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Syncing Up with Automatic Sync

July 2012 Volume 9
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

Bar Rises on Requirements to Caption Internet Content

Editor Note: Please be sure to read the Legislative News section for important VPACC and CVAA background to this story.

Montage of logos involved in captioning lawsuits

AST closely follows captioning developments in both legislative and government agencies in order to guide customers about regulations and standards for accessibility.

In April, the FCC accepted the recommended rules for Video and Internet-IP Protocol put forward by its Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC). These are expected to become federal regulations by the end of 2012.

It now appears that support for wide accessibility standards is taking hold and will require complete captioning of Internet content across the spectrum of digital delivery, including:

  • Internet video of full-length programs previously broadcast on TV.
  • Internet video clips from full-length programs (even under 2 minutes).
  • Web-hosted video previously broadcast on TV.
  • Internet streamed programs previously broadcast or shown in public theaters.

State and Federal Courts Support Full Captioning of Internet Content

Two recent court decisions have ruled in favor of accessibility rights plaintiffs, and against CNN and Netflix, requiring closed captioning for both film and TV programs delivered over the Internet as video or streamed content.

Rulings in these court cases support broader requirements for captioning than the FCC and give strength to accessibility rights in two important areas.

  • In the Netflix case, the federal court determined that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to Internet businesses, not just brick and mortar retailers.
  • In the CNN case, the court ruled that even though the FCC will allow broadcasters some leeway before requiring captioning for previously broadcast content, people are still free to sue for equal access under ADA.

CNN Sued Over Lack of Closed Captioning on Website

In February, a federal magistrate in Northern California District Court refused to dismiss a suit against both CNN and its owner, Time Warner. The lawsuit accuses the companies of violating state disability laws by denying full online access to more than 100,000 Californians who are functionally deaf. CNN provides closed captions on television, as required by federal law, but its website does not caption the brief video segments that make up most of its programming.

CNN network attorneys argued that closed captioning effects editorial practice because it can cause delays and inaccuracies and should be imposed only by government regulations that cover all online news outlets. Laurence Paradis, attorney for the plaintiff, Disability Rights Advocates, argued that modern closed captioning is both fast and accurate and would not affect CNN's message. Said Paradis, "The ruling should send a message to networks that they are bound by civil rights laws," adding that the case is will set a precedent for the whole industry.

Landmark Precedent in NAD vs. Netflix Overrules FCC Carve Out

On June 19, the District Court of Massachusetts refused to dismiss a suit against Netflix, holding that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to website-only businesses. Filed by the National Association of the Deaf ("NAD"), the lawsuit alleges that Netflix violates the ADA by failing to provide closed captioning on most of its "Watch Instantly" programming streamed on the Internet, denying equal access to the deaf and hard of hearing community. The case is considered a landmark as the first instance of federal court support of ADA against a website-only business. Federal Judge Posner stated that the fact that the ADA "does not include web-based services as a specific example of a public accommodation is irrelevant" since such web-based services did not exist when the ADA was passed in 1990 and because "the legislative history of the ADA makes clear that Congress intended the ADA to adapt to changes in technology." This case will be closely followed.

Company News

AST Launches CaptionIT Blog

AST has launched its new blog: CaptionIT. Here you will find articles on captioning best practices, technical and accessibility issues authored by our technical and service authors.

The first blog topic is our favorite - Quality - and one we will return to discuss frequently. Visit now, and learn "What to Look for in Closed Caption Solutions." We welcome your feedback, so please feel free to comment.

You can also sign up to receive an RSS feed of the CaptionIT blog at feed://

AST To Introduce New Translation Services

AST currently offers Transcription and Captioning services for either English or Spanish content. So many of you have asked about translation services (having Spanish subtitles/captions for English content, or vice versa), that we decided to explore this in more detail. We did not want to try to be come a translation company as that is not our core competency, but we also did not want to take the usual course of just partnering with another translation company and repackaging their offerings. We wanted to come up with a novel way of offering this service that would be as impactful on the market as our CaptionSync offering was when we introduced it back in 2004.

We wanted you to know that we have been listening to your requests and we've been busy working on the best method for a high quality translation service. In July, we will begin rolling out the first phase of our new offering. In this first phase, you will be able to translate existing captioning jobs between English and Spanish, using AST-provided professional translators. In keeping with the rest of our offerings, we have structured the best and most cost-effective than traditional translation. When you initiate a translation job, you will get back all of the same caption file formats selected for your original captioning job.

Then, in the coming months, we'll introduce the second phase of this offering -- which will allow you to select any existing captioning job and then choose to use our professional translators, or provide your own translation transcript. From this, we'll generate the translated caption files for you. We'll also start to increase the scope of languages supported at that time.

So, stay tuned for more information on these exciting changes. Watch our blog, news feed, and of course this Newsletter for more details. We invite your views on the coming service so please feel free to contact us.

Customer Spotlight

Pasadena City College

Picture of Pasadena City College

Pasadena City College (PCC) in Southern California is one of 108 community colleges in California. PCC offers two-year degrees in Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS). Founded in 1924, today the campus serves 29,000 students per year, making it one of the largest community colleges in California and the nation. PCC posts their Board of Trustees meetings on their website so that the public can easily view the meetings. Check out the PCC meetings.

When PCC started posting the meetings, they immediately knew they would need to comply with ADA regulations and have the meetings captioned, as well as they wanted to made the videos accessible to as wide of audience as possible. Juan Gutierrez, Director of Public Relations for PCC, was tasked with the captioning and first tried the free YouTube auto-captioning feature, which uses speech recognition, as a way get the meetings captioned without spending money. The results were less than desirable and he immediately got multiple complaints from viewers about the inaccuracy of the captioning. Juan viewed the files and found them totally unacceptable, as well.

Gutierrez turned to his colleagues in Distance Education at PCC to find out how they were captioning their online content. Distance Education referred Gutierrez to Automatic Sync's CaptionSync as a way to get caption files quickly and accurately. Gutierrez started using CaptionSync to caption the meetings and has never turned back. The accuracy of the caption files is amazing and there have not been any complaints since PCC started using CaptionSync. Gutierrez says, "We want to be as inclusive as possible. We have an average of 29,000 students and obviously this means there are many with disabilities. We need to make our content accessible to everyone and get captioning posted quickly. AST allows us to do all of those things."

Legislative News

FCC Update -- VPACC Timeline Published

Picture of a judge's gavel

As anticipated, the FCC mandate for Internet Protocol (IP)-Video captioning is moving toward final regulation at the end of this year, as a provision of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).

In April, the FCC accepted the recommended rules for implementation put forward by its Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC). New rules mandate that captioned programs shown on TV also be captioned when re-shown on the Internet. The FCC timeline for producers to implement new captioning standards has been published.

If you need help meeting the FCC requirements to caption either broadcast or Internet video, AST can help you - just give us a call.

Partnership News

Customers upgrading to Mediasite 6 Can Leverage New Search Features

Screenshot of MediaSite's Search feature

Sonic Foundry announced Mediasite 6 at the end of 2011, but many customers, particularly those in the education sector, wait until the summer to upgrade. Customers such as the University of Connecticut, which captions hundreds of Mediasite presentations each year, are upgrading from Mediasite 5.x to 6.0, and are poised to leverage the search feature enhancements in Mediasite 6. Mediasite 6 allows users to search for keywords across an entire folder or collection of presentations, which is particularly valuable for organizations that have large archives of captioned content. University of Connecticut captions presentations in both English and Spanish, and uses the simple workflow integration between Mediasite and CaptionSync, allowing them to automatically submit content for captioning with just a few simple setup steps.

Mediasite customers who are upgrading to Mediasite 6 should also update their CaptionSync output settings to include the DFXP output format, which allows for better handling of international character sets than older formats, such as SAMI. Please refer to our partner page about Sonic Foundry Mediasite for more details about captioning Mediasite content and using the automated workflow.


Upcoming Events

Tech Tidbits

CaptionSync Supports WebVTT

AST has released a new caption output format called WebVTT, a format that supports HTML5 players. Although the WebVTT spec is not yet finalized, AST is enthusiastic about HTML5 and so is adopting early support. We expect some updates to the WebVTT will give modifications to this format top priority. Read the complete specification; for a bit more background, check out this WebVTT summary.

CaptionSync Offers a New Ripple Feature

AST has implemented a "Ripple" editing technique for smooth caption syncing when more cuts are needed after CaptionSync has been used. As simple as "cut and paste" Ripple is a fast way of pushing -- or "rippling" -- captions forward or backward, while preserving the time-code sync. Customers use Ripple from within the CaptionSync "Redo" feature. Once you have a caption result, select "redo" and on the Advanced tab of the Advanced Settings panel, you can control the amount of time to slide your caption timeline forward or backwards.

Video Search Tips and Tutorial

Screenshot of YouTube's Caption Search feature

Video search is closely related to video search engine optimization (SEO), which is the process of making videos more easily discoverable and optimized for advertising and monetization.

The term Video Search most often refers to the benefits of providing an easy way for your viewers to search video. But what most people don't realize is that providing video search is relatively simple. Once captioned, many platforms will allow your viewers to use built-in search features to search both within videos, and across your video library. Even more essential is that users of large libraries have an easy way to find precise locations of specific topics mentioned in videos -- in distance learning, this is vital.

Our Tutorial on Video Search covers important techniques for video producers, such as:

  • ways to make up for the lack of video search engines,
  • how to chunk and label topics and sections, and
  • the use of tags and transcripts to help users locate your videos in searches.

There are many approaches to search, but often the most cost-effective and easiest is to simply add closed captions to your video and provide users with the familiar search tool bar.

YouTube also gives you many capabilities "for free" when you add closed captions to your videos. Check out our tutorial on YouTube.

AST partners with the leading video platforms such as Kaltura, which offers video search features, as well as many lecture, capture platforms, such as Sonic Foundry's MediaSite, Echo360, Tegrity, and Panopto.

We cover video SEO in our CaptionIT blog. If you have questions, examples of use cases, or other comments about video search, please feel free to contact us directly.


Useful Resources

  • VPAAC Updates - The Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee Wiki page gives updates regarding the committee's activities and meetings.

  • Why Not Use Speech Rec? - Check out this very entertaining look at why you should not use speech recognition solutions for captioning.

  • 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.

  • AST's Support Wiki - Log into your CaptionSync account and then click the "Help" link. There you will find a link to AST's Support Wiki, which contains answers to many of the questions we get about CaptionSync and using the caption results.

  • Knowability - check the Knowability website Learn page for some great accessibility training and resource articles.

  • The AST Blog - Our new blog, called CaptionIT has launched. Check it out and join the discussion.
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