SDH Subtitles vs. Captioning

What does SDH subtitles mean and why do we provide them instead of Closed Captions?

I know Jen explained about captions and subtitles back in March, but I thought I’d elaborate a little on what the acronym SDH means and why we’ve chosen this format for our subtitles. SDH stands for Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing, and they are convey everything that you’d see in closed captioning – dialogue, sound effects (doorbell ringing, dog barking, etc.), lyrics.  Subtitles can be turned on right from a disc menu.  Captions and subtitles are similar, but they are encoded differently.  Captions include both audio and sound effects.  Subtitles don’t always include sound effects (think of seeing a foreign film with subtitles; you can still hear the audio).  This is why we specifically use SDH.

A few years ago we started getting customer calls saying they couldn’t turn on their captions.  At first we thought we had faulty discs on the market or that it must be DVD compatibility issues, but then we used our “little grey cells” and realized that these customers had recently upgraded their A/V set-ups.

HDTV sets and many Blu-Ray and DVD players utilize a type of connection called HDMI which provides better audio and video quality than other connections.  One downside of this is that HDMI does not support the older closed captioning standards.  Someone using an HDMI cable to connect their DVD player to their HDTV will not be able to see closed captions from the disc (unless their DVD player has a built-in decoder).

Since Blu-Ray was developed to be used with HDMI cables, and HDMI does not support the closed captioning standard, we encode our Blu-Ray releases with subtitles.  The SDH subtitles can be accessed right from your player’s menu, without a problem, no matter what sort of connection you have to your TV.  Rather than have one set of discs with closed captions (DVDs) and another with subtitles (Blu-Ray), Acorn has chosen to unify all our titles with the SDH subtitles.

For more information on HDMI and closed captioning click here.

Maybe one day we’ll tell you all about the exciting world of Blu-ray authoring, formats, conversions, etc. We’ve definitely entered a new world of technical challenges.

Christy is Director of Product Development at Acorn. When she’s not in front of the television, she can be found in spin classes at the gym, catching a concert or mastering her new iPad.


  • 1
    Cherie Manzano
    July 1, 2011 - 9:16 am | Permalink

    I purchased the entire series box set of “A Fine Romance” from Acorn and was dismayed to find out that I could not use it because there are no captions or subtitles at all on it. Are they now including subtitles on this item? May I return it to exchange for the same item with the new SDH subtitles? Thanks.

  • 2
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