Producing Caption Files for Recordings of Live Captioned Events

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Producing Caption Files for Recordings of Live Captioned Events
conference speaker

Live Event Captioning

As a realtime captioner, you’ve probably gotten the request hundreds of times: Caption our live presentation at a conference (or class, commencement, speech, meeting). You gather all the pertinent information to ensure that you put out the best captions possible; you determine the logistics of your audio source, your caption delivery method, contact details.

On the day of the live event, things run smoothly, the presentation goes as expected, you captioned well, and the session even ended within a minute of the scheduled end time! Life is good!

On-Demand Video

Two days pass and you get an email from the client asking for a VTT or SRT file for the recording of the event. They ask so casually, as if it’s something that should be included and you simply forgot to send it along. Like asking the waiter for ketchup with their fries, they assume it’s no big deal.

They are surprised to learn that you can’t just produce a caption file with a couple of keystrokes. If your captioning software does have the ability to put out a time-coded caption file, the time codes won’t match the recording of the video. After all, the time codes in your file were created in real time, and the caption file for the archived video will need to match the time codes in the video.

Suddenly the “Life is Good” music in your head screeches to a halt and is replaced with the soundtrack from Jaws. Okay, that may be a tad dramatic. But my guess is that either your heart is racing or your stomach is full of dread.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

A common requirement of captioning today is the ability to also provide a caption file for the archived video. Human realtime captioning is still far superior in quality to auto captions, albeit more expensive. I won’t go down the rabbit hole of pointing out the accuracy of the two methods, as I’ve done that in a previous post. Unfortunately, accuracy isn’t the only factor that video content owners consider. Auto captions are easy to provide, since they are built into many video hosting platforms. Your client could just do an ASR caption file for the recording, right?

How unfortunate would it be for a deaf student, for example, to struggle with auto captions on the recording of a class after having had great CART services in the live class? If better captions are available for the archived video, shouldn’t all viewers get the benefit of improved captions?

In the past, you may have responded to the request for an SRT, SMI, SCC file by providing an .SCC file straight out of your captioning software. Not all CAT programs can export these files. If you do provide them to the client, do you have any idea what the client does with them?

Your client most likely imports the .scc file into their video editing package and adjusts the time codes to match their video. They essentially do a lot of work to use your file to create captions they can use. No wonder it’s tempting for them to simply use the auto captions. After all, time is money.

Best Practices

Realtime captioners are using CaptionTools to easily provide SRT, VTT and other caption files to their clients following live events.

Option 1 – Using Streamtext to deliver the realtime text. Because Streamtext generates the time codes in real time, there is no charge for using CaptionTools.

Here’s the Streamtext workflow:

  1. Realtime captions delivered via Streamtext (Streamtext event is scheduled to retain transcript)
  2. CaptionTools is used to edit the realtime file
    • Set line length for caption file
    • Correct mistakes in realtime text (optional)
    • Open video recording to “ripple” time codes so captions are in sync
    • One click to fix short time codes (so someone has time to read short lines)
  3. Save and download SRT, VTT or other caption file

Option 2 – Using CaptionTools to produce synchronized captions for the archived video. This method can be used no matter how the realtime captions were delivered, and it’s also the same for captioning a video that was not captioned live.

Here’s the workflow:

  1. At your CaptionTools dashboard, upload or link to video file and cleaned up transcript
  2. Use CaptionTools to
    • Set line length
    • One click to fix short time codes
  3. Save and download SRT, VTT or other caption file

This is the simplest way to produce great caption files, since the text will be synced for you. (And you can clean up your realtime file in your CAT or captioning software without worrying about disturbing time codes.) Because CaptionTools creates the time codes from the uploaded video, the charges are based on the length of the video file uploaded. Your time editing in CaptionTools is always free.

Option 3 – beta – Using your .scc, .srt files from your captioning software.

If you currently produce .scc files for your live events and you can get access to the archived video, contact CaptionTools to ask about importing your own time-coded files and editing them in CaptionTools for a flat fee per file. We have done this for several captioners in the past, and we are considering making this a new feature if you love it.

CaptionTools and You

CaptionTools was created by me, Tanya English, a realtime captioner. You’ve heard the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and that is so true! My company Realtime Transcription needed a good way to clean up realtime files, sync them to the archives and produce nice captioning files for our clients. We didn’t want to put this burden on either our clients or our captioners.

We created our caption editor and imported our Streamtext events so we could edit those realtime events and export caption files.

We know that some realtime assignments are more challenging and the files need more cleanup to produce a file we’d be proud to present to a client. We wanted the ability to have the captioner clean up their realtime file on their CAT system and give us a transcript that we could upload with the video to have it “auto sync” the caption file. Now CaptionTools gives us the flexibility to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to clean up the realtime text and use the Streamtext file or go ahead and upload a fully edited transcript and let CaptionTools do the syncing work. I’m hearing “Life is Good” music again!

New Opportunities

Once you’ve produced a caption file by uploading a video and a transcript to CaptionTools, you know how to do post-production captioning! My company uses CaptionTools to caption videos all the time. This may open a new line of revenue with both your existing and future clients.

I want human realtime captioners to succeed and be able to continue to provide the highest quality caption files. Follow up great realtime captioning with equally great caption files for the archived video. Expand into offering captioning for videos that were never shown live. You got this!

Note: I’m making CaptionTools available to CART and captioning users at a substantial discount. Ask me for the coupon code when you need to replenish your CaptionTools account after your free introductory 60 minutes are used. Ask me for references from other captioners!

I will teach you how to use CaptionTools in your business. I also have the ability to provide the services for you if you can’t keep up with your volume or decide you’d rather have someone else do the work. Please reach out with questions. You may reach me through the contact page.