Category Archives: TV

Subtitling tries to make me dumber

I was watching Todd Sampson‘s Redesign My brain S1E1 Make Me Smarter and noticed the subtitling was annoyingly wrong. FMRI was subtitled as MRI. Baseline became based on – and there was more errors. My hearing’s not super-great, but even I could tell that these weren’t right.

Twice I’ve seen subtitling so bad that I’ve been prompted to find out who did it. Last time it was Jacqui Mapoon at CSI.

This time it was Jacqui Mapoon at CSI. Either Jacqui does a lot of work for CSI and sometimes has bad days, or she does a little work and often screws it up. What are the odds that on the two occasions I notice very bad subtitling, the same person’s behind it?  Subtitling is a very specialized field, so there can’t be that many people doing it, but at the same time a lot of TV is subtitled. I know from personal experience that subtitling takes at least 5 minutes per minute of show, and can take more if it’s particularly speech-heavy. There are a few hours of TV a night requiring subtitles, and it’d take one person one day to subtitle one hour of TV, so there’s probably a few dozen people in Australia doing it; live subtitling is a different specialty. Perhaps work processes need to be changed; I know I proof my subtitling after having done it, and spot errors. Perhaps someone other than the original subtitler ought to do the final proofing? Proof-reading error rates would show whose work needed more attention.

Most of the subtitles that I’ve seen are great – precisely timed transcriptions of the spoken dialogue, either exact reproductions or well thought through précis, contracted just enough to be faithful to the words and the intent whilst also fitting on the screen. For some reason American stuff is all caps unless the character is off-screen. Given so many in this industry can get it transparently right, why does one person’s work repeatedly poke me in the eye? Somebody give Jacqui some training, stat!

"Spaced" DVDs – volume problems

I've been re-watching the DVDs of Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright sitcom Spaced, and noticing that the volume levels go up and down all the time. I didn't remember that being the case from the first time I watched them… which was on a previous DVD player (a Pioneer).

Turns out I'm not the only one to have this problem — those reporting there noted it was an issue on some Toshiba players, but I'm currently using a Sony.

I also have a Panasonic Blu-Ray player I could use, but it's not multi-region, and these discs are Region 2. Damn. And I can't see any easy way of hacking the player to make it multi-region, alas.

That's okay though, because taking a cue from the forum led me to this post about DVD sound problems, and also to a Wikipedia description of Dynamic Range Compression — leading me to think this was causing the issue.

I found this in the DVD player's setup menu. Once I'd switched it from “TV mode” to “standard”, all seemed to be okay again, though in contrast, a newer DVD of Parks & Recreation now seems to have its volume fluctuate, so perhaps I need to switch it back for everything other than Spaced. Odd.

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Subtitling now in the Suez

I imagine that Jacqui Mapoon from CSI (Captioning and Subtitling Australia… or International) is someone who helps them out very occasionally, judging by the quality of her work on The Doctor Blake Mysteries: Season 1, Episode 9 “All That Glitters” -  atrocious work.  The gaff that stood out most was the transcription of sewers, but there were so many problems.

Don’t these subtitling services get given the script?  There’s a job listed in the credits as “Post production scripts”, surely they’re able to hand the script over electronically, and it’s just a matter of timing, pagination and confirmation – no transcription, no transcription errors?  I doubt Tim Pye – the writer of the episode – would have got that wrong, nor made the other homophonic errors.

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How to fix YourTV.com.au’s annoying Sydney default

I quite like the YourTV.com.au web site. The TV guide it displays is quite usable, and can be customised to show your correct channels.

But why does it keep forgetting your region every few weeks, and reset itself to metro Sydney?

Your TV Sydney default

Very irritating. (Well, if you live outside metro Sydney.)

Using your web browser, you can check the cookies. This article describes how, in various browsers.

That’s where the problem is: it looks like the “TvFixGuide” cookie, which seems to hold details of what region you’re in, is only set for a month.

Your TV cookie

It doesn’t look like either browser allows you to extend the time range of the cookie, or otherwise modify it. I suppose there’s legitimate reasons for that.

It is possible to hack it by deleting the cookie, setting your computer’s clock, say, a year into the future, before going back to the site and setting the option.

Yep, it seems to work:

Your TV cookie modified

Don’t forget to set your clock back afterwards.

USA news clips don’t export well

News clips from the USA are often 4:3 – why?  Is it a technologically backward country, or do they only export their news in a universal format?  I see work-arounds to disguise this fact, like framing the whole clip in a themed border, or widening the clip by tacking onto the pillar-box sides a blurred-out duplicate of the clip that’s been zoomed, stretched or clipped.

And while I’m noting this, why is it that the watermark on these clips is almost universally blurred out and overlayed with the local broadcaster’s watermark – can’t they get the raw, unwatermarked footage from the provider?

The spinning globe

I’ve long been a fan of TV idents, and I used to love seeing the late-80s BBC1 globe animation, when it occasionally popped-up on television here. As well as the Alas Smith and Jones spoof version.

Here are a couple of fascinating articles on how it was generated: by a standalone computer, which animated the 12 second rotation, at the PAL standard of 25 frames per second.

(Update: Found a better video)

Election geekery

If you’ve ever wondered how election results make their way from the ballot boxes onto the screen on the ABC, Antony Green’s written a fascinating post about how it how it all works, and how the technology involved has changed over the years from paper slips to XML feeds.

Bye bye Teletext

In Australia the 7 Network’s Austext teletext service is to shut down at the end of September, with only Supertext subtitles/Closed captioning continuing to be transmitted. (I wonder if they’ll move them from the current page 801 to the default 100, to make them easier to use?)

Over in the UK, ITV’s Teletext service is to shut down in January 2010.

The BBC’s Ceefax will last until analogue TV is switched off in 2012.

Hardly surprising really. I’m sure demand for text-based news and other information has plummetted since the widespread adoption of the Web. In fact I’m surprised teletext has lasted this long — I struggle to think of anybody I know who uses it.

YouTube goes widescreen

Youtube wide with 4:3 contentYouTube has gone widescreen (note: this link currently breaks if your YouTube preference is for a non-US locale, eg for Aussies you end up here, which currently displays nothing).

The only catch of course is that 4:3 videos now appear letterboxed… or whatever the vertical term for letterboxed is.

My question is: why? Why not just make the player (at least on the YouTube web site) the aspect ratio of the video that it's playing?

In fact at the moment, embedded 16:9 videos still appear letterboxed; 4:3 videos “full screen” … what should happen is that the embedding code should define the player size and so match the video's aspect ratio.

Surely it can't be that hard to avoid those black bands?

Layer changes

I just got the complete Young Ones new DVD release. Great to see these episodes again (and unlike previous DVDs, uncut).

But unbelievably, they put the disc 1 layer change in the stupidest spot ever. Rather than put it between episodes, or even at a quiet spot within an episode, they put it in the middle of a song (Dexys Midnight Runners singing “Jackie Wilson Said”).

Idiots!

Haven't checked yet where the disc 2 layer change is. The disc 2 layer change is at the start of a song in Time.

Previous rant about DVD layer changes.

Recent finds

Ever wonder how they fitted an entire computer language into just a few kilobytes, back in the 80s? Documented disassembly of BBC Basic 4.

How to highlight author comments in WordPress … but it relies on the author being user ID 1, so it won't work here, where we have several people posting. Could easily be customised to look for other user IDs though.

how to get your ex boyfriend back when he dumped you over textritatedvowel.com/blogs/pete_browns_blog/archive/2008/04/11/Vista-and-Local-Administrator.aspx”>Some developers are throwing in the towel and running Vista as Admin.

The excellent Secret Life of Machines not only has a web site, but is available freely (and legally) via BitTorrent. And the theme tune is available on iTunes.

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