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Online Video Captioning Is Critical, Offers Multiple Benefits

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A morning session at today’s Streaming Media West 2013 discussed captioning and transcription solutions being rolled out by enterprise and media companies. Best Practices for Implementing Accessible Video Captioning explored the costs and benefits of captioning, as well as best practices and tips for implementing accessibility technologies.

Josh Miller, co-founder of 3Play Media, moderated the panel. He kicked off the panel by talking about several laws that govern captioning and accessibility of web videos, Section 504 and 508 from the Rehabilitation Acts of 1973 and 1986, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The one that gets the most attention in our industry, though, is the CVAA,” said Miller, noting that it is being phased in over six phases. The phases, which started in 2013, range from prerecorded content not edited for Internet distribution to archival content, which will ultimately be required to have captions within fifteen days of the initial archival date.

Miller notes that captioning includes benefits for English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

“80 percent of views on YouTube are coming from outside of the United States,” said Brad Ellis, a product manager at Google’s YouTube. “Much of that is not English. It’s a huge opportunity for growth.”

Ellis says YouTube builds tools for content creators to add captions to their uploaded content.

“Just by captioning videos, in one test we saw a four percent increase in video views,” said Ellis of an A/B test YouTube had performed between a captioned video and a non-captioned video.

Ellis also noted that auto-captioning is able to cover 300 million videos.

“Technology is the only way we can scale,” said Ellis, noting that YouTube’s auto-captioning still has issues. “Occasionally we offer some inadvertent comedy relief.”

Ellis says auto-captioning in English has progressed significantly in the past few months. Still, the company doesn’t use these automated captions in text-based searches.

“We don’t use the automatic captions today,” said Ellis, to a question about indexing the auto-captioning for search and retrieval. YouTube does use uploaded captions, though, to increase the quality of searches.

Another panelist, Bill McCarty, a manager in Dell’s corporate multimedia group, discussed the reasons for doing captioning in the enterprise world.

“We primarily create marcomm content used by business-to-business users,” said McCarty. “We pay for the content ourselves as part of the pre-sales marketing. We transcribe everything now.”

McCarty noted that they’ve been transcribing everything for the last 18 months.

“Not all our legacy content is transcribed,” he said. “I haven’t had many requests for legacy content, but all our content for the last 18 months is captioned.“

A representative from T-Mobile USA said his company has a compelling reason to caption for internal employee use. Ali Daniali, a web developer for T-Mobile, said that employees using the T-Mobile intranet within a store environment don’t have a speaker on their computers.

“We caption everything”, said Daniali. “All that cost is part of the budget of corporate communications.”

The original idea, according to Daniali, was to provide a transcript alongside internal corporate communications videos, but the company has settled on captioning instead of a transcript, given the limited amount of screen real estate for video playback.

YouTube’s Ellis said that, while they “don’t actually create the content” on YouTube, the goal is universal captioning.

“Our goal is to make every video understandable for every user,” said Ellis. “It’s a long-term goal but it is our goal.”

Dell’s McCarty said that captioning provides several additional benefits.

“We see a secondary benefit when we play videos in our lobbies,” said McCarty. “Multiple videos playing on multiple screens don’t conflict with each other the way they would if the audio were played.”

McCarty says that the cost of captioning really isn’t that great, when compared to mid-range and high-end video production.

“Build in budget for translation and closed captioning,” he added. “A learning that we found is to keep on-screen text to a minimum so that localization can be done through translation and closed captioning.”

McCarty also said that clarity of speech requires both good microphones and also clear presenters.

“It’s important that you be able to hear what’s going on, not just for audience but also for the transcriptionist,” said McCarty. “That means quality microphones and clear presenters.”

He noted that one production shift is an awareness of which subject matter experts speak with heavy accents.

Daniali notes that mobile presents a challenge for captioning, both in smaller form factors and in presentation of the captions on multiple device types.

“Whenever we wanted to send video to employee handsets, there’s sensitivity to putting lots of data on the public mobile network,” said Daniali, adding that there’s ongoing internal discussion about the use of mobile delivery of corporate communications to personal devices so that employees can consume that content off the intranet.

YouTube’s Ellis agrees, addressing an audience questions around CEA-608 and -708 broadcast standards captioning.

“We’ve focused very hard on making sure we have captions on mobile devices,” said Ellis, noting the fragmentation of mobile devices and operating systems present a challenge.

“I’m looking forward to the day when we can say that 100 percent of mobile devices support captions,” he said.

Watch the full panel discussion below. 


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