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Quick Start to Captioning [Transcript]

Welcome everyone, and thank you for attending this webinar on closed captioning. I’m Lily Bond, and I’m the Marketing Manager here at 3Play Media. We have about 30 minutes for this presentation. My presentation will be about 20 minutes, and then I’ll leave 10 minutes at the end for questions.

So to start, I’m going to briefly go over an agenda. I’ll start out with an introduction to captioning, then go over the benefits of captioning, go through the applicable accessibility laws, talk a bit about our captioning services and tools, and then we’ll finish up with some questions.

So we’ll take it from the very beginning– what are captions? Captions are text that has been time-synchronized with the media so that it can be read while you’re watching a video. Captions assume that the viewer cannot hear the audio at all. So the objective is not only to convey the spoken content, but also any sound effects, speaker identification, and other non-speech elements.

Basically, the objective is to convey any sound that’s not visually apparent but is integral to the plot. For example, you would definitely want to include the sound effect “keys jangling” if you hear the sound behind a locked door, because it’s important to the plot development that someone is trying to get in. But you wouldn’t include it if it’s the sound of keys jangling in someone’s pocket while they’re walking down the street.

Captions originated in the 1980s as a result of an FCC mandate specifically for broadcast television. And now, as online video becomes more and more a part of everyday lives, the need for web captions has expanded and continues to expand greatly. So as a result, captions are being applied across many different types of devices and media, especially as people become more aware of the benefits and as laws become increasingly more stringent.

Let’s go over some terminology to make sure we’re all on the same page. The difference between captions and a transcript is that a transcript is not synchronized with the media. On the other hand, captions are time coded so that they can be displayed at the right time while watching a video. For online, media transcripts are sufficient for audio-only content like a podcast, but captions are required any time there’s a video component. And that’s true of any time you’re using something like a PowerPoint presentation that has time-synchronized media.

So the distinction of captions versus subtitles is that captions assume that the viewer can’t hear, whereas subtitles assume the viewer can hear but cannot understand the language. That’s why captions include all relevant sound effects. And subtitles are really more about translating the content into a language that the viewer understands.

The difference between closed and open captions is that closed captions allow the end user to turn the captions on and off. And in contrast, open captions are burned into the video, and cannot be turned off. With online video, you’ll usually see closed captions.

Post-production versus real-time refers to the timing of when the captioning is actually done. Real-time captioning is done by live stenographers, whereas post-production captioning is done offline, and usually takes a few days. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of those.

There are many different caption formats that are used with specific media players. On the left, you’ll see a list of some of the more common caption formats and where you might need to use them. The image at the top right shows what a typical SRT caption file looks like. And that’s the type of caption file you would want to use for a YouTube video player, for example.

And you can see it has three caption frames. Each caption frame has a start time and an end time, followed by the text that appears in that time frame. And at the bottom right is an SCC file, which uses hex frames.

Once a caption file is created, it needs to be associated with the corresponding video file. The way to do that depends on the type of media and the video platform that you’re using. For sites like YouTube, all you have to do is upload the caption file for each video. And we call that a sidecar file.

In other cases, like for iTunes, you actually need to encode the caption file onto the video. And another way to associate captions with the video is with open captions. I mentioned these when I talked about caption terminology, but again, these are burned directly into the video, and can’t be turned off. If you’re using any of the video platforms that we’re partnered with, such as Brightcove, Mediasite, Kaltura, or Ooyala, then this stuff becomes trivial because it all happens automatically.

The primary purpose of captions and transcripts is to provide accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 48 million Americans experience hearing loss. And closed captions are the best way to make media content accessible to them.

Outside of accessibility, though, people have discovered a number of other benefits to closed captioning. Closed captions provide better comprehension to everyone. The Office of Communications in the UK conducted a study where they found that 80% of people who were using closed captions were not deaf or hard of hearing. Closed captions really provide increased comprehension in cases where the speaker has an accent, if the content is difficult to understand, if there’s background noise, or if the viewer knows English as a second language. And captions also provide flexibility to view videos in noise-sensitive environments like offices, libraries, and gyms.

Captions provide a strong basis for video search and there are certain plug-ins that we offer that make your video searchable. People are used to being able to search for a term, and being able to go directly to that point. And that’s what our interactive transcripts let viewers do within a video. And I’ll go through that more later on.

For people who are interested in SEO, or search engine optimization, closed captions provide a text alternative for spoken content. Because search engines like Google can’t watch a video, this text is the only way for them to correctly index your videos. Discovery Digital Networks did a study to see the impact of captions on their SEO, and they actually found that adding captions to their YouTube videos increased their use by 7.3%.

Another benefit of captions and transcripts is their reusability. University of Wisconsin found that 50% of their students were actually repurposing video transcripts as study guides. So they make a lot of sense for education. You can also take the transcript from a video and use it to quickly create infographics, white papers, case studies, and other types of docs.

Of course, once you have a caption file in English, you can translate that into foreign languages to create subtitles. And that makes your video accessible to people on a much more global scale. And finally, captions may be required by law. And I’m going to dive into the federal accessibility laws right now.

So the first big accessibility law in the US was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. And in particular, the parts that apply to captioning are sections 508 and 504. Section 508 was an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act, and it’s a fairly broad law that requires Federal communications and information technology to be accessible for government employees and the public. So this is where closed captioning requirements come in.

Section 504 is basically an anti-discrimination law that requires equal access for disabled people with respect to electronic communications. Section 504 applies to both Federal and Federally funded programs and section 508 applies only to Federal programs. However, any states receiving 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, because most states do receive funding from the Assistive Technology Act.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a very broad law that is comprised of five sections. It was enacted in 1990. But the ADA Amendment Act of 2008 expanded and broadened the definition of disability.

Title II and Title III of the ADA are the ones that pertain to video accessibility and captioning. Title II is for public entities, and Title III is for commercial entities. And this is the area that has the most legal activity.

Title II requires equal access for places of public accommodation. The gray area here is what constitutes a place of public accommodation. In the past, this was applied to physical structures– for example, requiring buildings to have wheelchair ramps. But recently, that definition has been tested against online businesses.

So one of the landmark lawsuits that happened a couple of years ago was the National Association of the Deaf versus Netflix. The National Association of the Deaf sued Netflix on the grounds that a lot of their streaming movies didn’t have captions. And they cited Title III of the ADA.

One of Netflix’s arguments was that they do not qualify as a place of public accommodation. But the courts ended up ruling in the end that Netflix does qualify. They ended up settling, and now Netflix has captioning on close to 100%– if not 100%– of all their content at this point. So the interesting thing to come out of this case is that if Netflix is considered a place of public accommodation, that sets a very profound precedent for the ADA’s application to the web and to other online content. And this would extend to places like colleges and universities that have a lot of online video now.

There are a couple of other ADA cases that haven’t had decisions yet. Two of them are against Time-Warner and against FedEx. And the decisions on these will further shape the scope of the ADA.

So the CVAA, which stands for the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, is the most recent Accessibility Act. And it was passed in October of 2010. It requires captioning for all online video that previously aired on television.

So for example, this applies to publishers like Netflix and Hulu, or any network websites that stream previously aired episodes online. So for example, there are a lot of upcoming FCC updates to the law. But the biggest one is that, starting in 2016, clips from television programs must be captioned when they go online.

So a two-minute excerpt from a show that you can view online would need captions. And by 2017, that will be expanded to montages, so that things like trailers and previews for an upcoming show would also need to be captioned. And with the CVAA, the copyright owner bears the responsibility for captioning.

In February of last year, the FCC came out with specific quality standards for captions, which was the first time that legal standards had been placed on things like accuracy. This applies to broadcast captions and to online video that previously appeared on television. But they’re really good standards for all captions to follow.

There are four parts to the FCC ruling– accuracy, synchronicity, program completeness, and on-screen caption placement. All of these are fairly self-explanatory. Captions must match the spoken words and include pertinent nonverbal information.

They must coincide with the spoken words. They must run from start to finish. And they must not obscure important on-screen content.

So for that, you might think of a documentary, for example. If the name and occupation of the speaker is written on the bottom of the screen, the caption should be moved. So our solution for this is vertical caption placement, where we move captions to the top of the screen when we detect important information that the captions would otherwise obscure.

To talk a little bit about our company, 3Play Media is an MIT spin-out. And we are still based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For the last seven years, we have been providing captioning, transcription, and subtitling services to over 1,000 customers in higher education, government, enterprise, and media and entertainment.

Our goal is really to simplify the process of captioning and transcription, which can be a barrier for a lot of people. We have a really user-friendly online account system. And we offer fast and reliable turnaround with a lot of options in terms of the turnaround time.

We have integrations with most of the leading video players and platforms, which can automate the process to make captioning even easier. And as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of caption formats. And we offer over 50 different output options. So you should never really run into a problem there.

We also recently released a feature that allows you to import existing captions and subtitles, which gives you access to all of our tools. And we offer various video search plug-ins that make your video searchable and interactive, which I’ll go over in just a second. Accuracy is very important to us. We comply with all of the FCC’s quality standards and have developed 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, multiple speakers, difficult content, or accents. Typically 2/3 of the work is done by a computer, and the rest is done by transcriptionists. 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 also put more care to ensure correct grammar and punctuation. We’ve also done a lot of work on the operational side of our business. So what we can do now is actually match transcriptionist’s expertise to certain types of content.

We have about 700 transcriptionists on staff, and they cover a broad range of disciplines. For example, if you send us tax-related content, we can match that content with a transcriptionist who has a financial background. And without exception, all of our work is done by professionally trained transcriptionists in the USA. Every transcriptionist goes through a rigorous training program before they touch a real file. And they also go through a background check and enter into a confidentiality agreement.

So once your account is set up, the next step is to upload your videos to us. There are many different ways to do that. You can use our secure uploader in the account system. You can use FTP, or API, or you can use one of our integrations.

Our account system is all web based, and there’s no software to install. And as I mentioned a little earlier, we have flexible turnaround options so that you can select the turnaround you need. If it’s urgent, we have options for that, or if you have a more relaxed deadline, we have options for that as well.

So we’ve also built integrations with the leading online video platforms and lecture capture systems, including Brightcove, Mediasite Kaltura, Ooyala, and YouTube. If you’re using one of these platforms in the process is even further simplified. So these are some of the 50-plus output formats that we offer.

After you’ve uploaded your media, it goes into processing. And when your captions are ready, you’ll receive an email alert. And then you can log into your account and download your files in many different transcript and caption formats. And there’s no limit to the number of downloads or formats. And there are a lot of the features in the system that you’ll have access to at that point.

One of these features that you’ll have access to is the captions editor, which is an editing interface that lets you make changes to your transcripts or captions. And when you finalize your edits, they propagate to all outputs and plug-ins without having to reprocess. So if you already have captions or subtitles, we have a new feature called Caption Import, which is a monthly subscription where you can import your captions, and then have access to all of our tools and plug-ins. And you can also translate those captions into multilingual subtitles, convert them into other formats, and securely manage your assets.

If you already have transcripts, you can use our Automated Transcript Alignment service to create time-coded captions for your videos. Then you’d have access to all of the same tools as with our captioning service, like translation and interactive transcripts. Speaking of interactive transcripts, this is one of our plug-ins which is available to you and is included in the cost of captioning.

It’s our interactive transcript. And basically, this is a time-synchronized transcript that highlights the words as they are spoken in the video. And you can click anywhere in the transcript and jump directly to that point in the video, or search for a term within the transcript and go to that point in the video.

This is really popular and engaging for all viewers. It really appeals to the modern tendency to be able to search and find something immediately. And that’s a big limitation in video when it doesn’t have something like this associated with it.

Interactive transcripts are really popular in education, because it helps so much for students when they are studying. So for instance, imagine that a student wants to find a specific section of an hour-long video that they know is important for their exam. Rather than struggling to find exactly the section they’re looking for, they can just search for the term and go directly to that point. And they can also print or download the transcripts and highlight important sections to study later.

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

So with that, we’re going to start answering some questions. So someone has asked a question about our translations, and whether our translations and ensuing subtitles include non-speech elements. So if you caption, if you use our captioning service rather than importing captions that do not have non-speech elements, then the caption file is what we send to the translators. And any non-speech elements that are in the caption file will get translated into the subtitle file. So yes, that does make the subtitles that we produce more accessible to a wide range of people globally who might be deaf or hard of hearing.

So there’s a question here about whether our customer base is mainly in the US. We do have a number of customers based outside of the US– in the UK, in the EU, in Australia, in New Zealand, Canada. So it’s definitely not just a US service.

Someone’s asking how the integrations work. So I’ll give two examples. One is for something like Mediasite.

So directly from within Mediasite you can send in your captions to 3Play Media. And we will caption that and then automatically send it back to Mediasite. So that’s how something like that would work.

And another example would be something like YouTube. From within your 3Play Media account, you can actually link your YouTube account by just signing in with your Google account. And then all of your YouTube videos will show up in the 3Play Media account system.

You can select the videos for captioning there. And we’ll caption them, and then we’ll automatically post back to YouTube.

There’s another question here about how we handle technical content. So that’s a really good question. Particularly in a field like education, people often have concerns about different subjects not translating as well in closed captions– so something like math or physics that’s more difficult.

So we tackle this in a number of different ways. First of all, we offer an ability to upload a glossary for any file or for an entire project, in which you can help the transcriptionist out by providing difficult terms, spellings for difficult names, that kind of thing. We also have a transcription setting for math. So people who are worried about equations shouldn’t be.

And all of our transcriptionists are highly trained in all of our best practices for captioning. So they’re trained how to write out a math equation. They’re trained how to handle difficult content. And again, as I mentioned earlier, we have transcriptionists from a number of different backgrounds.

So we really try to match the transcriptionist that’s best suited for your content to your videos. So again, if you have a math video, we might have a former math teacher who will be assigned to your videos. And that’s another way that we really, really tackle difficult content.

So there’s a question here. “If I import my existing captions, will I be able to use the interactive transcript?” That’s a great question. Yes, caption import really opens you up to the full range of features that we have available.

You can publish our interactive transcripts. You can translate your content. You can create subtitles.

You can convert those captions into other formats if you need a different format for a different, say, video player. You can easily do that. And yeah, there’s really no barriers with the caption import.

So there was a question about PAL captions versus NTSC captions. Those are two different formats of captions that are prevalent in different parts of the world. For example, NTSC captions are used in the US, but PAL captions are used in the UK and in a lot of Europe.

And whether or not you can make those captions compatible with the other type of format– so if your captions are time-based, then you don’t have to change anything to make them compatible between PAL and NTSC. If they’re SMPTE based– so if the frame rate is important– then you can actually change the frame rate right in our account system to make them compatible with either PAL or NTSC.

So that looks to be about all that we have time for. And thank you, everyone, for joining.

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