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Steven Matricciani

The 2009 subtitle discussion

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Just a couple of useful, common sense suggestions:

Raise the screens closer to the ceiling, in order to read the subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

( Either hang them from the ceiling or purchase larger stands that raise the screen up much higher. )

Set up the theater width wise. Instead of 20 seats across by 150 rows deep, how about 150 seats across by 20 rows deep?

Just move the screen to the side of the room instead of the back of the room.

(I would much rather be off to the right or left and only have to look past a few rows of people to read the subtitles.)

I know this HAS been brought up every year in plenty of previous threads, however NO MODERATOR has ever offered any reassurance that anything will be done.

I mentioned that the noise from the adjoining panel room really hurt my experience in the HD theater. The moderator there looked into the situation and said they will add noise baffling cloth to the walls. (great first step).

I have to say that I am a bit angry that a thread was locked recently on this very topic.

I have been coming here and shelling out plenty of cash since the show moved from PA to Hunt Valley, MD and this has always been a problem.

So I think what myself and 50,000 other attendees want to know is; what is being done to fix the readability of the subtitles in 2009?

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The sarcastic side of me wants to say "We'll just skip subtitles altogether and go with dubs throughout", because short of having an extra setup day and more tech staff, stadium seating throughout, and a lot more money to do either, that's the only way to solve this problem.

You're asking for reassurance that something will be done; the best that we can generally offer is to say that we will make the attempt. We make the attempt every year -- but sometimes it doesn't happen as planned. Why? Well one reason is that a relatively small number of people must oversee the tech setup for about 40 rooms. It's a massive undertaking and all the setup must be done in about 24 hours, by the same folks who are on duty for the entire weekend. You wouldn't believe the sort of emergencies and last-minute changes that come up, and the team has to roll with the punches. And you're fighting people's instincts to give the largest image possible for big rooms. And to some extent, the problem will never be solvable with all the seats on one level; god help anyone who gets stuck sitting behind me (I'm 6'5") when there's no stadium seating. Usually the bigger image wins over the subtitle visibility.

So it's always a problem because it's not as easy to solve as you think -- not least because it involves doing so for many rooms under extreme time pressure. (You have almost certainly no idea how much is involved in the logistics of setting up this convention.) But I share your frustration that this particular issue has never been resolved to a satisfactory level.

It's unlikely that the room configurations will change -- there are technical reasons why we can't effectively change some of those layouts (though you'd have to get a room-by-room breakdown from our tech team for the exact reasons). And while you may personally prefer the wider layouts, line of sight preferences are far from universal (and if they were, I suspect they'd lean the other way).

But for whatever it's worth, I assure that I will, as I have before, specifically remind our tech team about the issue, and ask them to put specific instructions about adjusting for subtitle height in the room setup instructions.

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Before I answer your question, I'd like to clarify that in addition to being a moderator, he's the Dept Head of the HD Theater and so is directly involved in the situation. Many other members of our moderating team are involved in other areas of the convention.

We are looking into how we can improve the subtitle visibility, and some of your suggestions have been brought up as possible solutions in meetings. There have also been discussions about utilizing some of the space in the Hilton, or otherwise reorganizing some of the video rooms into higher-ceilinged spaces. Whether any or all changes will be implemented, though, rests on the department heads and the programming chief.

We do always listen. I know that can be hard to be believed when you've heard nothing but silence, but we listen to (and appreciate!) our members' concerns, and always make the best effort possible to address them and improve the convention. If it weren't for you all, we wouldn't have such a great show. I'll mention your concerns to the programming chief, and we'll go from there. Thanks for bringing this up again.

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...But for whatever it's worth, I assure that I will, as I have before, specifically remind our tech team about the issue, and ask them to put specific instructions about adjusting for subtitle height in the room setup instructions.

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