Your Digital Media Has Never Looked So Good

 
unclebob
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Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:58 pm

RokuTaylor wrote:
Caption data would most likely be stored in the streams or a separated data fie in the form of the text, along with control code data such as when to place it on the screen, for how long, at and what location (etc.) Basically the same or similar to the way Closed Caption caption data stored. The player hardware and base software is capable of supporting this in some form. As James said, Roku would still have to add the feature support to actually handle the exact method of data delivery and make it work on the application software.

The Roku player could interpret the data and render captions on to screen, or it could pass that along to the TV's Closed Caption decoder, or both. It depends on a lot of issues.

I think it's less likely that the captions would be pre-rendered in to alternate video streams, more like some of the DVDs you mentioned.


Thank you ever so much for finally understanding my question! You are great!
 
Denver Dave
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Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:55 pm

Closed captioning would be a big help. ADA compliance is pretty much standard these days and it surprises me that the Roku / Netflix does not have it.
 
fluke
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Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:05 am

ADA compliance is the standard in areas where the government mandates it. For television broadcast streams the FCC has made close captioning a standard. For Internet streams, the FCC has no control. Instead, it seems we are still feeling the side-effect results of "Access Now, Inc. vs. Southwest Airlines" which states that the ADA does not apply to the Internet.

In this specific case, beating up on Roku or Netflix is not the answer. You need to go up the food chain to Microsoft on this one. I will try to explain the reason for this as best I can.

To side-track for a moment, I would like to discuss how over the air broadcasts in the US do close captions. Until Feb '09, the US still has NTSC which has at the bottom of each picture frame a 21 line bar. This bar is never displayed on the TV but the 21st line of the bar contains close caption data. For digital broadcasts the US uses ATSC which uses MPEG-2 for video and also inserts EIA-708 packets into the stream to provide close captioning. The EIA-708 captions takes up 10kbps of bandwidth. Low quality Netflex playback takes up around 500kbps so EIA-708 would add about 2% more overhead if adding it was technically possible.

DVD players have three methods of providing text during playback of a movie. One is close captioning sent via line 21 where displaying the text is turned on or off by the TV. However, the line 21 method only works at 480i, for DVD players that upscale the image to 720p or 1080i using HDMI will not be able to pass the close caption via line 21. The next method is via sub-title overlays where the text is produced by the DVD and turned on or off with the DVD remote. The last method is where the text is burned-in as part of the video and can't be turned off.

As a side note, Roku Netflix Player also would not be able to pass line 21 close caption data when operating at 720p or 1080i over HDMI. This isn't a problem with Roku but rather a problem with HDMI.

Now, back to Netflix. Keep in mind that Netflix leverages Microsoft's DRM for WMV to convince studios that it is safe to release their copyrighted content for Internet streaming. The Netflix video is just the displayed area of the images and can no longer contain line 21 close caption data. Also, the current versions of WMV has no concept similar to EIA-708. While it should be technically possible to put EIA-708 frames between VC-1 frames just as it done with MPEG-2 for ATSC, no WMV authoring software supports doing it. Instead, Microsoft added close caption support to Windows Media Player as a kind of an after-thought using a completely separate file called a Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange (SAMI) file which usually use a .smi extention. This file does not fall under Microsoft's DRM "protection" that WMV material does.

So, under the environment Microsoft has provided under any framework leveraging current WMV methods, Netflix has the following options to provide close captioning to their "Watch Now" customers:

1) Provide "burned-in" close caption streams which would probably mean having to store two versions of each film such that one is encoded without the captions and the other encoded with the captions added to the video stream.

2) Add SAMI files which might require additional licensing terms to be worked out with the movie studios since those files aren't under the protection of the WMV DRM.

3) Wait for Microsoft to provide a better way of supporting close captioning.

Another problem with the SAMI file route is that the Roku does not have much memory to store the file. What you really want is a way to be able to stream the captions along with the video/audio. But adding support for doing so still sits with Microsoft. To make things worse, Adobe also has gotten this wrong. With Flash CS3 they added caption support but they also decided to keep it as a file that is external to their FLV format. If you do choose to contact Microsoft about this issue then I recommend bugging Adobe to resolve the issue on their end as well.
 
davedave
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Sun Nov 02, 2008 8:44 am

fluke wrote:
Another problem with the SAMI file route is that the Roku does not have much memory to store the file.


How large could it be? A typical 1/2 hr TV episode contains 3-4000 words. Multiply this by 6 for a 2hr film and by 5 for the average number of letters per word. Assume an average of 3 words per line and each line includes a timestamp (8 bytes) and position info (2 bytes). Assume there is some type of horrible overhead in the file format, so take it all x2.


(4000 * 6 * 5 + 4000 * 6 / 3 * 10) * 2 = 390 K

Or am I missing something?
 
fluke
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Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:10 pm

A two hour movie would have mostly 20 byte time stamps, not just 10 byte. The time stamp is in milliseconds and has 13 additional characters of overhead. So, the time stamps start at 14 characters for 0 milliseconds and quickly grows after about 16 minutes to 20 byte time stamps.

It seems likely that most SAMI files would be less than half a megabyte so it might not cut that much into the stream caching. However, the technical disadvantage of SAMI file is just half the issue. There is still also the issue that SAMI files are not covered by the WMV DRM "protection." Netflix would still need to get licensing terms for distributing SAMI files in the clear. If Microsoft would just support EIA-708 style encapsulation in the stream then not only would it free up the memory for streaming that otherwise would be tied up to hold the entire SAMI file, but by encapsulating the data under the same DRM model might allow Netflix to provide the close captioning under the same licensing terms used for distribution of the video and audio.
 
jmemmott
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Wed Nov 19, 2008 5:35 pm

Typical files sizes are about 80 KB/hour with movies coming in around 120 KB – 150 KB for the entire thing. Using frame rates will give you a higher theoretical size but no one can follow the dialog if you try to run it through too fast.

I have been following this subject for a few years as I try to anticipate what capabilities I will need to add to t2sami to keep it current. My understanding of the problem has evolved away from a technical focus to a legal one during that time. The recent writers strike ended in the spring without a clear resolution to who gets paid and how much when something is downloaded. That was a strike on the high end of the food chain : writers, actors, producers… They have not even thought about addressing the low end of the that chain : caption writers, captioning production houses, etc. The contracts covering broadcast and DVD rights do not cover downloading so even if you put together a technical agreement covering captions, you still could not download most of the existing captions until the copyright legalities are resolved. The studios appear to be in no hurry to do that just as they are in no hurry to cast deals with the writers and others in stone.
 
davidduarte
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NAD, ADA etc.

Tue Dec 23, 2008 7:36 pm

Is the NAD working on this? I'm hearing (sign language interpreter) but I've been watching TV with captions and DVD's with subtitles for years, that way I never miss any of the dialogue. I'm still disappointed that Netflix and others still don't offer closed captioning. Maybe if NAD files a class action suit against them, Netflix will finally offer captions.
 
Crow550
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Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:58 pm

Before you pick on just netflix........


What about all the other free and non-free online video streaming and downloading places?
 
unclebob
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Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:33 pm

Crow550 wrote:
Before you pick on just netflix........
What about all the other free and non-free online video streaming and downloading places?


There are two "800 pound gorillas" of streaming. Hulu has been captioning for about a year now, I think. Once Netflix is captioning, it'll be much easier for NAD to seek captioning from smaller, less lawyered-up streamers.

It's a year & a half since I started this thread, and got blasted from all sides for being some sort of pest.

Re-reading the thread for the first time since then, I just want to say what a bunch of dicks the first responders to this thread were!
Last edited by unclebob on Thu Dec 24, 2009 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
 
-LD
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Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:58 pm

Yeah! SUE! SUE! SUE!
 
jmemmott
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Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:10 pm

unclebob wrote:
There are two "800 pound gorillas" of streaming. Hulu has been captioning for about a year now, I think. Once Netflix is captioning, it'll be much easier for NAD to seek captioning from smaller, less lawyered-up steamers.


The new "gorilla" that I would like to see added to the mix is Comcast. They are using Flash technology same as Hulu, they are in line to take a controlling interest in NBC Universal where much of Hulu's captioned programming is coming from and if Fancast / TV Everywhere started delivering captions and attracting those who need/want them away, I think even Netflix might notice.
 
MoonChaser
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Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:10 pm

I think captioning would benefit a LOT more people than just those in the hearing-impaired community. As stated earlier, it benefits noisy environments... if there are a lot of people in the room, or if your TV is near the kitchen (open floor plans in some apartments as an example) and the dishwasher is running, loud heaters in the winter, all sorts of possibilities. Also, if you want to watch a movie while other people need to sleep you can have the volume very low (so as not to disturb them) but still barely audible to you and just turn on the captions as sort of a "booster" so you can still follow the dialog. And let's not forget... many movies and TV shows have a WIDE range of volume levels... extremely quiet dialog scenes mixed in with loud explosions and traffic sounds. Captions would allow people to set ONE volume level and you can still follow the dialog during the soft periods without being blasted out of the room during the louder parts.

I say bring on the captions!! I have full hearing but still use them from time to time and would love to see them on my Roku! I have Hulu set by default to have captions on, but that is because the stream often skips and stutters on my PC causing me to miss dialog at times, where with the captions I can SEE what they are saying even if the audio stalls and then jumps ahead. Of course this doesn't apply to the Roku as the stream would freeze and rebuffer from the exact frame, but it is another example of how they can be useful to those that CC was not originally aimed at.
 
robertm
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Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:23 pm

I probably had the roku box less than a week before I tried to get captions from netflix. I tried several movies assuming the ones I had selected did not have captions available. I was surprised when I realized they were not there. It is not a deal breaker for me but like others have said the hearing use them too.

Hopefully in time it will get worked out for everyone.
 
Alanf51
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Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:42 pm

It may not be much comfort but some of the foreign films have subtitles while you wait on a resolution from the powers to be.

A-
 
unclebob
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Thu Dec 24, 2009 10:06 am

-LD wrote:
Yeah! SUE! SUE! SUE!


I'm not advocating any such thing. But the NAD is an advocacy organization that will use whatever recourse is available to fulfill their charter. To do less would be a disservice.

Without the NAD's advocacy through the FCC, closed captioning would not be so ubiquitous on broadcast. Do closed captions somehow impinge on your freedom-loving libertarianist ways?

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