I HAVE BEEN TOLD I DESERVE
“A FULL LIFE THAT ISN’T JUST ABOUT FIGHTING FOR THINGS”

The TVGuardian is a closed-caption decoder that pre-reads upcoming pop-on captions and, if selected, attends to swearwords and other “offensive” speech. The decoder then mutes the audio and rewrites the captions with inoffensive words. (In some cases, it simply doesn’t show a caption.)

I have no problem with this in principle. You aren’t altering the original work you’re watching; you’re merely altering its rendition on your television set at that particular moment. You, or anyone else in the room, can revert to the original easily by pressing the button that doesn’t look like a button on the TVGuardian unit – the one marked “TVG” – until CC1/Off pops up.

I have no problem with this even though the kind of people who would spend all that money on a device like this are invariably the same kind of people who consider me a sinner and want me made illegal. (Or they’ll just bide their time till the Rapture, at which point I will simply not join them in heaven, and they will pretend to be saddened.)

En tout cas, the makers of the TVGuardian – not coincidentally, they’re in Arkansas – sent me a snatchmail asking about certain issues, and, as ever, I was all too happy to help them out. They offered me an eval unit, and I accepted.

Now, when you get a machine that claims to filter out swearwords and turn movies for grownups into movies for uptight Christian-fundamentalist schoolchildren, what’s the first thing you do?

You run South Park through it, of course.

Indeed, one of my very favourite films, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, is an excellent test of the TVGuardian, and also, incidentally, contains an example of nearly every single “style” habit unique to Captions, Inc. (You could learn to copy their style just by watching this movie. You’d also end up as a donkey-raping shit-eater, but those are the perils of captioning any and all legally-available material.)

Initial findings:

  • TVGuardian simply gives up the ghost from time to time with South Park and doesn’t even display a caption. Many other offensive phrases sail right on through untouched.
  • Rewritten captions are always in upper case, even if they were in mixed case originally. That bug needs to be fixed.
  • The machine has the typical bug of shifting its left margin by about one tab stop. Flush-left captions are actually not at the left edge of the screen. (Many el-cheapo hotel TVs in the U.S. have the same problem.) A consequence of this bug is a spinning overwriting of the final characters in a scroll-up caption exceeding approximately 28 characters – the last column is used and reused until the new line starts.
  • The “display” on the front of the machine is merely a plastic panel that hides a single LED. It’s protected by a small adhesive film that, upon removal, also pulls out the plastic panel.
  • The device is fiendishly difficult to incorporate into my inordinately-complex spiderweb of cables and connectors. My dodgy S-video connection resulted in black-and-white images when run through the TVGuardian, but the following screenshots will suffice nonetheless.
Mixed-case caption in original becomes all-upper-case caption when filtered (and deletes a space and destroys hanging punctuation), but decodes just fine with no filtering
Caption reads ♪♪ [ Rhythmic Farting Continues ]
Caption reads  ♪♪[ RHYTHMIC FARTING CONTINUES ]
Caption reads ♪♪ [ Rhythmic Farting Continues ]
Not quite everything gets filtered
Caption reads SHIT-FACED COCKMASTER.
Caption reads CRUD-FACED COCKMASTER.
Some songs barely survive in recognizable form
Caption reads ♪YOU JUST GO AWAY UNCLE ALL DAY LONG ♪
Caption reads ♪YOU'RE A JERK-SUCKING TAIL-LICKING UNCLE JERK ♪
Caption reads ♪YOU'RE THE ONE THAT RIPPED YOUR UNCLE UNCLE JERK ♪

And this technology is coming to a VCR or DVD player near you. Rip yeah!

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.03.27 13:47. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2005/03/27/cut/

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