SDH and CC

When purchasing DVD’s and Blu-ray Disks (BRD) the deaf should be aware

of the presence of the 3 forms of captioning available.

The 2 forms of captioning are called “Closed Captioning” (CC), “SDH”

(Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) and just plain Subtitles.

CC is the familiar white print on a black bar that has been seen on

American TV for years.  It can be turned on and off and is required on

most TV’s sold here.

SDH is seen on many DVD and Blu-ray disks and performs many of the

same functions as CC does, but has some important differences.  While

CC is decoded and controlled by the TV, SDH is produced and controlled

by the DVD.  SDH often carries some subtle different information as

well.  CC is often not a word-for-word transcription of the dialog, but

converted into Simple English or otherwise shortened to allow for

understanding the dialog quickly so the viewer can keep up with the

pace of the show.

SDH is usually not adjustable in color or position on the screen, it

usually is white or yellow and on the bottom of the screen.  Some TV’s

and cable boxes allow users to modify CC so that the text is placed at

either the top or bottom of the screen, and allows one to adjust the

appearance for color and translucency.

Subtitles (or English Subtitles) is usually just a word-for-word

translation of the dialog into English words.  The appearance is

usually the same as the SDH if the disk has both, but the SDH is

usually simplified to make it easier to follow the show while

Subtitles just replicates the words used.

CC usually also tells the viewer about sound effects or background

noises.  For example if you are watching a movie with explosions,

gunfire or other sounds that are important to the plot, CC will

usually display text that announces such sounds, SDH doesn’t always do

that.  CC also often includes the words to songs that might not be

included on SDH or subtitles

Where the difference makes a bigger difference for the deaf is on

certain devices.  Portable DVD and Blu-ray players often do not decode

CC since the screen size does not exceed 13 inches, the size in which

CC is required.  Since most portable DVD or BRD players have screens 10

inches or smaller they usually do not support CC. Most do however

support SDH or Subtitles if the disk has it.

When choosing DVD’s or BRD’s that may be played on a small screen

player, such as those included in some vehicles, laptops or portable

devices check the information label on the back of the case.  Look for

the “SDH” notation.  Most CD’s and DVD’s have CC these days, and a

majority also have SDH. Some disks however lack SDH or English

Subtitles, and thus will not show captions on smaller players.

One other situation that affects the need for SDH is on disks played

thru an HDMI cable equipped player.  HDMI cables do not pass CC

encoding, so you need to either use SDH or have an alternate method

of connecting the TV to the player.  Since HDMI provides a superior

picture than other methods of connection, SDH encoded DVD’s and BRD’s

are preferable.  If the title you want is not available with SDH then

you will need to add a second connection from your HDMI player to the

TV.  There are several methods, many newer devices will allow you to

select one or several of these.

You can use “Component” cables.  These are 5 sets of heavy gauge coax

cables with RCA connectors.  2 of these are used for audio (Left and

right, using red and white color codes) and 3 are used for video

(using red, blue and green color codes).  Another method is using an

“S-Video” cable along with separate audio lines. These two methods

produce a high-quality picture (but not nearly as good as HDMI) yet

still pass CC data.

A less desirable method is a single line video (the yellow RCA jack)

along with the 2-cable audio.  The picture quality suffers with this

method however, and it is not really a viable option.  (The yellow

video jack is provided for use with cameras and other low-quality

devices, not really intended for watching movies.)

You may need to turn off CC when watching disks with SDH if connected

by component or S-Video cables.  Since these connections pass CC data

it will show up along with SDH.  Pick the method of captions you prefer

and turn off the other.