Evaluating Digital to Analog Converter Boxes for Users of Captioning - Page 7 - AVS Forum

AVS Forum > HDTV > HDTV Technical > Coupon Eligible Converter Box (CECB) > Evaluating Digital to Analog Converter Boxes for Users of Captioning

Coupon Eligible Converter Box (CECB)

dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
09:04 AM Liked: 10
post #181 of 226
05-20-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Konrad2 View Post


I nominate Dana Mulvany for FCC chair.

LOL!

Quote:


Many TV stations don't care about the technical quality of their broadcasts. The engineering dept doesn't get the budget necessary for personnel or equipment. So they may not be able to devote the resources needed to track down and fix such problems. Without the proper engineering analysis, it is impossible to say if this sort of problem is the station's fault, or the fault of the user's TV or CECB, or perhaps the spec wasn't written properly and two valid interpretations created incompatible equipment.

I'm not aware of ANYONE actually checking out whether two valid interpretations of the specifications could create incompatible equipment. As far as I can tell, the FCC doesn't make it easy to find out how any captioning complaints have been investigated, so the public isn't learning about how problems are being resolved, if at all. The complaint process that consumers are supposed to go through about captions is so arduous that few consumers end up complaining to the FCC, and there then aren't enough complaints to reflect all the problems that are actually going on. That's going to change next year when deaf and hard of hearing people can no longer use analog captioned programs over the air and the improperly produced digital captions are the only captions left. Where there's really going to be a lot of harm caused by this is when deaf and hard of hearing people lose access to captioned emergency information over the air after a disaster that knocks out their pay TV service.

There was one article mentioned earlier on this thread suggesting that some inexperienced companies are producing caption encoders that fall short in providing captions that will work with all TVs because the companies lack experience dealing with compatibility issues. Theoretically encoders from inexperienced manufacturers could generate digital captions that aren't compatible with existing digital TVs and other digital equipment like DVRs, but the TV stations and producers using these encoders get digital captions on their *compatible* digital equipment, so they think everything is fine on their end when actually, it's not, and they're telling consumers the problem is with their TVs. Most consumers don't know any better and then give up.

If there was a centralized process of figuring out what's going wrong with the digital captions, though, then more problems would be solved more quickly, and that could actually end up saving lives down the road. Captioned television is the only way that many deaf and hard of hearing people can get information about and after emergencies since they can't use radio. So if the digital captions are messed up, then deaf and hard of hearing survivors of disasters that knock out pay TV services can be completely cut off from information about emergency resources, whereas hearing people can listen to the radio. (Hurricane Wilma knocked out cable for three weeks, for example, and many people were scrounging for antennas in order to receive OTA television.)

Quote:


ATSC/8VSB is still very immature, and not ready for prime time. Less than a year away from analog cutoff and it is still impossible to get reliable reception, much less reliable captions.

That's outside my bailiwick (which is one reason why I'm not bucking to be the chair of the FCC!). I have to wonder, though, who's minding the store with respect to all these problems. A time-consuming, slow complaint-based process that starts months AFTER expensive new hardware is rolled out is NOT the right way to ensure that new technology is working appropriately. It would help if there were expert stakeholders (informed consumers, engineers, etc.) meeting together to address problems with captioning and to work them out. Right now they're not even talking to each other, and millions of people with hearing loss are going to waste a lot of time suffering through severe captioning problems, along with engineers who are apparently on their own about how to identify and resolve captioning problems.

One thing we could do here at the AVS Forum is to start another thread to discuss technical issues with the generation and transmission of digital captions; it would be a place for engineers to share their knowledge, and if consumers themselves or other people ever get information about how digital caption problems were resolved, they could share this information on that thread as well. I'm not an engineer myself, of course, so it might be better if any engineers here would be willing to help me start such a thread (which could then make it more welcoming to other engineers). If not, however, I'd certainly be willing to start it myself.

Dana
tc1's Avatar tc1
09:10 AM Liked: 12
post #182 of 226
05-20-2008 | Posts: 559
Joined: Mar 2006
"Many TV stations don't care about the technical quality of their
broadcasts. The engineering dept doesn't get the budget
necessary for personnel or equipment. So they may not be able to
devote the resources needed to track down and fix such problems.
Without the proper engineering analysis, it is impossible to say
if this sort of problem is the station's fault, or the fault of
the user's TV or CECB, or perhaps the spec wasn't written
properly and two valid interpretations created incompatible
equipment.

ATSC/8VSB is still very immature, and not ready for prime time.
Less than a year away from analog cutoff and it is still impossible
to get reliable reception, much less reliable captions."


AMEN!

I have OTA only. I wasted a huge number of hours when I first started with DTV. Being used to the old tried and true analog (one size fits all, few if any variables ) I assumed all problems were with me or my equipment. NOT! The variation in broadcasts from stations and flat out erroneous transmissions which were and still are ignored by locals can drive one nuts even if you do have a reasonable knowledge of whats supposed to be happening. The firestorm that could be coming could be just as much or more so the fault of local broadcasters not paying attention to detail as anything stupid the governmant did.

For the newbies and lurkers out there I have found the local reception threads here at AVS to be the most helpful for this problem. Even if your thread seems to be mostly about cable if they have the same problem with a local you can be pretty sure it's not you or your equipment. Also, in my area a lot of the cable users have OTA for their local stations even if they can get them on cable. OTA HD when done correctly is the best IMO.

It is probably going to be a bumpy ride for at least a couple more years.
tc1's Avatar tc1
09:24 AM Liked: 12
post #183 of 226
05-20-2008 | Posts: 559
Joined: Mar 2006
Dana,

I know this thread is about CC but I believe my above comments are important to those new to DTV to be aware of. As important as CC is, including for me, you don't get there till you jump all the other hurdles. Thanks again for all you have put in to this thread.
Konrad2's Avatar Konrad2
02:29 PM Liked: 10
post #184 of 226
05-20-2008 | Posts: 544
Joined: Apr 2006
> I'm not aware of ANYONE actually checking out whether two
> valid interpretations of the specifications could create
> incompatible equipment.

Step one is someone has to find the specifications.

> There was one article mentioned earlier on this thread suggesting
> that some inexperienced companies are producing caption encoders
> that fall short in providing captions that will work with all TVs
> because the companies lack experience dealing with compatibility
> issues.

Experience isn't supposed to matter. The specifications
should spell out, in detail, the format used. A kid
fresh out of college should be able to implement and
test an encoder or decoder.

It would be a good idea if the people writing and reviewing
the specifications had some experience. And someone with
experience should review the kid's work.

The digital captions stuff should be very simple. Some of
the easiest stuff involved in this switchover. The basic
reception problems (multipath, interferrence, etc.) are the
hard part. So the fact that multiple receivers crash when
attempting to decode captions doesn't give me a good
feeling about the rest of the designs. Bad analogy time:
You are at the airport, and the mechanic can't figure out how
to check the tire presure. Do you trust this mechanic to
have checked the engines? Do you want to board this airplane?

> Captioned television is the only way that many deaf and hard
> of hearing people can get information about and after
> emergencies since they can't use radio.

Not just the deaf and hard of hearing, but anyone in a noisy
environment. Dishwasher, window unit A/C, kids screaming,
neighbor using lawnmower, chainsaw, motorcycle, etc. A
disaster might be noisy. If the power is out there may be
generators running, etc. Even without this, sometimes the
actor mumbles and/or there is background noise/music. The
person speaking may have a heavy accent. There are lots of
reasons someone might need captions.

> That's outside my bailiwick (which is one reason why I'm not
> bucking to be the chair of the FCC!).

I doubt that the FCC chair actually does any engineering.
We need someone who cares more about the people getting useful
communications than about big corporations getting easy profits.

> I have to wonder, though, who's minding the store with respect
> to all these problems.

No one. :-(

> One thing we could do here at the AVS Forum is to start another
> thread to discuss technical issues with the generation and
> transmission of digital captions;

That might help.
Robert ES's Avatar Robert ES
10:19 AM Liked: 10
post #185 of 226
05-30-2008 | Posts: 66
Joined: May 2008
I'm surprised that I have only seen this mentioned once in this thread. I have two April 2008 Zenith DTT-900 CECBs and they behave the same so I assume it's not their fault: captions, whether analog or digital, are delayed on some channels, and inconsistently even on these, by about five seconds--and I am not talking about live captioning done on the fly, but filmed material. It's extremely annoying. With old-fashioned RF reception on analog broadcasts watched on my CRT TVs, captions are synched perfectly when I have done A-B comparisons with CECB received captions. For those of us with hearing problems, captions that are 5 seconds late make TV watching unpleasant altogether. Once must be able to lip-read simultaneously with caption reading. I am assuming that these delays are the fault of stations who are not ready to do correct captioning in a digital broadcast mode. Are they aware of their problems and can we expect fixes from them?
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
11:07 AM Liked: 10
post #186 of 226
05-30-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert ES View Post

I'm surprised that I have only seen this mentioned once in this thread. I have two April 2008 Zenith DTT-900 CECBs and they behave the same so I assume it's not their fault: captions, whether analog or digital, are delayed on some channels, and inconsistently even on these, by about five seconds--and I am not talking about live captioning done on the fly, but filmed material. It's extremely annoying. With old-fashioned RF reception on analog broadcasts watched on my CRT TVs, captions are synched perfectly when I have done A-B comparisons with CECB received captions. For those of us with hearing problems, captions that are 5 seconds late make TV watching unpleasant altogether. Once must be able to lip-read simultaneously with caption reading. I am assuming that these delays are the fault of stations who are not ready to do correct captioning in a digital broadcast mode. Are they aware of their problems and can we expect fixes from them?

Robert, this problem needs to be reported directly to those stations; the engineers there may not be aware of the delay. You'll need to be very specific about what programs you see this happening with and the time and date you see the problems. You can try emailing them about the problem, but if they don't resolve it, you'll need to follow up with a letter or fax and then follow up with the FCC if they still don't fix the problem.

This problem is not related directly to converter boxes, so that's why it hasn't been discussed much on this thread, although if you don't have a digital TV, you'll see this problem for the first time when you use a converter box. There's some kind of equipment problem on the station's end, perhaps with the bridge between the 608 to 708 captions (which upconverts 608 to 708 captions). I still see that kind of problem with syndicated programs rather than with primetime programming, though I did see it with my local Fox affiliate before they finally fixed it some months ago. The problem with problematic digital captions from syndicated programs, I think, is that the station chose equipment to create digital captions on the fly even if there were digital captions produced at the time of production, and that conversion process introduces a delay. I don't know whether that delay can be fixed by delaying the broadcast of the video, or via other means. (There are clear differences in the timing of the broadcast of the video anyway on some channels.)

I think it's very important for early adapters like yourself to complain to the stations that this delay makes the captions unusable and the program unwatchable. Judging by the reaction of some local stations in my own area, stations that have invested in equipment that cause these unacceptable delays may resist fixing the problems, which means that it'll be very important to file a complaint with the FCC to force the station to address this or upgrade their equipment. (I think there are other ways of conveying the existing 708 captions from syndicated programs, but these may be more expensive.)

FYI, Fox affiliates appear to use the Evertz 608 to 708 caption bridge, which needs a firmware update to avoid captioning glitches. This problem was discovered last summer, but possibly not all Fox affiliates have done the firmware update. Whether or not the stations with delayed captions are Fox stations, you may want to bring this issue to their attention (as I believe this problem with the bridge did appear to delay the captions for all programs from my local Fox affiliate).

There's some good guidance about how to file a complaint about captioning at:

http://www.nvrc.org/content.aspx?pag...on=5#Complaint

Dana
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
10:54 AM Liked: 10
post #187 of 226
06-04-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Thought I'd mention that I saw a Magnavox TB100MW9 last month at a friend's house, and the captions were sufficiently large to cover the width of the screen. (The box was in her basement and she was having poor reception at the time, so we didn't spend a lot of time tweaking the settings.)

The other thing I found interesting was although there wasn't a classic caption preview that changes dynamically as changes are made to the captions, the list of the font styles reflected the actual style of each one. I found that helpful since you could see the differences much more clearly among all the styles at once. None of the other CECBs I've tried out do that even though they all provide lists of the different font styles. A "best practice" would be to go ahead and illustrate all the different font styles in such lists in addition to showing an accurate caption preview.

Hopefully we'll get a full review of other captioning-related features from the Magnavox soon.

Dana
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
11:13 AM Liked: 10
post #188 of 226
06-04-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
A friend of mine sent me his Artec T3APro CECB last week so he could get out of evaluating it here. I'll do a full review later, but thought I'd share some comments while I'm waiting for my car to be serviced (I'm using the dealer's Internet-connected computer).

I found the captions usable for the most part and sufficiently large. A curious flaw with the remote control, however, is that the CC button only works if the box is decoding analog captions. It won't do anything at all if the box is decoding digital captions. It's thus useless when one is using digital captions. What an odd decision to make. A CC button should be able to turn off captions instantly in case the captions are covering up something the viewer really wants to see. I'll have to see whether there's another button that can be used to turn off the captions momentarily.

The Artec CECB will be a good one to use in my LCD-equipped Prius in a pinch when I drive cross-country; if I'm stopped somewhere, I can hook up the CECB to the video input of my hacked LCD, and display local television stations. I'll be particularly interested in doing that to check on local weather reports in view of all the tornadoes we've been having. There are channel buttons on top of it in addition to a power off button, and it's quite compact. The Zenith CECB is less suitable for that purpose since the buttons are on the side and could accidentally press against something. The Artec can also be powered directly from the 12 volt supply if one wishes to develop the right mechanism to do that. (I have an inverter, so I don't need to do that.)

Rest assured I don't plan to drive and watch TV at the same time! Being hard of hearing, though, I can't depend on being able to understand radio communication about severe weather or other emergencies, so it'll be nice to have an alternative way of receiving news that takes advantage of the LCD that's already in my Prius and the other equipment I already have.

(If anyone else has an LCD on their dashboard and is interested in being able to attach different video sources to it, check out http://www.coastaletech.com, which has developed a hack for a number of such cars. Coastaletech also developed and installed the multi-function display that I use for my 2002 Prius.)

Dana
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
11:58 AM Liked: 10
post #189 of 226
06-05-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
I've set up a new thread for engineers to troubleshoot captioning problems at:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1036515

I decided to create a poll with it as well to ask people what local stations are having trouble broadcasting digital captions well. Thus if you're a consumer who has noticed problems with captions from some stations and not others, please go ahead and fill out that poll. It'll be interesting information for engineers as well as others to see. You can only vote once on that poll, so try to think about all the problems you've seen with syndicated programs, not just first-run programs.


Dana
tc1's Avatar tc1
12:46 PM Liked: 12
post #190 of 226
06-05-2008 | Posts: 559
Joined: Mar 2006
fingers crossed!
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
08:49 PM Liked: 10
post #191 of 226
06-06-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003


Style 7, large size, black translucent background

Abstract: The DigitalStream DTT 9900’s largest captions are still much smaller than those provided by one’s analog TV. There is no caption preview and the menu is poorly designed and laborious to use. However, most of the font styles were legible on a 25 inch analog TV. There are no raised dots on the buttons of the remote control, but there is a CC button and an audio button. The remote control was unpredictable in its responses due to a hair trigger response.


My set-up: I used the DigitalStream’s composite video cable with my Series 2 TiVo and then used the TiVo’s two composite video outputs to connect my 25 inch analog Magnavox TV and my 20 inch Sharp HDTV (with built-in NTSC tuner). I generally used my analog TV as the basis for my evaluations.

1. Describe the layout of the caption menu, including all the advanced closed captioning features and the number of colors available, and whether there are problems with the design of the menu.

The DigitalStream can decode both analog (CEA-608) and digital (CEA-708) caption data. Contrary to the Zenith/Insignia and Artec CECB, it did not offer the option of adding an edge to make the closed caption text thicker (which would have made the text look bolder).

So far, none of the CECBs I’ve evaluated have offered the option to change the alignment of the captions, including this CECB.

Only the standard eight colors are available for the text and for the background: Black, white, red, green, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan.

The full caption menu was accessed only via the Menu button on the remote control. There are then five menu choices: Display, CC Service, CC Option, CC Text, CC Background. (The design of this menu is very poor since you cannot see all the important selections on one single screen as you can with the Z/I and Artec CECBs.)

Because some other people trying the DigitalStream may not have activated the advanced closed captioning features correctly, I’ll provide instructions near the bottom of this evaluation to explain exactly how to turn the captions on after getting into the Caption Menu.

The following is the layout of the Caption Menu:

Caption Menu:
a. Display (On or off)
b. CC Service (CS1 to CS6, CC1, CC2, Text1,Text2)
c. CC Option (User or Auto)
d. CC Text:
Font Size
Font Style (default, Style 1 through 7)
Font Color (Default, Black, white, red, green, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan)
Text Opacity (flashing, translucent, transparent, solid)
e. CC Background:
Color
Opacity

The menu design is very poor for several reasons; it is too easy for novice users not to realize that they need to select the “User” option instead of the “Auto” option, and if the “Auto” option is selected, there is no indication from the menu itself that the custom features are not operating. One has to dig into all five menu options to see all the settings, whereas the Insignia/Zenith menu provides two different screens to show what has been selected (and a caption preview). There was also no clue about what the various font styles looked like, in contrast to the Magnavox, which actually uses the different font styles that corresponds to each label. It is thus extremely and unnecessarily slow and cumbersome to manipulate the advanced caption features on the DigitalStream.

2. The availability of a CC button on the remote control
The remote control has a CC button on the right side of the remote control underneath the channel rocker button.

3. The choices of the menu activated by the CC button and your rating of the usability of these choices.
The menu activated by the CC button only brings up the following one at a time: CS1 to CS6, CC OFF, CC1, CC2, Text1,Text2. Upon pressing the button, the response is the display of the current service setting at the bottom of the screen; pressing the CC button advances the service to the next one. The CECB could be considered hypersensitive to presses on the remote control, so it’s possible to press the CC button quickly to select what’s needed (but one can easily go too far and then have to cycle through everything again).

Unlike the Zenith/Insignia CECB remote control’s CCD button, this CC button overrides the caption service for all channels, not just the current channel. Thus if one chooses the analog CC1 setting for a digital channel that isn’t broadcasting digital captions, the analog captions will stay on for all other channels that are viewed until one remembers to change back to CS1. When all TV programs required to provide captions actually start providing digital captions on all their digital channels as they are required to do by law, I think this universal application of the CC button would be okay.

Usability of the CC button:

Fair. There seems to be little use for switching among the different services as no TV stations locally seem to be offering any service other than CS1. However, there may be a need to switch to CC1 as some stations may provide only analog-style (CEA-608) captions, not the customizable CEA-708 captions. At a minimum, the menu should have provided a quick way to turn off the captions, to switch between digital and analog caption equivalents, and a shortcut to a better designed Caption Menu in order to change the advanced captioning features more easily (especially since it is so cumbersome to change them).

4. If analog captions can be decoded by the converter box, the ease of reading the font provided for those analog captions (if present)

The analog captions are smaller than the captions provided by the TV, but look relatively clear and sharp for CECB captions when composite video is used. The design of the font style used for analog captions appears acceptable. However, this is likely to be a reflection of how my television, produced in the 1990’s, processes the video. Older TVs that lack comb filtering may not improve the captions as much as my Magnavox TV did.

5. The ease of reading the eight different fonts available for digital captions, particularly the default font

My impression was that if the captions had been designed to be larger, most of the font styles would have worked out very well, with the exception of Style5 and Style6. Keep in mind that I used a fairly large 25 inch TV; the small captions may be illegible on much smaller TVs. Also, most of the captions were only compared using all capital letters.

Interestingly, captions did looked sharper on my HDTV, which has 3D comb filtering, than on my older analog TV, which does not have 3D comb filtering (but which may still have some advanced video processing).

I evaluated each font style by setting the background to translucent and the font size to large, and looked for any letters that lacked definition, using my 25 inch analog TV (which does not have 3D comb filtering). In my opinion, most of the styles were still legible on my 25 inch TV despite the small size.

However, as a captioned TiVo user, I discovered I could not depend on being able to read any font, including the analog caption font, when I fast forwarded at the “one arrow” speed using my TiVo. This meant that my TVs were actually improving the appearance of the captions, but my TiVo was showing the true images of the captions. This was a definite drawback compared to the Zenith/Insignia CECBs. TVs that do not have any comb filtering thus may produce much worse displays of the captions.

Here's a picture of the (illegible) captions paused on the TiVo:




Comments about specific styles follow below, though most styles were evaluated on the basis of capital letters (all caps) being used:

Style1: T’s, M’s, N’s, W’s not well-defined (still legible, but fair)

Style2: Legs of N too thin, arms of Y too thin, T too thin (legible)

Style3: W’s smudged. More uniform thickness for each letter than from Font1 and Font2, and easier to read than

Style1 and Style2

Style4: Each letter appeared relatively clear. (Ps and Rs have short legs and might look like Ds to some people; Ns looks too thin in middle). Lower case was good.

Style5 and Style6: Much too difficult to read and to use on a regular basis as captioning

Style7: Best of all the font styles. W’s, Ts, Y, were clear. (Upper case.) The legs of the lower case, small cap capital Rs and Ks were thin, as were the middle of the Ms and Ns.. This font style still was not legible when forwarded via the TiVo.

Pictures of the captions (and glitches) can be seen at:

http://picasaweb.google.com/dana.mul...lStreamDTX9900

I tried various text colors on a transparent background. Only two worked fairly well: green and yellow. The other colors were too difficult to read against the background:

(Text colors against translucent black background)
Green okay (bright olive)
Red (worst of all colors, much too thin)
Blue (visible but too difficult to read against background)
Yellow okay (orangish)
Magenta—poor, more purple than pink
Cyan (visible but hard to read against background)

6. The availability of a "caption preview" of some kind when changes are made in the settings for the digital captions, and how well this predicts the largest font style.
No captioning preview was made available, which made the selection and comparison of font styles much, much more difficult. It was difficult to see differences among the first four styles until I looked closely for problem letters and then noticed differences among the styles.

7. How large the digital captions are actually capable of becoming (useful for low-vision viewers or for being able to watch the TV from a significant distance): do the longest lines of the largest captions fill the entire width of the screen, and if not, please estimate what proportion of the width of the screen is filled by the longest line of the largest captions.


The captions were small even when set to the largest size. The different styles appeared to be similar in how large they could become. The longest lines only covered roughly five-eighths of the width of the screen compared to the Zenith/Insignia’s, which could cover the entire width of the screen.

8. How usable the optional translucent background is in providing sufficient contrast to the characters used in the captioning (if it is too transparent, it will be difficult to read the captions)


The translucent background was dark enough to provide sufficient contrast, but would probably be considered too dark by many people who would want to be able to see more of the video behind the background.
9. Whether there are any bugs associated with captioning, such as a failure to detect analog captions automatically if there are no digital captions, jerky movements of captions, cut-off captions, unexpected changes in the background, etc.
None known to be connected with captioning.

10. Whether the remote control has an SAP or audio button to switch to a second audio channel (for descriptive video services), a raised dot on the 5 button, raised dots on the Power button or other buttons (useful for low vision or blind users), or other accessibility issues.


The remote has an Audio button, which is the second button from the left underneath the Volume rocker button. There was no raised dot on the 5 button or on other buttons. The power button is at the top right by itself, however. I found the remote control very difficult to use at first, however, since pressing it slightly “too long” resulted in multiple entries: a firm push on the channel button could result in skipping two channels ahead, and a firm push on the 2 button could result in 2222 showing up on the TV instead of 2. I think the relative hypersensitivity of the CECB coupled with the lack of feedback about what is “too long”would be frustrating for blind people and people with manual dexterity. The remote control of the Zenith/Insignia is more predictable.

11. How well the user manual explains the different digital closed caption settings; please indicate whether it advises choosing Service 1 or explains how to choose it. If you have found the user manual online, please provide the URL if it is not already provided in the first posting.


The owner’s manual is a very large foldout, not a booklet, so if it is available online, it would be difficult to navigate via either HTML or pdf format. It shows images of each screen, but did not explain which CC service to use or that CS1, CS2, etc. referred to digital captions and that CC1, CC2, etc. referred to the analog captions.

I would rate the manual as poor. It did not add enough information beyond what was already available on the onscreen menu. It did explain in very small text that the user option needs to be selected in order to activate the CC text and background.

12. Whether the CECB has crashed or otherwise malfunctioned, and what the circumstances were; this question is best answered after extensive use of digital closed captioning with different channels. Please indicate how many hours or days you've been testing the CECB with digital closed captioning turned on.


There was one glitch that occurred and which came back even after the channel was changed. Visual garbage containing caption menu images slowly came up from the bottom of the screen and obscured the video.

I used the CECB for four weeks. To be candid, the small captions made up my mind pretty quickly that this CECB would be too limited for me, so I wasn’t very enthusiastic about evaluating this further.

General Observations: The DigitalStream CECB was laborious to set up for advanced closed captions; there were far too many steps required to make each change, and the lack of a caption preview was very frustrating. (The unpredictability of the CECB’s responsiveness to presses on the remote control made changing the features even more difficult.)

Due to the impractically small size of the captions, the captions did not compare favorably with my analog TV’s own captions, and the small size thus almost defeated the purpose of having digital captions at all. People with TVs much smaller than my 25 inch TV would have much more trouble reading the captions. I also couldn’t read the captions while fast-forwarding on my TiVo.

A serious flaw with the menu system of the CECB is that even if the Auto option was selected, the ONSCREEN MENU DID NOT VISUALLY INDICATE that making changes in CC features would not work. The CC text and CC background menu options should have been grayed out when the AUTO was selected to indicate that these features were non-operational at the time. Many people could thus think they were seeing customized digital captions when they were only seeing the default captions.

The advanced closed captioning arrangement I found the best was Style7, large, with white text and a solid black background; however, a translucent background also worked well.

If the manufacturer of this CECB would make improvements by enlarging the captions so that the longest line filled the width of the screen, this would be a much better and more flexible CECB for users of captioning. Improvements in the menu design are also needed. There are other CECBs that seem to be better choices for people who want advanced closed captioning features and the extended EPG that the DigitalStream offers.

I would definitely not recommend this CECB for people with small TVs or with both visual impairments and hearing loss due to the small size of the captions, the lack of tactile indications on the remote control, the unpredictability of the remote control, and the difficulty of navigating the menu system. Although the DigitalStream offers an extended EPG, other CECBs such as the Artec and the Dish TVPal do also.


How to Activate Digital Captions via the DigitalStream

Press the Menu button, then press the down button once, then the right button.

The “Display” (of captions) needs to be turned ON by navigating to the “ON” choice, and then pressing the blue OK button on the remote. Hit the Menu button once to back out one level after making any choices.

Navigate to the CC Service option, press the right arrow button, use the blue OK button to select “Select” and then choose the CS1 service for digital captions or CC1 for analog captions. (However, the CC button on the remote can also be used to change the service for captions on all channels, unlike the remote on the Zenith/Insignia.)

IMPORTANT STEP: Navigate to “CC Option,” then choose and select “User” if you want to view changes in the font size, style or other features. (The “Auto” setting would result in the captions remaining in the default settings, which are likely to be too small.) It is very important to choose the “User” setting as none of the changes made later will affect the caption display otherwise. The design of the menu is severely flawed since the Auto setting can be on even though it appears the CC Text and Background choices are still operational. Most menu designers will disable and gray out functions that aren’t actually working so that you know there’s something else you need to do to make those functions work.

The “CC Text” is where one changes the font size, style, color and text opacity. As the default size is too small, I found it important to change the font size to Large.


Dana
TalkingRat's Avatar TalkingRat
01:44 PM Liked: 22
post #192 of 226
06-11-2008 | Posts: 2,180
Joined: Mar 2008
Dana, happy to report that Satellite Guys got a DTVPal today, and says the page down button toggles the cc on/off -- none of that having to go through 15 settings like we do with the Zenith.

Here's the link to the DTVPal review, in case you have a few questions for Scott. He does have cc on for one of his screen shots (row 3, 6th from left), and shows the cc menu in another (second from the last pic).

http://www.satelliteguys.us/dish-net...converter.html
whitis's Avatar whitis
01:28 AM Liked: 10
post #193 of 226
06-12-2008 | Posts: 147
Joined: Jun 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

The UK broadcasters worked with disability organisation to produce the "Tiresias" typeface that is really clear for those who are both hard of hearing and suffer reduced vision.

http://www.tiresias.org/fonts/index.htm

That is what the marketing folks for tiresias would like you to think. It is not true. Only 17 out of the 35 visually impaired people tested were reported to like the font, 8 preferred Times New Roman (which was a very poor font for the application and for comparison) and the remaining 10 people's responses weren't reported (maybe they preferred the crude dot matrix printer font). As for the 48 deaf people tested (the primary target audience), the researchers pretty much ignored their responses and failed to report them. The captions used were not electronically generated, they pointed a closed circuit TV camera at captions printed on paper, did not have normal viewing distance, and allowed the users to adjust the magnification. "a test of captioning fonts for deaf people refused to report the results from deaf subjects". Dyslexics were also apparently ignored. And this font does not support italics which are required for US captions.

Some devices use the tiresias font which was designed for subtitle use and was supposedly the product of careful research for that application, yet that research was very flawed and did not reflect real world usage.
Some folks have scathing criticism of the tiresias font, which they consider unsalvageable, and other fonts commonly used. Sure, tiresias doesn't look too bad if you are close to a good quality TV. But captioning places some incredible demands on a font. People with a wide range of visual and hearing impairments, dyslexics, plus non-disabled people and 2nd language people, have to read at high speed, while also paying attention to action, and for long periods of time and from way too far away, against a possibly transparent background neccessary to not obscure the action, a font that could be rendered on a sharp HDTV to a crappy interlaced analog TV with poor focus over an RF modulator connection, could be resampled with jitter on an analog LCD or rescaled on a high resolution display from a low resolution source. Caption fonts, including tiresias, are typically derived from Print fonts, intended for non-luminous high resolution use and computer fonts intended for close viewing of a high resolution screen. Tiresias was developed in such a way that it is subjected to the high prices ($12,000) of professional font foundaries yet was developed by people who were unpaid and it shows.
Boult's Avatar Boult
09:55 PM Liked: 10
post #194 of 226
06-12-2008 | Posts: 58
Joined: Dec 2007
I own both Digital Stream and Zenith (both w/o pass thru), Their CC fonts are so small so I disabled them and used TV's built in CC decoder which is bigger than those two's CC. On both, there's no way to make it bigger to match the TV's built in CC font. Both of my TVs are Memorex MT2024 and Celera CL2002. Both 20inchers And TV's built in decoder parse the CC faster than those converter can.

So if your TV's Built in decoder can display CC while using CECB then use the TV's built in and disable CECB's built in.
bicker1's Avatar bicker1
05:24 AM Liked: 11
post #195 of 226
06-13-2008 | Posts: 8,289
Joined: Jun 2006
Indeed: CECBs are such that they only support the types of outputs that support carriage of CC. Good point.
tjmjb's Avatar tjmjb
07:13 PM Liked: 10
post #196 of 226
06-18-2008 | Posts: 5
Joined: Jun 2008
I must start with a great THANKYOU to Dana for this thread. I also want to thank all contributors. I have a few more years of hearing left but I have been using CC for two years now (always). Even though I use it, I never thought about it concerning the CECB devices. I had spent many hours reading reviews and only now saw this thread. I learned so much from these forums. I went out and bought the Zenith 901 today and got home and every thing set the way I want them in 3 hours. I found your review of this unit to be right on what I found.

I finally tried the TV (Magnavox) CC and it works with all 16 channels we have here. So I just turned the CECB CC off.

Now the question is will I ever need to use the CC on the CECB?
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
07:43 PM Liked: 10
post #197 of 226
06-18-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boult View Post

I own both Digital Stream and Zenith (both w/o pass thru), Their CC fonts are so small so I disabled them and used TV's built in CC decoder which is bigger than those two's CC. On both, there's no way to make it bigger to match the TV's built in CC font. Both of my TVs are Memorex MT2024 and Celera CL2002. Both 20inchers And TV's built in decoder parse the CC faster than those converter can.

So if your TV's Built in decoder can display CC while using CECB then use the TV's built in and disable CECB's built in.

Boult, your experience doesn't coincide with mine because I was able to get large captions from the Zenith (which is the same as the Insignia). Please read posting #2 (the Insignia evaluated there is the same as the Zenith DTT-9900). I think you probably did not set up the digital captions properly on your Zenith so you could see the largest size captions. If you were only seeing the default analog or digital captions from the Zenith, for example, you wouldn't have seen the largest captions. You've got to make sure you are setting things up properly, like using the User selection, to use your selected caption settings.

Also, the digital captions should be showing just as fast as the analog captions from stations that are doing captions properly. If there's a delay in the digital captions, that is probably the fault of the TV station's equipment, not the converter box, and you probably won't see that problem on all of the TV stations. If you do see that problem consistently, however, then it *might* be a problem with the converter box, but check out whether people who have HDTVs in your area report the same problem. (In some rural areas, there might be few stations showing digital captions properly.)

It's important to be systematic in evaluating these converter boxes and not to overgeneralize from problems that one TV station has to the converter box. That's why I recommended a systematic evaluation process for people who haven't used a digital TV before. They need to observe how the captioning is produced by every single TV station and to notice any differences among the TV stations in order to determine whether there's a problem with them or with the converter box. In other words, if there's a problem with delayed captions from only a couple of TV stations and not with all of them, then that's NOT a problem with the converter box.

I'd urge you to try some more experimentation as it sounds like you didn't actually activate the Zenith's large digital captions---as I recall, they were able to reach 100% of the width of the screen, so I really doubt they could be considered too small when set up properly to display the largest size. (The DigitalStream CECB's captions are definitely too small even when set to their largest setting.) If you have terrific, large captions from your analog TVs, you may certainly want to use those captions instead of the ones provided by the Zenith as they will probably look sharper anyway.

Dana
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
11:09 PM Liked: 10
post #198 of 226
06-19-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by tjmjb View Post

I must start with a great THANKYOU to Dana for this thread. I also want to thank all contributors. I have a few more years of hearing left but I have been using CC for two years now (always). Even though I use it, I never thought about it concerning the CECB devices. I had spent many hours reading reviews and only now saw this thread. I learned so much from these forums. I went out and bought the Zenith 901 today and got home and every thing set the way I want them in 3 hours. I found your review of this unit to be right on what I found.

I finally tried the TV (Magnavox) CC and it works with all 16 channels we have here. So I just turned the CECB CC off.

Now the question is will I ever need to use the CC on the CECB?

You're very welcome!

I do like my old Magnavox TV's analog captions; they're crisp and easy to read. However, I myself have found turning on the closed captions from the CECB useful for multiple purposes. For one thing, my own old Magnavox TV stopped showing captions right away when I turn it on, so it's nice to have captions right away by using the CECB's captions. Other analog TVs might stop showing captions altogether but work well in other respects.

I also like having open captioned recordings on my TiVo (created when the TiVo records the captioned program from the CECB). I can forward through some parts and read the dialog if the open captions are legible. I could also create open-captioned recordings on DVDs if I chose to do so, whereas many DVD recording software programs don't properly support closed captioning.

I saw a friend's Magnavox CECB's captions on her TV and saw that they can actually get suitably large, and they looked easier to read than the main TV she was using (because that TV did a poor job with its analog captions). Sometimes a CECB's captions will look better than one's own analog TV's captions, and sometimes they won't.

Dana
tjmjb's Avatar tjmjb
06:55 PM Liked: 10
post #199 of 226
06-20-2008 | Posts: 5
Joined: Jun 2008
I haven't found the answer to this question yet, will the 608 analog stop being transmitted along with the analog video?
tjmjb's Avatar tjmjb
07:04 PM Liked: 10
post #200 of 226
06-20-2008 | Posts: 5
Joined: Jun 2008
About the DTVpal, is the main issue the EPG? I have had this Zenith #901 2 days now and I don't think I would give up the universal remote for the EPG. The 901 also has a CC button.
The only things I am lacking are better captions and a tuner that would get the last channel left to pickup in our area. (the channel is distant and low wattage)
TalkingRat's Avatar TalkingRat
07:19 PM Liked: 22
post #201 of 226
06-20-2008 | Posts: 2,180
Joined: Mar 2008
With the 900, you have to press the button about 15 times to turn cc off, so it's little help if text is in the way. As explained to me, DTVPal menu has the cc setup, and the button is a quick on/off, without having to wade through all the options. I haven't seen detailed examples of the cc images yet.

The advantages that caught my attention were price ($40, just raised to $60), 5 event timers (so CECB so is on and tuned to right channel for recording), and yes, long EPG.
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
08:24 PM Liked: 10
post #202 of 226
06-20-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by tjmjb View Post

I haven't found the answer to this question yet, will the 608 analog stop being transmitted along with the analog video?

The 608 caption data is still required to be transmitted for digital programming (albeit in a digital format) along with 708 caption data. Converter boxes then convert that data into an analog format, Line 21, that can then be decoded by analog TVs and other analog TV products. If this didn't happen, then we wouldn't see analog captions on analog TVs from converter boxes. All converter boxes are required to "pass through" analog captions (though they actually have to convert the ATSC 608 data into a form that can be decoded by NTSC, i.e., analog TVs).

One of the advantages of the DTVPal is that it would enable unattended recordings of digital OTA TV to one's VCR, DVD recorder or analog DVR. To my knowledge, no other CECB has been publicized as having that "VCR" feature. Other CECBs have extended EPGs but I think all the EPGs may work for only one channel at a time. Thus to get a comprehensive overview of listings on all channels, one will still want to look at a TV guide.

Dana
tjmjb's Avatar tjmjb
07:11 AM Liked: 10
post #203 of 226
06-21-2008 | Posts: 5
Joined: Jun 2008
Thank you for the points of the DTVPal,
and about the 608 issue - my TV will continue to get CC 608 data after next year through the CECB?
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
02:24 PM Liked: 10
post #204 of 226
06-25-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by tjmjb View Post

Thank you for the points of the DTVPal, and about the 608 issue - my TV will continue to get CC 608 data after next year through the CECB?

Your TV should be able to continue getting CEA-608 data IF the TV stations are transmitting this data as they should. However, the FCC needs to make it clearer that both CEA-608 and CEA-708 captions need to be broadcast for all digital programming in order to comply with captioning requirements. There's a chance that some TV station engineers don't or won't realize they need to broadcast both types of captions, and then it will be up to you to complain if you don't see the captions you need. The TV stations are still responsible for providing both types of captions even if the FCC hasn't made this clear to them. (The requirement is buried in a private standard adopted by the FCC in its DTV order that costs money to buy and which isn't available through the FCC itself.)

If you get a converter box that can decode digital captions (and analog captions), you'll have the ability to switch as needed if the TV stations do mess up. If you find that you're not getting CEA-608 captions on your analog TV for a particular program, for example, you can try turning on the caption decoding from the converter box to see if the captions will show up and to tide you over until the TV station corrects what it's doing. (But the TV station won't correct what it's doing unless someone like you alerts the station that there's a problem.)

Dana
elaine851's Avatar elaine851
09:30 AM Liked: 10
post #205 of 226
10-01-2008 | Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2008
Can someone tell me what these digital closed caption modes mean?

CS1, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5, CS6


dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
03:55 PM Liked: 10
post #206 of 226
10-05-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by elaine851 View Post

Can someone tell me what these digital closed caption modes mean?

CS1, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5, CS6



The CS1 is basically the digital equivalent of CC1 (analog closed captions in the primary language). The "S" in "CS1" represents "Service." Most of the time we who communicate in English will want to choose CS1 for stations that are broadcasting primarily in English.

There's no requirement for the stations to use any other service, I think, so there may be nothing that is transmitted via CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5, or CS6. However, some options are to provide simplified English on CS2, Spanish captions on CS2 or CS3, or French or other languages on the other services. It's up to the station to decide whether they'll transmit anything on another service.

Simplified English would be useful for caption viewers who cannot read regular captions quickly, such as very young children, slow readers, or people who are not native speakers of English. It might also be possible for simplified captions to be provided in other languages as well.

Note that stations that broadcast in another language like Spanish or Chinese would broadcast captions in the same language on CC1 or CS1, but might possibly offer English captions on another service.

Many user manuals are doing a pretty poor job explaining what to select when setting up digital captions, so a LOT of people will be surprised when they're asked to choose a digital service (CS1, CS2, etc.). Generally, the safe rule of thumb is going to be to choose the default setting or number 1, but it's a shame not more information is provided.

Dana
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
02:36 PM Liked: 10
post #207 of 226
10-06-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
The FCC has published an advisory detailing selected features of 41 converter boxes currently on the market, including some limited information on closed captioning and video description. The list is supposed to be updated periodically.

http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts...xfeatures.html

It's interesting what information is provided, such as a limited description of how the caption button behaves on the remote control---whether it toggles the captions on or off (toggle), whether it sequentially progresses through the caption options (the CC1 or CS2 options) or whether it brings up the menu, which none of the currently listed ones do. Some of the caption buttons on the remote controls only cycle through the CC1, CC2 and other analog caption choices and NOT the digital services. For those remote controls, you have to dig into the menu system in order to change the digital service from CS1 to CS2.

What's not said is whether the toggle button turns off the captions for the channel being watched or for all channels. For example, the Zenith/Insignia's caption button only governs the caption settings for the channel being watched, while caption buttons from some other converter boxes apply to all channels.

According to the document, all of the listed converter boxes will at least decode the advanced 708 captions, but some of them do not decode the basic 608 captions, such as the Dish Network, RCA and Philco boxes. So those boxes won't be useful for the few customers who have TVs or monitors that can't decode analog captions and who use analog pass-through. Also, if a station is messing up by not providing 708 captions (which some PBS stations have done), the consumer won't have any captions to decode on those converter boxes.

The document does NOT communicate that other accessibility issues still need to be evaluated by the user, like whether the captions are suitably large or legible, or if there are problems with the captions running off the screen (which has happened with some large caption settings). Also, nothing is said about the existence of a caption preview to help set up digital caption settings.

Anyone disagree with any of the findings of this document? I was pleasantly surprised that the document stated that all the listed converter boxes decode 708 captions, for example.

Dana
electrictroy's Avatar electrictroy
05:25 AM Liked: 10
post #208 of 226
10-07-2008 | Posts: 776
Joined: Jul 2008
After reading this thread (and testing a few boxes myself), I think you're better off using the analog captions. The digital captions are small and hard-to-read, whereas the analog captions on both my televisions are large, bold, and easy to see.

Also the digital captions have an annoying habit of showing-up 5 seconds after the person's mouth moves (example: Family Guy reruns). So it's like watching delayed audio! The analog captions are in sync with the video which makes them superior IMHO.
dmulvany's Avatar dmulvany
10:56 AM Liked: 10
post #209 of 226
10-07-2008 | Posts: 419
Joined: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by electrictroy View Post

After reading this thread (and testing a few boxes myself), I think you're better off using the analog captions. The digital captions are small and hard-to-read, whereas the analog captions on both my televisions are large, bold, and easy to see.

It sounds like you have good analog captions from your TVs, but that's not the case for all TVs, and some old TVs don't even show any captions at all.

Also, digital captions are not always small and hard to read. Certain converter boxes do generate small digital captions, like the DigitalStream CECB, but that's not the case for all converter boxes.

(For HDTV users, one also needs to check out whether the small digital captions are fixed ones delivered from the cable company (cable companies like Comcast or Time Warner are often providing inferior digital captions that are small and fixed rather than fully adjustable ones).)

Quote:


Also the digital captions have an annoying habit of showing-up 5 seconds after the person's mouth moves (example: Family Guy reruns). So it's like watching delayed audio! The analog captions are in sync with the video which makes them superior IMHO.

Delayed captions are indeed horrible and can be unwatchable. However, delays in digital captions are due to problems from the TV station or somewhere else, like if the digital captions are being created on the fly from analog captions. Reruns are more likely to show this kind of problem because of the greater technical difficulty using the original digital captions (special equipment is needed to access the original digital captions).

If there's a delay in digital captions during primetime broadcasts for pre-recorded dramas and comedies, then there's a technical problem that needs to be reported and resolved. (All local Fox stations, for example, had problems like this and need to update their caption encoder with firmware if they didn't already do so.) These problems need to be fixed sooner rather than later, so please bring such problems to the attention of the station.

It takes a while, but one can learn to analyze where the caption problems are coming from and to note whether they exist for all programs on all channels or just for some programs on a particular channel and whether there are different problems on other channels.

Dana
sparkman386's Avatar sparkman386
04:46 PM Liked: 10
post #210 of 226
11-11-2008 | Posts: 12
Joined: Aug 2007
Has any one ever done a shootout with these 2 converters? I am looking for 1 that will lock in fringe area signals. I have the DTT900 which does pretty well. I keep hoping to find a converter that will do better. If some could advise on this, that would be great. 73's

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