History of Me

Based on Interview Questions from SIGNews, published in October 2009

1. Where did you grow up? What were your growing up years like?

I grew up in Michigan, born to great parents, both very smart and well spoken.
I was the youngest of five, and therefore was essentially an “only child” after age eight.

I spent most of my days riding bike all over town, playing with my best friend, collecting Matchbox/Hotwheel cars. I also spent lots of time building with Legos.

I was quiet in school, and “never performed to my full capacity” (space cadet – that’s me). I loved to sing, sang solos in church at 8, and was in choir most of my life.

2. When did you first become aware of deaf people? What were your initial impressions? Have they changed over time? If so, how?

Well. Having grown up in a city with a nationally knowns Oral Education program, and when I was younger, no ASL programs at all, I probably wouldn’t have easily recognized the difference between someone with hearing loss, and someone who was deaf. Helen Keller, href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsCvXS2ZzZs”>Marlee Matlin, Mr. Holland’s Opus – that would be about all I knew. In fact, a friend at the gym spoke and read lips so well, I had no idea he was deaf. I tend to mumble, and he understood me as well or better than most. I became aware of his deafness later.

The first experience with a known deaf person was a showtime complaint (http://deafpundit.wordpress.com/2007/05/05/subtitling-moviesvlogs/) After following her blog, and the starting to read the rest of DeafRead, I can’t say much has changed about my impressions of Deaf/deaf – people are people. I have met a full range of deaf people since that time, from those with other complications, to those who simply can’t hear but are smart, much smarter than I. I have learned more about the Deaf culture, deaf experience. I have currently served more than a year on the board of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services in Grand Rapids.

3. What were your initial thoughts about closed-captioning? Subtitling on DVDs? Did you think they were necessary for you?

I always like CC – I use it at the gym, since earphones don’t stay in my ear when I run, and when I walk I usually read. I like to see the captions when there’s a news story or something on. I also use CC at night, when my wife is trying to sleep, so I don’t have to turn it up to understand. TV volume varies a lot, especially TV ads which often have louder sound levels than TV shows. Some of my children like to watch with CC on, especially movies. Sometimes you don’t realize how much dialogue you don’t catch.

4. How did you become aware of the fact that so many videos online weren’t captioned?

It started after the complaint about the movie show times. I started thinking about the captions, and even went to a movie using the reflector. It bothered me that the trailers weren’t captioned. I looked around and couldn’t find a captioned trailer for the movie we were playing, so I made one, and linked it to the movie.
After I posted a couple on my own blog, DeafRead started to publish some of them, and my views jumped.

5. How do you determine which videos to caption/subtitle online? How do you go about captioning a clip? How much time is usually involved? Do you charge for this? Or are you looking to generate a bit of revenue so that you can do this on a more full-time basis?

Which videos? I try do do all the trailers for movies that are going to be show in theaters with captions first, then requests, then ones that I find interesting or requested.

How? I have a collection of sources that I use online and offline, but I generally use Overstream.net. Overstream allows you to select a video from several online sources, add captions and fuss with the timing, and even export your captions. The Overstream player plays the original video from the sources, with a layer on top with the captions. That’s not the technical description, I don’t know the details, but because Overstream doesn’t host the videos, it prevents them from worrying about the video copyright issues – that can be left to MySpace/YouTube/DailyMotion to sort out, since they store the clips.

Without a transcript, the way I normally have to captions, it takes me about 45 minutes to do a 3 minute video. I can cut that to 20 minutes for a music video that has lyrics available online.

I haven’t been charging – I have been doing movie trailers for free for a long time. WordPress is free, youtube/myspace is free, vodpod is free, overstream is free. I can do a lot with free tools, and I give back free. It’s kind of like a game, keeping up with the caption movies each week, adding videos, adding views… and a lot more valuable than the time I could easily waste on video games, spider solitaire or dicewars.

I have just recently filed for a business – Captionwire, LLC at captionwire.com. The timing seems good, between legislation, expansion of the use of video on the internet, and the fact that I was laid off several months ago.

6. What do you hope to see happen eventually as a result of your work?

Well, in the short term, I like what’s happened.
-I have made friends online, (just got a “you rock” from Shoshannah Stern for the captions on her latest movie trailer, and even more recently, subtitled her movie, Adventures of Power)
-Three websites have made regular use of my trailers, adding them into their site.
http://dvd-subtitles.com, a uk site, rates dvd’s based on their subtitles and captions, and now they have added 163 of my trailers.
http://www.YourLocalCinema.com uses professionally created trailers by ITFC, a UK company that captions movies, but when they don’t have a trailer, he uses mine.
http://captionfish.com is a really cool site, finding captioned showtimes, and containing information about the movies, including captioned trailers. The recent beta release also lists upcoming movies for which there are captioned trailers, giving me a little incentive to get captions done farther ahead.

At some point, I wish that movie companies would just do the captions themselves. Such a small investment – an hour of captioning, by people with a transcript – hey they could even have an intern do it. It’s not that tough, just takes a little time, and commitment.

If studios take up captioning, and haven’t taken up Descriptive Audio (for the visually impaired) by that time, I would work next on figuring out how to do descriptive audio trailers for the blind. The visually impaired are very loyal users of our local MoPix theater.

I have also tried to start conversations with local tv stations to get captioning on their video, and I am live captioning our church service using Voice Recognition.

6 thoughts on “History of Me

  1. Dear Bill

    Awesome. I have no words to express. Let me introduce myself as Mrs.Radha Ganesan, founder director of Swabodhini, school for special children in India. I have been running my school for the last 21 years out of my passion for the cognitively challenged and autistic. I request you to use the term “hearing impaired” than using deaf. We have a moral responsibility to bring dignity to their lives. It will be an honour to be in touch with you. Please have a look at our school website.


    • Hi,

      Glad you like the site, and glad for the work you are doing with special children. In regards to the naming, I think there is a cultural difference here in the US. Often the deaf here in the states prefer the term deaf, and it carries dignity, even culturally, as “Deaf Pride”. I think if you search the sites on DeafRead, a collection of blogs of/by/for deaf, you will note the pride, and that few will refer to themselves as “hearing impaired”. I will be happy to be corrected on this if I am wrong.


      • I love what you are doing. I am a CODA- I have Deaf parents, siblings, nieces and nephews… Just wanted to add that you are right about the word Deaf… Most Deaf in the US dislike the phrase “hearing impaired.” They would argue that Deafness in not an “impairment”. 🙂 Keep up the great work.


  2. I’m hard of hearing, and it seems so much better than being called hearing impaired (PC!!).

    It is really tough trying to find closed captioned movies, etc. It is also a reason why I don’t tend to watch tv or Youtube, etc. The internet is a great leveler with all the text except for the videos. And with all the technology you’d think that adding closed caption would be common.


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