Captioning Live Broadcasts with a Caption Encoder

By: Verbit Editorial

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The Federal Communications Commission sets clear accessibility requirements for broadcast television. One such requirement is that television sets include decoders that allow them to receive captioning signals for live broadcast television. Live captioning has come a long way since its inception. Today, the expectation is that it will continue to grow both in popularity and necessity.  

Closed captioning can help to ensure that viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing have equitable access to content and broadcast television. Caption encoders are a critical tool for providing accurate, timely closed captions to viewers tuning in for a live broadcast. Let’s take a closer look at the role encoders play in the live captioning process.  

What are Closed Captions? 

Captioning is a process that is designed to convert audio to on-screen text. Closed captioning specifically refers to a style of captioning that allows viewers to enable or disable on-screen captions at their own discretion. Closed captions typically appear as white text encased in a black box at the top or bottom of a screen. However, certain captioning methods may allow for more flexible formatting.  

Closed captions can be added to pre-recorded content and live broadcasts on various media platforms. Unlike subtitles, captions serve as a textual representation not just of spoken dialogue but of all audio elements of a broadcast. This may include music, sound effects, cross-talk and more. There are a number of industry-standard symbols that can help viewers fully understand the information that closed captions display. When captions are comprehensive and accurate, they serve as a valuable tool for boosting accessibility for all viewers.  

What are the Benefits of Closed Captioning? 

It’s a common misconception that closed captioning is only intended for viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing. In reality, however, recent research suggests that an increasing majority of young people prefer to watch television with the captions on. The truth is, many of today’s viewers prefer using captions regardless of whether or not they experience some degree of hearing loss.  

Closed captions also support viewers who consume content in a non-native language and those who tune in for a broadcast in public or on a mobile device. Captioning helps to ensure that no messaging gets lost if a broadcast experiences a lapse in audio quality. Also, it’s easier for viewers to avoid missing information because of outside distractions or background noise. Additionally, captioning is a valuable tool for viewers with ADHD and other neurodivergent conditions. It’s clear that captions have many benefits beyond their role as a trusted solution for accessibility standards and guidelines.  

What is a Caption Encoder? 

A caption encoder is a device that supports live captioning during television broadcasts. The closed caption encoder receives and transmits captioning information from caption providers in real-time during a live broadcast.  

This caption encoding process was the standard solution for analog television. These captions are sometimes referred to as 608 captions or CEA-608 captions and are transmitted via a data transmission stream known as Line 21. A caption encoder is responsible for transmitting this data to viewers’ television sets, where the equipment decodes the information and displays it on-screen.  

How are Closed Captions Encoded? 

Captions can be encoded in a few different ways depending on the specifics of a viewer’s television set or type of encoder. The three most common encoding processes are as follows:  

Telco Encoder 

These encoders are essentially dial-up technology that relies on a phone line to transmit information between a broadcast, a captioner and a viewer. Broadcasters will provide their captioners access to a live audio stream of their content via internet or phone connections. This process allows them to write and transmit captions of the broadcast in real time. The captions transmit to an encoder’s modem via a previously established phone connection. Finally, viewers receive the captions via Line 21.  

Telnet Encoder 

Telnet encoders use IP addresses and port numbers to transmit caption information. Captioners must still receive a separate audio stream of the broadcast to follow along in real time. The caption information will still ultimately come through an encoder via an internet connection rather than a phone line. 

EEG Caption Encoder 

This style of encoder uses EEG and a special closed caption encoder software called iCap. The iCap software can deliver audio and video streams to a captioner, making it easier for a captioning professional to deliver accurate live captions in a timely manner. EEG’s encoder receives and transmits captioning information via the cloud to quickly add captions to a live broadcast and help cut back on potentially confusing captioning delays.  

Verbit: 21st Century Live-Captioning Solutions 

As you can see, captioning live broadcasts in real-time is no small feat. Unfortunately, there is often substantial room for error when working with these high-level captioning workflows. Media professionals and content creators can take some guesswork out of the live captioning process by partnering with a closed captioning service like Verbit.  

TV networks and media professionals worldwide trust Verbit because of our dedication to accuracy, efficiency and accessibility. Our dual approach to captioning and transcription combines the power of artificial intelligence with the savvy of human transcribers to deliver high-quality, accurate captions. Verbit’s platform makes it easy to request live captioning of television broadcasts, online video streams and more. Additionally, our software integrates seamlessly with some of the world’s most popular media hosting platforms. Reach out today to learn why Verbit is the captioning company that over 3,000 organizations rely on, including CNN, FOX, and Google. Reach out to us today and take the next step toward creating more accessible, inclusive television content.