Webinar: CaptionSync Accessibility Services

This webinar was designed for CSU campus staff who have a basic familiarity with CaptionSync and have CaptionSync accounts, but who are not familiar with the full range of services that AST offers, and how to enable and use those services.

Note: The following video should be considered an alternative to the Annotated Transcript, which contains descriptions of visual references in the media. Also, the pages listed in the Resources section are primarily text-based, and will be useful to those who do not have access to the visual content.


Annotated Video Transcript

>> Kevin Erler: Hello and thanks for joining us today. As many of you know, AST has provided transcription and captioning services to the CSU campuses for over 10 years now. To get efficient pricing, the Chancellor’s Office purchases our services in bulk and then allows all CSU campuses to use those services. Campuses then reimburse the CO for the services that they use. Our contract with the CO was recently updated to allow easier access to our services, so we wanted to take a few minutes to review what services are available to you, and how you can access them.

In today’s session we will go over all of the accessibility services that AST offers to CSU users and how you can enable your account to use them. We will also review how the CSU accounts are structured and how you can create new ones. We’ll take a brief look at how you submit content for the various services, and finally, we’ll also review the ways you can get information about your usage of our services.

Over the years, AST has tried to make our offering more and more comprehensive for media accessibility services. However, until fairly recently, our contract with the CO only covered our core transcription and post-production captioning services, which made it a bit more cumbersome for CSU users to access our other offerings. We are happy to announce that this has been rectified and we are now able to make all of our services available to CSU users.

I will start off by providing a list of the services now available to you through CaptionSync. Most of these services are pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t dwell on them in detail, but I will provide a bit more detail on two key services after I review this list. Of course, as you already know, we provide transcription and post-production captioning services in English, Spanish, and French. We can also provide “Production Transcripts” which are time stamped transcripts that video editors often use to help edit rough footage down to a finished product. Our “Result Review” service is usually used in conjunction with captioning with your own transcript, or with really poor audio – it sends the finished result for manual review and adjustment to ensure the final result is perfect. If you need captions in multiple languages, then our Translation service can help. For example, if you have Spanish content, you can first get it captioned in Spanish, but then also have us generate English captions for the video. Our video encoding service is useful when you need the caption files re-encoded back into your video – the most common application of this is for Open Captioning, which is useful when your player does not support captioning (think of jumbotrons or digital signs for example). Our mail-in service allows you to send us DVDs or even VHS tapes and get back captioned DVDs or captioned MP4s. We also offer Live Captioning or CART services – I will talk about this in a bit more detail in just a minute. And finally, Audio Description is our latest offering – this is the second service I will describe in more detail momentarily.

In recent years, there has been a strong push to move towards an international accessibility standard called WCAG 2.0. This standard includes Audio Description for video content, which is why you are probably starting to hear more about Audio Description lately. Audio Description describes the visual content for blind users. Audio Description is a fairly involved topic, and we have a dedicated webinar to discuss all of its intricacies in detail coming up in October … you will just get a brief summary here. Audio Description, or AD, is usually delivered as an additional audio track, but can also be delivered in text form for use with screen readers. The WCAG standard describes several levels of AD; we deliver “Extended Audio Description” which is the highest level. Extended AD requires support from the media player – if you are using our SmartPlayer, this is all taken care of for you. CaptionSync also provides you with other AD delivery options, including what is known as a “Full-text-alternative”. We also provide the actual AD files if you want to implement it in your own player. The process for submitting content for AD is pretty simple – you can simply request AD on your caption job once it has been submitted.

The second service I want to drill into a bit here is our live captioning, or CART, service. This service provides captioning for live events such as graduation ceremonies, sporting events, or special lectures. A live, professional, real-time transcriber attends your event remotely, and provides a text stream of the dialog in the event. Our systems can accommodate most web-based meeting software such as Zoom, WebEx, Connect, Hangouts, and GotoMeeting. We can also accommodate broadcasts over YouTube Live and Facebook Live, as well as traditional TV broadcast. In cases where your meeting venue does not support live captioning, we can also provide the text stream on a separate website, available to your users in any browser. Using this service is as easy as logging into your CaptionSync account and scheduling the session. Note that there is a one hour minimum for live services, and if you wish to cancel a scheduled session you need to do so at least 24 hours beforehand in order to avoid being charged for the session.

Because there are so many services available, we try keep our web interface simple by not enabling all of these services unless you want them. If you wish to use these services, you will first need to enable them on your CaptionSync account. Doing so takes only a couple of minutes. First, login to your CaptionSync account, then go to the Settings tab. From here, click on Account Features. You can then select the service you want to add from the drop-down menu and then click on the Request button. Adding the service will typically take about five minutes; you will receive an email notification once it is added. Next time you log into your CaptionSync account, you will see a new tab at the top for the new service. Note that Result Review and Video Encoding are enabled by default and they can be accessed from the Advanced Settings panel on the Captioning Submission page.

If you do not already have a CaptionSync account, then you will first need to get one before you can use these services. It is a pretty simple matter to request a new account, but before I show you that I wanted to quickly review how CSU accounts are structured. For CSU users, accounts are grouped by Campus. Each campus has one “Administrator” account, and as many individual user accounts as you need. The Administrator has to approve all new account applications, and has additional reporting capabilities so that they can distribute the chargeback billing appropriately. All of the campuses show up as children of the master CO account. This account receives all of the billing information and can see aggregate submission data – not the individual submissions, just the aggregate amounts.

There are two ways to create new accounts. First, the Campus Administrator can create new users from the Settings tab on their account. On this tab, just navigate to the Manage Users section and then click on Add New User. The Administrator can also control access privileges for all users on campus from this screen, and can disable any accounts no longer required.

The second way to create a CSU account is to visit the account signup form. The URL appears on this slide; we will also post it in the chat. This very simple form just needs your contact information and some details about your campus and department. Please provide a descriptive department name as your Campus Administrator will need this. Note that you need to use your CSU email address for this application. For “Account Type”, most people will want Web Captions, but you can check all other options that apply to your needs. Once you submit this form, it will go to the Campus Administrator for authorization, so the application may take a while to process depending on how busy your Admin is.

Once you have your CaptionSync account, and have enabled the services you want, you can begin submitting content. As a reminder, there are many ways to submit content to us, including through our web interface, through our bulk upload tools, by providing URLs to your media files, by using one of the many 3rd party integrations to CaptionSync, or by mailing the media in to us. Note that if you want to use our SmartPlayer, we must have a URL to the media, so not all of these submission methods will work for the SmartPlayer.

As I mentioned, CaptionSync has integrations with many 3rd party applications including lecture capture systems, video management platforms, and LMS systems. Not all of these 3rd party integrations allow you to request the additional services I discussed earlier in this session, or allow you to use the SmartPlayer with them – please reach out to us first if you want to use these additional services with an integration so that we can work through the options with you.

The final item I wanted to review today is the reporting capabilities in CaptionSync, and how they relate to these new services. Each service tab – for captioning, CART, Audio Description, etc – has a “Status” link on it, which will bring you to a complete history of all submissions on your account for that service. Result files for each submission are also archived on the status page for five years. Individual users can access their own submission history through these Status pages. Billing and cost data is available on the Billing tab for your account.

Administrators can access the same Status and Billing data, but see it for all users on their campus. In addition, the Administrators also receive a monthly email with usage data for their campus, and they have an additional tab called “Analytics” which graphically shows campus usage over time.

Note that the historical billing data for Live captioning is currently not shown in the web UI. We are working to add this in, but for now, when you use Live Captioning services, an invoice will appear on your account in the Billing tab once the service is delivered. The invoice will appear on your account as already “Paid” and the actual charges will be handled through the Chancellor’s Office; the invoice is only intended to provide you with a record of the fees charged for the live services, because it does not yet appear in the Billing reports or the monthly summaries.

This session was intended just to make you aware of the services and reporting abilities available to you on your CaptionSync account. If you are ready to use any of these services, please reach out to us and we will be happy to give you one-on-one guidance for getting exactly what you need.