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Syncing Up with Automatic Sync

August 2011 Volume 7
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, state, and local laws.

Cover Story

Plaintiffs Demand Captioning for Online Media

Two prominent disability rights groups have filed suit against prominent media companies for failing to provide closed captioning on internet videos.

Picture of a judge's gavel

In June, the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) charged Netflix in Federal court with violating the ADA based on the limited number of captioned shows available through the company's "Watch Instantly" option. See the release announcing the lawsuit, and the actual complaint. At the state level, the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD) has made a similar charge against news giant CNN. GLAD's lawsuit alleges that is violating California's anti-discrimination statutes, the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Disabled Persons Act, by preventing access to much of its news content. See the announcement of the lawsuit, and the actual complaint. Both lawsuits come after months of active petitioning by NAD, GLAD and many others concerned with equal access to internet media.

Netflix and CNN acknowledge that the technology is readily available to add captioning, but question whether current legislation does in fact require them to provide it. The ADA and the Unruh Act became law well before anyone knew the how prevalent web media would become, and, as such, have no specific wording that legislates captioning of streamed movies and news. The Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act which became law last year will change this very soon. An FCC advisory committee has been hard at work since January developing specific recommendations for video programming accessibility. The committee has clearly made internet captioning its top priority, assigning the first and earliest report deadline to the work group examining the issue.

These two lawsuits are likely to be watershed events that help shape the future of accessibility for streaming video. Many expect that Netflix and CNN will be the industry leaders they are known to be by responding quickly and positively to their respective plaintiffs. As lawyers work out the details for all parties involved, it behooves online video companies and broadcasters to explore closed captioning options. AST, of course, is a viable option for your captioning needs. We provide fast, affordable and accurate captions of your content in a wide variety of media formats. If you are interested in exploring captioning your online steaming media, either for compliance purposes or to enhance SEO and viewership, please give us a call. We'll help you meet current compliance standards and stay well ahead of impending legislation.

Company News

New CaptionSync Feature for Blackboard Collaborate Users

Blackboard Collaborate Logo

CaptionSync can now accept Blackboard Collaborate presentations (Elluminate archives) for captioning. CaptionSync users can submit a list of Collaborate archives and receive back captioned videos in the M4V video format. The resulting accessible videos can be viewed with captions on any computer or device with iTunes or Quicktime, including mobile devices such as iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

Instructors who want to re-use content from Blackboard Collaborate sessions in future classes now have an easy way to create videos that are compliant with accessibility requirements and also usable on a variety of mobile devices. The captioned videos can be used as downloadable content in Blackboard Learn courses, and they are also compatible with iTunes U sites.

Learn more about using CaptionSync with Blackboard Collaborate.

AST Rolls out New Public Website

Snapshot of new AST homepage

AST is pleased to announce the rollout of our new public website (the pages you see before you login to your CaptionSync account). The biggest visible change is a fresh new look to the site, with new content being added regularly. Over the coming months, you can expect new case studies, new tutorials, and new announcements to appear on the site, so please come back and visit often. You will also find some changes to your CaptionSync account once you log in. These changes are being made to offer you clearer information about your account, and to accommodate some new features that we will be announcing over the coming months. So, stay tuned for more information on this front!

Some of the most important changes to our site are "behind the scenes". While they won't be immediately visible to you, these changes should increase the reliability of the site - continuing to ensure our site is always available to you even as the usage load continues to climb.

Oh, and check out our new overview video by clicking on the "Learn about AST" button on our homepage.

Customer Spotlight

Santa Rosa Community College Streamlines Process with CaptionSync

Picture of Santa Rosa College sign

Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), in Northern California, is part of the California Community College System. Anne O'Toole, who coordinates the captioning at SRJC, is another satisfied CaptionSync user. Anne is a Media Resources Specialist working in the SRJC's Media Services Department, which is located in Frank P. Doyle Library. Media Services oversees a collection of approximately 8,000 titles (3,000 of which are VHS dating back as far as the late 1980's) used by faculty in both online and face-to-face classes. It is one of Anne's responsibilities to make sure that the collection content is captioned so that it is accessible to all students.

The State of California enacted legislation in 2003 that mandated captioning. SRJC started by doing some of their captioning work in-house. They hired contract employees, but the process was often cumbersome and slow. Anne says, "AST has helped us streamline and accelerate our captioning process. Previously we outsourced the transcription work, then the script editing and time coding was done by local staff using our equipment and special state funding. Currently, AST is taking care of both transcription and captioning for SRJC and we have found the customer support to be both responsive and helpful."

SRJC has been able to obtain Distance Education Captioning and Transcription (DECT) grant funds for part of their transcription and captioning for their content, which has helped a lot. The grant is available to the colleges in the California Community College System only. The DECT grant has been great for these colleges who are under increasingly tight budgets recently. More information on the grant can be found at the DECT website.

Legislative News

Update on 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act

The FCC's Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) is moving forward quickly with recommendations for the 21st Century Video Accessibility legislation. The committee received its first official report in early July. Working Group 1 presented timely recommendations for the captioning of internet video that was previously captioned on television.

The report includes thorough discussion of captioning formats and technical standards, but essentially concludes: "Regardless of how the captioned video is transmitted and decoded, the consumer must be given an experience that is equal to, if not better than, the experience provided as the content was originally aired on television." The equal to or better experience includes details from caption font size and color to word accuracy and proper synchronization.

The report expresses some concern that internet protocols may not deliver current television caption formats (CEA 608/708) sufficiently to ensure the same caption quality on internet video. Internet video distributors will be able to encode closed captions for a variety of playback options but, in time, the committee encourages the development of formats specific to internet captioning.

The FCC is expected to post these advanced captioning rules in the Federal Register within the next six months, as required, for public comment. The first compliance date should then be July, 2012 requiring that prerecorded television programming that is unedited for the internet be closed captioned for web users. Other rules regarding live and near-live programming and substantially edited programming are recommended for implementation in subsequent 6 month intervals.

For more information, read the full report.

VPAAC consists of 3 other Working Groups examining these additional issues:

  1. Video description of television programming delivered using Internet protocol or digital broadcast television.
  2. Accessible emergency information for people with vision disabilities delivered using Internet protocol or digital broadcast television.
  3. Accessible user interfaces on video programming devices.

Partnership News

AST Partners with Tegrity for Caption and Search Features

CaptionSync now supports Tegrity Campus, providing a fully-automated service for instructors that delivers time-coded, synchronized captions for lectures or supplementary course content recorded with Tegrity. Tegrity's latest Summer 2011 release includes a new Automated Captioning feature, which integrates with CaptionSync accounts.

Tegrity Logo

Compatible with Tegrity's powerful Search Anything™ technology, the captions are fully searchable by students across a single course, or all enrolled courses. As students review the captions, Tegrity enables them to create their own bookmarks, notes and annotations that are associated with the captioned content; making learning incredibly efficient.

"The majority of our customers deploy Tegrity campus-wide, so automation becomes critical," said Isaac Segal, president of Tegrity. "The ability to automate the captioning process with CaptionSync from AST technology enables our customers to handle captioning requirements at scale both effectively and affordably," he added.

Learn more about using CaptionSync with Tegrity Campus by watching our Tegrity tutorial.


Upcoming Events

  • Educause 2011 - Oct 18 - 21, 2011, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. AST will be exhibiting at this conference (booth 1659).

Tech Tidbits

Captioning Brightcove Videos with CaptionSync

CaptionSync now offers an integration with the Brightcove video platform that provides users with a simplified workflow for adding captions and subtitles to videos hosted on Brightcove. After uploading videos to your Brightcove account, you can log in to CaptionSync, select which Brightcove videos to caption, and submit the caption job with just a few clicks. When the captions are complete CaptionSync will post the caption files to a designated location and update the Brightcove metadata so that your Brightcove players know where to retrieve the captions.

Screen shot of CaptionSync interface for Brightcove

Here are a few things to be aware of:

  • To take full advantage of the Brightcove-CaptionSync integration, your Brightcove account needs to be enabled with the custom metadata feature, and it also needs to provide read and write API access. Not all Brightcove editions provide these features, so if you have a Brightcove Express account, contact us for more details on workflow automation options.
  • Brightcove does not host the caption output files. If you cannot host the caption files (a form of the DFXP standard) on your own server, AST can host them for you. This service is available at no additional charge for the first year.

To enable this feature on your account, go to the help page (upper right after login) and submit a support ticket requesting the Brightcove list submission feature. Learn more about captioning Brightcove videos by checking out our Brightcove tutorial.


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