seeking to provide the most comprehensive service to its viewers or subscription holders. A key element of this interaction is the exchange, transcoding and insertion of ancillary data. The visually impaired want to enjoy a hit television comedy as much as anyone else, while the hearing impaired will also want to experience such a show. Through audio description and closed captioning software can provide the services necessary to allow them to.
While a prerecorded programme from an English speaking country may not offer much complication, subtitling programmes from non English speaking countries are more complex. Existing subtitles to be removed, the dialogue in a foreign language translated and then the subtitles inserted.
Live television events, meanwhile, are also expected to provide subtitling, but even with the common broadcast delay of 7 seconds, there is only a narrow window of opportunity to receive, encode, insert and transmit footage complete with accurate subtitles.
Because of the practical headache created by such pressure on time, and the consequential high costs involved, the latest software designed to handle subtitling no longer manages just the creation and insertion of subtitles into video footage. Most broadcasters now make use of video servers as a way of managing such matters more economically. These servers house thousands of hours of video broadcasts at one time, with many of the videos devoid of ancillary features such as audio and subtitling.
The complexity is made greater with the existence of a wide range of file formats. However, the need to either reformat files or fear failed compatibility is negated by software that is open to the different form. Meanwhile, the ability to directly interface with video servers and automation systems has also made life easier, and greatly increases the time efficiency and cost efficiency of the task.
But there are other aspects to consider in this digital tv age, such as appropriate signalling to adhere to wide screen needs and the variety of characters in subtitling and captioning around the world. For example, Korean characters are very different to the Latin alphabet, as are Arabic characters. Modern software has advanced so far that it can now generate such vastly varying characters to provide solutions for almost every conceivable situation.
So, there is a wide range of ancillary layers of data that may be imbedded into a television programme. Marrying all of them together in one seamless transmission is a difficult but necessary requirement if the highest levels of broadcast standards are to be maintained. After all, we can all be somewhat frustrated by the late appearance of captions in a film. It can be even worse for those who rely on the likes of audio description to enjoy a broadcast, should the description arrive late and interrupt dialogue, or should the quality of the audio description be low.
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