In search of closed captioning on web video
September 20, 2003
Closed Captioning

In the web environment I develop for - a busy hospital - having some kind of captioning on presentations that include an audio track is not optional. Videos and narrated presentations are watched in common areas, and it's not always possible to locate a pair of headphones or even convenient to use them if there are other things going on in the room that need to be heard.

There are also a few people with hearing disabilities that need the captions. So I've been searching for a captioning method for all our streaming video that is efficient, and creates web-based video that is compatible with Windows and Macintosh computers.

Although the Virage system will be ideal for this (voice recognition and screen-scraping create searchable, linked chunks of text associated with the exact locations in the video where they occurred.), it will not be in place soon enough.

Creating captions on VHS/DVD formats would be a nice capability, as well.

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Posted by ellen at September 20, 2003 12:04 PM

I tried Magpie which is a free captioning program that looked good. However in my experience with it so far, it is too buggy to use on both OSX and Windows 2000 Pro. It usually takes 3 tries to start on OSX, then often quits in the middle of a line, and does not allow you to start from the middle of a movie - making it unusable. It simply will not start up on Win2K.

So now I am looking around for commercial alternatives. The one that looks best so far is CCaption but the price is pretty high (around $3000.00)

I've also experimented with using a SAMI file in windows media (inconsistent results so far - the captions don't always show up, and syncing is manual), and though I am sure it can be made to work the manual syncing is a drag. Microsoft's site does say "No specialized software of any kind is needed to create a SAMI file" but frankly, no specialized software of any kind is needed to write a letter either, but we DO have Microsoft Word for some reason...

Same with Quicktime's import to text track- it's a little more useable but not much.

I've priced CCaption: $3000.00 (!) but it looks like just the thing, if I could afford it.

Also attempted to use the Text Crawl filter in Final Cut Pro (text needs to crawl too fast to be readable to keep up with the speaker.) and Text -Lower Third Filter (too limited for this use.)

One thing I've tried that actually does work is using the new MS Producer 2003 to create captions. I selected a template with only 320x240 video + resizable HTML. I save a new HTML file as "1.html", in the assets folder of the producer project. It helps if the HTML file is already linked to a CSS file, and there is a div set up with the style assigned. Your text goes inside the div. Keeping Dreamweaver open in the background, I click the "Play" button in the timeline of Producer. As the video plays, I listen for a full sentence then stop the video, hit the "Mark" button, switch to Dreamweaver and type in the sentence, then save.

Then I "Save As" a new file: "2.html", which will contain the second caption. I switch back to Producer, listen for one more sentence, stop the video, hit the "mark button, switch back to Dreamweaver and type in the sentence. Save, then Save As "3.html" and repeat.

At times I take a break to synch up all the html files that have been created with the marks in the video timeline.

The really great thing is: since there is no Powerpoint in this kind of Producer presentation, and no table of contents, the file is apparently compatible with Macs (at least IE on the Mac) since it does not require the button javascripts that usually don't work very well. The presentation plays, the html pages switch at the right times. I haven't tested it on Safari yet, but I'm not too optimistic about it working on that browser at this time.

However, I regard this as kind of an interim solution, so I am still on the lookout for good captioning procedures and software.

Note (11-16-04): I've since found workable solutions. See related articles on captioning Here

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