And yet more on captioning…

Have I ever learned a lot about captioning video for the Web. In a previous post, I provided a list of captioning services for hire (AKA “outsourcing” your captioning needs). Since then, I have acquired and accumulated information that resides in my browser bookmarks, my delicious, CDs, TextEdit docs, notebooks, Stickies on my desktop, even scraps of paper in my briefcase. I’ve finally had a chance to filter through it all and regurgitate it here. Suffice it to say that the process of choosing how to get your media captioned is complicated, and trying to summarize it feels like I’m chasing my own tail. My purpose in this post is to report some options for self-captioning (prefaced with words of caution), followed by a “well, if I were you…” lecture in my next post.

Begin digression.

OH! Before moving on, I must digress to additional interesting points about the benefits of captioning. If you have followed this blog (or listened to the Accessibility in the MLTI series on the Maine Department of Education iTunes U site…or are just plain smart about accessibility), you know that captions are much more than a service for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Here are two more bullets on the list of benefits: Searchability and Navigability.

“Searchability” because search engines (e.g., Google) can’t search video/audio files on the Web. If it’s captioned/transcribed however, then the engine can uncover it and list it in the search results. Kevin Erler of Automatic Sync Technologies (AST) recently reported that after CNET hired AST to caption its media, its hits on Google increased by 30%. (I spent some time at CNET TV and could not uncover one video that is closed-captioned. Their player has a “CC” button, but I was continuously greeted with a message stating “Sorry, closed captions are not available for this video.”)

The appeal of “navigability” is not unlike the benefit of searchability: Searching text (captions) within a video allows you to navigate from one point to another. Captions are kind of like “tagging” the video content. This, of course, is most relevant to lengthy video clips.

End digression.

What I’ve learned about self-captioning (AKA “insourcing”) is that, well, it’s tough to make an argument for it. Insourcing means that you use your own process for captioning the video that you and/or your students create. This means time and labor, and if you plan to employ students, money. The time and labor are primarily a product of the generation of the video transcript, which can be painstaking and mind-numbing. Shortcuts are strongly discouraged as the quality of the transcript forms the foundation for the quality of the captioning. And speech recognition software (e.g., MacSpeech Dictate), although highly accurate for sitting at your computer and talking purposefully, is not so effective when it comes to capturing spoken language during more informal and impromptu situations common to making movies.

Another pitfall to self-captioning is having to know the technology. I recently learned that you caption for the player, not the media file. I’m no techie, but that was a serious conception blower for me. Furthermore, many players don’t support captioning.

Having said what I needed to say about insourcing your closed captioning needs for the video created in your classrooms, if you choose to explore your options, there are many. I have learned of several that I feel comfortable enough to share (i.e., I know enough to be dangerous rather than reckless):

YouTube As of August 28, YouTube supports captioning. While recognizing the need to support its viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing, YouTube is also strategically marketing for multiple languages by referring to “subtitles” (120 languages are available).

Flash I must admit that I never considered Flash to be of the accessible type. I don’t think it always has been, but Adobe Flash CS3 has a built-in captioning component. Adobe provides a list of tools and services for adding captions to Flash video.

National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) ccPlayer with cc for Flash


Hi-Caption Studio

NOTE: Automatic Sync Technologies has tutorials for using its CaptionSync software to add captions for Flash media in Flash CS3, Flash 8, JW FLV Player, cc for Flash, Captionate, and Hi-Caption.

Overstream for Flash video hosted on YouTube, Google Video, MySpace Video, Dailymotion, Veoh, and others

MAGpie (also enables audio description)


MacCaption for Final Cut Pro or any Non-Linear Editing (NLE) system

So that’s what I’ve got. Do I understand all of this? No. And I really care not to. And I doubt many teachers will care to go down multiple roads only to turn around and start over at the original intersection to try yet another. In my next post I’ll propose a possible workflow for schools to get their media captioned and up on the Web in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner.

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