Top Gear! Top Captioner!

May 7 2012 David Titmus
Apple MacBook

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A new episode of “Top Gear” airs tonight on BBC America. Offline captioner Brandon Woo, is the primary captioner for the series and has worked on the last six series… that’s 45 episodes! We caught up with Brandon for a brief Q&A about the series and his experiences captioning it.

How do you go about captioning each episode?
Well, “Top Gear” always has exactly 4 versions. There’s two 90-minute versions, an 80, and a 60. I caption one of the 90s from scratch, copy the whole thing to the other 90-minute version to check for errors, and then I go through and cut out the stuff they removed for the shorter versions. I generally research terms and do it as I’m working and things come up within the show.

What’s best part about captioning the show? The most difficult?
The best part is that it’s often hilarious. Plus, you just think about how awesome these guys’ jobs are. I mean, they get to drive expensive cars and make fun of each other for a living! What’s better than that? The most difficult parts are the interview and news sections. They can be a bit fast-paced, but that’s really a very minor complaint.

After captioning all of these shows, are you a “Gearhead”?
I am not. With the cars they review, it’s really not affordable to be on their level. I really appreciate the show more for its sense of humor than the cars. The cars are awesome, and I would love to drive them, but I have no real interest in the torques and the BHP and the gearboxes and everything under the hood.

Well, expenses aside, what is your dream car?
Definitely a Bugatti Veyron. I recall an orange one from the back of my memory, so I tried looking it up. All I could only find this black and orange one – but I think that’s pretty stunning, as well.

Nice. Let’s go in the other direction. What was your first car?
My first car was a 1989 Toyota Camry hatchback. My father wanted to make sure that I had something dirt cheap that he considered safe. That car had a button on the center console that was labeled “Power” that did absolutely nothing, and my friends liked to push the button randomly to try and speed me up when I wasn’t going fast enough for them.

Do you know how to drive a manual?
Not really. A couple people have given me lessons, so, theoretically, if I were to find myself in some kind of life-or-death car chase, I could drive a manual if that is all I had at my disposal, but in general, you probably wouldn’t want me to drive your manual car unless you wanted me to shred up your gears.

Gotcha. Well, let’s go back to the series. Who is your favorite guest driver?
Well, that’s tough to answer since the guest driver is my least favorite part of the show, but if pressed, I would say Rowan Atkinson was probably my favorite because I love Mr. Bean. He did very well and is apparently a big “petrol head,” as they call car enthusiasts.

And finally, what is your favorite “Top Gear” episode?
My favorite episodes are the “specials,” which follow a different format than most of the regular episodes. They’re usually an hour to an hour and a half totally dedicated to the three guys driving across some foreign country, often providing for some spectacular views. I like these episodes the best because they allow the hosts to be at their funniest and it’s awesome to see them drive around the exotic locales, some of them you wouldn’t have thought to visit before, but after seeing them, they should go on your list of places to visit.