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Webinar: Getting Started with CaptionSync

By: Kevin Erler, Ph.D.
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In this webinar we cover the mechanics of getting started with CaptionSync.


Annotated Video Transcript

>> Kevin Erler: Welcome back to our webinar series on captioning. In today’s webinar I want to give you a very brief tour of the CaptionSync system so that you are ready and able to start captioning video content on your own. First, let me introduce myself. My name is Kevin Erler – I am one of the co-founders of AST and have been actively working on captioning technology and services for over 14 years now. My co-presenter today is Art Morgan – he will be joining the conversation for the Q&A session shortly.

Many of our webinars are about broader topics in accessibility or captioning, but this one will be very focused on the mechanics of how to use CaptionSync. One word of warning first: CaptionSync has been a work-in-progress for almost 14 years now – it has grown into a sophisticated and feature-rich system with many options and capabilities that just cannot be fully covered in 15 minutes. Today’s session is just an overview with an eye to getting you up and running quickly. We’ll cover more in-depth topics in future sessions.

With that said, here is what I want to cover in the next 15 minutes: I would like you to understand how CaptionSync accounts are structured and how you go about creating and managing your own account. I want to show you want services are available, and how you add them to your account. I will show you how to submit content to us for captioning. I will also show you how to configure the basic settings on your account, as well as how to provide specific instructions and guidance to our transcribers. Finally, we’ll take a brief peek at how to generate reports from your account.

Ok, that’s a big agenda!

Let’s start with defining some terminology we use when talking about CaptionSync accounts. Each user of CaptionSync gets a unique UserID. While we are often sloppy with our wording, this is different than an Account. An Account refers to who is receiving the invoice; it is a billable entity. An Account can have multiple UserIDs associated with it, but must have at least one UserID. Each Account must have one Primary UserID; the Primary UserID is the user that has all of the administrative privileges for the account. The Primary user can add new UserIDs, designate privileges for the users, and disable users.

One more distinction: You can set your Account to be a PO Account or not. If you choose a PO Account, CaptionSync will prompt you for PO information for each submission (you can set up default POs). Then the system will generate a separate invoice for each unique PO you use during the month. Note these do not need to be real POs – you could use project codes, course numbers, etc in order to get separate invoices how ever you wish.

To create a new CaptionSync account, navigate to – you can also get there by going to our homepage and selecting “sign up” under the login menu in the upper right corner. Just fill out the form you see. Most users will want to check “web captions” under “Type of account”, but you can also choose to get Broadcast captions, Transcription-only, or Production Transcripts. Decide if you want to use POs or not – this decision can be changed later if you change your mind. Finally, in order to make sure we get your account under the right contract, provide the Reference Code for your school. After you submit the form, it normally takes us an hour or two to process it; we will create the new Account and the Primary UserID for the new account – you will receive all of the new credentials by email.

Once you have your new Primary UserID credentials, you can log in and create additional UserIDs as required. Go to the Settings tab on your account, then to Manage Users to add new UserIDs, or to alter the privileges for existing UserIDs on your Account.

There are a large number of services available through your CaptionSync account. Most folks use CaptionSync for post-production captioning (that is, captioning of recorded videos), but you can also use CaptionSync to get simple transcripts, to get time-stamped transcripts (called “Production Transcripts”), to get your caption files translated to/from Spanish or French, to get your physical media (DVDs or VHS tapes) captioned, to request real-time captioning of meetings or events, or to get Audio Description for recorded videos. When your UserID is first created, it will likely come enabled only for post-production captioning; to enable other services, login to your account and navigate to the Settings tab, then to Account Features. From here you can select which features to add to your account. There is no cost to add them – you only incur cost when you use the services.

Now, let’s briefly talk about how to submit content to us for captioning. There are several ways we can accept content. The most common method is through our web interface, which I will show you in a moment. We also have a batch upload tool that provides a drag-and-drop interface that enables you to upload dozens or even hundreds of videos at once. You can also submit content to us by giving us a list of URLs – our system will then retrieve the content from the provided URLs. CaptionSync is also integrated with dozens of 3rd party video applications, allowing you to submit content directly from those applications. Finally, if you have your own content management system, CaptionSync provides an API that allows you to directly integrate your system to ours.

Here are just some of the online video platforms that have an integration to CaptionSync. Obviously, we cannot delve into these in this overview session, but if you are using any of these systems, contact us and we’ll help you get set up to caption directly from your application. CaptionSync is also integrated with LMS and video storage systems – here is a list of those systems that we work with.

I am not able to go through all of the possible submission methods in this short presentation, but I do want to briefly show you the basic web submission method as this is where most folks start off. Submitting your video for captioning is as simple as completing this four step form. First, check what type of submission you are making: Captioning, Transcription or Production Transcript – you can change it with the “Change Submission Type” if necessary. Next, I want you to note that there are mouse-over tips for everything here – just hover your mouse over type form field to get more information. To submit your video, just provide us with a PO (if necessary); your default PO will automatically populate this field. Give us a description of the submission – this is for reports, so do not put any instructions in here as nobody will read this field. Tell us how you want it transcribed – pick the turnaround time if we are transcribing it, or give us the transcript file if you are providing the transcript. Finally, select the media file – many formats are acceptable. Then click Start. It’s that simple!

There are some settings you can edit to change how your account behaves. The submission-specific settings can be found here by clicking on the “Advanced Settings” button. Here you can select exactly which caption files you get back. You can also control the appearance of captions (font, color, size). Settings for selecting the language and other transcriber options can be found here on the language tab. Most users set this stuff up once and then save as default for subsequent submissions. The global account settings can be found on the Settings tab. Many of the global settings are specific to the features enabled on your account, so they will only show up once you enable those features. But you can see a variety of settings here on the left-hand side.

One special setting I would like to bring to your attention is the “Guidance for Transcriber”. When you are submitting content or us to transcribe, you can add guidance for the transcriber. Our transcribers do a fabulous job of transcribing academic content with little or no context or information about the subject matter at hand, but you can greatly improve the odds of success by providing them with any guidance you have available: special terms, proper names, a link to the course page or a glossary of terms makes their job go much easier. If you have any special instructions, this is also the right place to include them. You can add specific notes to each submission you make; if you have global notes that apply to all of your submissions, you can also set up a “Persistent Note” on the Settings tab.

The final topic I want to touch on is Reporting. CaptionSync stores a complete history of your submission since the beginning of time – the history is never removed. You can also retrieve result files back for up to 5 years. There are a couple of different methods of generating reporting data. First, in the Status of Submissions section, on the Caption tab, you can query all of your submission history. You can query this either for just your own UserID, or all of the UserIDs on your Account. You can not only query by date, but also on a host of other information such as PO, Status, Submission Type. Once you generate your report, you can also receive the data in CSV format so that you can manipulate it in a spreadsheet application. You can get detailed information on any submission by just clicking on the submission ID.

By going to the Billing tab, you can generate similar reports for Billable submissions (any submissions that were not billable are excluded from these reports). The billing reports include cost information as well. Again, you can export this data to a CSV file for subsequent analysis. You can also generate reports of all past invoices and their status from the Invoices page.

Finally, you can get aggregate usage data for your Account on the Analytics tab. Once again, you can download this data as a CSV file. Multiple accounts can be associated for Analytics reporting, but this topic is a bit too complex to delve into here.

One last closing comment: AST has put a great deal of effort into creating an extensive knowledge base, filled with how-to articles on hundreds of topics. You can get detailed tutorials in our Support Center on all of the topics mentioned here today. If you cannot find what you need, we also have support experts who are happy to guide you to the right answer – just reach out to us and we’ll get you pointed in the right direction.