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 0.1. Reading words and reading sounds.
In this clip from The Grand Budapest Hotel, Zero (Tony Revolori) and his fiancée Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) stand in a two-shot on a lighted carousel during a winter’s night. The young woman sits on a carousel horse while the young man faces her with his hands resting on the horse’s head. She reads the inscription he wrote for her in a book of romantic poetry he just gave her. A closed caption, (READING), is stamped inelegantly on her forehead. Printed in open subtitles with a script typeface at the bottom of the screen are the words she is reading: “For my dearest darling.” Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2014. Blu-Ray.
Figure 0.2. Captions clarify.
Unusual words and neologisms are made more accessible to caption viewers in this clip from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) stands next to Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) as they both face the camera. The scene is a dark countryside, with a large tree and foreboding sky in the background. The tree is the Whomping Willow, and four people kneel at the base of it, though it is hard to make them out in the darkness of the scene and at the distance from which Harry and Sirius are standing. The frame’s caption is: “Turn me into a flobberworm. Anything but the dementors!” This faint line of dialogue is uttered by Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), one of the characters kneeling at the tree. (In the Blu-Ray version, there is a speaker identifier attached to this line.) When the focus shifts from Harry and Sirius to the characters at the tree, we begin to understand. This low line of dialogue in the distance, with its unusual neologisms, is made loud and clear when captioned. Warner Bros, 2004. DVD.
Source: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004. DVD. Featured caption: “Turn me into a flobberworm. Anything but the demontors!
Figure 0.3. Is it “laugh and cry” or “effin’ cry”?
The latter is admittedly rare but can be found in the closed captions for some early episodes of Fox’s Family Guy. In these two frames from two different episodes of the opening theme song, identical except for the captions, Lois (voiced by Alex Borstein) holds baby Stewie (voiced by Seth MacFarlane). Both are wearing identical yellow tuxedos with yellow top hats. A white stairway with blue risers fills the background. DVD caption: “♪ Laugh and cry.” Cable TV caption: “♪ EFFIN’ CRY ♪” Source (video 1): Episode 7.10, “Fox-y Lady,” 2009, DVD. Source (video 2): Episode 1.7, “Brian: Portrait of a Dog,” 1999, Cable TV.
Source: Family Guy, Episode 7.10, “Fox-y Lady,” 2009, DVD. Featured caption: ♪ Laugh and cry ♪
Source: Family Guy, Episode 1.7, “Brian: Portrait of a Dog,” 1999, Cable TV. Featured caption: ♪ EFFIN’ Cry ♪
The screams of those abducted children are really grating!
I was initially drawn to BloodRayne 2: Deliverance (2007) when I first saw it on cable TV for no other reason than its abundant and often creative non-speech descriptions: [children’s screams continue grating], [solemn whistling], [sensuously panting]. But when I ordered it on DVD from Netflix, it was clear that another captioner, and possibly another company, had been responsible for the DVD captions. Far fewer non-speech captions were included on the DVD version of the same movie. This situation is actually fairly common, as I soon discovered, and points to the deeply subjective nature of the captioning process: multiple, official caption files will be in circulation for any TV show or movie that has been subject to redistribution.
Source: BloodRayne 2: Deliverance, 2007. Cable TV. Featured caption: (children’s screams continue grating)
Figure 0.4. Is there more than one way to caption a character’s name?
You don’t have to search far to find multiple official caption files for the same movie. The DVD for Gaumont’s The Fifth Element (1997) contains two caption tracks: a bitmap track of speech-only subtitles (first clip) and a text track of closed captions (second clip). In both clips from the movie, which are identical except for the captions, Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) aims a pistol-like weapon at Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis). The camera is positioned over Korben’s right shoulder. These two tracks were most likely created by different captioning companies at different times for different formats (DVD, VCR). That one track contains speech only and the other contains full closed captions (speech and non-speech) doesn’t explain why one track fails to caption a main character’s full name. Names of main characters always need to be captioned verbatim. That’s not an unknown language but her name. Top frame’s caption: “Leeloo Minai Lekarariba-Laminai-Tchai Ekbat De Sebat.” Bottom frame’s caption: [Speaking Unknown Language]. The third clip combines both caption tracks in one video.
Source: The Fifth Element, 1997. DVD. Bitmap caption track. Featured caption: ” Leeloo Minai Lekarariba-Laminai-Tchai Ekbat De Sebat.”
Source: The Fifth Element, 1997. DVD. Text caption track. Featured caption: [Speaking Unknown Language]
For comparison purposes, I combined both tracks in the same clip. The text caption track is at the top of the video frame; the bitmap caption track is at the bottom of the video frame, its usual location:
Source: The Fifth Element, 1997. DVD.