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Search Captions on Hulu

December 21st, 2009 by Eugene Wei SVP, Audience

Today we’ve added a new beta feature to the site in Hulu Labs: Captions Search. You can now search the captions for thousands of videos across hundreds of shows.

You can initiate a captions search from the Hulu Labs page for the feature, but the more permanent home for captions search is in the new Captions tab on any show or video page for any program with captions.

Captions Tab

Recently I watched an episode of House, and they made a funny joke about the resemblance between Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps) and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. I couldn’t remember which episode it was in, let alone which moment of within the episode.

With the new caption search, I just type in “mike tomlin”, and voila.

House Captions Search Result

If you just want a quick preview of the search result, hover your mouse cursor over the image and a short segment of video around the search term will play in the thumbnail. To see it at full size, click on the search result text and we’ll send you to that spot in the full-size video. (House knows about football? He truly is a man for all seasons.)

One bonus that comes with caption search is what we’re calling the heat map. This is a visual graph of the user interest throughout the span of a video and is available on any captioned video that has accumulated enough user views. It appears at the top of the captions tab for those videos. We analyze a variety of viewer behaviors to generate the heat map.

The first use for the heat map is as a navigation tool: You can click on any bar in the graph to jump to that section of captions. If you search the captions for a video, we’ll highlight bars in blue in the heat map to indicate where the matching results appear in the video.

But a second use is to find particularly popular segments within that video. For many videos, interest is fairly linear across a program, but for some shows, the pattern reveals intriguing spikes.

For example, here’s the heat map for one episode of a popular show on our site.

Heap Map for Glee

You’ll notice a peak about three-fourths of the way through the video. This is the ninth episode of Glee, titled “Wheels,” and that mesa in the graph represents one of the musical numbers for which the show has become so beloved, in this case a performance of “Defying Gravity.”

In fact, in almost every episode of Glee you’ll find these peaks in the heat map corresponding to the musical numbers. In the episode “Mattress,” the peak about halfway through is for the kids’ performance of Van Halen’s “Jump” (with a smaller but visible crest just a few minutes earlier for a cover of Lily Allen’s “Smile”).

Heat Map for Glee

Lest you think Glee is the only show capitalizing on this music craze, check out this episode of The Colbert Report. What is that Everest of viewer interest at the end of the episode? Let’s just say we’re convinced now, there’s nothing Colbert can’t do.

Heat Map for Colbert Report

In the Pilot of V, what is the spike about eight minutes into the episode? Hint: hello, Morena Baccarin!

Heat Map for V

As this feature is still in beta, we’re curious to see how you use it and what you’d like to see from it. Your feedback, as always, is welcome at .

Happy holidays!

Eugene Wei ()
VP, Product

Last comment: Aug 15th 2017 20 Comments

New Site Features

December 1st, 2008 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Visit your Hulu profile page today, and you may notice a new tab: Recommendations (beta). Our Beijing team has developed an engine that suggests new videos for you based on the videos you’ve watched while logged into Hulu. At the top of the Recommendations page, you’ll notice five shows our system thinks you might enjoy. (You must be logged into your Hulu account to access the Recommendations page. To sign up for a free Hulu account, visit https://secure.hulu.com/signup.)

Below the show recommendations, we’ve listed a number of videos that may be of interest to you. If you’ve already seen any of these videos, you can mark that particular video “I’ve seen this,” or, if you’re not interested in the video, there’s a checkbox for that, too. Whenever you update your video preferences, just click the “Refresh Recommendations” button at the top or bottom of each page of results to remove those suggestions from the recommendations list. And if you would like to share your feedback with our team, feel free to email suggestions or questions to .

As the Recommendations engine is still in beta, we’re still gathering data and the system’s video suggestions should improve over time. For the best recommendations, it’s best to remain logged into Hulu whenever you visit the site — that way, the system “remembers” which videos you’ve seen on Hulu and won’t recommend episodes you’ve already seen. Give it a try now: Check out the new, still-in-beta Recommendations feature by going to your Hulu profile page and clicking on the “Recommendations (beta)” tab, or by pointing your browser to hulu.com/users/recommendation.


In addition to new recommendations, we’re also launching a feature that many of our users have asked for: A filter that allows you to quickly find closed captioned videos from our Most Popular, Recently Added and Search Results pages. A simple click on the Closed Captioning filter — which appears under “Special Features” at the bottom of the column on the left of these pages — will display only those videos that feature closed captioning, as indicated by the “cc” icon that appears before the video title on these results pages. You can take a look from our Popular Episodes page, where I’ve turn on the Closed Captioning filter. In addition, you can easily identify which episodes of a show have closed captioning from the text-based list view; just look for the “cc” icon that appears between the video title and its run time — see the main show page for Bones for an example. If there’s a mix of captioned and non-captioned videos, you can click on the “cc” header at the top of the list to bring all of the captioned episodes to the top.

We’re committed to building our library of captioned videos over time, so you can expect to see the selection grow over time. To make it easier for you to access captioning, we have a default setting that allows you to turn on closed captions automatically, whenever they’re available. You can find that setting by going to your Hulu profile page and clicking on the Privacy and Settings tab. You’ll find a Closed Captioning setting on the left side of the page; set that to “Yes” to make captions the default.

Closed Captioning Filter

We’re devoting the rest of the work week to more Hulu for the Holidays movies. Check back tomorrow for a star-powered romantic comedy that’s all about a love-struck woman’s attempt to stop a wedding so she can have the groom for herself.

Rebecca (),

Last comment: May 11th 2012 10 Comments