Chapter 2: Reading and writing captions

This supplemental website includes all of the media clips discussed in Reading Sounds (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Purchase your copy of Reading Sounds today in paperback or e-book.

Figure 2.1. Single captions can be packed with implied meaning.

A frame from Man of Steel shows a school bus driver with pursed lips wearing a baseball cap and gripping the steering wheel in concentration. A boy stands in the aisle a few rows back, head turned away and down. The camera aims straight through the front windshield. The caption is a two-sounder, discussed in more detail in this chapter: [TIRE POPS AND KIDS SCREAM]. When and is used as a connector instead of then, the logical relationship between the two sounds is obscured. The kids scream because the tire on the bus pops. Readers must supply the missing inference. Warner Bros, 2013. DVD.

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. Blu-Ray. Featured caption: [TIRE POPS AND KIDS SCREAM].Table 2.1. Major types of non-speech information (NSI).

Description Examples
Speaker Identifiers Identifies the name of the speaker, usually formatted in DVD captioning using all capital letters followed by a colon and the accompanying speech. This is the classic form, but speakers may also be identified in any other non-speech caption. Speaker IDs are necessary when it is not clear who is speaking, a speaker is off-screen, etc. BOND: Have you got him?
 
NARRATOR: This is the island of New Penzance.

 
CROWD: Envy! Envy!

 
[Pat] I don’t have an iPod.
Language Identifiers Identifies the language spoken. May be accompanied by a separate, hard-coded subtitle track. In such cases, the language identifier is placed at the top of the screen so as not to interfere with the subtitles at the bottom. [IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

 
[SPEAKING IN ALIEN LANGUAGE]

 
(SPEAKING FRENCH)

 
[SPEAKS IN NYANJA]
Sound Effects Includes a wide range of non-speech sounds. I make a distinction between sound effects and non-speech sounds that emanate from a speaker’s vocal chords (paralanguage). (RAINDROPS PATTERING)

 
[Plane Passing Overhead]

 
[EGGS SQUEALING THEN POPPING]
Paralanguage Includes sounds made by speakers that can’t or shouldn’t be transcribed as distinct speech. [CROWD SCREAMS]

 
(GRUNTS IN ALARM)

 
[ANGELIQUE LAUGHS]

 
(PANTING)

 
[PAVEL YELLING]
Manner of Speaking Identifiers Describes a speaker’s significant way of pronouncing words. For the sake of definition, manner identifiers are preceded or accompanied by the speech they qualify. (WHISPERS) Don’t go!

 
(sobbing deeply):
She’s dead! She’s dead…

 
(drunken slurring): It’s a little late, isn’t it?

 
[French accent] With pleasure.
Music Includes song titles, music notes, music lyrics, and descriptions of music. (SOUS LE CIEL DE PARIS PLAYING ON GRAMOPHONE)

 
[vivacious, sparkling melody continues]

 
[♪♪♪]

 
♪ Searchin’ for light in the darkness ♪
Channel Identifiers Identifies the medium of communication such as TV, PA, radio, etc. May be combined with Speaker IDs or other NSI. WOMAN [OVER PA]:
Your attention, please.

 
PIENAAR [OVER RADIO]: He’s not gonna talk.

 
WOMAN [ON TV]: This is remarkable.

Major types of non-speech information

Speaker Identifier examples

Source: Skyall, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: “BOND: Have you got him?”

Source: Moonrise Kingdom, 2014. Blu-Ray. Featured caption: “NARRATOR: This is the island of New Penzance.”

Source: Les Miserables, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: “CROWD (SINGING): Do you hear the people sing”

Language Identifier examples

Source: Cloud Atlas, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [COMPUTERIZED VOICE SPEAKS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

Source: An Education, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: (SPEAKING FRENCH)

Source: District 9, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: “ALIEN [IN ALIEN LANGUAGE]: I pay you next week, I promise.”

Sound Effects examples

Source: Les Miserables, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: (RAINDROPS PATTERING)

Source: This is 40, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: (AIRPLANE APPROACHING)

Source: District 9, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: [EGGS SQUEALING THEN POPPING]

Paralanguage examples

Source: The Dark Knight Rises, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [CROWD SCREAMS]

Source: Avatar, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: (GRUNTS IN ALARM)

Source: Dark Shadows, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [ANGELIQUE LAUGHS]

Manner of Speaking examples

Source: Frankenweenie, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: “VICTOR:(WHISPERS) Quiet down, boy.”

Source: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 2010. DVD. Featured caption: “(WHISPERS) Don’t go!”

Source: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, 2007. DVD. Featured caption: “(sobbing deeply): She’s dead! She’s dead…”

Source: Oblivion, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: “(IN NORMAL VOICE) Keeps your drones confused.”

Source: The Artist, 2011. DVD. Featured caption: “[FRENCH ACCENT] With pleasure.”

Music examples

Source: An Education, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: (SOUS LE CIEL DE PARIS PLAYING ON GRAMOPHONE)

Source: The Artist, 2011. DVD. Featured caption: [vivacious, sparkling melody continues]

Source: Lost in Translation, 2003. DVD. Featured caption: ♪ Searchin’ for light in the darkness ♪

Source: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, 1999. DVD. Featured caption: ♪

Channel Identifier examples

Source: Argo, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: “WOMAN [OVER PA]: Your attention, please.”

Source: Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: “MAN: [OVER THE BULLHORN]: This is a mandatory evacuation area.”

Complexity and nesting in non-speech information

Channel IDs nested inside Speaker IDs

Frame grabs of all eight types of Channel Identifiers that are nested inside Speaker Identifiers in District 9 (2009). The channels include TV, Radio, PA, Microphone, Monitor, Phone, Headset, and Recording.A collage of eight channel identifiers nested inside speaker identifiers in District 9

Multiple sounds from different categories inside the same caption

Source: District 9, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: [SPEAKING IN ALIEN LANGUAGE AS WIKUS GRUNTS]

Source: , 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [ALARM RINGING AND PEOPLE SHOUTING]

Sounds qualified by volume level, direction, amount or type of emotion, speaker’s name, etc.

Source: A Serious Man, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: (WAILING LOUDLY)

Source: Skyfall, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: (RHYTHMIC MUSIC PLAYING IN THE DISTANCE)

Source: Avatar, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: (CHUCKLING APPRECIATIVELY)

Source: Zero Dark Thirty, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: (COMPUTER BEEPING QUIETLY, STEADILY)

Source: Avatar, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: (NEYTIRI SPEAKING SOOTHINGLY IN NA’VI)

Discrete vs. sustained non-speech sounds

A single cough followed by a fit of coughing from Inception (2010). The former is a single, discrete sound captioned with the simple present tense as [COUGHS], while the latter is a continuous, repetitive sound captioned with the present participle as [SAITO COUGHING].

Source: Inception, 2009. DVD. Featured captions: [COUGHS], [SAITO COUGHING]

In Man of Steel (2013), [LOIS GRUNTING] is immediately followed in the caption track by [CLARK GRUNTS]. The captioner follows convention: Lois’ multiple vocalizations (including panting) are contrasted with Clark’s single, discrete grunt. Readers learn these conventions, processing them quickly despite their complexity.

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: [LOIS GRUNTING], [CLARK GRUNTS]

In this example from Avatar (2009), Neytiri’s (Zoe Saldana) vocalization is described as (LAUGHING) in response to Jake (Sam Worthington) pulling her tail. A few seconds later, she (LAUGHS) as she leads him deeper into the forest and the Tree of Voices. The distinction between (LAUGHING) and (LAUGHS) is not obvious. The former may be just a bit more intense, lasting slightly longer with greater inhalation of breath. Unlike sustained or repeated coughing, which can be easily distinguished from a single cough, the distinction between a single laugh and sustained laughter is not similarly clear. Here’s where discrete sounds blur into sustained sounds.

Source: Avatar, 2009. DVD. Featured captions: (LAUGHING), (LAUGHS)

Single-sound vs. multi-sound non-speech descriptions

Two-sounders: Using “and” or “as” connectors to imply simultaneity

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: [CAR ALARM WAILING AND HORNS HONKING LOUDLY]

Frame grabs of all five two-sounder non-speech captions in Man of Steel (2013): [TIRE POPS AND KIDS SCREAM], [TIRES SCREECHING AND HORN HONKING], [CAR ALARM WAILING AND HORNS HONKING LOUDLY], [PEOPLE CLAMORING AND SCREAMING], and [SUPERMAN GRUNTS AND NECK SNAPS].
All five two-sounder captions in Man of Steel (2013)

Two-sounders: Using “then” connectors to imply logic and sequence

Source: Cloud Atlas, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [SIGHS THEN GRUNTS]

Source: Cloud Atlas, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [SCREAMS THEN MUFFLED GRUNTING]

Source: Cloud Atlas, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [OLD GEORGIE SLOWLY EXHALES THEN LAUGHING]

Source: Argo, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [LEADER SHOUTS IN FARSI THEN GUNS CLICKING]

Source: Parallels, 2015. Netflix. Featured caption: [MIMICKING A BOMB WHISTLING THEN EXPLODING]. He’s actually pretending to shoot himself in the head.

Three-sounders

Source: American Dad, “Pulling Double Booty,” 2008. Cable TV. Featured caption: (panicked shouts, screams, alarm ringing)

Source: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, 2007. DVD. Featured caption: (sirens, horns honking, gunshots in distance)

Source: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, 2007. DVD. Featured caption: (running, grunting, dishes crashing)

Source: Shaun of the Dead, 2004. DVD. Featured caption: [Snorts, Groans, Coughs]

Grammatical structure

Verbs at the heart of most sound descriptions

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) opens with eight sound effects captions in the first fourteen closed captions. These non-speech caption suggest how sound descriptions are structured around verbs: [BIRD CHEEPING], [THUNDER RUMBLES], [HEART BEATING], [HENS SQUAWKING], [CHICK CHIRPING], [HEART BEATING], [BIRD CHURRING], and [BOARDS CLATTERING].

Source: Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [BOARDS CLATTERING]

Source: Inception, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: [MAN SINGING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE ON RADIO]

Source: Argo, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [PEOPLE SHOUTING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE NEARBY]

Source: District 9, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: [LAUGHS AND SPEAKS IN ZULU]

Implied verbs in sound descriptions, especially Language IDs

Source: District 9, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: “[IN ZULU] Some of the guns are small. But if it shoots you, it makes a big mess.”

Nouns at the heart of some sound effects captions

Source: CSI: New York, “Unspoken,” 2009. DVD. Featured captions: (two gunshots), (gunshot)

Source: Lincoln, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: (SCATTERED APPLAUSE)

Source: The Artist, 2011. DVD. Featured caption: [silence]

Source: The Faculty, 1998. DVD. Featured caption: [Thunderclap]

Verb-based sound effects captions

Source: Life of Pi, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: (THUNDER RUMBLING)

A sampling of ten sound effects captions for the sound of thunder. Each caption is built around a key verb, such as crashing or rumbling. From left to right: (THUNDER RUMBLING) from A Serious Man (2009), (THUNDER RUMBLES) from Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), (THUNDER RUMBLING SOFTLY) from Zero Dark Thirty (2012), [thunder rolls in distance] from The Master (2012), [thunder crashes] from Killing Them Softly (2012), [THUNDER CLAPS] from Cloud Atlas (2012), [thunder rumbles in distance] from Killing Them Softly (2012), (THUNDER CRACKS) from Twilight (2008), (THUNDER CRASHING) from Frankenweenie (2012), and (THUNDER CRACKING) from Dark Shadows (2012).
A collage of 10 captions for thunder from a variety of movies

Source: Inception, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: [DEFIBRILLATOR CHARGING]

Source: District 9, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: [WEAPON POWERING UP]

Source: The Dark Knight Rises, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [GUN COCKS]

Table 2.2. A comparison of non-speech information across four action movies in DVD format.

Each percentage refers to the proportion of that film’s NSI captions that correspond to each category. The number is the raw number of NSI captions in that category. Percentages will not add up to 100% because single captions can be tagged in multiple categories.

Type of NSI District 9 Inception Man of Steel Oblivion
1,680 closed captions
 
680 NSI captions
NSI: 40.5% of CC
1:52:16 runtime
1,741 closed captions
 
314 NSI captions
NSI: 18% of CC
2:28:07 runtime
1,469 closed captions
 
399 NSI captions
NSI: 27.2% of CC
2:23:02 runtime
1,026 closed captions
 
141 NSI captions
NSI: 13.7% of CC
2:04:42 runtime
Classic Speaker Identifiers 516 (75.7%) 160 (51%) 222 (55.6%) 56 (39.7%)
Other References to Names 51 (7.5%) 31 (9.9%) 49 (12.3%) 6 (4.3%)
Foreign Language Identifiers 61 (9%) 2 (0.6%) 4 (1%) 0
Sound Effects 37 (5.4%) 80 (25.5%) 73 (18.3%) 27 (18.4%)
Paralanguage 90 (13.2%) 71 (22.6%) 108 (27.1%) 43 (30.5%)
Manner of Speaking Identifiers 2 (0.3%) 1 (0.3%) 1 (0.2%) 11 (7.8%)
Music 32 (4.7%) 11 (3.5%) 1 (0.2%) 5 (3.5%)
Channel Identifiers 51 (7.5%) 3 (1%) 17 (4.3%) 3 (2.1%)

Interpreting and coding non-speech sounds in context

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: [H’RAKA GROANS]

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: [ZOD GROWLING]

Source: District 9, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: [ALIEN GROWLS]

In this example from Man of Steel (2013), a music lyric is indistinguishable from speech, even though it is preceded by a music caption: [SINGING]. For this reason, the lyric wasn’t captured by a simple software program designed to separate speech captions from non-speech information.

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: “I fell into a ring of fire”

Coding non-speech information in Inception

Source: Inception, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: [“NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN” PLAYING]

Two examples of coded non-speech captions from Inception. Coding was done in Microsoft Excel. During the movie’s second dream sequence in which Cobb (Leo DiCaprio) begins to train Ariadne (Ellen Page) on the rules of the dream space, two music captions – [“NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN” PLAYING] and [MUSIC STOPS] – are preceded by seven sound effects captions that, while they are interrupted by speech captions, are not interrupted by any other type of NSI (with the exception of Speaker IDs). Following the music captions are four additional, uninterrupted sound effects. The pattern – seven sound effects captions, two music captions, and four additional sound effects captions – stands out against a background of coded randomness. The build up of sound effects around the music captions allows us to see the action in the movie in a new way, through the lens of the closed captions. Granted, this particular dream sequence is only associated with the final two of the first seven descriptions that make up the first sound effects block: [CUP RATTLING] and [RUMBLING]. Nevertheless, when we extract NSI from speech captions and code them, we become more sensitive to potential patterns that are easy to miss otherwise. The same patterning persists during the next captioned reference to the “kick” music, this time with a band of five sound effects captions preceding one music caption for Piaf’s song. The dream space is violent, volatile, and frenetic – no wonder sound effects dominate during the scenes when characters are collaborating inside a shared dream. But an analysis of NSI captions can assist us in revealing that volatility, demarcating the dream space, and reinforcing a possible hierarchy in which characters are at the mercy of external forces when they enter a subject’s dream. The movie explains the violence inside the dream world in terms of the subconscious of the subject reacting to the presence of intruders by trying to kill them. (“The subject realized he was dreaming and his subconscious tore us to pieces.”) These external forces are expressed as a preponderance of sound effects captions.

Caption No. No. Start Time End Time Caption Code
161 1 00:16:17,557 00:16:19,218 [PHONE RINGS] sound effect
185 2 00:17:35,502 00:17:37,163 [DIAL TONE] sound effect
186 3 00:17:42,976 00:17:44,068 [KNOCKING ON DOOR] sound effect
204 4 00:18:52,779 00:18:54,269 [HELICOPTER STARTING] sound effect
249 5 00:22:07,440 00:22:09,135 [BELLS TOLLING] sound effect
335 6 00:27:39,372 00:27:40,600 [CUP RATTLING] sound effect
336 7 00:27:41,107 00:27:42,802 [RUMBLING] sound effect
338 8 00:28:18,844 00:28:20,141 [“NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN” PLAYING] music
348 9 00:28:42,969 00:28:43,993 [MUSIC STOPS] music
354 10 00:29:01,254 00:29:02,721 [MACHINE HISSING] sound effect
371 11 00:29:51,671 00:29:53,571 [RUMBLING THEN METAL GROANING] sound effect (2)
382 12 00:31:21,594 00:31:23,061 [METAL CREAKING] sound effect

Caption No. No. Start Time End Time Caption Code
555 1 00:42:34,099 00:42:35,760 [MACHINE HISSING] sound effect
570 2 00:43:45,704 00:43:47,137 [METAL GROANING] sound effect
629 3 00:48:10,668 00:48:11,862 [DOOR OPENS] sound effect
690 4 00:51:31,336 00:51:32,360 [MACHINE HISSING] sound effect
695 5 00:51:45,283 00:51:46,875 [MACHINE HISSING] sound effect
721 6 00:53:14,839 00:53:17,171 [“NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN” PLAYING] music
738 7 00:54:13,998 00:54:15,693 [MACHINE HISSING] sound effect

Repetition and prevalence of verbs in the non-speech captions of Man of Steel

In Man of Steel, General Zod’s initial attack on Metropolis is accounted for, in part, by four consecutive non-speech captions (#1185-1188) that describe the crowd’s panicked reaction to the terraforming “world engine”: [ALL SCREAMING], [ALL SCREAMING], [ALL CLAMORING], [ALL SCREAMING].
Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: [ALL SCREAMING], [ALL SCREAMING], [ALL CLAMORING], [ALL SCREAMING].

Consecutive NSI doubles and triples in Man of Steel

“Scream/ing” is a fairly popular descriptor in the non-speech captions of Man of Steel, occurring twenty times over 108 paralanguage captions. In other words, over 18% of the paralanguage NSI captions refer to “scream/ing,” including five consecutive doubles – e.g. [SCREAMING], [SCREAMING] – and one consecutive triple: [SCREAMING], [PEOPLE SCREAMING], [ALL SCREAMING]. These consecutive NSI captions may be interrupted by speech captions but they are not interrupted by any other sound descriptions (not including Speaker IDs). Here is the consecutive triple:

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: [SCREAMING], [PEOPLE SCREAMING], [ALL SCREAMING].

In this example from Man of Steel, a consecutive triple is followed by a consecutive double during the opening scene of Kal-El’s birth: [GRUNTS], [GRUNTING], [GRUNTING], [SCREAMING], [SCREAMING].

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: [GRUNTS], [GRUNTING], [GRUNTING], [SCREAMING], [SCREAMING].

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: [LOMBARD & PERRY GRUNTING], [LOMBARD & PERRY GRUNTING], [LOMBARD & PERRY GRUNTING].

Table 2.3. The most popular verbs used to describe paralinguistic sounds in four sci-fi action movies.

All verb forms are counted in the results. For example, [grunt], [grunts], and [grunting] were included in the same category (“Grunt”). Only verbs used more than once in each movie are listed. If a verb was also used for sound effects captioning (e.g. “metal groaning”), it was not included in the totals.

District 9
(2009)
Inception
(2010)
Man of Steel
(2013)
Oblivion
(2013)
Total Paralinguistic NSI Captions: 90 Total Paralinguistic NSI Captions: 71 Total Paralinguistic NSI Captions: 108 Total Paralinguistic NSI Captions: 43
Grunt: 24
Scream: 15
Laugh: 12
Cough: 8
Shout: 6
Speak: 6
Cry: 4
Sob: 4
Chatter: 3
Gasp: 3
Yell: 3
Grunt: 20
Yell: 9
Scream: 6
Cough: 7
Shout: 7
Gasp: 3
Groan: 3
Laugh: 3
Chatter: 2
Giggle: 2
Scoff: 2
Sigh: 2
Grunt: 28
Scream: 20
Clamor: 9
Groan: 5
Laugh: 5
Murmur: 5
Speak: 5
Chatter: 4*
Chuckle: 4
Gasp: 4
Pant: 4
Cough: 3
Sigh: 3
Coo: 2
Grunt: 11
Chuckle: 8
Scream: 6
Gasp: 5
Pant: 4
* 3 of the 4 uses of
“chatter” in Man of Steel
are nouns, not verbs.

Verbs used to describe paralinguistic sounds in four sci-fi action movies

An example of paralanguage in Oblivion: back-to-back non-speech “scream/ing” captions: (SCREAMS) and (JULIA SCREAMING)

Source: Oblivion, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: (SCREAMS), (JULIA SCREAMING)

Another example of paralanguage in Oblivion: Back-to-back (GRUNTS). The captions are thirty-six seconds apart. No other speech or non-speech captions appear during this interval, even though the interval between (GRUNTS) is filled with a variety of sound effects. This clip suggests that paralinguistic speech sounds were privileged over sound effects in this scene. Even though human vocalizations may stand out to captioners and be easier to caption — indeed, (GRUNTING) can serve as a catch-all term for human vocalization in captioning — sound effects create the suspense in this scene and lend credence to our initial assumptions about the Scavs who are trying to capture the hero (Tom Cruise). There are quite a few sound effects in this clip as soon as the attack begins — futuristic laser and traditional gunfire, pounding drums, metallic crunching, dragging sounds, wind whooshing, electronic beeping, papers shuffling, explosions, footsteps — but the most important sounds are coming from the Scavs. The Scavs are hiding in the darkness. We can see nothing of them but their orange eyes as they move quickly in the shadows. They’re chittering, growling, and at times possibly yelling. They’re speaking in what sounds like an echoey foreign language. The sounds are intended to be creepy and scary but most importantly to give support to the belief that these creatures are aliens. (Spoiler: They turn out to be humans, which is why it’s important to keep up with the lie, at least at this point, that they must be aliens. The sound effects propagate that lie. The captions fail to do so.)

Source: Oblivion, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: (GRUNTS), (GRUNTS)

Qualifying and modulating non-speech sounds with adverbs

Source: Oblivion, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: (EXHALES SHARPLY)

Source: Oblivion, 2013. DVD. Featured captions: (WHIRRING LOUDLY)

Bonus content: Frame grabs of all eleven (GRUNTS) in Oblivion. All of the grunt captions are attributed to men. The first nine grunt captions are attributed to Tom Cruise specifically. None of the grunt captions are qualified with adverbs such as “loudly.”
A collage of eleven grunt captions from Oblivion. All of the grunt captions are attributed to men. Nine of the grunt captions are attributed to Tom Cruise specifically.

Whereas “grunting” is masculine in Oblivion, “screaming” is feminine. Out of a total of six scream captions, four are attributed to women (frames 1-4) and the remaining two are attributed to crowds that include a combination of men, women, and children who are fleeing the alien technology (frames 5-6). But women only scream off-screen in the captions, which is apparent in the first four frame grabs featuring Tom Cruise and a helicopter. Not surprisingly, the camera’s focus remains on the male lead. When Cruise is injured (frames 1, 2, and 3), the women in his life scream for him as off-screen supporting players.
A collage of six frame grabs from Oblivion featuring all six "scream" captions in the movie.

Captioned birdsong

Source: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, 2007. DVD. Featured caption: (bird squawking in distance)

Source: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, 2007. DVD. Featured caption: (plaintive birdcall echoes from distance)

Source: Avatar, 2009. DVD. Featured caption: (BIRDS CAWING)

Source: Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: [BIRD CHURRING]

Source: Oblivion, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: (BIRDS TWITTERING)

Source: Skyfall, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: (BIRDS CHIRPING)

Source: The Artist, 2011. DVD. Featured caption: [flutes fluttering birdsong]

Source: Zero Dark Thirty, 2012. DVD. Featured caption: (BIRD SCREECHES IN DISTANCE)

Onomatopoeia vs. function in closed captioning: An example of the former from Man of Steel featuring Superman yelling “Ragh!”

Source: Man of Steel, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: Ragh!

Verbatim and edited captions

Source: The Internship, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: “No one believed in the welder girl, but she believed in herself.”

Source: The Internship, 2013. DVD. Featured caption: “Let’s fix that before the wife gets home — am I making sense?”

Pop-on and scroll-up styling

All of the DVD clips on this website rely on pop-on style captioning. Almost all of the TV clips rely on pop-on styling too, although scroll-up styling, as seen in the example below from Resident Evil, is showing signs of increasing popularity for pre-recorded (non-live) captioning.

Source: Resident Evil, 2002. Cable TV (Reelz). The clip features scroll-up style captions in three-line format. They are very poorly timed and nearly unusable. Because of the poor timing and lack of logical line breaks, it’s difficult to follow the conversation.

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