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  • iheartsubtitles 1:18 pm on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Subtitles for VOD, whose responsibility is it anyway? 

    UK based charities behind the #SubtitleIt campaign received a letter from Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy. It was not the response that the campaign had hoped for.

    Action on Hearing Loss have summarised:

    Mr Vaizey has told us that, during autumn 2015, Department for Culture, Media and Sport officials met with platform operators, content providers and broadcasters, and that the discussions gave clarity into the problems limiting the availability of access services and what’s needed to improve provision levels.

    The Minister has concluded that a lot has been achieved by broadcasters, content providers and platform operators towards increasing the provision of subtitles, and that “the 2013 commitment is being met”. He states that the introduction of legislation and the prescription of targets “could have a detrimental impact on what the sector has shown it is able to achieve on a voluntary basis”. In short, he has refused to take decisive action to end the digital exclusion faced by people with hearing loss due to the lack of subtitles.

    SOURCE: Action on Hearing Loss – Government decision on subtitles, April 2016

    And the crux of the issue:

    Mr Vaizey states that it was “encouraging to hear that several players throughout the supply chain of access services are working together” to overcome problems that limit the availability of access services.

    In reaching this opinion Ed Vaizey has ignored the evidence of the regulator, ATVOD. They reported that a “stalemate” persists between the broadcasters (content providers) who provide the programmes (e.g. ITV and UKTV) and the set top box operators (platforms) who pull together content from lots of different providers (e.g. Sky and Virgin), and a lack of clarity about whose responsibility it is to make content accessible.

    SOURCE: Action on Hearing Loss – Government decision on subtitles, April 2016

    This issue keeps cropping up. Whose responsibility is it?

    Netflix who do subtitle the majority of its content have published an article on their subtitling workflow. It’s interesting to read how Netflix tackles the problem of different devices requiring different formats, and how different languages can sometimes require different rendering capabilities that may not always be available on the device being used by the end user, and how before all of that is tackled, quality control checks are put in place. They have chosen to take on much of the responsibility in the sense that if a content provider does not provide a subtitle file in the correct format, they have invested in systems to overcome the problem and solve the problem of different devices requiring subtitles in different formats (phones, tablets, smart TVs, PC etc) The industry has made similar steps in this regard to with agreeing industry standard subtitling formats (such as EBU-TT which the UK regulator recommends is adopted). BBC iPlayer have also subtitled content as the “norm” for years and have very detailed guidelines documented here. I haven’t found many other articles on this subject, but it would appear the iTunes platform in the US have taken responsibility – sort of. It’s not that the platform is saying it will take responsibility to provide closed captioning, but iTunes (US) will remove content supplied by providers if they have failed to include a closed captioning file. It’s an interesting tactic, but its a move that I feel reflects regulatory requirements in the US, rather than a bold statement from Apple that they will only accept accessible content. (If anyone disagree’s with this conclusion – please do comment).

    Blackboard with a chart written in chalk saying if not us who? if not now when? if not here where?

    VOD subtitles – whose responsibility is it?

    So, back to the question, whose responsibility is it, and what is the right way to ensure accessibility via subtitling and captioning is implemented for VOD services? It’s a question the FCC in the US asked, and also recently answered. The UK VOD industry currently does not have this clarity, and the regulator cannot set it. In the interest of full transparency I should point out to those who are reading who may not be aware, I’ve been employed by a broadcaster, and a platform in my career so far. Whilst I have some insight into the differing workflows – it doesn’t make the answer to the question any easier except to say if both work together (that is a platform makes sure it has no barriers to access and can support accessibility features, and a broadcaster can provide those features (e.g. provide subtitle files / audio description files with its video content), it can be solved. I don’t necessarily think its and either/or answer here. The responsibility probably lies with both. Yes, there are challenges which some broadcasters will face more than others, and there are some platforms that will find it easier to do than others (for various reasons: do they make their own programmes, do they buy them from other content providers, do they control the full end-to-end chain? Has the platform been built to support accessibility features or do they have to tackle that first? etc) But it is absolutely technically possible for any VOD service to provide an accessible service. We know that, there are good guys who have been doing this for ages. The question is, how time-critical is this goal considered to be by either one of these parties? If it even is a goal for those services which are not accessible? Why not set a (regulatory) target – no goal is ever reached without setting a deadline. And whatever well-meaning action is currently being taken by VOD services that are planning to add accessibility features, if you need them, the progress certainly does not feel fast enough. And that is why Action on Hearing Loss are continuing their #SubtitleIt campaign, encouraging anyone who relies on subtitles to enjoy VOD services to contact their TV providers. The charity will also be targeting those working in the VOD industry by giving a talk at the VOD Summit taking place in London next month.

     
    • Robyn Carter 1:45 pm on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Facing similar problems x 10 here

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    • Probably shouldn't say 12:24 am on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t believe that any such “stalemate” exists – in most cases the providers of VOD content are the same TV channels who already create and provide subtitles on their broadcast TV channels. The problem is wholly with the TV platform providers – Sky, Virgin, YouView, etc. I work for a VOD content provider and we have never been able to get the platform providers to accept subtitled content – they are just not interested.

      ATVOD failed because they pressured the content providers to provide subtitles, but ATVOD had no power over the platforms. If the platforms don’t provide the ability to carry subtitles (and AD) then no content provider can offer accessible content, end of story. This is why even BBC iPlayer content – accessible nearly everywhere else – has no subtitles or AD when viewed on-demand on Sky or the non-TiVo Virgin platform.

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      • iheartsubtitles 7:00 am on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for your comment. I do believe it takes work from both content providers and platforms. It’s frustrating to hear that a content provider wants to be accessible but has difficulties in getting platforms to support accessibility features 😦

        Like

    • Dean 2:48 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Another great article Dawn. This is such a contentious issue. Sadly, the technology is available for VOD content to carry subtitles but it’s difficult to get the platform providers to engage with it as there’s no legislation. Also frustrating is that my local MP when approached never backed the Action On Hearing Loss SubtitleIT campaign, and turned down my offer to talk to her about the available technology. I don’t see this happening any time soon.

      Like

    • Nathalie 11:15 am on December 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Hello!

      I came across this blog because i am doing my thesis on music subtitling. You have lots of very interesting information here!
      I am looking for any info I can get on music genres in music subtitles. Would you be familiar with anything/any styleguide being used anywhere? Is there any “reference list” used anywhere, is this being practiced? I can’t really find anything in my world of academia..especially not in German subtitling (which is what I am looking into)
      I’d be happy for any help I can get.
      =D

      Like

  • iheartsubtitles 12:19 pm on June 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Formats, , , , , ,   

    CSI TV Accessibility Conference 2014 – Live subtitling, VOD key themes 

    Photo of CSI TV Accessibility Conference 2014 brochure

    CSI TV Accessibility Conference 2014

    Earlier this month the CSI TV Accessibility Conference 2014 took place in London. I had hoped to be able to give a more detailed write up with a bit of help from the transcript of the live captioning that covered the event but I’m afraid my own notes are all I have and so I will summarise some of the interesting points made that I think will be of interest to readers here. It will not cover all of the presentations but it does cover the majority.

    i2 Media Research gave some statistics surrounding UK TV viewing and the opportunities that exist in TV accessibility. Firstly, TV viewing is higher in the older and disabled population. And with an ageing UK population the audience requiring accessibility features for TV is only going to increase.

    Andrew Lambourne, Business Director for Screen Subtitling Systems had an interesting title to his presentation: “What if subtitles were part of the programme?” In his years of working in the subtitling industry he questioned why are we still asking the same questions over recent years. The questions surround the measurement of subtitling quality, and if there is incentive to provide great subtitling coverage for children. He pointed out that in his opinion funding issues are still not addressed. Subtitling is still not a part of the production process and not often budgeted for. Broadcasters are required to pay subtitling companies,and subtitling costs are under continued to pressure (presumably to provide more, for less money). It is a sad fact that subtitling is not ascribed the value it deserves. With regards to live subtitling there is a need to educate the public as to why these errors occur. This was a repeated theme in a later presentation from Deluxe Media. It is one of the reasons I wrote the #subtitlefail! TV page on this blog.

    Peter Bourton, head of TV Content Policy at Ofcom gave an update and summary of the subtitling quality report which was recently published at the end of April. This is a continuing process and I’m looking forward to comparing the next report to this first one to see what changes and comparisons can be made. The presentation slides are available online.

    Senior BBC R&D Engineer Mike Armstrong gave a presentation on his results to measuring live subtitling quality. (This is different to the quantitative approach used by Pablo Romero and adopted by Ofcom to publish its reports) What I found most interesting about this research is that the perception of quality by a user of subtitles is quite different depending on whether the audio is switched on whilst watching the subtitled content. Ultimately nearly everyone is watching TV with the audio switched on and this research found that delay has a bigger impact on perception of quality compared to the impact of errors. The BBC R&D white paper is available online.

    Live subtitling continued to be a talking point at the conference with a panel discussion titled: Improving subtitling. On the panel was Gareth Ford-Williams (BBC Future Media), Vanessa Furey (Action On Hearing Loss), Andrew Lambourne (Screen Subtitling Systems), and David Padmore (Red Bee Media). All panelists were encouraged that all parties – regulators, broadcasters, technology researchers are working together to continually address subtitling issues. Developments in speech recognition technology used to produce live subtitles has moved towards language modelling to understand context better. The next generation of speech recognition tools such as Dragon has moved to phrase by phrase rather than word by word (the hope being that this should reduce error rates). There was also positivity that there is now a greater interest in speech technology which should lead to greater advancements over the coming years, compared to the speed of technology improvements in the past.

    With regards to accessibility and Video on Demand (VOD) services it was the turn of the UK’s Authority of Television Video on Demand (ATVOD) regulatory body to present. For those that are unaware, ATVOD regulate all VOD services operating in the UK except for BBC iPlayer which is regulated under Ofcom. In addition because iTunes and Netflix operate from Luxembourg, although their services are available in the UK, they are outside of the jurisdiction of ATVOD. There are no UK regulatory rules that say VOD providers must provide access services, but ATVOD have an access services working party group that encourage providers to do so as well as draft best practice guidelines. I cannot find anywhere on their website the results of a December 2013 survey looking at the statistics of how much VOD content is subtitled, signed, or audio described which was mentioned in the presentation. If anyone else finds it please comment below. However, in the meantime some of the statistics of this report can be found in Pete Johnson’s presentation slides online. What has changed since 2012 is that this survey is now compulsory for providers to complete to ensure the statistics accurately reflect the provision. Another repeated theme, first mentioned in this presentation is the complexity of the VOD distribution chain. It is very different for different companies, and the increasing number of devices which we can choose to access our content also adds to the complexity. One of the key differences for different VOD providers is end-to-end control. Few companies control the entire process from purchasing and/or creating content for consumers to watch right through to watching the content on a device. So therefore who is responsible for a change or adaptation to a workflow to support accessible features and who is going to pay for it?

    I should also mention that the success of a recent campaign from hard of hearing subtitling advocates in getting Amazon to finally commit a response and say that they will start subtitling content was mentioned positively during this presentation. You may have read my previous blog post discussing my disappointment at the lack of response. Since then, with the help of comedian Mark Thomas, who set up a stunt that involved putting posters up on windows of Amazon UK’s headquarters driving the message home, Amazon have committed to adding subtitles to their VOD service later this year. See video below for the stunt. It is not subtitled, but there is no dialogue, just a music track.

    You can read more about this successful advocacy work on Limping Chicken’s blog.

    Susie Buckridge, Director of Product for YouView gave a presentation on the accessibility features of the product which are pretty impressive. Much of the focus was on access features for the visually impaired. She reminded the audience that creating an accessible platform actually creates a better user experience for everyone. You can view the presentation slides online.

    Deluxe Media Europe gave a presentation that I think would be really useful for other audiences outside of those working in the industry. Stuart Campbell, Senior Live Operations Manager, and Margaret Lazenby Head of Media Access Services presented clear examples and explanations of the workflow involved in creating live subtitles via the process of respeaking for live television. Given the lack of understanding or coverage in mainstream media, this kind of information is greatly needed. This very point was also highlighted by the presenters. The presentation is not currently available online but you can find information about live subtitling processes on this blog’s #SubtitleFail TV page.

    A later panel discussed VOD accessibility. The panelists acknowledged that the expectation of consumers is increasing as is the volume and scale of complexity. It is hoped that the agreed common standard format of subtitle file EBU-TT will resolve a lot of these issues. This was a format still being worked on when it was discussed at the 2012 Conference which you can read about on this blog. The UK DPP earlier this year also published updated common standard subtitles guidelines.

    Were any of my readers at the conference? What did you think? And please do comment if you think I have missed anything important to highlight.

     
    • peterprovins 4:48 pm on July 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting blog. No excuse for TV, Film, website or even theatre not to be captioned…we do it all. Currently captioning university lectures and looking at doctors surgeries which are currently limited to BSL only. Keep up the good work.

      Like

  • iheartsubtitles 10:09 am on September 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Formats, , , , , , ,   

    SMPTE Internet Captioning Webcast 

    This webcast posted by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is a good introduction to current US captioning regulatory requirements and new requirements due to come into play in the USA. All US broadcasters must caption content online that has previously been broadcast on linear TV by the end of this month. This includes pre-recorded content that has been edited for broadcast online. By March 2014, this also applies to live and near live content. Whilst the webcast is US-Centric the technical problems and solutions it discusses around captioning formats for online, and multi-platform broadcast content is relevant to all global broadcasters. The webcast covers both pre-recorded/block style captioning as well as live subtitling. It is captioned and you can view it below:

     
  • iheartsubtitles 8:03 pm on April 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Formats,   

    Fajri’s Take on Subtitling – How To Make The Subtitles 

    Here’s an interesting blog post written by someone working in the industry. This post covers process of creating translation subtitles and the journey from translating text to delivering a subtitle file to a broadcaster.

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    Fajri's Little Journal

    Have you ever wondered how the texts on your favorite TV series, movies on cinemas, anime you watched on your PCs, YouTube videos you streamed, even on LED screen in an opera (some people told me that there are subtitles in operas too) displayed? I mean, subtitles aren’t magically appearing out of nowhere. People made them, or even, are still making them up until now for you who don’t understand the language spoken/written and for you who have a problem in hearing. Now, how do they make these subtitles? On this blog post, I’m going to give some insight regarding the trades in this field, especially on how do we make them.

    How do you make the subtitles?

    There are various methods and ways to add subtitles to the certain materials. For YouTube videos, you can make them by using the CC feature on the video (personally, I don’t really…

    View original post 1,646 more words

     
  • iheartsubtitles 2:35 pm on January 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Formats, , , , , , , ,   

    CSI User Experience Conference 2012 Part 5 – Broadcast subtitles and captions formats 

    CSI User Experience Conference 2012: TV Accessibility

    CSI User Experience Conference 2012: TV Accessibility

    For background info on this conference read:Part 1.

    Frans de Jong, a senior engineer for European Broadcasting Union (EBU) gave a presentation on the history of work and current work being done to ensure standardised subtitle formats as broadcast technology evolves whilst ensuring that legacy formats are still support and compatible. The subtitle format evolved from teletext technology STL has evolved to a format called EBU-TT Part I. Jong explained:

    We have published this year (2012) EBU-TT part one. This is the follow up specification for that old format (STL). It takes into account that nowadays we like to define things in XML and not in binary format because its human readable, and because there many people who read XML…and of course nowadays [broadcast] its all file based, network facilities. Because if you look at the way that subtitles are produced, this a very generic sketch, typically it comes from somewhere, external company or internal department, can be based on existing formats, then it goes into some central content management system. Afterwards it archived and of course its broadcast at a certain moment, then provided to several of the platforms on right. This list of platforms growing. Analogue TV, digital TV, now there’s HDTV, iPlayer, we have IPTV streaming platforms all these platforms have their own specific way of doing subtitling. But in the production side we have for a long time being using STL and also proprietary formats based on them or newly developed. There’s several places where this format is useful but we felt we had to update that format to make sure we can fulfill the requirements of today. That is HD TV and the different web platforms mainly. So the new format published was focusing on that, very aware of web format, but focused in our case on production. Our goal is to really optimise the production, to help the broadcasters get their infrastructure up-to-date.

    The EBU-TT format is not a stand-alone invention and is based on W3C Timed Text (TTML) but restricts the featureset, makes default values explicit, and adds (legacy STL) metadata. Similar work has been done in the US by SMPTE with the captioning format SMPTE-TT. This captioning standard received an honor from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) —a Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility last month:

    The FCC declared the SMPTE Timed Text standard a safe harbor interchange and delivery format in February. As a result, captioned video content distributed via the Internet that uses the standard will comply with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, a recently enacted law designed to ensure the accessibility, usability, and affordability of broadband, wireless, and Internet technologies for people with disabilities.

    SOURCE: TV Technology

    The EBU are currently working on EBU-TT Part II which will include a guide to ensuring ‘upgrading’ STL legacy subtitle files and how they can be converted to EBU-TT file. This is due to be published early this year. Looking further ahead Jong’s said:

    There is also a third part coming up, that is now in the requirements phase, that’s on live subtitling. Several countries, and the UK is certainly leading, are working with live subtitling. The infrastructure for this and the standards used are not very mature, which means there is room also to use this format to come to a live subtitle specification. We will provide a user guide with examples…One word maybe again about live subtitling that’s coming up. What we did here is we had a workshop in the summer in Geneva at the EBU. We discussed the requirements with many broadcasters, what would you need this type of format. There are about 30 requirements. Some of the things that came up for example, is that it would be really good if there is a technical situation for routing, if I am subtitling for one channel maybe 10 minutes later I could be subtitling for another channel – to make sure that the system knows the what channel I am working for and that its not the wrong channel. And you need some data in the format that was used. Again the issue of enriching the work you are working on with additional information, description and speaker ID.

    To conclude the presentation Jong’s discussed his views on future technology and the next steps for subtitling including automated subtitles and quality control:

    There is an idea we could be much more abstract in how we author subtitle in the future. We understand that the thought alone can be quite disrupting for a lot of people in current practice because it’s far from current practice. Just to say we’re thinking about the future after this revision. I think later we’ll see on more advanced methods for subtitling, there is a lot of talk about automation and semi-automation. I think it was a week ago that You Tube released their automated subtitling with speech recognition, at least in the Dutch language. I am from Holland originally, I was pretty impressed by the amount of errors! … It’s a big paradox. You could argue that Google (owners of You Tube) has the biggest corpus of words and information probably of all of us.. if they make so many (automated subtitles/captions) mistakes how can we ever do better in our world? For the minority languages there is no good automated speech recognition software. If you ask TVP for example, the Polish broadcaster, how they do live subtitling, they say we would love to use speech recognition but we can’t find good enough software. In the UK it’s a lot better. It’s a real issue when you are talking about very well orchestrated condition and even there it doesn’t exist. I am really curious how this will develop.

     
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