Sunday, June 16, 2013

Advances in movie captioning

My wife took me to see Man of Steel for fathers day, which is a pretty nice thing to do.
I used to have to wait until the movie came out on DVD so I could understand what was being said. Movies that have a plot and dialogue are really enjoyable for me. A perfect movie doesn't have to have the latest special effects. Superior acting and a well written story culminating in my suspension of disbelief does the trick. 'Movies that make you think' pretty much sums up what I feel a good movie should be.
With the advent of wi-fi, it is now possible to view a movie on the big screen with the words projected onto a set of glasses worn by the deaf viewer.
However new technology has it's fair share of obstacles. Missed lines. reception that craps out. The computer sending out the signal gets locked up. All of these things are very frustrating for the viewer.
The first movie I saw with open captions was Star Trek: Into darkness. Not all the words were there. An actor on screen would be talking and no words formed underneath him. I could read Zachary Quinto's lips well enough to figure out what was said, but it took away from the movie just a little bit.
I was impressed when two people were captioned at the same time, with the dialogue splitting the screen. For captioning the entire movie I'd give the folks at Regal Cinemas an 8 out of 10.

Going to see the new Superman flick was completely the opposite.

For the first half of the film I only caught about 1/3 of what was being said. At first I was unsure if there was to be actual dialogue. We've all seen movies where the sound is muted on purpose, the hero screams a heart wrenching 'NOOO!' in slow motion, we the audience feel the emphasis of the moment. Then it occurred to me, Russell Crowe is giving his wife instructions. General Zod would declare the council to be disbanded, followed by several people moving their lips and no words coming out. Pretty much lost me after that. Garbled words would pop up for a split second before being replaced by green static. I went to the box office and asked for another pair of glasses, which they readily gave me. This pair didn't want to work at all. I have no idea what's going on. Superman is in handcuffs, which I know he can bust out of, there must be some kind of joke going on. Superman is going to burst out of the cuffs and yell, 'Surprise!' That didn't happen, I don't think. So I went back to speak to the manager. She said she reset the computer and see if that helps. I did... sort of. I got the complete dialogue from the beginning of the movie... right at the climax.
Imagine Darth Vader wheezing and interrogating a rebel officer, 'Where is the Rebel base?' just as Luke is flying down the Death Star trench.

And people wonder why I lose my temper!

Mary Malcom, the manager of the Regal Cinemas in Live Oak, Texas refunded my ticket and gave me two passes so my wife and I might try this again. She was in the unenviable position of dealing with an irate customer, namely me. I just want to clear the air: Mrs. Malcom did everything in her power to help me. These unfortunate incidents were something beyond her direct control.
I am calling out Regal Cinemas to look into the open captioning service they are offering. Providing open captioning is a great step forward in improving the audience experience. Just think how much more money Regal Cinemas would be making if the technology worked reliably?

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