“When cinema emerged as an art form in the early 1900s with the films of Melies and the Lumiere Brothers, moviegoers—both deaf and hearing—were able to experience its images on equal terms. Silent films were enjoyed by all who could see, but when the talkies came in the 1920s, they ushered in a new era of experiencing cinema, where sound and picture were one and title cards fell into oblivion. This radical change created the division that still exists today for the way that people with hearing loss can fully experience cinema.” -from “Captions Do Not Ruin the Cinematic Experience” by Rhianon Elan Gutierrez, July 2009.
There are various formats in which moviegoers can access captions:
1. Open captions (OC) – captions which are burned onto the picture (and therefore cannot be removed) that include dialogue and sound cues such as footsteps approaching and music playing. These are visible by all who watch the film.
2. Closed captions (CC) – captions which can be turned on or off, which include both dialogue and sound cues. In the case of theatres, this takes the form of rear-window captioning where only select people can see the captions via special equipment.
3. Subtitles – English language translations of another language; does not include sound cues. In theatres, these are visible by all who watch the film; at home, you may choose to turn them on or off.
If you are interested in finding out more about captioned film screenings in your area, check out Captionfish. It is also available to download as a free app for smart phones, and they have their own Twitter and Facebook pages. If you do not see your area listed but later find out there are captioned film showings in your area, contact them so that they can build their database!
Home rentals and instant streaming:
Netflix has a huge library of movie titles that are available for DVD rental, but they are still working on catching up with captioning for their instant streaming. To follow their progress, check out Phlixie below. It lists all instant stream Netflix titles that are captioned or subtitled.
Advocacy for movie captioning: