Cable HDTV, HDMI, and closed captions

We just got a new TV. I’ve had the same 20-something inch tube for enough years that the cabinet has yellowed for being in the window. We got an insanely good deal on a 50-inch plasma, so it was really impossible to pass up.

Get home, hook everything up just so. Plug the new HD cable box into the HDMI port on the back of the TV. And, no captions. Not even an option on the HDMI menu. *sigh*

I did a bit of research on the intertubes, and there were some vague references to a few things…but one stood out. A guy talked about his cable box that had settings for captions. It seemed weird, but not outside the realm of possibility that there was such a setting. But I couldn’t find it. Whenever I hit the ‘settings’ button for the cable box, the DVR screen came up. So I called Cox. They are generally very good with their customer support. Well, what do you know? The guy told me to hit settings. When I told him the DVR screen came up, he told me that there was nothing else he could help me with. So I asked him to escalate me to level 2 support. He said sure. And then promptly sent me back to the main menu. JERK.

While I was holding, my husband asked to see the remote. He hit the ‘menu’ button on the cable remote, and VOILA! There was a menu. There was a menu item for captions! Apparently there’s a cc-decoder in the cable box. It reads the captions from the signal, and overlays them directly onto the video before sending it out to the TV through the HDMI port.

So, if you have an HDTV and an HD cable box, and you want to use your HDMI port, check the settings on your CABLE BOX. With any luck, it’ll have a decoder, and you’ll be able to see captions on all your programs, in high def! The quality of the captions depends on the cable box — the box’s captions aren’t as good-looking as the ones directly from the TV, but they definitely do the job, and that is a GOOD THING.

2 comments on this post.
  1. Annie:

    Thanks for this. My cable company, Comcast, said the captions should just be there (of course they were not) and weren’t able to help me. I nearly returned the HD box and got a “normal” cable box instead, because I have a deaf roommate. Glad I googled before doing that! I was able to use your suggestion and successfully turn on closed captioning through the cable box. So FYI to people: it works for Comcast HD service, at least in the Baltimore area.

  2. George:

    good advice – and it works with comcast’s box in alexandria, virginia. it did take me a while to figure it out, though…..