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Syncing Up with Automatic Sync

March 2012 Volume 8
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

FCC Adopts Rules for Internet Video

A mandate for Internet Protocol (IP)-Video captioning rules began in 2010, when the FCC established the Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) as required by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).

Captioned FCC Presentation

The CVAA mandates that television content distributed on the Internet be captioned with at least the same quality as the television version. The VPAAC meetings are focused on how this will be achieved and the implementation schedule.

On January 13, 2012 the FCC announced adoption of a Report and Order establishing the scope of rules and the implementation timeline, based upon recommendations from VPACC, and its Advisory Work Groups and Committees.

On April 9, reports of all VPAAC Working Groups will be provided to the full VPAAC, which will then deliver its final report to the FCC to determine the rules to be added to the federal register of requirements later this year.

Once rules are entered into the register, the timeline for content owners to implement the new requirements will be:

  • 6 months: Prerecorded programming that is not edited for Internet distribution.
  • 12 months: Live and near live programming that was recorded within 24 hours of broadcast on television.
  • 18 months: Prerecorded programming that is edited for Internet distribution.
  • 24 months: Archival programming.

Anticipated to have a wide impact on protocols for all video programming, new FCC rules would govern TV stations, cable systems, broadcast and cable networks and virtually every video program producer who is now, or will in the future be making programming available for Internet access.

Broader still will be rules for closed captioning that will impose new requirements on hardware (such as set-top boxes, PCs, smart phones DVD players, Blu-ray and tablets) designed to receive or play back video programming. The recommended timeline is that such devices must be compliant by January 1, 2014.

The impact on technology for captioning of IP-video is more complex than broadcast protocol because of the interchange format issues involving the myriad of players available. The expectation is that the protocols will default to those developed by leading standards bodies, most likely the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) because of the advanced development of format interchange standards already in place for digital media.

AST intends to support whatever standard formats are adopted once this is clear. We will provide tutorials on the formats needed and how they can be used. For more information, watch for updates in AST's Newsletter and How-To-Tutorials.

Company News

New - Caption Encoding Service

Subtitle icon for the iPad

AST has just rolled out a new service that takes your uploaded MOV, M4V or MP4 video files and encodes either subtitles or open captions into the video. It is available for download as an MV4 file (a standard MPEG-4 H.264 file). This format is compatible with a wide range of players including QuickTime, JW Player, Flowplayer, RealPlayer, VLC, iTunes as well as mobile devices such as iPad, iPhone, and iPod. The Caption Encoding service ensures great accessibility and a broader audience. The new CaptionSync service is very cost-effective - see the supplemental price sheet on the Help page after you log in.

Watch our How-To Tutorials for a tutorial on caption encoding coming soon.

New - Production Transcripts

Did you know that AST offers coarsely time-coded transcripts of your media file? Time-coded transcripts, or "Production Transcripts" help video editors quickly locate precise segments for editing - saving significant time in post-production. Typically the Production Transcripts are requested for:

  • Video editing
  • Documentary and film production dailies
  • Interviews and panel discussion recordings
  • Focus group recordings
  • Depositions

In Production Transcripts, time stamps appear adjacent to the text, placed at custom intervals, usually at every speaker change, and periodically within a speaker's monologue. CaptionSync offers several options for the frequency of time stamping. Production Transcripts are cost-effective and can give you a valuable tool to spotlight precise areas in your video.

New - Batch Delivery of Transcripts for Review

Many customers use AST-Link to upload a batch of work. For those who use the "Customer Reviews Transcript" option as an edit step prior to captioning, AST now provides an option to receive one large batch of transcripts for review. One more service to help speed your production! If you would like to use AST-Link, learn more at the AST-Link Tutorial on our website.

New - Tab-Delimited Invoices

You ask, we deliver! A number of you have expressed the need for greater invoice detail, which can be easily imported into software such as Excel. AST now supports that request. Post pay account-holders can download the tab-delimited text file from the Invoice Details page under the "Billing" tab.

Customer Spotlight

UMB captions Brightcove videos with CaptionSync

Picture of Univeristy of Massachusetts, Boston

The University of Massachusetts Boston, (UMB) is nationally recognized as a model of excellence for urban public universities. Naturally UMB has many videos on their public website and they wanted a standard look to their videos and also make sure they were accessible to everyone. Therefore UMB recently mandated that all videos posted to their website be hosted using Brightcove and captioned by Automatic Sync Technologies (AST).

Brightcove provides products used to publish and distribute digital media. AST partners with Brightcove to provide captioning to this content so that Brightcove customers can display video that it is accessible to everyone. Please see our press release for more details on this partnership.

Zack Ronald, Streaming Media Specialist, at UMB is very pleased with the mandate and the look of the videos he posts. He states, "We see the Brightcove/AST solution as a convenient, low cost way to provide equal access to all. The turn around time of AST is fantastic and their low cost makes this feasible to universities, especially during this time of budget cuts."

When UMB was testing solutions to make their videos accessible they tried the automated captioning solution offered by YouTube. It was not accurate enough and they quickly dismissed that tool as an option. Ronald says, "I love how accurate and timely AST is. They deliver every time. We will use AST for every video we post from now on."

Legislative News

FCC Overturns 298 Permanent Waivers

Picture of a judge's gavel

Last October, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) overturned nearly 300 closed captioning waivers, giving new strength to the requirements adopted by Congress in the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (the "CVAA"). Between 1996, when the captioning requirement was created by Congress, and 2005 only a few temporary waivers were approved. But in 2006, 303 permanent waiver requests were granted. The majority were exempted under the "economic burden" rule, asserting that requiring closed captioning for a television program was too costly. A total of 298 challenges to the waivers were filed by a consortium of organizations representing the deaf and hard of hearing. After five years, the appeals were still pending action when the October order overturned 298 waivers. The Commission's order revoked the waivers on the grounds that the FCC had failed to apply the correct standard of review and also failed to follow the proper procedure for considering requests on a case-by-case basis after public comment.

The "economic burden" waivers are generally requested by small program producers, often religious programs, local real estate, sports or entertainment shows. Many new applications have been filed since October, many from programs whose previous waiver was revoked. The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau is releasing Public Notices soliciting comment and input on each new waiver request.

The October ruling is an indicator that closed captioning is a required standard and that program producers, television stations, and cable systems can expect a close review of waiver requests.

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

Ensemble Video and AST Enable Broad Captioning Service for College Campuses

Ensemble Logo

Symphony Video, Inc., creator of the Ensemble Video platform, completed an integration with AST's CaptionSync service earlier this year. The integrated workflow enables seamless captioning via CaptionSync. Institutions can aggregate captioning volumes for greater discounts allowing faster creation of more accessible content, while maximizing tight budgets.

Ensemble Video is an award-winning video management platform recognized for its suite of captioning features developed with participation from higher education institutions, including Syracuse University, the University of Illinois, Clemson University, and Colgate University.

Watch our How-To Tutorials page for an upcoming tutorial video on how to use CaptionSync with Ensemble.

EduStream Helps Community Colleges Caption

Edustream Logo, which provides community colleges with a centralized resource for video-on-demand capabilities, has just completed integration with AST's CaptionSync. With full release scheduled for April, the CaptionSync integration will allow EduStream member organizations to caption any videos that they upload to their EduStream account, with just a few clicks. EduStream member organizations that are part of the California Community College system can use their DECT grant accounts to pay for qualified captioning performed using the EduStream-CaptionSync integration.

Watch our How-To Tutorials page for an upcoming tutorial video on how to use CaptionSync with EduStream.

Can DECT Open the Door for Your Community College?

Campus door opening

The DECT (Distance Education Captioning and Transcription) grant represents a commitment by the California Community Colleges (CCC) to expand access to distance education to all students by providing a means for colleges to promote faculty innovation in the use of audio, video, and multi-media content in distance learning classes. The system's support for DECT recognizes that distance learning is the fastest growing segment of CCC enrollment. Funding has been authorized by the Chancellor's Office to aid California community colleges in improving their capacity to serve disabled student populations.

AST has worked closely with the CCC system for years as part of their commitment to serving students with disabilities, and is a preferred vendor for the grant. The world's largest college system supports over 50,000 students with disabilities; captioning and transcribing media provides them with access to critical learning materials. AST provides captions and transcripts for educational and informational podcasts, various forms of video for distance learning, supplemental class materials, recorded events and faculty training.

To find out more, visit AST's web page about the DECT Grant Process. If you have questions about the DECT grant, please contact AST experts directly at 877-AST-SYNC ext. 777 or email


Upcoming Events

  • Kaltura Developer Conference - April 2, 2012, New York City, New York. AST will be exhibiting at this conference.

  • Tegrity User Conference - April 18, 2012, Seattle, Washington. AST will be presenting at this conference.

  • AccessU 2012 - May 15 - 17, 2012, Austin, Texas. AST will be giving a seminar.

  • AHEAD 2012 - July 9 - 14, 2012, New Orleans, Louisiana. AST will be exhibiting at this conference (booth 53).

AST Presents at AccessU in Austin, May 16th

Campus door opening

AccessU, is an annual three-day accessibility training institute presented by Austin-based Knowability, providing instruction about making electronic information technology accessible to everyone - including people with disabilities. On May 16, AST co-founder, Kevin Erler will be presenting a session on captioning, "Techniques for Captioning Educational Material." This session covers the many approaches to captioning video material. An expert and frequent lecturer on captioning technology, Kevin will highlight the pros and cons of each approach, including issues of accuracy, cost, timeliness, and scalability. If your captioning volume is growing exponentially, this critical presentation will help you understand the workflow issues related to different technical approaches. This year AccessU presentations will be recorded, and the archives will be made available to all participants following the conference. Watch the AST Newsletter, blog and RSS Feed for updates on links to the presentation.

Tech Tidbits

Using Apple Compressor for Broadcast Closed Captions

CaptionSync now offers a fast and efficient file-based workflow for encoding broadcast captions using Apple Compressor 4. With many television stations and cable distribution networks switching from tape to file-based delivery, independent producers will find CaptionSync's Sonic Scenarist (SCC) output format, combined with Apple Compressor 4's advanced closed caption encoding features, a valuable addition to their workflow tools.

Compressor Logo

Apple Compressor 4 supports custom output settings, distributed encoding, and a full-range of delivery features, and is available as a standalone program from the Mac App Store for only $49.99. Producers who use Final Cut Pro can take advantage of Compressor's integration with Final Cut, but producers using other editing tools, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer, can also take advantage of Compressor's budget-friendly encoding features to add CEA-608/708 compliant closed captions to video for broadcast.

Check out our tutorial on using CaptionSync with Apple Compressor.


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..

  • AccessU - check out Knowability's AccessU website for some great accessibility training..

  • The AST Blog - Coming soon ... timely comments and updates on captioning topics. Check our website for the first blog, starting April.
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