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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’m going to be talking to you today about closed captioning. The presentation will be about 20 minutes, and then we’ll save 10 minutes for Q&A at the end.

For an agenda, I’m going to start out with some captioning basics just to make sure that everyone is on the same page. I’ll go through some of the benefits of captioning. I’ll explain the different accessibility laws and lawsuits that pertain to closed captioning. And then I’ll go through our captioning services and tools. And then, of course, we’ll have 10 minutes at the end for Q&A.

So to start out, we’re just going to start really basic so that everyone is on the same page. Captions are text that has been time-synchronized with the media. So the captions are time-synchronized so that you can read the words as they’re being spoken. Captions convey all spoken content and sound effects. They really assume that the viewer cannot hear, so they have to convey sound effects, speaker identification, and any other relevant non-speech elements.

So an example of when you would want to include a sound effect is if there are keys jangling behind a closed door, and it’s a horror movie. You would want to include the sound effect, “keys jangling,” because it’s important to the plot development. But if there’s just keys jangling in someone’s pocket while they’re walking down the street, that’s not a relevant sound effect, and you would not include that.

Captions originated in the early 1980s as a part of an FCC mandate for broadcast television, but the use of captions has really expanded with the proliferation of the internet and online video, and now captions are being applied across dozens of different devices and types of media. Just to differentiate some of the terminology associated with captioning, captions versus a transcript– as I said earlier, captions are time-synchronized with the media, whereas a transcript is just a plain text of the spoken audio. So captions are required when you have media like a video or a PowerPoint presentation, but transcripts are sufficient if it’s audio-only content.

Captions versus subtitles– captions assume that the viewer cannot hear, whereas subtitles assume that the viewer cannot understand the language. So captions are really used for accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, whereas subtitles are used more as a translation tool. Closed versus open captions– closed captions allow the end user to turn the captions on and off, whereas open captions are burned directly into the video file and cannot be turned off. Post-production versus real-time– refers to the timing of when the captioning is done. So post-production, the captions are produced after the reporting, and real-time you have a live stenographer actually captioning the content. With online video, you’ll mainly see post-produced captioning.

There are a lot of different caption formats. On the left of the screen, you’ll see some of the more common caption formats along with some of the use cases for those. And then on the top right, you’ll see an example of an SRT caption file. So the way that’s written out is that you have the number of the captioned frame followed by the beginning and ending time codes for that caption frame and the text within that. So this is the kind of caption file that you would see for something like YouTube, and then on the bottom right is an SCC caption file, and that uses hex frames and is a little bit more difficult to understand and to create from scratch.

So there are a few ways to associate your captions with your video file. The most common and the kind that you’re probably most familiar with is a sidecar file. So in that case, that’s what you would use for something like YouTube where you upload your SRT caption file and associate it to the video.

But there are instances where you would need to actually encode the captions into the video file. iTunes is a really good example of that use case. And then as I said, open captions are burned into the file and can’t be turned off. So you might use that if you want to make sure that the user does not have the option to view it without captions.

So there are a lot of benefits to adding closed captions and transcripts to your media. The first, of course, is for accessibility purposes. There are 48 million Americans living with hearing loss, and closed captions are really the best way to provide accessible alternatives for media content. Captions also provide better comprehension to all viewers. The Office of Communications in the United Kingdom did a study where they found that 80% of viewers who were watching their content with captions were actually not deaf or hard of hearing at all.

So they provide a lot of benefit in cases where the speaker has an accent, if the content is esoteric or complicated to understand, if there’s background noise, or if the user knows English as a second language. And then captions also provide the flexibility to view your video in noise-sensitive environments like libraries, offices, and gyms.

Captions provide a great basis for video search. MIT did a survey with their students who found that 97% of users had an enhanced experience when they were using the interactive transcripts, and people are used to being able to search for a term and go directly to that point. And so being able to do that within a video is really useful for a lot of people.

For people who are concerned about SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, captions provide a really great basis for improving your SEO, because Google cannot watch your video. And having a transcript associated with your video gives Google a lot of diverse keywords to include in people’s search. And Discover Digital Networks actually did a study on their YouTube channel to see the impact of closed captions. And over a year, they captioned about half of their videos and then did not caption another half. And then they found that they had a 7.3% increase in views on the captioned videos versus the uncaptioned videos.

Captions are also really reusable. University of Wisconsin found that over 50% of their students were reusing the transcripts for the videos as study guides. And they could also be used to create infographics, white papers, case studies, course materials, and other docs. Once you have an English caption file, you can translate that into foreign languages to create multilingual subtitles and to make your video more accessible on a global basis.

And, of course, captions might be required by law. I’m going to go into some of the accessibility laws right now.

The first major disability law in the US was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There are two sections of that that applied to captioning. Section 504 is a really 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 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 programs and Section 508 only applies to federal programs, but any states that are receiving funding from the Assistive Technology Act are also required to comply with Section 508. So often, that law will extend to state-funded organizations like colleges and universities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was introduced in 1990, and it has five sections. Title II and Title III pertain the most to captioning. Title II affects public entities, and Title III affects commercial entities. And Title III specifically applies to places of public accommodation. And so the gray area here is what constitutes a public place of accommodation. And there have been a lot of lawsuits in this area, and it’s been tested recently against online businesses. And I will go through a couple of the major lawsuits pertaining to that title shortly.

The most recent accessibility law in the US is the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, or the CVAA. And this really applies more to broadcast, media, and entertainment. It covers any online video content that previously appeared on television with captions. So for instance, if you watch an episode of Game of Thrones online, that would have to be captioned. The FCC recently extended the CVAA to cover video clips. So starting in January, any single excerpt clips from longer programming that previously appeared on television with captions would have to be captioned as well.

In 2014, the FCC released quality standards for captioning, and there are four parts to this order. Caption accuracy says that the captions must match the spoken words. Caption synchronization applies to the captioning coinciding with the spoken words exactly. Program completeness means that the captions have to run from the beginning to the end of the program. And on-screen caption placement requires that the captions not obscure any other visual content on the screen. So for example, if you’re watching a documentary and in the bottom third there’s a description of the speaker, you would need to move the captions away from that part of the screen. And we do that with vertical caption placement.

So to go over a couple of the major captioning lawsuits, the National Association of the Deaf versus Netflix– the National Association of the Deaf sued Netflix in 2012 for failing to provide closed captions for most of its streaming content. And this was the first time that Title III of the ADA– again, a place of public accommodation– had been applied to internet-only businesses. Before it had really only applied to physical structures like wheelchair ramps.

This was a landmark lawsuit because Netflix argued that they don’t qualify as a place of public accommodation. But the plaintiff’s lawyers argued that the ADA was meant to grow and expand accommodations as the world changed because internet content was not written directly into the ADA. The court ended up ruling in favor of the National Association of the Deaf, and Netflix agreed to caption 100% of its streaming content. And this case sets a really profound precedent for companies who are streaming video content across industries, including entertainment, education, health care, and corporate training content. FedEx was actually recently sued for not providing closed captions on their training videos.

The most recent lawsuit that you’re probably familiar with is the National Association of the Deaf versus Harvard and MIT. The NAD sued Harvard and MIT in February of this past year for providing inaccessible video content that was either not captioned or was inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned. So this was the first time outside of the entertainment industry that accuracy has been considered in the legal ramifications for closed captioning, saying that the automatic captions that were on that video were not enough.

And Arlene Mayerson, the lawyer for the National Association of the Deaf, said that the ADA was meant to grow and expand to provide public accommodations as the world changes, not to deny or limit them. And she actually 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. No captions is like no ramp for people in wheelchairs or signs stating people with disabilities are not welcome.

So the Department of Justice submitted a statement of interest on this case supporting the plaintiff’s position that Harvard and MIT were discriminating against deaf and hard of hearing individuals and said that the ADA applies to websites of public accommodations, and the ADA regulations should be interpreted to keep pace with developing technologies. So the final argument for this case was held in September. We’re still waiting on a decision, but regardless, the outcome will have huge implications for higher education.

A little bit about us– 3Play Media is a closed captioning, transcription, and translation company. We’re an MIT spinout starting in 2007, and we’re still based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We have over 1,600 customers in higher education, government, corporate, and entertainment.

Our goal is really to simplify the process. So we have a really user-friendly online account system. We offer integrations with most of the video platforms and lecture capture systems to really automate the process for you, and I’m going to talk through some of these tools specifically in a minute.

But first, I wanted to go through our captioning process because accuracy is really important to us. We comply with all of the FCC’s quality standards and have developed a very strict best practices for our transcriptionists. We use a multi-step review process that delivers over 99% accuracy, even in cases of poor audio quality. And typically, 2/3 of the work is done by a computer, and then the rest is done by transcriptionists. So this makes our process more efficient than other vendors, but more importantly, it affords our transcriptionists the flexibility to spend more time on the finer details.

For example, we diligently research difficult words, names, and places, and we put more care into ensuring correct grammar and punctuation. We’ve also done a lot of work on the operational side of the business, so what we do now is actually match transcriptionists’ expertise to certain types of content. We have about 900 transcriptionists on staff, and they cover a broad range of disciplines. So without exception, all of our work is done by professionally trained transcriptionists in the US.

Once your account is set up, the next step is to upload your video content to us. There are several ways to do that. You can upload files from your computer. You can upload via links. You can upload via FTP. You can use an API. Or you can use one of the integrations that we provide.

We have a lot of different turnaround options. Our standard turnaround is four business days, but we offer an extended option, as well as several faster options, including two-hour turnaround for short files.

And we’ve also built integrations with the leading online video platforms and lecture capture systems, including Brightcove, Mediasite, Kaltura, Panopto, and YouTube. So if you’re using one of these platforms, the process is really simplified. Most of them allow you to select a file directly within your video platform for captioning, and then we’ll just post those captions directly back to your files when they’re completed.

Again, we offer over 50 different output formats, so when your captions are ready, you’ll receive an email alert. And you can log in and download your files in as many formats as you need as many times as you want. There’s no limit to the number of downloads or formats.

And then there are a lot of features that you’ll have access to in the account system at this point, one of which is our Captions Editor, which is an editing interface that lets you make changes to your transcripts or captions if there is a small error. And when you finalize your edits, they’ll propagate to all outputs and plug-ins without having to reprocess.

Caption Import allows you to import existing captions or subtitles that you already have into our account system. And then once you’ve done that, you’ll have access to all of our tools and plug-ins like the interactive transcripts. And you can translate those into other languages or convert them into other formats as well.

Similarly, Automated Transcript Alignment is available if you already have a transcript for your video file. You just upload that along with the video, and we’ll just automatically create time-coded captions for you from that transcript.

And one of our plug-ins is the Interactive Transcript. It’s available to you and included in the cost of captioning. It’s a time-synchronized transcript that highlights the words as they’re spoken in the video. And you can search within it and click anywhere to go there.

And to quickly demonstrate how that works, this is MIT 150’s Infinite History website. It’s an archive of alumni interviews. And on the right is an Archive Search. That’s all of the videos in this library. And you can search for a word and see everywhere that that word shows up.

And you can preview what that word looks like in context. And if you want to go there, you just click directly on the Play button and jump directly to that point in the video. And then you can search within the video for a word as well. And you’ll see a timeline of everywhere that shows up. And if you click on that part of the video, you’ll go directly to that point as well.

And finally, while we’ve built many tools that are self-service or automated, much of our success as a company is based on the fact that we give all of our customers a lot of attention. So we really expect to walk people through the account tools, and we really enjoy building relationships with people.

And last December, we did a survey with our current customers. And the word cloud on the right highlights the most common terms mentioned. So as you can see, support really stands out to them as one of the key aspects of our business and something that they’re really happy with.

And with that, we’re going to go to Q&A. Please continue to ask questions. There are some additional resources on the screen.

So someone is asking, what is the turnaround for the service? We have a lot of turnaround options. Our standard turnaround is four business days, but we offer an extended option, and we offer same-day, two-hour. We offer a lot of different options depending on what you need. And you can select that on a file-by-file basis as well.

So another question, how accurate are caption translations to Spanish, for example? So once you have an English caption file, you can select it for translation into any language. And we work with a number of vendors for translation that we vet pretty carefully. So your caption translations should be just as accurate as your English captions. And we do a lot to ensure that the vendors we work with are meeting our standards.

A question, does 3Play Media offer an open caption option? We do offer open captions and captioning coding. It’s just a different download option in your account system. So once you’ve submitted it for captioning and your transcript is complete, you would just select to order captioning coding, or open captions instead of downloading an actual caption format.

There’s a question, if there are frequently used acronyms, is there a way to send them in advance so the transcriptionist has that accurate information? That’s a great question. We offer the ability to add a cheat sheet to your file or to your account.

So if there are acronyms that you know are going to be used a lot in your file or in all of your videos, you can just submit a list of those to our transcriptionists, and they will take those into account when they’re transcribing your file. And that’s actually a really good point, too. Just to help your transcriptionist out, if you have a list of names of speakers, that’s a really good thing to upload as a cheat sheet as well.

So there’s a question, is the cost for captioning a video related to the length of the video? Great question. Yes, we price all of our captioning by minute of video content. And then if you purchase a bulk number of minutes of content, the price per minute goes down accordingly.

Another question here, someone’s just asking if they can have a copy of the PowerPoint. We’ll be emailing out a recording and the slide show tomorrow. So keep an eye out for that.

Question here, how do you at 3Play Media ensure that your employees are on the same page as far as grammar and style are concerned, mostly grammar? Great question. I’m just going to explain a little bit about our process for our transcriptionists. So we have very specific best practices set up for grammar, punctuation, and style. And all of our editors go through a really rigorous application process where they’re trained in our standards. So they’re taught to comply with our best practices and with proper grammar. And then once they become an editor, they’re randomly audited so we can check on their quality and make sure that they maintain a high level of accuracy and standards as they move on as editors.

And we also have a third level of review where a QA person will go in, and they’ll research any terms that the transcriptionist wasn’t sure about. And they’ll just make sure that the final output is really flawless. And they’ll look for grammar as well.

There are a couple of questions here about copyright issues. So can we submit another person’s video to have you add captions to it? Will you caption other people’s content, i.e. YouTube videos?

That’s a really great question. For education, it’s usually assumed that there’s fair use for captioning a video for accessibility purposes. But we also offer a captions plug-in that lets you caption videos that you don’t own without republishing that video. So if you have a professor who’s using a YouTube video that’s not on your channel, you can actually submit a link to that video and we’ll produce a transcript and caption file for it. And then instead of downloading a caption file, you can actually just embed our captions plug-in below the YouTube video.

And so without republishing that video, you’ll have accurate captions below it that don’t interfere with republishing someone else’s video. So if you’re concerned about copyright issues, that’s a really great way to add captions to something without taking away from the owner’s viewership.

There’s a few other questions here. Can you send a file for translation? Yes, you can send in either an English file or you can import captions that you already have. And then you can select that for translation into a number of languages. And we also offer source Spanish captioning, so if you have a file that is in Spanish, we can caption that from scratch as well.

There’s a question about live captioning. We do not live caption ourselves. We only caption post-produced video.

There’s a question, can you download a sidecar file and an open captioned video with an order, or is it extra money? So once you’ve submitted a file for captioning, you can always download as many caption formats as you want. If you do want to submit it for open captioning, there is a small fee associated with that.

Someone is saying another question about translation. It looks like captions can be translated as needed via drop-down, but now it sounds like translations would need to be requested as part of the initial order. That’s actually not how it works. The drop-down is how it works.

So once you’ve submitted it for– you would initially upload your video to us, submit it for captioning, and then once we’ve done the captioning and have the English transcript, right within that file, there’s a drop-down for translation where you can just select to order translation in whatever language you want. And you can choose to do that at any point.

I think we have time for one more question. Someone is asking, do you hire transcriptionists outside the US? That’s a really great question. As I’ve mentioned before, accuracy and quality are the most important things to us in terms of producing a caption file. All of the legal requirements point to having high levels of accuracy. And so to us, we really value having US-based transcriptionists.

And all of our 900 transcriptionists are US-based. We do not hire outside of the US. And they produce a really high-quality transcript for you. So yeah, we do not hire transcriptionists outside of the US.

So with that, I think we’re about through questions. And we’re just after 2:30. And thank you to everyone for your time and for joining us today. I hope you have a great rest of the day.

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