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Presentation Rate

The presentation rate is the number of captioned words per minute that are displayed onscreen.

This is a crucial factor in captioning, as the viewer needs time to read the captions, integrate the captions and picture, and internalize and comprehend the message. Editing of text may sometimes be necessary to achieve these goals, but a caption should maintain the original meaning, content, and essential vocabulary.

Each word is counted when calculating the presentation rate, as opposed to basing the calculation on the number of characters. In addition, speaker identification, sound effects, and other similar elements must be included in the calculations.

For more on presentation rates, read the Captioning Presentation Rate Research document on the Captioning Key Appendices page.

Specifications and Guidelines

  1. All lower- to middle-level educational media should be captioned at a presentation rate range not to exceed 120–130 words per minute (wpm). Upper-level educational media may be captioned slightly above the 120–130 wpm range. No caption should remain onscreen less than two seconds.
  2. Special-interest media for adults require a presentation rate range not to exceed 150–160 wpm. The presentation rate can be increased if heavy editing radically changes the original meaning, content, or language structure. No caption should remain onscreen less than two seconds.
  3. Theatrical productions for children should be captioned at a rate range not to exceed 150–160 wpm. No caption should remain onscreen less than two seconds.
  4. Theatrical productions for adults should be captioned at a near-verbatim rate, but no caption should remain onscreen less than two seconds or exceed 235 wpm.

Editing

Many educational, special-interest, and theatrical media are not scripted to allow the time necessary for the process of reading captions and often have extremely rapid narration/dialogue. Therefore, minor editing may be necessary. No caption should remain onscreen for less than two seconds.

  1. Editing is performed only when a caption exceeds a specified presentation rate limit. Proper editing should maintain both the original meaning, content, essential vocabulary, and meet presentation rate requirements. Borrowing 15 frames before and after the audio occurs is hardly noticeable to the viewer. This “borrowing” technique can be used occasionally when presentation rate is a factor. Examples:
    Original Narration This does violate the principle of treating similar enumerations the same way.
    Inappropriate This does break
    the principle

    of treating numbers
    the same.
    Appropriate This violates
    the principle

    of treating similar
    enumerations the same.
    Original Narration Will you get out of here!
    Inappropriate Will you leave now!
    Appropriate Will you get out!
    Original Narration Thunderstorms and dangerous lightning can come suddenly out of nowhere.
    Inappropriate Storms and lightning
    can come suddenly

    out of nowhere.
    Appropriate Thunderstorms
    and dangerous lightning

    can come suddenly.
  2. If necessary to maintain reading rate, redundant and/or nonessential information can be removed. Examples:
    Original Narration It is really, really difficult to find good help. Edited It is really difficult
    to find good help.
    Original Narration Like I said before, this bill on the House floor is an insult to the country. Edited This bill on the House floor
    is an insult to the country.
  3. The only times when presentation rate is ignored are when any person is quoted, a well-known or famous person is speaking onscreen, poems and other published works are quoted, and/or song lyrics are sung. These must be captioned verbatim.
  4. Do not caption the same, or nearly the same, information that is already shown onscreen.
    demonstration of how not to caption the same information that is already on screen.
    Please enable Javascript to view the fully-featured clip. View MP4 version.
    demonstration of how not to caption the same information that is already on screen.

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