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Presidential Inauguration Captioning

As President Barack Obama was sworn into office for his second term on January 21, 2013, there were many realtime captioners working hard to make the event accessible for persons with hearing loss.  The television networks that carried the Inauguration had realtime captioning, and there was even realtime captioning on huge Jumbotron screens for the crowd in Washington DC.   Now that was great to see!  (photo below courtesy of Steve Clark.)

Captioning on the big screens - photo courtesy of Steve Clark

According to the Senate, at the inaugural website, this was the first inaugural webcast to include captioning.  Hooray!

I watched the official webcast, and I watched streaming realtime captions that were streamed live to the internet using  The US Senate provided the realtime writers for the official webcast.

Sounds great, right?  It is, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Where are the captions?

Unfortunately, although there was professional captioning being streamed live on the internet, it was difficult to find.  The official webcast didn’t have any mention of captioning being available, that I could see.

I had to have two separate windows open to watch the live webcast video and to view the streaming captions.   Most of the members of the public who were tuning in via the internet were not aware of the streaming captions or how to access them.  So the Inauguration was, unfortunately, still not truly accessible to them.

When I found out about the StreamText link and promoted it on my Facebook pages, the event was underway.  By the time most people saw the posts, the Inauguration was over.  I tried!

There is a very simple solution.  The StreamText event can be easily embedded into the same page as the live webcast.  It just takes a few minutes of programming for some code to be placed on the website, beneath or alongside the video.  The captions won’t cover the video at all, and it will make realtime captions available to everyone who tunes into the live webcast.  No hunting, no fiddling with the video player to turn the captions on, no frustration.  If that option isn’t feasible for some reason, the link to the streaming captions can be placed on the web page alongside the video.

Another source of frustration is the fact that the television networks don’t include realtime captions in their live webcasts, either.  (Despite the fact that they are required to have realtime captions on the television broadcasts.)  Why don’t they also stream the captions to the internet in the same manner described above for the webcast?  Do they know they can do this?  They can.

Captioning for the Archived Event

Immediately following a live event such as this, the video is archived and placed on the internet.  Unless someone takes the captioning file (or creates an accurate transcript) and uses it to caption the video, persons with hearing loss and persons who are deaf are still not able to have access to the video.  The automatic captioning done by YouTube and others is simply not accurate.

There are fast and easy ways to take a text file from the realtime captioning and synchronize that text to the online video to make captioning files that work just fine. The technology is getting better for that every day, and there’s no longer a legitimate excuse for such important events to be inaccessible to such a large segment of our population.

If you’re a consumer of captions, let the media outlets know you want live captioning streamed to the internet with their webcasts.  Let them know they can take the captioning that they already pay for and get better use of it, for the webcast and the archived video.  Let them know quality matters to you.

And please, please, don’t forget to thank the professional realtime captioners who are working hard and the media and government groups that hire them.  We’re getting there.

Captioning Educational Videos

Captioning of educational materials is crucial for students with hearing loss. Despite the requirements that students with disabilities be provided equal access to education, the majority of video content shown in classrooms in America is shown without captioning.

What many don’t realize is that all students benefit from captioned material. Literacy rates improve with captioning.

Essential for Learning is a very good informational video that was produced and captioned by Media Access Australia.  Check it out.  No matter where you live, captioning improves comprehension, provides access and increases literacy of students.

Here are a few articles and studies on improving literacy with captioning:

To learn more about pricing and captioning for educational videos or other content, contact me at or contact another reputable captioning company.

Captioning Issues with Video Players

There are many different online media players in use on the internet, and most of them don’t handle captioning well. Here’s an excellent post by Jamie Berke, a well-known hearing loss advocate, and a link to the new SMTPE standards.

iPad Intro CC – Google Auto Captions vs. Transendia Captions

Apple recently unveiled the revolutionary iPad device and, of course, posted the video on YouTube.  Since YouTube uses Google’s automatic captioning, the video must be accessible for anyone with hearing loss…right?

You be the judge.

Since getting YouTube’s captions to show up on the video can be a bit tricky, we decided to make it easy for you.  We took a video that was recorded with the automatic machine-generated captions by Google being displayed on the screen.  (They appear in the black box inside the video.)  Then we captioned the video using Transendia.  (The Transendia captions appear beneath the video.)  This allows you to compare the two captioning methods head to head.

iPad Intro video – Google vs Transendia

So, what do you think?  We are interested in hearing your thoughts.

Go ahead and search around in the video using the transcript window on the left.  The help file will show you all the features of the player.  If you’d like to know more about Transendia and how you can use our searchable captions, let us know either here or by reaching us through the Contact Us page.

Captioning Search – Hulu’s Not the Only Player

Digital Media Buzz article on Captioning Search, by David Fidlin.

Streaming Realtime Captioning – Options

There’s a lot of buzz about captioning and internet video these days, thanks mostly to YouTube’s announcement of free automatic captioning on its website. While the jury is still out on how successful that technology will eventually be for recorded video, the automatic voice-recognition technology is years – probably decades – away from being able to caption live content with any accuracy.

If video content is recorded in advance, there are many ways to accurately caption that video for the internet and/or for broadcast.  A realtime solution is not required, unless there simply is not enough time to have the video captioned or transcribed and synchronized.  It’s when the event is being broadcast live and is unscripted that you truly need a streaming realtime solution.

I want to show you an example of streaming realtime captioning that was done using “traditional” captioning, like you see on television.  I will also discuss some of the other ways you can stream live text to the internet using realtime transcription, realtime captioning and the technology that exists today.

The examples of realtime captioning you will see here are generated by trained professional realtime captioners – actual people – who write on a stenography machine like you see court reporters use in the courtroom or in a deposition.  There are also very good realtime captioners that use their voice and voice-recognition software coupled with the same type of Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) software that the steno captioners use.   It should be noted that the realtime voicewriters are every bit as skilled and highly trained as the steno captioners.  Please don’t confuse “voicewriters” with “automatic voice recognition” like YouTube and others are using.

Live Webcasting with Realtime Captions

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding hearings on broadband accessibility and recently held one of the meetings at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.  The FCC webcast the hearing live, with high quality realtime captioning.  Here’s a clip of the compelling testimony by Marlee Matlin, who presented at that hearing.  Not only is this clip an example of wonderful realtime captioning; the message is something that everyone that produces internet video should hear.  (So watch it all if you have the time.)


Marlee Matlin testifies at FCC hearing

Realtime captioning involves mixing the text file with the video, which is done through special captioning software and a piece of hardware called a captioning encoder.  The encoder is placed in the video stream before the video is broadcast to the internet.  The realtime captioner in the example was listening to the speaker (in this case the voice of Ms. Matlin’s interpreter) and producing the nearly flawless captions, including punctuation, as the words were spoken.  The captioning you saw was not edited or corrected at all.  The text was sent from the captioner’s computer to the encoder, where it was mixed with the video.

Because the captioning is visible on the video at all times and cannot be turned off, the captions in this example are open captions.  If the captions had been hidden in the video until the viewer turned them on (like most of the television programming that is captioned), the captions would be classified as closed captions.

Streaming Text Alongside Streaming Video

Another way of streaming realtime text to the internet with video (without any special captioning software or hardware) is to stream the text in a window alongside the video in a webcast.  The streaming text window may be resized and positioned anywhere the viewer (or the webcaster) chooses, and the font and background colors may be adjusted as well.  While some may choose colors and fonts that are aesthetically pleasing and complementary to their website, others may make their choices for entirely different reasons.  Large and bold fonts may be combined with high-contrast colors (like yellow letters on a black background) for persons with low vision; very small fonts may be chosen by someone who wants to just monitor what is being said and scan large amounts of text without having to scroll up and down.

It should be noted that the particular streaming realtime text in the next example was accessible by screen readers, which are used by persons who are blind.  (This actual demo is not accessible to screen reader software because it is simply a video made to illustrate what the streaming text looks like when shown alongside a video.)


Here is a link to an example of live streaming text alongside a video:

Streaming Realtime Text with Video

Choosing a Method

There are other ways to stream realtime text of live events to the internet, but if you need it accurate and streamed in real time, all methods involve using skilled realtime writers.  Whether you choose realtime captioning or streaming text, you should hire a professional if you want good results.

Your choice of methods may depend on what equipment and software is available; it may depend on your audience.  If your audience consists of a large number of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, they may find the traditional captioning most accessible, since the text is actually in the video picture, and they can watch the video and the captions without looking back and forth or up and down as much.  If the event is also being broadcast on television, the captioning option may make more sense.  (It is possible to simultaneously send closed captions to the television broadcast and open captions to the internet, by the way.)

If your audience uses screen readers or has vision problems, the streaming text window may be a better choice.  If you want to give your viewers the option of seeing the streaming realtime text alone or alongside the video, in a separate window, choose the streaming text.

If you have questions or need more information, please comment below or contact me through the website.

YouTube Rolls Out Auto Captioning – Does it Work?

YouTube unveiled its automatic, machine-generated captioning technology on Thursday, November 19.

While this is a step forward in video search, is it really making video content accessible for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing?  YouTube is utilizing Google’s Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology to perform the automatic transcription, and then in some instances they are using automatic translation to translate that English text into other languages.  The next logical question:  How accurate are the foreign language translations? Keep Reading…

Welcome to Transendia

Welcome to Transendia, the world’s first accessible media player that offers complete searchability and accurate verbatim transcripts.

“Making video and audio fully searchable and accessible worldwide.”

What makes Transendia special?

  • One-Stop Shop – You upload your video, provide us with spellings, and we do the rest
    • Transcription
    • Synchronization
    • Hosting
  • Accurate Transcripts
  • Robust Player with Multiple Search Features
  • Captioning Outside of Video Field
  • Patent-Pending “Pinpoint” Search Technology from Search Engines
  • Search Keywords & Glossary Terms, in Addition to Verbatim Transcripts
  • Customization of Player and Website Integration
    • Branding and Custom Skins
    • Integrate with Search Portals and Video Libraries/Collections
    • Custom Accessibility Options (Traditional Offline Captioning and Video Description available, for example)
    • Translation into Other Languages
  • Video & Audio Files Processed
  • Optional Download of Transcripts
  • Integration with Realtime Transcription for Live, Streaming Events
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