HomeStrategyBusinessIs It Worth the Risk to Invest in Online Captioning Services?

    Is It Worth the Risk to Invest in Online Captioning Services?

    Is It Worth the Risk to Invest in Online Captioning Services?

    Risks? What Risks? Or, as the AD 80 Christians said at the gates of the Roman Colosseum, “Lions? What Lions?” When you add captions to your content, or even if you are simply transcribing audio/visual content, you are going to encounter risk. The most obvious risk is that of a mistake, and even the best captioning services can make mistakes.

    These days, people are under the misapprehension that auto-subtitle, auto-caption, auto-translate, are the way of the future, but that is not true. These services may have improved dramatically over the last few years, but they are still more prone to mistakes than professional humans. Here are a few captioning mistakes that you are at “Risk” of encountering if you use caption/transcription services.

    The Auto-Captioning Muddle

    Let’s start with the most simple and most common. There are programs that will caption your video’s audio for you. YouTube has this as it allows people who are hard of hearing to read what is being said. However, like all programmatic solutions, it makes mistakes. This is especially true if the audio has lots of background noise, or if unusual words are used, or if the speaker has a thick regional accent.

    The “Risk” comes when the message of the video becomes misconstrued. There are many words where words are misinterpreted by auto-captioners to become offensive. Where “Flags” becomes “Fags” or “Horse” becomes “Whores.” Computer programs cannot understand things in context, which is why they make the sort of mistakes that humans do not.

    The Translation Captioning Snafu

    People have written books about the many varieties of mistranslation that have occurred throughout the years. For those of you who speak Mexican, the “Mazda Laputa” has the words “La Puta” in it, which is pretty offensive to Hispanic women. Again in Mexico, the direct translation of “Got Milk” turns into “Are You Lactating” when it is translated.

    Even the powers at Google cannot create a faultless translation program. It always makes mistakes because it can only guess at the meaning of the sentence. When you have something translated and captioned, you are putting yourself at risk of embarrassment if there were any honest or programmatic mistakes.

    The Incorrect Description Foul Up

    You can have your video and audio captioned, but there are also services that caption the text seen on the screen. You see this quite often with South Korean movies. Many of the cult hits like Train To Busan (2016), Snowpiercer (2013) and Indonesian classics like Raid 1 & 2, have on-screen text that is captioned in English. Things like street signs or handwritten letters are in the country’s native language, so their English translation is put up on screen. As overseas movies successfully compete with Hollywood movies, these sorts of on-screen translation services are becoming more common. However, there is still risk involved with using them.

    The most obvious risk is that something is mistranslated and that it completely shreds the meaning of a scene or creates wild misunderstandings. When it comes to business videos and especially training videos, it can cause very big problems. It may damage business-to-business relationships, and in training videos, it can create a lot of confusion.

    The Basic English Blunder

    If you have an English speaking person transcribe your video for you, you wouldn’t think there would be much risk, but there are several varieties of risk. There is a chance that the transcriber does a poor job and damages the quality of your video with its captions. You run this risk when you hire a poor quality transcriber, but also when the transcriber doesn’t fully understand the content on screen. Some topics have very esoteric terms, and some are very in-depth and confusing. They become even more confusing when the transcriber creates incorrect captions, thereby spoiling it for everybody.

    How Much Risk is Involved?

    If you hire a poor quality transcriber or translator, then you run the risk of embarrassment or you run the risk of damaging the value of your video. You can lessen the risk a little if you and your staff go over the captions, segment by segment, to check to see if they are correct. But, this is a lot of work and requires a pretty strong attention span. Part of the risk seems rooted in luck. If you are unlucky, then something very offensive will slip by and in this online climate, it is very easy for honest mistakes to cause a massive stink online when self-righteous activists grab a hold of it and never let go.

    What you need are top quality captioning services that check and double-check their work before sending it back to you. This helps minimize your risk without you having to double-check the captions personally over the course of several hours or days.

    David Novak
    David Novak
    For the last 20 years, David Novak has appeared in newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV around the world, reviewing the latest in consumer technology. His byline has appeared in Popular Science, PC Magazine, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Electronic House Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, National Geographic, Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, Forbes Technology, Readers Digest, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Glamour Magazine, T3 Technology Magazine, Stuff Magazine, Maxim Magazine, Wired Magazine, Laptop Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly, Indiana Business Journal, Better Homes and Garden, CNET, Engadget, InfoWorld, Information Week, Yahoo Technology and Mobile Magazine. He has also made radio appearances on the The Mark Levin Radio Show, The Laura Ingraham Talk Show, Bob & Tom Show, and the Paul Harvey RadioShow. He’s also made TV appearances on The Today Show and The CBS Morning Show. His nationally syndicated newspaper column called the GadgetGUY, appears in over 100 newspapers around the world each week, where Novak enjoys over 3 million in readership. David is also a contributing writer fro Men’s Journal, GQ, Popular Mechanics, T3 Magazine and Electronic House here in the U.S.

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