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Syncing Up with Automatic Sync

March 2010 Volume 4
Automatic Sync offers broadcasters, educational institutions and government agencies a transcribing and captioning service for media. CaptionSync was funded by a US Department of Education grant to research and develop a cost-effective way to automate the process of making media accessible to comply with a variety of federal and state and local laws.

Company News

AST Launches a New Public Website

AST is pleased to announce the launch of our new website, featuring an industry-specific focus on captioning uses, an expanded FAQ and How-To Tutorial section. Our new Showcase panel illustrates how several of our customers use CaptionSync with other AST services to make their media more comprehensive.

Along with a new look, the site is more interactive and rich with resources for learning about digital media types and accessibility practices. Please come and take a tour of our new site and come back often as we will be continuing to enhance the resource material on the site over the coming months.

AST has also launched an improved CaptionSync user website (see article following). If you are an existing user, your Login procedure will not change, and the default information you've entered in the past is not affected.

 

AST Launches an Improved CaptionSync User Website

In December 2009, AST launched an improved CaptionSync user website (the website you use when you log in to your CaptionSync account). This new site makes uploading content for captioning even easier.

Among the improved features:

  1. Merged Web and Broadcast application types make redos easier
  2. Numerous Mouseover areas show tool tips and links to the CaptionSync Support Wiki
  3. You can mouseover an output link to find its type
  4. You can now submit 24 bit WAV files directly exported from Final Cut
  5. A simpler upload screen with notes on how to check your submission
  6. Result downloads are now at the top of the details page
  7. You can request your files be returned in one ZIP file instead of separate attachments
  8. The Advanced Settings screen is divided into simpler tabs
  9. Improved management of purchase order numbers

You'll see improvements to our site after login, or you can view a video illustrating some of these changes.

Please note that if you use our bulk upload tool, AST-Link, you should ensure you have the latest version (the Windows version of AST-Link must be 1.3 or later). Go to the Help section of your account to download the latest AST-Link version.

 

AST Moves to Per-Minute Increment Pricing

Effective April 1, 2010, AST's pricing for captioning, transcription and result review will change to one minute resolution. The five minute per-job minimum will remain, but for jobs longer than five minutes, the job length will be measured in one minute increments. This change is effectively a price reduction for all jobs over five minutes in length, and no change for jobs less than five minutes in length. This change will affect all CaptionSync users who do not have existing contractual pricing with AST.

Customer Spotlight

2m|d Utilizes CaptionSync and Panopto CourseCast for the Sprint Open Developer Conference


Sprint Conference video

2m|d, a compliance integration provider, recently worked with AST and our partner Panopto to capture conference content for the 2009 Sprint Open Developer Conference held in Santa Clara last fall.

Sprint needed a way to add value to mobile developers and business executives who attended the conference as well as providing valuable information for those who could not make it. The conference brought together the latest information from leaders in the mobile space which included Google, Microsoft, HTC, Sun, and many others.

Perhaps more importantly, Sprint wanted to give everyone the chance to enjoy every track -- if they were able to attend or not. An announcement was made that the event was being recorded and captioned for later delivery, so many visitors felt that they could relax, contribute and get the most from what presenters had to say. Sprint worked closely with Doug Jackson, a partner in 2m|d, who utilized Panopto's CourseCast lecture capture system to record the conference.

A lecture capture system records every facet of a lecture - video, audio, whiteboard, PowerPoint, document cameras - and integrates them for playback in a screen format segmented for each type of medium. Because Panopto systems offer an integrated captioning feature with AST's CaptionSync system, the conference sessions were automatically uploaded from the system when the session was finished and the files were transcribed and captioned and returned for inclusion in the final product.

CourseCast uses the caption data to offer a powerful search feature that allows users to type in phrases of interest and pinpoint exactly where they are discussed in the session - an extremely useful tool for developers wanting to revisit the informative sessions at a later date.

Doug reports, "One of the less obvious advantages of captioning is that it allowed visitors to search and select the slide that provided a specific piece of information that a developer may need to save time and money developing solutions."

"AST worked with us to ensure that the presentations were correctly captioned and met my expectations," he continues. "While there were a few issues with encoding at this scale (there always are), AST helped address them (sometimes proactively) on my behalf with other vendors. This saved me time. We are already planning to use AST on our next large event."

2m|d is to be congratulated for flawlessly capturing the entire Developer Conference and making it quickly available to attendees and non-attendees alike. Take a look at 2m|d's Sprint Conference results (presented in Microsoft's Silverlight player) and see for yourself how well each facet of the lecture is presented. It's almost like being there!

Legislative News

New Complaint Rules Regarding Closed Captioning Are In Effect

 

Two closed captioning rules went into effect with the FCC in February, 2010. The first is a mandate that broadcast television stations respond promptly to viewer complaints regarding closed captioning issues. This entails responding in writing to the complainant within 30 days of the complaint. If the complainant is unsatisfied with the response, the complainant may file a complaint with the FCC within 30 days.

The second requires that stations file contact information with the FCC by March 22, 2010, and publish this contact information on their website, their invoices and in local telephone directories. This facilitates the ability for viewers to find appropriate contact information to raise captioning concerns and file complaints.

See a detailed version of the requirements at the FCC website.

 

US Access-Board Drafts ICT Advisory for Sections 508/255

 

The US Access-Board has issued a draft of advisories for several parts of Sections 508 and 255 of the Rehabilitation Act, and focuses on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines. While this draft primarily addresses telecommunications hardware capabilities and webpage construction for best accessibility, some clarifications of captioning are included. Here is an excerpt of suggested clarifications that may apply to AST customers:

103.3.1.1 Location. Electronic content procured or developed by an agency shall be covered by this part, even if the content is not located on a Federal website or at a Federal location.

Advisory E103.3.1.1 Location. A Federal video posted on a social media website is required to conform to this part. For example, under this part, a video developed by a Federal agency must be compliant without regard to whether it is posted on the agency’s website or on a non-Federal third party site, without charge to the agency.

E103.3.1.2 Medium. This part applies to Federal electronic content regardless of medium.

Advisory E103.3.1.2 Medium. Electronic documents, for example, are covered regardless of whether posted on a website, attached to an email, or saved on a CD, flash drive, office server, or other medium.

See the full draft at the US Access Board's website.

Events

event stage

TechEd 2010 - Technology in Education for the Real World  April 11 - 13, 2010, Pasadena Convention Center, Pasadena, CA. AST will be exhibiting and speaking at this Conference. Please visit us at Booth 421!

EduComm 2010 - June 7 - 9, Mirage, Las Vegas, NV AST will be presenting and exhibiting at this conference for Higher Education Leaders. Visit us there at Booth #5.

Ed-Media 2010,- World Conference on Education Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications - June 29 - July 2, 2010, 1 Harbour Square, Toronto, Canada AST will be presenting a session at this conference titled "Captioning Beyond Compliance: Adding Meaning to Media"

Tech Tidbits

Automated Tools to Wreck A Nice Beach

An Overview of Automatic Speech Recognition

Automated speech recognition research has been a work in progress for a long time. The companies who took an early leadership position in this field in the 1950s proclaimed that the problem would be solved within five years. Similar proclamations have been made since, but almost 60 years later, modern speech recognition systems are still outperformed by a typical three year old child.

This is not to say we have not made progress. Speech recognition research has come a long way and the technology is commercially viable for a number of important applications -- with a couple important constraints: the recognizer must be "trained" for a particular talker, and/or have a tightly constrained vocabulary. While the allure of automated speech recognition for captioning is very compelling, typically neither of these two constraints is valid.


waveform

Speech Recognition-Based Captioning Products Continue to Appear

Despite this, every few years someone brings a speech-recognition-based captioning product to the market. The most recent one to make a splash is the new Google system for captioning YouTube videos. Manufacturers can make very impressive demos with these systems and while this makes great fodder for the press, these demos are not indicative of the actual performance you will get when captioning your own videos.


Accuracy is Critical for Accessibility

On today's typical captioning task (where neither the talker nor the vocabulary is constrained), error rates of today's speech recognition systems are in excess of 20%. To put this in perspective, readers report that error rates above 3% significantly degrade the intelligibility of text, and by the time the error rate reaches 10% they report that they are unable to even discern the topic being discussed (see our Research). To see what this looks like, try this video with the auto-captions enabled. To get the full experience, turn the sound off and see if you can follow the content.

The argument that "something is better than nothing" is often put forward for these sorts of tools, but at best this argument is valid only for "low stakes" content; these sorts of tools should not be used for high-stakes content. Speech-to-text tools have low accuracy rates that may be suitable for entertainment videos and for keyword searching. For higher stakes content, such as academic content, accuracy rates typical of speech-to-text tools have not met legal accessibility guidelines, nor have they been acceptable enough to rely on the output to deliver academic education.

For government, academic institutions, and corporations that do not want their message distorted by error, or risk civil rights lawsuits, or compromise academic integrity, a solution that ensures the best possible output is needed.


AST's Commitment to Quality Captioning

At AST, we believe that speech recognition technology is still not sufficient to provide a quality result to your viewers; captioning with a 20%+ error rate may provide comic relief, but it offers nothing in the way of accessibility. We make extensive use of automation to keep costs low, but we feel that this needs to be done without compromising the quality of the end result.

(About the title: "Wreck a nice beach" is acoustically very similar to "Recognize speech" and represents the type of recognition error that an automated system could easily make but a human transcriber is unlikely to make.)

Resources

Useful Resources

  • New VPAT Available - AST's new VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) is available for review on our website's Policies page. A VPAT is a tool used to document a product's conformance with the accessibility standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. AST works to continually improve our own accessibility and our latest improvements are reflected in this new version.

  • HR Processes Guidelines by Cornell U - Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations has published a paper discussing HR Processes and IT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities under the practices put forth by the ADA Act 1, which includes video captioning and online employee training. Download a copy here: Cornell ILR Employment & Disability Institute Collection

  • A MERLOT/ELIXR video on Designing Accessibility by CSU Sacramento's Dr. Bill Vicars is available here: Using Technology to Foster Universal Design.

  • AST has completely revamped our "How-To Tutorials" section by adding printable PDF tutorials, a YouTube video as well as local versions for download. In addition we've added a transcript of each movie. Check out the myriad of subjects covered at: http://www.automaticsync.com/help and be sure to return often, as we'll be enhancing this library over the coming months.
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