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Information about captioning for video professionals

Volume 2 - The Lowdown on Upgrades: FCC Standards, Digital and PAL Encoding Equipment

The FCC's new line-21 decoder specification allows greater flexibility in closed captioning and corrects shortcomings of the previous specification. The new specification, which took effect on July 1, 1993, is included in the FCC rules. Recommended practices for implementing the new specification are contained in EIA-608, published by the Electronic Industries Association.

Since EIA-608 recommended that the original TeleCaption decoder be supported only until January 1995, and TeleCaption II-type decoders until July 2002, we recommend immediate upgrades to all production equipment used to create and monitor line-21 closed captions. This allows caption providers to make judicious use of the new codes while maintaining backward compatibility.
If you own an EEG encoder manufactured before mid-April, 1992, it is not fully FCC compliant and needs to be upgraded by EEG. The upgrade includes a firmware change which allows the encoder to recognize the new FCC codes, and a replacement for the decoder section of the unit. If you own EEG decoders (DE 101, DE 121), EEG offers an upgrade to these devices as well. If you are unsure if your equipment needs to be upgraded, call EEG and be prepared to give them the name of the device and its serial number.
Digital Encoding
Until recently, all caption encoding was in the analog domain because all video was itself an analog signal. However, because of increased use of digital video, the following manufacturers are making upgrades or new equipment available now:

  • EEG's new Simple/Smart Encoder Digital Upgrade. The upgrade to existing EEG encoding equipment involves moving the existing circuitry into a new chassis which will accommodate a new digital encoding board. This upgrade will work with either D2 or D3 VCRs. EEG has announced a new encoder, the EN 470, with support for a wider range of signal formats.
  • SoftTouch Digital Encoder Board.
    SoftTouch has announced a PC board (for AT-style ISA machines) for use with the SoftTouch analog encoder board. SoftTouch will also offer a turn-key, digital caption-encoding system. This is a miniaturized PC equipped with the analog and digital encoding boards, a data-recovery decoder board, a character-generator decoder board and a modem. The analog system includes a timecode-reader board; the digital system will incorporate one in the near future.
  • Others.
    Other manufacturers will announce digital encoders in 1995 and 1996.

PAL Line-21 Encoding
Closed captioning in PAL countries is usually encoded as WST (teletext) data, even though teletext is difficult or impossible to record in ordinary VHS format. An alternative method, based on the North American line-21 system, is now available in the U.K. Caption data are encoded on line 22. Although not yet used for broadcast, this method works well in the VHS environment.
If your clients are asking about encoding captions on PAL masters bound for the U.K. or other countries, you may wish to inquire about new equipment or an existing line-21 encoder:

  • EEG's Simple and Smart Encoder PAL Upgrade.
    EEG's upgrade to its existing encoding equipment includes the installation of a switch allowing for selection of PAL or NTSC. Using an upgrade purchased directly from EEG, any encoding facility will be able to create a PAL closed-captioned master.
  • SoftTouch encoders.
    These devices, based on PC cards or in stand-alone enclosures, can encode caption data into NTSC or PAL video.
  • Ultech EDS400 encoder.
    This device can encode caption data into NTSC or PAL video.
  • Norpak CES2 encoder.
    This device can encode data into NTSC or PAL video.

Vendor information:
EEG Enterprises, Inc.
1 Rome St.
Farmingdale, NY 11735
516 293-7472
SoftTouch, Inc.
301 749-1484
Ultech Corporation
28 Great Hill Road, Bldg. C
Seymour, CT 06483
203 735-5805
Link Electronics, Inc.
753 Enterprise Street
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
314 334-4433
Norpak Corporation
10 Hearst Way
Kanata, Ontario K2L 2P4
613 592-4164

To contact us for more information about captioning:
The Caption Center at WGBH
125 Western Avenue
Boston, MA 02134
(617) 300-3600 V/TTY
(617) 300-1020 fax
Los Angeles
300 E. Magnolia Blvd.
2nd Floor
Burbank, CA 91502
818 562-3344 voice
818 562-1919 TTY
818 562-3388 fax
New York
545 Fifth Ave.
Suite 609
New York, NY 10017
212 490-3677 voice
212 490-3688 fax

Caption Services Description Services NCAM