Play of the Ball standards

When captioning sport, much of what the commentators say is simply describing events that are happening on screen. This information is called ‘play of the ball’ (POTB) and does not need to be captioned for several reasons:

  • The viewer can clearly see the action happening on screen.
  • Captions sometimes appear on screen a few seconds before or after the dialogue. This can cause a poor viewer experience when actions that have already occurred or haven’t occurred yet are captioned.
  • Unnecessary captions can obscure what’s happening on screen and be distracting for the viewer.

Extra information not clearly visible on-screen should be captioned, however. This includes value judgements about the action, background information and other speculation.

For example, in the below dialogue from a hypothetical soccer match where the action is happening on the screen, only the sections in bold are required to be captioned:

“Jordan Henderson with the ball now, under pressure from Marco Reus. A good tackle there from Reus. Now Germany has the ball, heading downfield now with Max Meyer. Germany have been very solid in defence today. Alan, as you predicted before the match, this has been a tight game so far. Lost the ball there, and now with Gary Cahill. 30 minutes gone in the game and still no score. I wonder if we will see a goal before half-time.”

In the above example, the elements that were captioned were value judgments, such as a good tackle, and other information that was not visible on-screen. The sentence about the time elapsed and the score is not necessary to caption, provided the game clock and scoreboard are visible on screen, as they usually are.

If the file you are submitting already has POTB captioned, there is no need to remove it.

Updated on May 6, 2021

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