W3C Wins Emmy for Advancing Online Video Closed Captioning Standards

January 9, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: June 3, 2019

At last night’s 2016 Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards Ceremony, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) accepted an award in honor of their work developing standards for closed captioning video on the web.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) holds the annual Emmy ceremony to recognize companies and individuals who have made a significant impact in the technical side of television and video entertainment. This year, the award for Standardization and Pioneering Development of Non-Live Broadband Captioning went to W3C for the development of Timed Text Markup Language (TTML), the closed captioning format that they popularized for online video.

Judy Brewer, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Director, had this to say:

“Ensuring that all aspects of the Web are accessible to people with disabilities has been a priority focus of W3C and its Web Accessibility Initiative for nearly 20 years. We are proud to see the Emmy Awards recognize the TTML standard for its ability to bring captioning and subtitles of video content to millions of Web users around the globe.”

W3C runs the Timed Text Working Group, which oversees the development and standardization of TTML and WebVTT languages. These are two of the most prominent and versatile caption formats used online.

WebVTT emerged as the standard closed caption and subtitle format for HTML5 video.

TTML works great for captioning Flash videos, PowerPoint recordings, and most online video platforms like YouTube.

Timed Text Working Group spokesperson Philippe Le Hegare explains TTML as “a superset that encompasses preceding captioning approaches. It supports the semantics of most closed caption files, with the addition of metadata, and it is based on XML, a well-understood Web technology.”

Since recommending TTML as a standard caption format in 2010, W3C has been hard at work improving the language. In February 2015, they released a draft of TTML2. This new version offers features like:

  • Support for South-East Asian language subtitles
  • Stereoscopic 3D compatibility
  • Detailed mapping to HTML and CSS
  • Generally refined features of TTML1

Variations of TTML have been adopted as the standard captioning format in Europe (EBU-TT), Japan (ARIM-TTML), and American broadcasting (SMPTE-TT).

The W3C’s continued efforts to improve online video closed captioning make a huge impact on video accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing communities. The easier and better online captioning becomes, the more inclusive the web will be.

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