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Video Monitors and Televisions

Closed-captioning got you baffled?
by Bob Carlson

Did you know that all 13" or larger TVs and monitor/receivers manufactured since July 1, 1993 have closed-caption circuitry built-in? Since that time, we have been made aware of a few confusing issues concerning closed captioning. Strangely enough, some of the most serious problems have involved customers that never use the feature.

Closed captioning provides important benefits primarily for individuals with hearing disabilities by displaying the audio portion of a television signal as printed words on the television screen. Closed captions are hidden as data within the television signal and they must be decoded to be displayed on your TV screen.

Below are problems that can occur on closed-caption equipped sets


Confusing problems
My television has suddenly started displaying a black box that covers almost the entire picture, allowing only the edges to be seen. This will occur if one of the closed-caption text modes has been inadvertently turned on. This problem can be most annoying since it occurs only intermittently. The box appears only if the station you are tuned to is broadcasting closed-caption information. It will disappear on programs that are not closed-captioned. To fix it, you’ll need to turn closed-captioning off.

Help! Words are appearing on my TV... but not all the time. This just means that the closed captioning feature of your new TV is turned on (which is easy to do accidentally on some sets). The words appear only during closed-captioned broadcasts. You need to turn closed-captioning off.

How the heck do I turn off closed-captioning? I wish there was a simple answer to this one. All televisions enable/disable captioning in a different way, so you’ll need to dig out that owner’s manual. Generally, you must use the remote and you will find one of three things: a closed-caption button, a display button that turns captioning on and off, a menu button that will bring up an on-screen menu.

Little known benefits
Can I record closed-captioning on my VCR? Yes! It doesn’t even matter how old your VCR is. As a matter of fact, tapes you made before you had a closed-caption capable set will now display captions on your new set (assuming the recorded material was originally closed-captioned.) Closed captioning information is hidden in the TV signal and your VCR can’t help but record it. Remember, however, that you still must play the tape back on a TV that has built-in closed-caption decoding to see the captions.

I have a tape that is closed-captioned and need to duplicate it. Will the duplicate still be closed-captioned? Yes, except that professionally made duplicates, or duplicates made on editing equipment could wipe out the hidden closed-captioning if the process uses a time base corrector, processing amplifier or digital video effects generator. How do you find out? Ask the person making the duplication or have them make a short test dupe.

My new VCR will set the time and date automatically, and I heard that’s related to closed-captioning. Is that true? Extended data services (XDS) shares the hidden TV signal area with closed-captioning and will provide some innovative features on your TV and VCR in the near future. Automatic time setting is just the first of these new features.

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