First of all, here is a great overview from the The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) that defines captioning and how captions can benefit all users (universal access):
as the process of converting the audio content of a television broadcast, webcast, film, video, CD-ROM, DVD, live event, or other production into text and displaying the text on a screen or monitor. Captions not only display the written equivalent of the spoken language, but they also include items, such as speaker identification, sound effects, and music description. . . . Captions relay not only what is being said but also what is being communicated. . . . Captions are essential for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Without captions, these individuals wouldn’t have access to the audio content of a program. But captions aren’t just for individuals with a hearing loss. They help emerging readers to improve their reading skills, and they help non-native English speakers learn the language. Captions also allow you to watch TV in noisy situations or watched streamed programs on your smart phone when you don’t have headphones. In short, captions benefit us all.
Now, earlier in this semester, I created a book talk video for one of my library science classes. As a Project ALFA (Accessible Libraries for All) fellow, I am learning to consider ways to make libraries more accessible for all users. One simple way of doing that is to add closed captions to videos for people who are deaf or who have a hearing impairment. Conley (2011) notes:
One in five Americans age 12 and older experiences hearing loss severe enough to hinder communication.
Clearly, captioning would be beneficial to a lot of people. Even though I hear well at this point in my life, I still often enjoy watching movies with the captions turned on to make sure that I do not miss anything.
I am just learning to make rather basic videos, so I was curious to see how challenging it would be for a rookie like me to add captions. For my class project that would be uploaded to YouTube, I decided to experiment with using YouTube’s caption creation method of submitting a transcript(and for this method, it is very easy on the user’s end – if you can type and format a document and upload it, then that is about all there is to this method – very doable for someone like me with little video creation background).
YouTube’s instructions for creating a transcript file (that can be found here: http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=2734693&guide=2734661&page=guide.cs) are as follows:
A transcript file must be saved as a plain text file without any special characters like smartquotes or emdashes. Here’s what a transcript might look like:
>> FISHER: All right. So, let’s begin. This session is: Going Social with the YouTube APIs. I am Jeff Fisher, and this is Johann Hartmann, we’re presenting today.
[Note: The above is just what is mentioned in the YouTube instructions. For YouTube the chevrons may be necessary in helping the speech recognition technology to identify the speaker. But if using other captioning software, the chevrons may not be necessary. As one commenter to this blog post, Sveta, responded:
It’s not a good idea to use chevrons (>>) to identify speakers. You need to identify speakers by actually adding names or describing. For example – “John: Hello!” or “Father: Hello!” or “Female voice: Hello!”. Chevrons are okay for real-time captioning (for example, news programs that are going in real time), but not for pre-recorded video.]
Here are further instructions from YouTube’s method of creating a transcript file (that can be found here: http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=2734693&guide=2734661&page=guide.cs) are as follows:
YouTube uses experimental speech recognition technology to provide automatic timing for your English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian or Dutch transcript. Automatic timing creates a caption file that you can download. Short videos with good sound quality and clear spoken English synchronize best.
Here are some other things you can do to help get the best automatic timing results for your transcripts:
-Identify long pauses (3 seconds or longer) or music in the transcript with a double line break.
-Use double line breaks anytime you want to force a caption break.
Here are some common captioning practice that help readability:
-Descriptions inside square brackets like [music] or [laughter] can help people with hearing disabilities to understand what is happening in your video.
-You can also add tags like >> at the beginning of a new line to identify speakers or change of speaker.
Once the transcript is created, you can upload it under your video creation account area on YouTube. The instructions for that on YouTube (http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=2734793&guide=2734661&page=guide.cs) are as follows:
Once you’ve created your transcript or caption file, you can upload them to YouTube to attach them to your video.
-Mouse over your username located in the upper right corner of every page.
-Click on Video Manager. You will then be directed to a page showing your uploaded videos.
-Find the video to which you’d like to add captions/subtitles and click the down arrow located to the right of the Edit and Insight buttons. Select the Captions button from the drop down menu.
-Click the Add New Captions or Transcript button on the right hand side of the page. You will be prompted to Browse for a file to upload.
-Select a caption/subtitle or transcript file to upload. If you are uploading a transcript (no timecodes), select Transcript file, otherwise, select Caption file.
-Select the appropriate language. If you wish, you can also enter a track name.
-Click the Upload File button.
-In order to download auto-captions for a video, you must be the video owner. If this is true:
-Sign into your account
-On the Captions pane, click on any track. Click on the Download button.
-YouTube will then save a file called captions.sbv to your desktop.
Note you will not necessarily be downloading the caption file in the format you uploaded it, so it is always recommended to save any captions file you make locally.
Once your transcript file is uploaded, YouTube then synchs the transcript with the video’s audio using experimental speech recognition technology. This is a simple process for the user and the results are impressive. (This is unlike YouTube’s experimental speech recognition technology that attempts to automatically create captions from the speech alone from a video, which currently produces results that are quite horrendous.)
YouTube’s Caption Settings and Foreign Language Translation Feature
If you click on the CC button below the video window in YouTube you can turn captions on or off (just make sure you click the “English” option and not the “English (automatic captions)” option. Also, if you click the CC button, there are some options for making the font size of the captions larger or smaller and for changing the font style and the foreground and background colors, so users who are watching YouTube videos can experiment with personalizing the captions and finding what is most comfortable, appealing, and easiest to read for them as individuals.
YouTube also has a feature under the caption settings where the user can select an option for the captions to be translated into various foreign languages using Google’s translation tool. While that will not be a perfect translation, it can contribute a great deal to making a video accessible to speakers of many languages, and that is another benefit of adding captions. For libraries, who may have various immigrant groups or second language speakers or language students and so forth, that is another great reason to add captions to contribute to accessibility.
A Few Best Practices
While I am by no means an expert, some basic practices I encountered were to: keep lines short (roughly 7-12 words, 1 or 2 lines); check to see that captions are synchronized with the speech; double-space between lines in the transcript; capitalize the first letter of each line; use proper grammar; determine natural breaks in the dialogue; communicate other important info like sound effects and speaker identification; proofread.
As mentioned previously, some benefits of captioning are that it makes accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers; captions are translatable into foreign languages; and captioning a video also greatly improves web indexing and makes it easier for search engines to locate your video.
A Note About Copyright
If you are adding captions to your own videos, then there are no worries about copyright because you are the creator of the content. But should it ever become necessary to add captions to someone else’s video be aware that copyright could very well be an issue – DCMP notes that:
“Commercially produced media may not be altered without written permission from the copyright holder.”
This also applies even for educational purposes. DCMP recommends the following:
If you want to show a video in the classroom, the first thing to do is to contact the producer and see if a captioned version is available, sometimes there are.” [And if not, ask for permission to caption the copy you own.] “Usually video producers do not object to educational institutions captioning their media.”
There are numerous ways to add captions to programs through free software on the web. So feel free to explore and look into the plethora of options available based on your skill level and video knowledge and also what kind of video you are making and in what format you will be publishing the video. Captions are becoming easier and easier to create and have many benefits. Have fun exploring and experimenting!