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.
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.
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.
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”).
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.
In the Pilot of V, what is the spike about eight minutes into the episode? Hint: hello, Morena Baccarin!
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 .
Eugene Wei ()