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Welcome to the DCMP Captioning Key!

Captioning is the key to opening up a world of information for persons with hearing loss or literacy needs. There are more than 30 million Americans with some type of hearing loss. Millions of others are illiterate, learning to read, or use English as a second language.

The first captioning of any kind was performed in the late 1950's by Captioned Films for the Deaf, the ancestor of DCMP, two decades before the advent of closed captioning on broadcast television. The first edition of the Captioning Key was published in 1994, and these guidelines were based on decades of experience by DCMP (then called Captioned Films and Videos Program), review of captioning research, and examination of standards developed by various captioning vendors. The Captioning Key applied to both entertainment and educational media has been used for consumers at all levels (children through adults), has received international distribution, and has been translated into other languages.

These guidelines are a key for vendors performing captioning for the DCMP. The information is applicable to vendors and other businesses that provide closed captioning (CC) and subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) of all types of media at various levels. Thus, these guidelines will also be useful to media producers/distributors and others who are considering captioning their products or learning about captioning. Some background information and rationale are included for the novice.

For those who wish to save a copy of this resource to their computer, a PDF version of the Captioning Key is available for download from the DCMP. In addition, a Spanish translation of the Captioning Key is also available for download and use.

A Definition of Captioning

Captioning is the process of converting the audio content of a television broadcast, webcast, film, video, CD-ROM, DVD, live event, or other productions into text and displaying the text on a screen or monitor. Captions not only display words as the textual equivalent of spoken dialogue or narration, but they also include speaker identification, sound effects, and music description.

It is important that the captions are (1) synchronized and appear at approximately the same time as the audio is delivered; (2) equivalent and equal in content to that of the audio, including speaker identification and sound effects; and (3) accessible and readily available to those who need or want them.

The DCMP Captioning Philosophy

The DCMP captioning philosophy is that all captioning should include as much of the original language as possible; words or phrases which may be unfamiliar to the audience should not be replaced with simple synonyms. However, altering the original transcription may be necessary to provide time for the caption to be completely read and for it to be in synchronization with the audio.

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