Captioning for the iPad
More than 2 million iPads have been sold in the first two months since they were released, bringing a new market to life on very short order. So how do you caption video for the iPad? As it shares the same iOS base operating system as the iPhone and iPod Touch captioning for iPad is essentially the same process as it is for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
There are two mechanisms to display timed text information on the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch; closed captions and subtitles. The closed captions are constrained as line-21 closed captions on standard definition broadcast television -- 32 characters per line, 2 lines per caption, no control over font, limited character set, and bandwidth constrained with respect to how fast the captions can display. Subtitles on the other hand are much more flexible with respect to font, line length, character set, and display rate. Your video can contain either one or both captions and subtitles. Given a choice, subtitles are probably the better way to go. Of course, CaptionSync can produce output files for either.
Captions are turned on or off in the main Settings application in the Video section (unlike the iPhone/iPad Touch where it's under the iPod section). Subtitles on the other hand can be turned on or off directly when playing the video by pressing the subtitle menu next to the Play button when the video starts (or when you tap the video when it is playing).
Industry standard SCC files contain the caption information which needs to be added into the video file. These SCC files can be added to video via QuickTime Pro and the ClosedCaptionImporter plugin (Mac only). The ClosedCaptionImporter plugin can be found at http://developer.apple.com/mac/library/samplecode/ClosedCaptionImporter/Introduction/Intro.html. They can also be added to video using Compressor 3 (part of the Final Cut Studio). You can visit www.automaticsync.com/help to see how-to tutorials on either method.
There are a number of different files which store subtitle information and the particular file needed depends upon the package used to encode the video. The 3GP.XML file works for packages such as Podcast Producer and MP4Box. The SRT file works for packages such as iSubtitle and Muxo.
With almost 100 million iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches sold to date, this is a large installed base worthy of your consideration for accessibility.
VHS Tapes - Transition to DVD or the Web?
Media professionals today have to know about so many more different types of media than ever before. This proliferation of media types has made many aspects of media production more complex simply because formats vary so widely. This additional complexity due to the variety of formats certainly applies to captioning, but at least the captioning task for most modern media formats is generally simpler than dealing with legacy formats like VHS.
If you have the proper encoding hardware/software for dealing with VHS tapes, you can caption VHS tapes (CaptionSync can provide you with the caption files you need), but such equipment is increasingly rare. We suggest you consider a format conversion - either to web video or DVDs. There are not many good reasons to keep media in VHS format, but there are several reasons to move away from it. Most obviously, access to playback devices is dwindling and likely to become entirely obsolete. This, coupled with the requirement for specialized encoding hardware and/or software for captioning VHS tapes is good motivation to switch formats.
As you consider this, be forewarned of copyright issues - if you do not own the copyright for the material you wish to convert, you will likely need to obtain permission from the copyright holder to change its format.
The process for converting old tapes to digital format is really quite simple. You will need a computer with a video capture card. Video capture cards can be easily added to any computer; they vary widely in price and quality, but you don't need anything fancy for this task; an inexpensive card will do just fine. These cards allow you to connect the audio and video outputs from your VHS deck to your computer. Your card may also come with some recording software that will allow you to capture the incoming signal and record it to a file. After the computer and the VHS deck are connected, converting your VHS tape is then as simple pressing play on your VHS deck and capturing the media with the recording program.
The format of the media file will depend on the recording software used to capture it, but there are scores of video transcoding programs that will convert your new recording into whatever format you need. One free program that we use for this purpose is Any Video Converter. Once you have the video in the format you want it, use CaptionSync to generate a caption file for it and post the result on your webserver.
If your goal is to convert your captured VHS material to DVD media, you have one more step: you need to author your new media file onto a DVD. You will need an authoring package for this step - be sure to choose a package that supports captioning. You can find some tutorials on how to import a caption file into popular DVD authoring packages at www.automaticsync.com/help.
Lastly, if you aren't up for tackling the VHS media format conversion task, AST offers a mail-in service that allows you to mail in your VHS tapes (or DVDs) and get back captioned DVDs. See http://www.automaticsync.com/captionsync/services/dvd-transfer/ for details.