When it comes to creating and using video in your courses, one of the most important things you need to consider is that ALL video media should be created with accessibility in mind! One of the best ways to make your video media accessible is to add closed captions.
Did you know that the TechSmith Relay video platform that Odessa College uses for media creation and storage has a built in caption creator/editor? This is included as a standard function that ANY video creator can use. Do you enjoy creating videos but don’t have the time to caption them yourself? The built-in captioning functionality of TechSmith Relay allows video creators to assign their videos to other users that are part of the Relay system. Give your students a chance for extra credit if they want to work on captioning a lecture video for you!
Basics: What is a Caption?
Captions are text versions of the spoken word presented within multimedia. Captions allow the content of web audio and video to be accessible to those who do not have access to audio. Though captioning is primarily intended for those who cannot hear the audio, it has also been found to help those that can hear audio content, those who may not be fluent in the language in which the audio is presented, those for whom the language spoken is not their primary language, etc. Common web accessibility guidelines indicate that captions should be Synchronized (the text content should appear at approximately the same time that audio would be available), Equivalent (content provided in captions should be equivalent to that of the spoken word), and Accessible (caption content should be readily accessible and available to those who need it).
Captions are typically something that can be turned on/off by users that are watching the video. Most video players will have a “CC” button found on their toolbar that turns them on/off.
Step 1: Initial Captioning on Your Video
Once you’ve created a video in TechSmith Relay and it has been uploaded/processed to your Relay Video Library, you are ready to add captions! Log into TechSmith Relay with your Relay user account (https://oc.techsmithrelay.com) and under the “My Library” area you will want to locate the video that you want to add your captions to. Click on that video!
Under the video you will see a toolbar that contains a list of different functionalities for the video that you’ve created. Click on the option for “Closed Captioning.” This will expand the area below and give you some additional options.
Click on the available drop-down list. If this video is a brand new video (which it likely is) – you will want to select the “Generate Captions” option from the list. Notice also in this list is the option to “Add Assignee”. If you have any students / student workers / TAs / tutors / etc in your course that you’d like to assign captioning duties to, you can do it through this menu here.
Once you have selected the option you want to use, click on the blue CONFIRM button.
Now – to wait! The longer a video is, the more time it will take the TechSmith Captioning service to generate your captions. So make sure to be patient! You will see a message that says “We’re working on your captions.” while your captions are in process. Refresh the screen periodically until this message goes away. (In the past when captions were finished generating you’d get an email – but it seems like that function may have changed! This is something I’m looking into!)
TechSmith Captioning does not use human captioners to create the captions for your video (this would be too time consuming and costly!). Instead, TechSmith Captioning has AI built into it that will listen to the audio timeline of your video and it will attempt to generate a set of captions for your video for you. I will tell you right now – the AI IS NOT 100% accurate. Things like accent, dialect, voice volume, technical terms related to specific fields, speaking speed, etc. can and will affect the accurateness of the generated captions. The TechSmith AI will do its best to create accurate captions for your video (and in some cases it will be very close!) – but it should only be considered a starting point. Once the captions are generated, you will need to get in and make edits to them in order to make them 100% accurate and also make sure that they fully comply with ADA recommendations.
Step 2: Review Generated Captions, Make Edits
After your captions have been generated, you will want to go into the caption editor to clear up any ADA issues and also make edits to the generated captions so that they more closely match the audio/video timeline.
On your video, click the “Closed Captioning” setting and in the drop down list, select “Edit Captions” and click the blue CONFIRM button to get started.
When you select to edit your captions, your video will open up inside of the Caption Editor (which looks quite a bit different than the normal Relay dashboard area). Across the top you will see the following options:
- Save & Exit – Use this button when you are ready to save your captions and exit out of the caption editor area.
- Preview – Use this button if you would like to preview how your captions look in the Relay player (all this really does is remove the caption editing area at the bottom of the screen – you will still remain in the caption editing area).
- Import – If you use a third-party captioning company like Rev or 3Play Media, these companies generate captions for videos in .SRT files (SubRip Subtitle file). If you have an .SRT file that was generated for your video from an outside source, you can import it to the video using this button.
- Export – If you need to take a copy of your captions to a different video platform, you can use the Export button to download the caption file in different formats. Currently the formats offered are .SRT, .SBV, .SAMI, .VTT, and .TTML.
- Publish – This is the button that you will use when you have completed all of your caption edits and you are ready for those edits to go live!
The middle part of the screen contains your video and this is where you will be able to see your video playing as you edit your captions.
The bottom part of the screen is where all of the caption editing magic happens!
One area of caption editing that you need to pay particularly close attention to is the “ADA” button located in the bottom-right corner of the screen. This is a compliance box that will let you know if there are parts of your video that do not comply with traditional ADA standards for captioning. This area will update dynamically as you make changes to your captioning line. The ADA standards are as follows:
- Captions must have a duration between 3-7 seconds
- Captions must always be present (even if there are parts of your video where there is no sound – in these areas we recommend you put “[No audio] in the caption box”).
- Captions must be between 1 and 100 characters long.
To begin checking/editing your captions, click the PLAY button. Your video will start playing and you will see the time-bar move over the generated captions. Listen to your audio carefully and make any text/punctuation adjustments that need to be made. You will find that it will be easiest to do this in small audio segments. To make it easier on you while editing, you can use the SPACE BAR to play/pause your video (much easier than having to click the play/pause button each time!). When the playbar is over a caption area, it will bring up an editable box where you can directly type your edits. The number you see in the bottom right corner is the number of characters that are in the caption (do not exceed 100) and the number in the bottom left corner is the number of seconds that the caption will show for on the video (must be between 3-7).
As long as your box shows in a dark gray color, it means that it meets all the requirements for ADA. Just check your spelling/text/punctuation, adjust as needed, and move on to the next bar.
If you come across a bar that is highlighted in an light orange color, it means that there is something about the caption that doesn’t meet the ADA requirements. In the example below, you can see that the caption contains too many characters (the negative sign in front of the number means that it needs to have that many characters taken AWAY from the caption). You can also see that the caption is 9.94 seconds long – which exceeds the requirement of 3-7 seconds.
The easiest way to fix a caption that is too long is to SPLIT it. The “Split” button can be found in the bottom-left area of your caption editing toolbar. Place the playline bar in the caption where you want to split it and then click this button to separate the long caption into two shorter captions.
Doing this solves the issue of the caption being too long (time wise) and also splits the characters between the two new captions so there aren’t as many. In this example, splitting the long caption into two separate captions fixed both issues. The boxes now show in dark gray.
If there is a caption that you do not want to keep, you can click on the DELETE CAPTION button on the editing toolbar. This will remove the generated caption section completely from the timeline.
When you remove a captioned area from the play line, you will have a blank space where it used to be (it will not change the timing of any previously existing captions created before or after what was removed).
In order to fill in this blank space, you will need to click the ADD CAPTION button on the caption editing toolbar.
Doing this will create a new blank space on your caption timeline. The starting point of the new caption will be wherever the time playbar is sitting – so make sure you have it sitting at the very end of the last caption! In the example I show below, I didn’t have it right at the end of the last caption, so there is a small gap between the end of one caption and the beginning of another (and this will be flagged as an ADA problem).
If you find that you have gaps on your timeline, you can bring your mouse-cursor up to hover over the beginning or end of a caption. This will change the cursor to show an icon of an arrow pointing to the right and left over two double vertical bars (in the image below I’ve created the icon in red so that you can easily see it). Holding down a left click while seeing this icon and dragging your mouse cursor to the right or left will cause the box to expand or contract in the direction that you drag it in.
If you drag the end of a caption box OVER the end of another caption box, the captioning editor will merge the two captions together (this can be useful sometimes if you have two really short captions beside each other – combining them could make them between 3-7 seconds long).
The other three buttons on the captioning tool bar are standard functions. The icon that looks like a trashcan is the DELETE ALL CAPTIONS button. Only use this icon if you are sure that you want to remove all of the captions on the line and start over with a blank line. The button that has the arrow pointing to the left is the UNDO button – which will undo previous actions. The button that has the arrow pointing to the right is the REDO button – which will restore any previously undone actions.
It is not uncommon to see blank space at the end of a video timeline. For ADA purposes, this blank space needs to have some kind of caption over it. If the space is a space where no audio is happening, we always recommend putting something like “[No Audio]” on the line so that users that are reading captions will know that there is no audio playing there.
Step 3: ADA Compliant? Click Publish!
Once you’ve worked your way through the entire captioning line and assured that all ADA standards are met, you should be able to see a green check mark on the ADA icon in the bottom right corner.
Click on the blue PUBLISH button in the upper-right corner of your caption editor window to save all your changes and publish your updated captions to your video.
TechSmith provides an excellent video tutorial on how to add and edit video captions. If you prefer to watch a video, they have a 3 minute video here that describes all of the steps above: https://www.techsmith.com/tutorial-techsmith-relay-caption-editor.html