– Mark E. Smith

The technology of the DVD and the technique of the screenshot enable me to prove a claim I made in an old cinema review.

Description quality

Well, it’s very good, as ever. I’m sorry, but the motherfuckers down at DVS are motherfuckingly good writers.

Did you know that describers have to do some voicing for onscreen characters? They read out subtitles (much less of a problem than some people think – I’ll skip the details), but must also tell us words a character mouths with no voice. In Fatal Attraction, it was “Five minutes.” It popped up once in A Beautiful Mind, but I forget where. An episode of The Associates on CTV featured “The lawyer mouths ‘Three hundred’ to Amy.”

In Black Hawk Down, here it comes right through your headphones: “McKnight mouths the word ‘motherfucker.’ ”

Screenshot shows English subtitle reading Motherfucker. Motherfucker and separate Closed Caption window reading [ No Audio ]

(I was also able to correct my misidentification of the speaker. That took over ten minutes of fast-forwarding and rewinding.)

Through the screenshot, I can additionally show you proof that the failed concept of “same-language subtitles” fails yet another way: McKnight is not uttering the words “Motherfucker. Motherfucker.” The kind of two-bit operations that produce same-language subtitles are too inept to indicate mouthed words. They don’t even know they have to, and they’re perfectly willing to lie to the audience, whoever that might be. (I think the audience for same-language subtitles is some guy in Thailand who thinks he can understand English but needs a bit of backup, and who goes ballistic when faced with actual literal transcription, speaker identification via positioned captions, and non-speech information. Nobody has convinced me we have to cater to the inadequacies and prejudices of people like this.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.07.24 14:20. 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:

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