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Quick Start to Captioning [Transcript]

LILY BOND: Welcome, everyone. And thank you for joining this webinar entitled “Quick Start to Captioning.” I’m Lily Bond from 3Play Media, and I’ll be presenting today. We have about 20 minutes for this presentation followed by 10 minutes for Q&A.

For an agenda today, I’m going to go through some captioning basics, followed by the benefits of closed captioning. I’m going to talk about the accessibility laws and pertinent lawsuits, go through captioning services and tools, and then again, I’ll save 10 minutes at the end for questions and answers.

Before I get started, I have a quick poll question for you. The question should read, “How do you foresee your captioning needs changing in the next year?” And you can select “Increasing Significantly,” “Increasing Moderately,” “Staying the Same,” or “Decreasing.” I’ll give you a few seconds to answer that, and then we’ll see the results. Great. Thanks, everyone. So as you can see, most people definitely see their needs increasing, which is on trend with what we’ve been seeing in the industry. I think it’s something that a lot of people are concerned about

To start out with some basics, to make sure that everyone is on the same page– to begin, what are captions? Captions are text that has been time-synchronized with the media so that they can be read while you are watching the video. Captions assume that the viewer cannot hear. So they convey all sound effects, speaker identification, and other non-speech elements.

An example of this would be if there are keys jangling offscreen behind a door, you would want to add the sound effect “keys jangling,” because it’s relevant to the plot. But if there are keys jangling in someone’s pocket walking down the street, then it’s not relevant, and you wouldn’t need to include that.

Closed captions originated as an FCC mandate for broadcast in the 1980s. But the rulings for captions have really expanded with the proliferation of the internet and online video. And now they’re being applied across dozens of devices and different types of media.

To go through some terminology, captions versus a transcript refers to the fact that captions are time-synchronized with the media, while transcripts are just a plain text version of what has been spoken. So transcripts are sufficient for audio only. But you would need captions for any timed media, which includes PowerPoints.

Captions versus subtitles. Captions assume that the viewer cannot hear the video, whereas subtitles assume that the viewer cannot understand the language being spoken. So subtitles are really more about translating the content, and captions are about making the content accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Closed versus open captions refers to how the captions are displayed on the screen. So closed captions, there is usually a CC icon on the video that means that you can turn the captions on or off, whereas open captions are burned directly into the video and cannot be turned off.

Post production versus real-time refers to the timing of when the captions are done. Post-production captioning happens after the video has been recorded, whereas real-time captioning happens as the video is being streamed. So you would have a stenographer there transcribing as the words are being spoken.

There are dozens and dozens of different caption formats. On the screen is a list of common caption formats, along with their use cases. And then on the top right is an example of an SRT caption file. So that would be used for something like YouTube.

You can see that the format of this is the number of the caption frame followed by the time codes of when the caption frame should begin and end, followed by the text that should be displayed. So that’s a pretty user-friendly caption format. It’s easy to see what’s going on. Whereas at the bottom of the screen is an example of an SCC caption format, which uses hex frames and is more difficult to understand and create from scratch.

Once you have captions for your video, you need to associate those with the video. And there are a few ways to do that. The first is as a sidecar file, which might be what you are most familiar with. You would just upload your caption file to the video. Like on YouTube, you would upload an SRT file that would then display the captions on the YouTube video.

You can encode the caption file onto the video, which you would need to do for something like iTunes. And then the third example is for open captions, which I mentioned before. Those are burned in and can’t be turned off. And if you’re using any integrations between your captioning vendor and your video player platform or lecture capture system, then this step becomes trivial.

There are a lot of benefits to captioning. The first, obviously, is accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing. There are 48 million Americans living with hearing loss, which is about 20% of the American population. And this number is growing due to medical advancements, which allow people to live longer. And we’re also coming out of a decade of war. So there are a lot of people who, because of these medical advancements, have survived injuries that they wouldn’t have in the past and are now living with hearing loss.

Captions also provide better comprehension for everyone. The Office of Communications in the UK did a study where they found that 80% of people who use closed captions are actually not deaf or hard of hearing at all. So captions provide better comprehension in situations where the speaker has an accent, if the content is difficult to understand, if there is background noise, or if the viewer knows English as a second language. And captions also provide a flexibility to view a video in sound-sensitive environments, such as the office, a library, or a gym. And then finally, on the right side of the screen there is an example of how captions can benefit users in social environments.

So more and more, we’re seeing companies adding captions to their social videos, because companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo are now playing videos without sound automatically when you scroll on to them on your screen. So if there are no captions on that video, it’s going to be inaccessible to everyone, because there is no sound, and no one will be able to tell what is going on.

Another benefit of captioning is the fact that it provides a great basis for video search. MIT did a survey where they found that 97% of their users had an enhanced experience when they used a searchable, interactive transcript along with their video. And video search basically allows you to search within a video and jump directly to the word that you’re looking for. People are used to being able to search for what they want and going to find it immediately, and this makes it possible within a video, which is otherwise impossible.

Another benefit of captioning is that it improves your SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Google can’t watch a video, so adding a transcript or caption file to your video provides a lot more context for Google to be able to classify your content correctly. So it leads to more inbound traffic. And Discovery Digital Networks did a study on their YouTube channel where they captioned half of their library and left the other half uncaptioned. And they found that the videos that they captioned had a 7.3% increase in views.

Captions also make your content reusable. The University of Washington found that 50% of their students were repurposing transcripts as study guides. And captions and transcripts also make it really easy to take the text from your video and create case studies, support docs, blogs, white papers, or infographics.

Captions provide a great basis for a translation. So you can translate your English transcript to make your video accessible on a more global scale. And finally, captions may be required by law. And I’m going to go into some of the accessibility laws in the US now.

The first major accessibility law in the US was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. And there are two sections of the Rehabilitation Act that apply to accessibility and specifically to captioning. Section 504 is a broad anti-discrimination law that requires equal access for individuals with disabilities. And then Section 508 was introduced in 1998 to require federal communications and information technology to be made accessible. So closed captioning requirements are written directly into Section 508 and are often applied to Section 504.

Section 504 applies to federal and federally funded programming, and Section 508 only applies to federal programs. But any states that receive funding from the Assistive Technology Act are required to comply with Section 508. So often that law will extend to state-funded organizations, like colleges and universities.

The next accessibility law in the US was the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which has five sections. And Title II and Title III apply to closed captioning. Title II applies to public entities, and Title III applies to commercial entities, specifically places of public accommodation.

So the big question with the Title III of the ADA is what constitutes a place of public accommodation? In the past, this was applied to physical structures, like the requirement for adding wheelchair ramps. But more and more, it’s been tested against online businesses. And the ADA is starting to apply it to more and more companies who operate online.

And the final accessibility ability in law in the US is the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which was enacted in 2010. This covers internet content. So online video that previously aired on television with captions. And the FCC has extended the CVAA to also cover any video clips from those programs.

And the FCC has also set forth caption quality requirements, which were enacted in 2014. And these are really the only legal standards for caption quality and accuracy that exist. There are other standards, but these are the only ones with legal repercussions.

So the four caption quality standards that the FCC laid out were caption accuracy– that the captions must match the spoken words to the fullest extent possible and include non-verbal information. And this does allow some leniency for live captioning; that the captions must coincide with their spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible. So that covers caption synchronicity. The captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program. So they must be complete. And the captions should not block other important visual content. So in this case, if you’re watching a documentary, and in the bottom third of the screen there is content that textually refers to the name of the speaker, then you would need to move the captions to the top of the screen to avoid blocking that important content.

Now to go over a couple of these lawsuits that impact closed captioning. Netflix was sued by the National Association of the Deaf in 2012 for failing to provide closed captions for most of its Watch Instantly movies and television shows that were streamed online. This was the first time that Title III of the ADA– remember, a place of public accommodation– had been applied to internet-only businesses, and this was a landmark lawsuit.

Netflix argued that they don’t qualify as a place of public accommodation in accordance with the ADA. But the plaintiff’s lawyers, some of whom were involved in the writing of the ADA, argued that the ADA was meant to grow to expand accommodations as the world changed. And the court ended up ruling in favor of the National Association of the Deaf, saying that excluding businesses that sell services through the internet from the ADA would run afoul of the purposes of the ADA.

In the settlement, Netflix agreed to caption 100% of its streaming content. And this case set a profound precedent for companies that were streaming video content across industries, including entertainment, education, health care, and corporate training content. FedEx was actually sued recently for not providing closed captions on their training videos.

A more recent lawsuit– Harvard and MIT were sued by the National Association of the Deaf last year for providing inaccessible video content that was either not captioned or was inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned. So this is the first time outside of the entertainment industry that accuracy has been considered in the legal ramifications for closed captioning.

Harvard and MIT were using YouTube automatic captions on some of their videos. And this is really saying that auto-captions cannot guarantee the level of accuracy that is required in providing an equivalent alternative. Arlene B. Mayerson, who was the lawyer for the National Association of the Deaf and one of the people who originally wrote the ADA, said that the ADA was meant to grow and expand and not to deny or limit the accommodations available.

So the argument here was that educational online videos are a public accommodation regardless of whether or not the ADA originally applied to physical structures. Arlene said, “If you are a hearing person, you are welcomed into a world of lifelong learning through access to a community offering videos on virtually any topic imaginable, from climate change to world history or the arts. No captions is like no ramp for people in wheelchairs or signs stating people with disabilities are not welcome.”

In June of last year, the Department of Justice submitted a statement of interest supporting the plaintiff’s position that Harvard and MIT’s free online courses and lectures discriminate against the deaf and hard-of-hearing by failing to provide equal access in the form of captions. The final argument was held in September, and we’re still waiting on a decision. But the outcome will have huge implications for higher education.

A little bit about 3Play Media. We have over 1,600 customers in education, media and entertainment, enterprise, online video, and government. We are a captioning, transcription, and translation company based in the Boston area. And our goal is really to simplify the process of captioning.

So we provide a lot of tools to make it easier for you to get captions on your videos, including an online account system, flexible turnaround options and upload options, automated workflows, over 50 different caption formats, the ability to import existing captions, video search tools, and Spanish source captioning. And I’m going to go through a lot of these tools now. But first of all, accuracy and quality are extremely important to us. We comply with all of the FCC’s quality standards and best practices. We guarantee 99% accuracy on our captions, and we average about 99.6%.

We have a three-step process for captioning. We first put it through automatic speech recognition. So we get a basic timecoded-to-the-word transcript that is obviously inaccurate. As I’ve mentioned, auto-captions are not good enough. But then we have a human cleanup process.

So we have over 1,000 professionally certified transcriptionists who are all US based. And they go through, and they clean up the automatic transcript. They research difficult terms. And they go through and they try to make the transcript as good as possible. But they can flag anything that they’re not sure about.

So the third step is that we have a level of review, where a QA person goes through, and they research any of the flags that the editor made to make sure that you have a flawless transcript. So all of our transcriptionists and QA personnel go through a rigorous certification program before they ever touch a file.

And we actually now have algorithms that match expertise to content. So if one of our transcriptionists was a former developer, we could easily match them to STEM content to make sure that the people who are best for the job are working on your files. And you can also upload cheat sheets of specific terminology to your files or to your account so that the transcriptionists have any specific words that might be difficult for them to find elsewhere available to them. And that will really just help in the accuracy of your file.

We have a lot of different upload and turnaround options. And we have a secure online account system, where you can upload your videos from your computer. You can also upload videos to us via links, via FTP, with an API or with one of our integrations. Our accounts system is all web based, so there’s nothing to install.

And then we have a lot of different options for turnaround. Our standard turnaround is four business days, but we have options for more urgent or more extended deadlines. And we now have two-hour turnaround, which is the fastest option in the industry.

We work with a number of the leading video platforms, players, and lecture capture systems to provide integrations to make the captioning process as automated as possible. A lot of those companies are like Brightcove, Kaltura, YouTube, Mediasite, or Panopto. And they allow you to just select the files directly from your video platform, tag it with 3Play Media, and then we’ll send completed files back to you, directly to the video, so that they’ll just show up automatically on your videos in your video platform. And this really automates the process so you don’t have to think about captioning.

We offer over 50 different output formats, as I’ve mentioned before. Some are listed here. When your captions are ready, you’ll receive an email alert. And you can download as many formats as you need. There is no limit to the number of formats or number of downloads that you have access to.

And once the captions are completed, you’ll have access to all of our other features, one of which is the captions editor, which is an editing interface that allows you to make immediate updates yourself to your files. And when you finalize, the edits will propagate to all outputs and plugins without having to reprocess. And this is great for any quick fixes that you can make yourself. We allow you to import captions that you already have into our account system so that you can securely manage your assets. And then you’ll have access to our tools, plugins, output formats, and integrations as well as the ability to translate those existing captions into other languages.

Automated transcript alignment is kind of the opposite of caption import. If you already have a transcript for your video, you can upload your video and transcript to our system, and we’ll automatically time-code that transcript to create caption files for you. And again, you will then have access to all of our tools, plugins, output formats, and integrations as well as translation.

I mentioned a few times video search. We offer interactive transcripts that are time-synchronized and highlight the words as they are spoken. And this allows you to search for a word in your video, click on that word, and jump directly to any point. And I’m going to show you quickly how that works in a demo.

So this is MIT Infinite History. It’s a web platform that MIT created of interviews with alumni. And you can see on the left, there is a video and transcript. And then on the right is a library of all of their videos. So with our archive search plugin, you can search within the entire library for something like “linguistics.” And you’ll see a timeline of everywhere that that word is spoken in every video in that library.

So this orange dot here shows that the word “linguistics” was spoken. You can preview it and then play the video directly from that point. And then within the video, you can search for another word that you’re looking for. And you’ll see in this timeline that you can preview those words as well. And by clicking there, you just jump directly to that point in the video.

So that’s what our interactive transcript and archive search plugins look like. We actually have a webinar next Thursday on the 17th at 2:00 PM that will be more of a deep dive into video search and how to create that. So you’re welcome to attend that and find out more about how you can implement it at your institution.

And then finally, before we get into Q&A, I just wanted to mention that our customers are extremely important to us. And a lot of our success as a company is based on the fact that we give all of our customers a lot of attention. So we expect to walk you through the process and to be available when you need us. And we really enjoy building relationships with people.

So on the right, you can see a word cloud. Last December, we did a survey with our current customers. And as you can see, support really stands out as one of the key aspects that our customers are happy with.

So with that, we’ll move into Q&A. And as we’re compiling the first questions, I just have one more poll question for you. The poll should read, “What is your greatest barrier to implementing captioning?” And you can select “Cost or Budget,” “Resource Time,” “Technical Challenges,” or “Not Sure I Need To.” So I’ll give you just a second to answer that, and we will see what everyone has to say.

Great. Thank you, everyone. So no surprise, cost and budget is always at the top of people’s list. But resource time is always something that’s difficult too. So thank you for sharing your responses there. And now, we’re going to get into Q&A.

So the first question here is, “Are video transcripts required to meet accessible design standards, for example, using headings in a document?”

Video transcripts aren’t required for documents. They can be a great basis for creating accessible documents. But you would need to add in the accessible headings and make sure that you’re taking all the other steps necessary.

The main use case for a transcript would be in addition to captions for a video or as an accessible alternative to an audio file. So I’m not exactly sure whether you were asking about that. But transcripts are a great basis, or they are required for audio or video content.

So the next question here is, “You mentioned that you follow the FCC’s guidelines. How did you decide that the FCC’s guidelines were ideal? Are there alternative sets of guidelines that are relevant for captioning?”

That’s a great question. So the FCC’s guidelines I mentioned simply because they are the only legal standards for caption quality. And it’s very important to us to comply with the FCC’s guidelines for anyone who is covered by the FCC and the CVAA. However, there are a lot of other guidelines that are good standards to follow, even if they don’t have the same legal repercussions.

DCMP has great captioning guidelines. They have a Captioning Key with best practices to follow. WCAG 2.0 has some standards for captioning, which will be included in the Section 508 refresh.

And then, just as a company, we follow very strict best practices and standards, which all of our contractors are certified in. So that’s really for consistency. If you have a DIY process, you want to make sure that you train your student workers in the best practices that you develop for speaker identification, sound effects, how many letters should be in a caption frame, how long a caption frame should stay on the screen, just because you really want to make sure that your captions are accurate and are consistent.

So another question here– “Do I need to add captions to PowerPoint presentations? Is this the law?”

That’s a great question. PowerPoint presentations with audio narration are considered time-synchronized media presentations. And if you are implicated by any of the laws, like the ADA, Section 508, or Section 504, then that type of presentation would be treated the same way as a video, and you would need to caption that PowerPoint presentation.

Another question here– “is there a difference between subtitles and captions which should be followed in regards to being compliant with the law?”

So captions are required for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, whereas subtitles are translated versions of the spoken content. So what’s required by law is to have closed captions. Subtitles are an added benefit for expanding your audience to people who do not understand English. But you really want to make sure that closed captioning is what you’re prioritizing if you are implicated by any of the laws.

Another question here is, “Could you tell me what the exact turnaround options are?”

Sure. So we have several different turnaround options. Our standard is four business days. But we have an extended turnaround option, which is 10 days, or we have faster options, which are four business days, two business days, one business day, eight hours, or the two-hour turnaround.

There are a lot of people asking about the price of our services. So our captioning service starts at $2.50 per minute. And then it goes down based on the amount of content that you pre-purchase. So we provide a lot of bulk discounts based on how much you purchase.

So there’s another question here. “Do you publishers like Pearson have to meet ADA guidelines?”

So that’s a question that really depends on how the publisher defines themselves. If they define themselves as a place of public accommodation, then yes, they would definitely need to meet those requirements. If they are a federally funded program, then they would need to meet those requirements. But a lot of e-learning companies that produce content for courses or for colleges and universities are not necessarily directly implicated themselves by the laws. But most of the people that they serve are, so it would be rare that an e-learning company would not provide captions because of the fact that everyone that they’re serving is required to have them.

Another question here– “Do you know of any cases where closed captioning was not sufficient, but instead audio description was required?”

So these are really two different use cases. Closed captioning is for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and audio description is for people who are blind or low-vision. And audio description is a WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirement, which will be included in the Section 508 refresh. But they’re just two different use cases. So I can’t think of a lawsuit that specified audio description as opposed to closed captioning, but that’s because they’re not really synonymous. And instead, I would look to lawsuits or inquiries from the Department of Justice that are based on the inaccessibility of your IT content, because if they’re looking into that content, then both audio description and closed captioning would be implicated there.

Another question here– If I want to type out my transcript myself, do you provide info on how to get that into my PowerPoints?”

Yes, we have a how-to guide on adding closed captions to PowerPoints as well as a lot of DIY resources for closed captioning and transcription. It does take five to six times real time to transcribe audio or video content. But there are some great resources out there to help you do it. So definitely take a look at our DIY captioning white paper if you’re looking to do that yourself.

Another question is, “I have existing PowerPoints from my publisher but need to implement CC on Blackboard. Can your service do this?”

So certainly you could send us along the audio file or the narrated PowerPoint, and we would be able to add closed captions to that for Blackboard. That should not be a problem.

Another question here is, “What if there are no deaf students in the course? Would we still need to have captions or transcripts?”

So this is definitely a gray area. What I would say is that it’s best to have a system in place for the first time that you do have someone who is deaf or hard of hearing in your class, because it’s better to be prepared than to suddenly find yourself in a situation where you can’t get the captions quickly enough, they’re not accurate, or you just don’t have a system in place to work with that student. But beyond that, I would say that it depends on whether or not the videos are available to the public, because if they are, then you would want to be worried about the same situation that Harvard and MIT are in, where their online courses were implicated by the ADA in the case of the NAD versus Harvard and MIT.

A question here– “Do you have stats on colleges who proactively capture versus– caption, I assume– versus on a need basis?”

That’s a great question. We did a great webinar with Korey Singleton from George Mason University, who had some really great resources and statistics about moving from a reactive to a proactive captioning solution and all of the steps that are required in that, what the cost of doing it reactively versus proactively was, along with what needed to happen in terms of their policy building. So I can definitely provide those resources in an email afterwards.

Another person is asking, “Are you willing to do the English captioning for non-native English speakers?”

That’s a great question. We consistently caption speakers with accents. Again, we guarantee 99% accuracy. That’s 99% accuracy regardless of whether or not the speaker has an accent, what the content is like. So we would definitely still provide you with accurate captions, even with a speaker with a thick accent.

Another question here is, “If we host a video on YouTube that does not contain captioning and embed that video on a WCAG 2.0 compliant website, does that non-captioned YouTube video force the website out of WCAG compliance?”

My answer to that would be yes. So the issue there is that, even if you don’t own the YouTube video, you are providing that content as a resource. And that would need to be captioned in order to be WCAG compliant.

There are great ways of captioning YouTube videos that you don’t own. We provide a captions plugin, where you can actually just insert a link to that YouTube video into our account system, and we will caption it. And then you can just use a simple single-line embed code along with your YouTube embed to play the captions below the YouTube video so you’re not republishing that video or violating any copyright issues there.

And I think we have time for one more question. Someone is asking, “In regards to interactive transcripts and archive search, this is a great tool. A visually impaired person may want to do a word search after a lecture. Are the 3Play features and tools accessible to the visually impaired student?”

So unfortunately, interactive transcripts and archive search are not accessible to screen readers. But it would be easy to download that transcript and be able to use that with a screen reader along with the video. And you can download the transcript with time codes so a blind or a low-vision person could move the player to the time code that is represented in the transcript. And again, next week, we have a great webinar on all of the different things you can do with video search. And I definitely recommend attending that if you are interested.

So thank you so much to everyone who attended. A reminder that I will be sending out an email tomorrow with a link to view the recording and the slide deck. And I hope that everyone has a great rest of the day.

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