Webinar: CaptionSync Accessibility Services

This webinar provides an overview for SUNY staff of the range of services that AST offers, and how to set up 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

>> Art Morgan: Hello and thanks for joining us today. This webinar is intended to provide a brief summary of the accessibility services available to you through CaptionSync, and a quick overview on how to set up a CaptionSync account and how to use it.

CaptionSync is a web-based transcription and captioning service; it was originally funded by the US Department of Education and now provides services to universities across the country. CaptionSync has provided transcription and captioning services to SUNY campuses for over 10 years, but this year we entered into an agreement with SUNY to provide captioning at discounted pricing across all campuses. This agreement is premised on a high volume of captioning, so we encourage you to use the contract in order to maintain the significant discounts now in place.

In this introductory session we’ll go over the accessibility services that CaptionSync offers and how you can enable your account to use them. I’ll also show you how to create a CaptionSync account, starting with a brief overview of how accounts are structured. We’ll take a brief look at how you submit content for the various services. We’ll also show you an overview of our Smart Player, which you can use to deliver your captioned media if your current players are not fully accessible. Finally, we’ll quickly touch on the reporting available to you in CaptionSync. This is all meant to be just a cursory introduction — we’re happy to dive into more detail on any of these topics in meetings with your individual campus or department.

As I mentioned, CaptionSync is a web-based service focused on providing services to make media accessible. Our core service centers on providing closed captioning for video content, and we can deliver this for English, French, or Spanish video content. We also provide transcription-only services for either audio or video content. This service is used not only for accessibility purposes, but also for transcribing research interviews and curating conference and interview content. Again, we can provide this service in English, French, or Spanish.

We also provide 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 live broadcasts over YouTube Live and Facebook Live, as well as traditional TV broadcasts. 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. Note that there is a one hour minimum for live sessions, 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.

Audio description is something that you may be starting to hear about lately because it is part of the international web accessibility standard known as WCAG 2.0. Audio description is a fairly involved topic, so I won’t delve into much detail here. It is essentially having the visual content of your video described by a narrator so that blind users can access your content. Audio Description is usually delivered as an additional audio track, but it can also be delivered in text form for use with screen readers. The WCAG standard describes several levels of Audio Description. We deliver “Extended Audio Description,” which is the highest level and really the only level that should be considered for educational content. We can deliver audio described content to you through our Smart Player, through the use of “full-text-alternative” files, or through standard audio description files for use with your own player.

We also provide a number of related, complementary services. To keep this overview simple, I won’t delve into all of our services here, but I just want you to be aware that we also offer translation, DVD conversion, and video encoding services.

If you don’t already have a CaptionSync account, then the first step to using these services it to get an account. It’s a pretty simple matter to request a new account, but I want to start by first showing how CaptionSync accounts are structured. Each entity that wants separate billing can create a CaptionSync Account. Several such accounts already exist at SUNY campuses. Each account can be set up to receive a single monthly invoice, or receive monthly invoices tied to POs, or to be a prepaid account (which works just like a prepaid calling card).

Each account has one or more Users — activity from all users on an account is rolled up to the account for billing purposes. One user on the account is designated as the Primary User and has the ability to control access privileges for other users on the account.

Accounts can be structured hierarchically, with Parent Accounts being able to see the aggregate activity of children accounts. They can see aggregate submission data but not the individual submissions. Multiple levels of hierarchy are permitted.

There are two ways to create new CaptionSync login IDs, or users, depending on whether your account already exists or not. If you just want to become a new user on an existing account, the easiest way is to get the Primary for the account to create your User ID 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 Primary can also control access privileges for all Users on the account from this screen, and can disable any accounts no longer required.

To create a brand new Account, just visit the account signup form. The URL appears on this slide, and will be posted in the chat. The signup form is very simple and just needs your contact information and some details about your billing setup. Please ensure you provide a descriptive department name to distinguish your account from other accounts on your campus. For “Account Type”, most people will want Web Captions, but you can check all other options that apply to your needs. You also need tell us if you want to have your invoices separated by POs or not. Finally, make sure you use the signup reference code of “SUNY” to ensure your account is properly associated with the SUNY discounted pricing.

Once you apply for your CaptionSync account, you’ll generally receive your login credentials by email within an hour or two. By default, your new login will be configured for standard post-production captioning only. To add other services such as live captioning, transcription-only or audio description, you can navigate to the Settings tab on your account. 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 a new service will typically take about five minutes; you’ll receive an email notification once it’s added. Next time you log into your CaptionSync account, you’ll see a new tab at the top for the new service.

Once you have your CaptionSync account, and have enabled the services you want, you can begin submitting content. 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 file, by using one of the many third party integrations to CaptionSync, or by mailing the media in to us. We also have an API if you want to create a custom integration to our system. Note that if you want to use our Smart Player, we need a URL to the media, so not all of these submission methods will work for the Smart Player.

The simplest way to submit content to us is via our web UI. You can simply upload your media file directly to us from our submission screen. The submission form is pretty simple, but there are mouse-over tips on most fields that will come up if you hover your mouse on the field. Clicking on the blue question marks will also provide more detailed help. Essentially though, you just need to tell us what you are submitting, what transcription turnaround time you need, and upload your media file. The “Advanced Settings” button is where you can get access to more specific settings for your submission. It will pop up a panel that allows you to tell us what sort of caption files you want back — you can choose as many as you want; it does not change the price. You can also specify the language (the default is English) here. Most users set these settings just once and then leave them alone.

As I mentioned, CaptionSync has integrations with many third party applications including lecture capture systems, video management platforms, and LMS systems. Not all third party integrations allow you to request the additional services I discussed earlier, or allow you to use the Smart Player 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.

I also want to quickly mention that if you are using an integration, many of our integrations allow an approval workflow. This enables you to allow the users of your Ensemble system (or Kaltura, Echo, Panopto, etcetera) to make captioning requests, but allows you to maintain budget control by having to approve such requests before they are actually executed.

An important CaptionSync feature that you should be aware of is our Smart Player. Captioning your video content provides a good deal of useful data that can not only make your content more accessible, but can also improve efficacy and viewer experience. Our goal with the Smart Player was to provide a fully accessible player (it meets all WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards), but also to leverage the caption data in order to provide the user with extra functionality. When your video plays in the Smart Player, the transcript appears on the side and highlights as it plays. Viewers can scrub through the transcript and jump to any point — the video will follow. Viewers can conduct searches on the transcript, or get definitions of any terms in the transcript. You can also clip portions of the video to share on social media. The Smart Player can be embedded in your website or LMS. It also allows you to caption content you don’t own, such as other people’s YouTube videos. Best of all, you can use the Smart Player with content that we caption for no additional cost.

The final item I wanted to review today is the reporting capabilities in CaptionSync. Each service tab – for captioning, CART, Audio Description, etcetera, 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. In addition, billing and cost data for each submission is available on the Billing tab for your account.

The Primary for each account can access the same Status and Billing data, but see it for all users on their account. In addition, the Primary has an additional tab called “Analytics” which graphically shows the total account usage over time. Parent Accounts can see the Analytics information for all of their Children Accounts.

This session was intended just to make you aware of the services we provide and how to get a CaptionSync account. This short tutorial cannot answer all of your questions, but our Support Center is a great place to turn for more information. Our Support Center is very extensive and has tutorials on hundreds of captioning-related topics. I’ve also included some links to specific topics that you may find useful. We’ll post these links in the Chat and they will be available on the archived version of this webinar.

If you’re ready to use any of our services, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to give you one-on-one guidance for getting exactly what you need.


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