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How can I see closed captions from DVDs on my HDTV?
September 6, 2008 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I've got an upconverting DVD player hooked up to an HDTV via an HDMI cable. I can't get the closed captions to display at all, and I know I'm not the only person to have this problem. Any suggestions?

So, yes, I've got some mild hearing loss, and I prefer to watch DVDs with subtitles on so I can follow the dialogue without having to turn up the volume to wife-bothering levels. Sometimes, though, a DVD won't include subtitles (infuriatingly common among TV shows, I've noticed) and I'm forced to turn to the closed captions. The problem is that HDMI doesn't want to carry the captions to the screen, so I have to use an analog connection such as S-video or component, and the picture quality takes a serious hit. I'd give it up as hopeless if not for this, from HDMI.org, which states that "Closed captioning is available as long as the source supports and renders it." That's awfully vague, but it gives me a small amount of encouragement.

So how about it? Can anyone recommend a specific make and model of upconverting DVD player which will transmit closed captions to my HDTV via HDMI? I'm tired of watching grainy, pixelated TV shows just so I can follow the story.

Anyone who suggests that I just use the English subtitles on the DVD has clearly not read the question, and will be deserving of great mockery.
posted by Faint of Butt to Technology (7 answers total)
 
Unfortunately, some cursory research seems to reveal that you'll need an upconverting DVD player the specifically supports closed captioning in order to get what you want.

From a comment on a blog post (you'll have to scroll down a good bit):
The problem here is that DVD’s use the EIA608 method of closed captioning which depends entirely on the TV displaying the closed captions with its built in closed caption decoder circuitry.

AFAIK, EIA608 only works for NTSC video streams which includes composite, s-video, and sometimes component (480i only). When you’re talking about an upsampling DVD player that displays over the DVI/HDMI or high resolution component (720p/1080i), then it is not reasonable to expect the TV’s closed captioning decoder to work because it’s not supposed to! This is why closed captioning is not being displayed on DVD’s on upsampling DVD players (to my knowledge) at high resolutions. Only subtitles work, and subtitles on DVDs are an entirely different beast - they’re actually subpictures and it is the responsibility of the DVD player to display the subpicture/subtitles, NOT the TV....
If your particular DVD player supports this, it would be in the DVD player's settings -- normal closed captioning would be enabled through your TV's settings...
posted by twiggy at 6:35 PM on September 6, 2008


This AVSForum post mentions that the Panasonic DMR-EZ47V supports rendering captions and sending them over HDMI.
posted by zsazsa at 7:47 PM on September 6, 2008


Hmm. A decent component connection at 720p/1080i should near rival HDMI in quality - it's not quite as good, but shouldn't be giving you anywhere near such a serious hit as say, svideo. May be worth finding out why your component connection is so dire before you plump out for a new upscaling dvd player that zsazasa suggested - though that's probably the best long term solution.

Alternatively, you could just use the english subtitles instead, it's not like you watch many TV shows, right? ;)
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:21 PM on September 6, 2008


Unfortunately, ArkhanJG, recent DVD players will not upconvert pictures on a component output due to DRM issues. They will only upconvert via HDMI.
posted by fireoyster at 11:49 PM on September 6, 2008


Hit submit too soon: That's why the picture quality drops dramatically; the upconversion is no longer in effect, so it's being displayed at the DVD's native resolution (480p?).
posted by fireoyster at 11:51 PM on September 6, 2008


Ah, I was aware of the bluray DRM downsample bit (largely not turned on yet) over analog connections compared to HDMI, but I wasn't aware that DVD upscalers were pulling the same trick now. The cheap chinese knockoff players in my neck of the woods don't have that problem yet. Yes, 480p (or even 480i!) will definitely look pants over composite in comparison. Is there anything the move industry won't do to screw over their own customers without affecting piracy in the slightest? Sigh.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:26 AM on September 7, 2008


if you can throw a PC at it, the open source video player 'xine' (for linux) will display closed captions from DVDs and supports DVD navigation. There are probably other alternatives as well.
posted by jepler at 6:29 AM on September 7, 2008


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