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Quick Start to Captioning – Webinar Transcript


JOSH MILLER: All right, welcome, and thank you for attending this webinar on closed captioning. My name is Josh Miller. I’m one of the co-founders of 3Play Media. We have about 30 minutes to cover the basics of captioning. We’re going to try to make the presentation about 15 or 20 minutes and leave the rest of the time for questions.

The best way to ask questions is by typing them into the questions window in the bottom right corner of your control panel. I will track them and then address all the questions at the end of the presentation. Certainly, feel free to email us at any time offline. Happy to answer any questions that come up either during this webinar or otherwise. And if anyone is following along on Twitter, the hashtag for this webinar will be #3PlayCaptioning as shown on the screen here.


So today, we’re going to give you an overview of closed captioning for web video including some of the applicable legislation. We’ll talk about the services that we provide and go over the process and workflow step by step. So first, so that we’re all on the same page, we’re going to take it from the beginning and talk just what are closed captions.

What Are Closed Captions

Captioning refers to the process of taking an audio track, transcribing it to text, and then synchronizing that text with the media. Closed captions are typically located underneath a video or overlaid right on top, often on the lower third of that video image. In addition to spoken words, captions convey all meaning and include sound effects, and this is a key difference from subtitles. Closed captions originated in the early 1980s by an FCC mandate that applied to broadcast television. Now that online video is rapidly becoming the dominant medium, captioning laws and practices are certainly proliferating online as well.

Captioning Vs Transcription

So some basic terminology– captioning versus transcription. A transcript is usually a text document without any time information at all, whereas captions are completely time synchronized with the media, and that’s a pretty big distinction. You can make captions from a transcript by breaking up the text into smaller segments, which are usually called caption frames, and then synchronizing those frames with the media so that each frame is displayed at the right time. So each frame would have its own set of time codes.

Captioning Vs Subtitling

Next is captioning and subtitling. The difference between captions and subtitles is that subtitles are intended for viewers who do not have a hearing impairment. But they may be able to understand the language. And that’s a pretty big difference between captions because subtitles capture all the spoken content, but not the sound effects. So for web video, it’s possible to create multilingual subtitles, but anything that’s in another language from say, an English-spoken video is usually considered subtitles, not captions.

Closed Captions Vs Open Captions

Then closed versus open captioning. The difference here is that closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer. The viewer has full control. Whereas open captions are literally burned into the video image and cannot be turned off at all. Most web video uses closed captions, and this is actually often a function of the media player that you’re using.

Post Production Vs Real-Time Captions

Then post-production versus real time. Post-production means that the captioning process occurs offline and usually takes a few days to complete, whereas real-time captioning is done by a live captioner and is appearing very, very close to real time. And certainly there are some advantages and disadvantages of each process, depending on what it is you’re doing.

How Are Captions Used

So a little bit about just how captions are used. So, really, captions originated with broadcast television. But now captions are being applied across many different types of media, especially as people become more aware of the benefits, and certainly, laws are becoming increasingly more stringent as well. Since every video player and software application handles captions a little bit differently, we’ve actually created a number of how-to guides, which you can find on our website under the How It Works page.

Accessibility Laws – Section 508

So now I’ll talk a little bit about some of the accessibility laws that are pretty commonly discussed here. Section 508 is a fairly broad law that requires all federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and the public. For video, this means that captions must be added, whereas an audio podcast could suffice. You could just publish a transcript, and that would be fine.

Accessibility Laws – Section 504

Section 504 entitles people with disabilities to equal access to any program or activity that receives federal subsidy. Web-based communications for educational institutions and government agencies are covered by this as well. And Section 504 and 508 are from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, although Section 508 wasn’t introduced until 1986. And many states have actually added legislation that mirrors Section 504 and 508.

The ADA, which is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, covers federal, state, and local jurisdictions. It applies to a range of domains, including employment, public entities, telecommunications, and places of public accommodation. The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 broadened the definition of disability and really made it in line with Section 504, which means that more people essentially were covered by the ADA.

And the ADA is actually pretty interesting right now because that’s the law that was cited in the recent lawsuit between the NAD and Netflix. So Netflix argued that the ADA applies only to physical places, meaning when we’re talking about places of public accommodation, and therefore should not apply to Netflix’s streaming video service, because it’s a streaming, web-based, IP-based service. However, the judge ruled that the ADA does, in fact, apply to online content, and that Netflix qualifies as a place of public accommodation.

So this ruling certainly has some interesting implications for anyone publishing online content, certainly online video content that’s used in education or enterprise where the organization is quite large. That being said, it’s still little unclear what constitutes a place of public accommodation, and there haven’t been too many details released on the ruling in terms of what made the court decide that Netflix was, in fact, a place of public accommodation. So it’s still being discussed, but certainly it shows that it’s going in a certain direction.

Read: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Accessible Online Video Requirements

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