Jodene Antoniou: Why quality subtitles are so important

Posted on April 25, 2017



My husband and I have worked in transcription and subtitling for the past seven years, but it was only when our son, Brandon, was born with hearing loss in 2012 that we realised the true importance of quality subtitles for the deaf.

Having a child with hearing loss has changed our lives in so many ways including our appreciation and understanding of the need for quality subtitles.

Seeing shoddy, confusing subtitles that have been automated using software makes us really angry. It’s a problem closed to our hearts, and our new company, Capital Captions aims to make video truly accessible by providing only the best quality subtitles.

Jodene with her husband and son

In recent news, the Government has finally made Video-on-Demand (VoD) subtitles a legal requirement. This is brilliant news and a huge step forward for the deaf community, but with experience in the industry, we’re aware of the harsh realities and challenges faced by the subtitling world.

In the subtitling industry at the moment, there is fierce competition. The new legal requirements for VOD are a huge step forward but we’re sceptical about getting too excited just yet. With absolutely enormous amounts of video content to caption, many companies are offering low quality, low cost automated options for subtitling.

As anyone who has watched YouTube’s automated subtitles knows, good captions need human writers or voice recognition artists, but subtitlers are struggling to find work competing against the low costs of automated models and many are leaving the industry.

On top of this, very few people understand that closed captions and subtitles are not the same thing. Closed captions are aimed at deaf audiences and should contain information describing sound effects and identifying speakers which helps deaf viewers.

We believe subtitles should be checked not only for correct spelling, grammar and timing consistency but to make sure that they are also adequately helpful for deaf viewers.

As we expand, we aim to hire deaf and hard of hearing closed caption checkers to watch and quality check our subtitles, rather than having them proofread by professional writers who have knowledge of the writing process but little to no understanding of the subtitle audience they appeal to.

We started this journey because we wanted to make life easier for our son and that starts at home but it’s not enough. As a family that understands the impact hearing loss can have, we believe our company, Capital Captions can make video content truly more accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing by providing only ‘man made’ subtitles that are reasonably priced both ends of the scale.

We already run My Little Ears which is a marketplace for products for children’s deafness but we want to expand our business, using our professional experience in the subtitling industry to improve subtitling services for the deaf community and create a business that our son can benefit from and be proud of.

Jodene says: “My son, Brandon, was born with hearing loss in 2012. I started working in transcription and subtitling online in around 2009 but didn’t really link my work to Brandon’s hearing loss until recently. As he’s starting to get older, I know he is likely to use subtitles a lot as he grows up and learns to read. He doesn’t do a lot of signing at the moment, but we are trying to teach him what we can.”

“In 2013, our son had his hearing aids fitted and the NHS retainer for them was quite ugly, so I made him a personalised one. Then i started selling those through Ebay and eventually decided to create an online shop (MyLittleEars.com) for products for children’s hearing loss. We have two other sellers on the store (one is temporarily unavailable as we’re updating new products).”

“At the beginning of 2017, using what my husband and I had learned about creating a website through My Little Ears and my long experience in subtitling, we decided to start out on our own with subtitle services.”

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