Hulu Captions Search a Preview of General Video Search to Come?

    December 21, 2009
    Chris Crum

Hulu has a new captions search feature available via Hulu Labs. The feature allows Hulu users to search the captions of videos across hundreds of different shows. Show and video pages now have a "Captions" tab, and search can be found there.

Hulu 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," says Hulu’s Eugene Wei. "With the new caption search, I just type in ‘mike tomlin’, and voila."

Search Captions

Users can hover their cursors over images to get quick previews. It will show a short segment of a video centered around the search term. This will play in the thumbnail.

This is a good example of how video search is going to be improving significantly. YouTube, the world’s most popular video site (and 2nd largest search engine) recently announced that it would be including automatic captions on videos. This makes videos much more searchable as far as dialogue goes.

"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," says Wei. "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 heat map can be used as a navigation tool, and to find popular segments of video. Wei talks a bit more about the heat map aspect here.

Hulu’s Caption search is still just a beta feature, so it is subject to imperfections. The site is openly encouraging feedback via

Related Articles:

> YouTube Launching Automatic Video Captions

> Hulu Adds New Options to the Queue

> Hulu Makes More Search Improvements