What I’m doing with Captioning

As is probably made clear by some recent posts, I’ve been working on bringing captioning to our web video delivery. Now that we’ve made it so simple to compress and publish your video to the web, we need to make it just as easy to be ADA compliant with that video. For many folks, that means captioning the video.

First the bad news – no matter which way you cut it, doing proper captioning is time consuming, expensive, or both.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be quite as expensive or time consuming as you might think. Here’s a rundown of the options.

First off, you need a transcript of your video. You can type directly into captions, but that process is going to be pretty painful. Realistically, what you want is just a raw text transcript of your video – no special formatting needed. I like the free Express Scribe software for Windows or Mac. If you were doing a lot of this sort of thing, you’d definitely want to get a foot pedal of some sort as well. Or a grad student. Either will work.

Now that you’ve got your transcript, you need to time it to your video and generate your captions.

If you’re the do-it-yourself type, you can get an application like MAGPie and do your own captioning and timing. This is the most time consuming but least expensive option. MAGPie isn’t an incredibly intuitive application, but once you get a feel for it you’ll be able to produce perfectly acceptable captions. There’s also commercial captioning software, like CCaption, which provide more features (like direct embedding) at a pretty steep cost.

If that’s not your thing though, there’s a really cool service from a company called Automatic Sync Technologies which will take your video and your transcript and use text-to-speech to sync them up. I’ve been doing some testing with it and it seems really reliable. That’s what I used to time the captions for my demo. It’s not a free service, but the pricing is incredibly reasonable. If you don’t have a transcript, you can pay an additional fee to have them transcribe the video as well.

Once you’ve done the captioning, you’ll end up with a timed text file. Here’s a sample. This is in the DFXP format which is used by the new Flash CS3 captioning tool, as well as various other flash plugins. Other video formats have their own captioning formats. The new quicktime release (7.1.6) claims to add support for captioning, though I’m not clear on what that actually means yet.

My development site for Media Mill now supports taking these timed files as transcripts, which will automatically be displayed when viewing Flash videos. I’ll make this feature live once I’ve done some more cross-platform testing and finished up a few additional new features.

Anyways, that’s a quick rundown on the world of captioning, from my perspective. It’s really not that painful, and I strongly encourage you to check out the Automatic Sync Technologies website.

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