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Syncing Up with Automatic Sync

July 2010 Volume 5
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.

Cover Story

Spanish Language Captioning Coming to AST Services

Example video with Spanish captions

AST is very pleased to announce that we'll soon be offering Spanish language captioning for Spanish media. For the past several years, CaptionSync has provided an efficient and cost-effective method of producing English captions for English audio tracks, and thanks to increasing requests from our customers, we have begun work to enable CaptionSync to produce Spanish captions for Spanish audio tracks.

Watch for more details on the rollout of this exciting feature in our Fall Newsletter. Meanwhile, if you have captioning needs in languages other than English or Spanish, we'd like to hear from you. This will help us determine what languages to support next with CaptionSync.

Company News

Word-Level Captioning Coming to AST Services

Traditional captioning presents the viewer with caption text one phrase at a time, but it is possible to synchronize text with your media at an even more granular level. There are applications - such as presenting content to English language learners or emergent readers - where being able to highlight each word as it's being read is very useful. Word-level synchronization examples are becoming more common -- check out some of these examples:

  • Tertia produces a variety of mobile content that is word-synchronized.
  • One More Story is an online repository of stories that are word-synchronized for emergent readers.
  • Cogswell Poytechnical College, a leading digital media college in Silicon Valley, also has an example of word-level captioning on their homepage.

In traditional captioning each caption phrase contains several words, but these phrases still typically represent just three to five seconds of audio; this means that your caption file typically has time codes every three to five seconds. It is this requirement for so many time codes that makes captioning such a tedious task. Now, imagine producing a time-code for every single word in your media file. Most words have a duration of less than half a second -- that is a lot of time codes for your typical media file!

CaptionSync makes word-level synchronization a simple matter -- it is able to produce word-level caption files for your content just as easily as regular caption files. Our existing output formats can either present a full caption phrase and highlight each word as it is read, or reveal the caption phrase to the viewer one word at a time as it is read.

If you would like to get more information on word-level captioning, or if our current output formats do not exactly fit your needs, just give us a call -- we will be happy to discuss with you further.

Customer Spotlight

Library of Congress Uses AST to Caption Web Video Material

Man Viewing Declaration of Independence image at Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has chosen AST as a provider for closed captioning and is working toward making its Web materials available and accessible to all viewers.

The Library of Congress was established in 1800 by the U.S. Congress, making it the oldest federal cultural institution in the U.S. With millions of maps, books, recordings and manuscripts in its collection, it is the largest library holding in the world.

With so many visitors to its public website, the Library of Congress' Information Technology Services (ITS) Multimedia Group is endeavoring to make both archival web videos and current webcasts accessible by adding captioning.

Glenn Ricci, the Multimedia Coordinator for the Information Technology Services (ITS) at The Library of Congress says, "It's important that we make our Webcasts as accessible as possible, not just to meet Section 508 requirements, but to fulfill our mission to make our resources available to everyone."

AST is proud to be a part of this important project. If you would like to read more about the Library of Congress' captioning efforts, follow this link:

Legislative News

Minnesota State Legislates Captioning for State Government & Institutions

In April 2010, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law new legislation that amends the Minnesota Human Rights Act and requires that records be accessible to people with disabilities in the three branches of state government. The law also requires that accommodations be made for people with disabilities in all continuing education and professional development courses offered by the University of Minnesota and MNSCU. Violations are subject to a penalty of $500 each. The law becomes effective in January 2013.

Partnership News

MediaSite Releases MediaSite 5.4 with Improved CaptionSync Integration

MediaSite Screen showing captions and notes

Sonic Foundry, makers of the Mediasite lecture capture system, recently released Mediasite 5.4. One important feature of the new version is an improved integration with CaptionSync. In earlier versions of Mediasite, the Captioning Manager was a stand-alone component that handled the workflow automation for captioning.

This functionality is now fully integrated into the Mediasite Management Portal, making it even easier to caption your Mediasite presentations. Sonic Foundry has a great tutorial webinar providing an overview of captioning in Mediasite 5.4.

You can also get more information on using Mediasite with CaptionSync from AST's webpage on Mediasite.


AST Will Attend & Exhibit at Two Higher Ed Conferences

  • Annual Conference on Distance Learning - August 4 - 6, 2010, Monona Terrace Convention Center, Madison, WI. AST will be exhibiting this conference in Booth 604.

  • EduCause Conference 2010,- The Best Thinking in Higher Ed IT - October 12 - 15, 2010, Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA. AST will be exhibiting at this conference in Booth 624.

Tech Tidbits

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.

child with iPad

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 They can also be added to video using Compressor 3 (part of the Final Cut Studio). You can visit 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.

VHS tape and DVD

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

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 for details.


Useful Resources

  • NEW AST CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS - In case you missed them, AST's Spring & Summer 2010 conference presentations are available for viewing and download. Check them out at our Presentations page.

  • EDUCOMM 'PORTAL' - Another great conference resource, where you can download EduComm Presenters' papers and slides for review. If you attended the conference, you can visit recordings of each session as well.

  • HOW-TO- TUTORIALS - We're always updating and developing new web tutorials for captioning with emerging technologies. Be sure to check our website's How-To Tutorials page for updates and additions of videos for captioning with various technologies using CaptionSync.

  • WEBAIM - A great resource for ADA compliance specifications and recommendations. See
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