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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

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:

Company News

Spanish Language Captioning Coming to AST Services

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.


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

Montgomery Township Captions Board Meeting Broadcasts

AST provides ongoing captioning services to the offices of Montgomery Township, PA. The Township Board needed to caption Board meetings for broadcast on their local government access channels. The Board decided in 2008 they wanted to broadcast the bi-monthly meetings for residents to view from home, and sought out vendors to provide closed captions (captions that can be toggled 'on' or 'off') for their meeting broadcasts.

Most captioning vendors required sending a video tape or DVD recording by mail, which incurred additional costs, and would sometimes take two weeks to be captioned for broadcast, which defeats the purpose of quickly and accurately communicating with the community.

Rich Grier, the Township's Technology Manager states, "AST's solution stood out from the pack. Allowing us to upload just the audio file to their secure website meant the transcription and captioning process could start almost immediately. Their three-day turnaround allows the Board to broadcast a meeting with accurate, embedded closed captioning in five business days. AST also had the lowest cost 'per meeting hour' than any captioning vendor."

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 Upcoming Conferences

  • Annual Conference on Distance Learning - August 4 - 6, 2010, Monona Terrace Convention Center, Madison, WI. AST will be exhibiting at 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.

Final Cut Pro DV with SCC Files

If you're producing for broadcast and haven't been able to use our Digital NLE Caption post-processing (which requires the full D1 720x486) because you've been writing to DVCAM, DVCPRO or MiniDV (which is 720x480), we have some good news for you -- if you're using Final Cut Pro 7.

Apple's Final Cut Pro 7 now allows you to directly insert .SCC file caption data at Print to Tape time without the added cost and workflow of overlaying Digital NLE Caption movies. This only works when you go out via FireWire however.

Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Log into your CaptionSync account
  2. Select Sonic Scenarist DVD Captions (.scc, .ndf.scc) along with whatever other captions you need in Output Types tab of Advanced Settings
  3. In Broadcast tab of Advanced Settings set the offset to 00:00:00:00 (even if the timeline in FCP starts at 01:00:00:00)
  4. In FCP7 under File choose Print to Video or Edit toTape
  5. In the pop-up window that appears choose Insert closed captioning data from file checkbox
  6. Then below the checkbox select the SCC file you received from CaptionSync (you will need select Sonic Scenarist Captioning Files under Show)
  7. Then click the OK button to print to tape

If you have bars and tone at the beginning of your sequence that was not in the audio CaptionSync synchronized with, you need adjust your offset by the duration of those (e.g. 00:00:01:00)


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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