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  • iheartsubtitles 10:04 pm on April 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Stenography   

    Live Music & Live Lyrics & Live Subtitles 

    Last month I did something I’ve never done before, and I don’t think many others will have done it either. What was it? I attended a live music gig with live subtitles! The gig was called Club Attitude. It was organised by Attitude is Everything and the live subtitling was provided by StageTEXT.

    Having been to several StageTEXT captioned plays, and live subtitled talks I was pretty confident that the quality of the live subtitles would be excellent. But I also know that high quality subtitling doesn’t just happen without a lot of prep, a lot of technical set up, and of course skilled subtitlers.

    I am sure that this gig had its challenges, especially considering it hadn’t been done before but I was really pleased to see that even for this first ever subtitled gig, the access worked well. I felt for the stenographer wearing their headphones listening intently in order to deliver the lyrics in a time accurate manner in what was already musically noisy environment. Talk about powers of concentration!

    The subtitles were displayed on both sides of the stage at a high height on the right so that the screen could still be seen at the back of the venue (as per the Vine above) and also on a screen at a low height on the left side of the stage in case wheelchair users also wanted to read the captions throughout the gig. I should also point out there was also a signer on stage translating the lyrics into BSL for BSL users. None of this got in the way of the band members performing. It was lovely to see full access had been thought of and was indeed being provided including an accessible venue (if only this was the norm and I wouldn’t even point it out in a review like this but sadly it is not always the case).

    I’d love to have known what the artists performing at the gig thought of the live subtitles (although they cannot really see it from their position on the stage.) But if they are reading this article, or any other bands who might be thinking about captioning or subtitling their gigs, an overlooked but massive benefit isn’t just the lyrics. I shall try to explain:

    Because the subtitling provided at this gig was live, the dialogue and conversation that the bands had with the audience is also subtitled. I am taking about the intro and chat between songs. “Hello everyone, thanks for coming.” etc That might not seem important but what if you happen to be talking to the audience about where they can buy your music or your merchandise?  Ordinarily this information is lost on me. The number of gigs I’ve been to where I can enjoy the music (because I’ve listened to the songs over and over and looked up the lyrics on the internet) but cannot understand any of the talking is well pretty much all of them without a hearing friend confirming what’s being said. Even if I am close to the stage, I can’t lip-read you – your microphone is in the way. And this means you’ve lost communication with me and a connection. What I often hear is something like, “And so fdfgddfas this is our next song that dfawesfasdf  and its called dfaefavdfa.” What this means is, I never catch the song title, so if I like the song, I can’t go home, search the title online, listen to it again, and you know maybe buy it!

    So, we know live subtitling of music can be done, so why isn’t it done more often? I do hope we have got rid of the misconception that deaf and hard of hearing people are not music lovers. I can relate to an awful lot written in this great article from @ItsThatDeafGuy especially the bit about getting the lyrics from Smash Hits magazine and subtitled music on TV! Being Deaf Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Care About Music.

    I too have blogged several times already on this subject including my frustration that music DVDs seem to be exempt from requiring subtitles, and how having access to subtitled music via TV was hugely important to me as a teenager. And it still is. Search the music tag for more articles.

    And who doesn’t love knowing what the lyrics are? The way we consume music has changed drastically in the last 20 years, and technology is providing new ways to get the lyrics. Recently the music streaming service Spotify launched lyrics integration and the company has been retweeting the positive feedback it is getting about it.

    I also can’t help but notice that the trend of official lyric videos being released by music artists isn’t going away. And that’s just fine by me because a probably unintentional side effect is that it gives me access to the song and allows me to consume the music in my preferred way by reading the lyrics alongside listening to the song. Arena and stadium artists have started to incorporate this into some of their video screen stage graphics during concerts. And naturally I love this.

    Given all of these trends maybe this reviewer of Club Attitude is right: Perhaps the most extraordinary thing is that this gig night does not feel extra-ordinary at all. Now that would be something.

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    • Victoria O'Hara 5:47 pm on August 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Afternoon. I am working on a research proposal, and I was wondering if there was any way that I could ask you a few questions about closed captioning in the UK?

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    • iheartsubtitles 3:43 pm on September 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Victoria, I have sent you an email.

      Like

  • iheartsubtitles 11:57 am on September 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Stenography,   

    MOOC’s, Learning and Education 

    Please don’t think a lack of blog posts over the summer means a lack of interest in the subject of all things captioning and subtitling, far from it. In fact in an attempt to improve my skills and knowledge, one of things that I’ve been busy with is learning. I took my first steps into the world of MOOC’s. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, it stands for Massive Open Online Courses. They are courses that exist online, and the majority consist of a combination of reading material and video lectures.

    So you can probably guess what I am going to comment on next. As a hard of hearing person, just how accessible was the video content? Well it goes without saying that a key factor in me choosing a MOOC was not just the subject matter but whether the video and audio content was subtitled or captioned in English. The two MOOC’s I took were from FutureLearn and Coursera*

    A screenshot of Coursera's Course At A Glance details hours of study, length of the course, language of the course, and language of subititles that are available.

    Coursera – At A Glance section of the page detailing subtitle availability

    A screenshot of FutureLearn's FAQ webpage noting that subtitles are available

    FutureLearn’s FAQ includes information on the availability of subtitles

     

    I am happy to say that it was relatively easy for me to find out if content on their courses was subtitled. I particularly like Coursera’s clear layout and course summary from a course’s main page which tells you if subtitles are available. You have to dig a little deeper to find the answer on FutureLearn’s website but it is there in a detailed FAQ – Technology and Accessibility page. All of FutureLearn’s courses are subtitled in English, I am unsure if that is the case for Coursera.

    But…having established that the video content of the course itself is subtitled, why oh why, on both websites, is the introductory video not also subtitled! I have to rely only on the text description of the course to decide if it is the right one for me. This is the only opportunity you have to make me a ‘customer’ and commit to joining your course, so why are you leaving this video out?  It’s clear time and effort has been put into recording and editing them – so for goodness sake make them accessible and add subtitles!

    So what was the quality of the subtitling of the course content like I hear you ask? Well, varied to be honest. Starting with the good – the errors that did occur in the subtitles for both MOOC courses were not frequent enough to stop me from understanding and completing assignments. The most grave example – where a word error actually changed the meaning of the sentence came from Coursera. For example the phrase “Dublin Core” was subtitled as “Double Encore” and it was a horrible distraction when trying to understand a new topic that I had not studied before. When I pointed this out in the course forums, the staff explained it was likely due to an  auto-captioning error and apologised for the mistake. They also fixed the error relatively quickly allowing me to watch the video again two days later with much less confusion. Whilst it would have been better if the error was not there at all the speed of the response to fix it meant I didn’t get left behind in my studies. On the FutureLearn course one video used an incorrect word. I have to admit if it wasn’t for my own lip-reading skills I may not have realised this. When I posted a comment about it, it wasn’t the staff that responded but a very helpful fellow learner who clarified the correct word for me.

    Now for the not so good. Anyone who is a professional subtitler or captioner will know the importance of chunking, character limits per line and reading speeds. Now assuming the same guidelines for subtitling pre-recorded content for captioning/subtitles on broadcast TV also applies to pre-recorded educational MOOC videos (I don’t see why not but please comment if you disagree) these rules were not adhered to. The question is did it stop me learning? Honestly, no it didn’t (I can at least pause,rewind online) but it did make the retention and understanding harder. The user experience was not as good as it could have been. It is not what I am used to. I would prefer that the level of quality I am used to seeing on broadcast TV and DVD is replicated for MOOC videos.

    Another issue, for both courses is that the teacher would sometimes direct you to an external resource such as another website or video not hosted by the MOOC platform itself. And here’s where the access falls down. On both FutureLearn and Coursera the external content contained videos that were not subtitled or captioned. So I was unable to benefit from this. Now it would be nice if the platforms only allowed external links if the content has been made accessible. However the decision to include such content is probably at the discretion of the teacher not the MOOC platform. It’s exactly the same issue we currently see with VOD (Video on Demand) platforms. They might host the video but they are not the providers of content for whom it is generally accepted that the responsibility to provide the captioning or subtitling lies with. Did this prevent me from learning and passing tests and assignments? Thankfully no, because for both courses the external content was an optional extra but it still stands that this current format/situation does not equate to equal access to content. And that is most certainly a bad thing.

    Both MOOC courses that I took allowed students on the course to download a transcript of all videos (Coursera also allow you to download the subtitle file itself). This is a nice tool that all pupils on the course can benefit from. And this brings me to the point of one of the reasons I set up this blog – the belief that subtitles and closed captioning are not just a resource for deaf and hard of hearing communities, they are for everyone. There has been numerous research and studies over the last 20-30 years that suggest subtitles and closed captioning can help improve reading skills, literacy and the retention of information. There are a few websites that highlight this, the most comprehensive are Captions For Literacy and Zane Education.

    A photo of a captioned TV, the front cover of the National Captioning Institute - Guide for Using Captioned Television in the Teaching of Reading

    SOURCE: National Captioning Institute – Guide for Using Captioned Television in the Teaching of Reading (1987)

    Some of this research has been recognised and there are resources for teachers in Australia via Cap That!, and the USA via Read Captions Across America and Reading Rockets.  In fact, the USA as far back as 1987 realised the benefits and the National Captioning Institute published a guide for teachers.

    Does anyone know if there are or have been similar publications or resources for teachers in the UK? I have been unable to find anything and given the level of subtitled coverage on TV we now have, it seems a missed opportunity for teachers not to use it as a learning tool and encourage their use?

    Going back to MOOC’s , the global nature of the internet means its recognised that subtitles are needed given the course can be taken anywhere in the world and a pupil might need to read subtitles in their own language or use same language subtitles to aid their understanding. And everyone stands to benefit from this. I really enjoyed the experience overall and will absolutely consider taking more subtitled MOOC courses in the future.

    I haven’t even mentioned the services of CART (Communication Access in Real Time) or STT/STTR (Speech To Text) as an educational tool yet. These services were not available to me as a student but where they have been made available for at talks, meetings, or events I have absolutely benefited from being better at retaining the information being spoken simply because I can read every word.  I look forward to more research and evidence in the area of real-time live subtitling/captioning access because again I think all learners could benefit from this not just those who struggle to hear what is being said.

    What has been your experience with using captioning or subtitling as an educational tool been?

    *other accessible MOOCs are available.

     
    • Claude Almansi 12:17 am on September 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Great post, Dawn: thank you.

      About the “double encore” for “Dublin core” error in a Coursera lecture that you mention: I think the instructor was mistaken in saying it was likely due to an auto-captioning error: Coursera used to visit appalling automatically voice-recognition generated original subs (1) on volunteer translators when it was using an Amara.org team, but at least, volunteers were able to fix them – in the course videos as well – before translating them.

      But with their new crowdtranslating initiative called the Global Translator Community (GTC), they said, in a hangout for GTC volunteers:

      “…When they [Coursera’s university partners] request captioning, that goes to a company that we work with,that does human language-captioning of videos. So then people listen to the videos and actually,humans write out the words that are being spoken on the screens.
      Now, the people who are doing these captions, they are not subject-matter experts,so, for instance in the course on Machine Learning, you know,they’re probably going to get some words wrong, there are going to be grammatical mistakes and, you know, one of the challenges that I realize, that we certainly realize is a challenge,is that English transcripts are not perfect.We think that they’ve improved a lot, we’ve worked with this provider that we use to improve that.I don’t know if any, if actually some of you had been on the platform for a couple of yearsand saw the transcripts back in 2012,and maybe you can tell that they have gone better — I hope so.” (1)

      Actually they haven’t, by a long shot: there might be fewer transcription errors than with the former auto-captions, though that’s arguable, but now, as the GTC uses Transifex, which is NOT a subtitling app, for translating the original subtitles, volunteers have no way to fix them anymore: hence the staple absurd splitting, frequent bad syncing, sometimes long unsubtitled parts, not to mention inane mentions of non verbal audio, like just [music] without describing it. So on June 6, Coursera staff started a Google spreadsheet, http://goo.gl/ilB1uK , where volunteers are meant to report these original subtitles issues via a form, so staff can respond to them. Problem: staff hasn’t responded to a single entry after June 16.

      About captioning for literacy: not UK but Indian: http://www.planetread.org/ . Pity the video on the home page is uncaptioned, but the site offers many resources, theoretical and practical.

      As to my use of captioning in education: in a couple of really open online courses for Italian teachers organized by Andreas Formiconi (3), I deviously started captioning some videos then asked if other participants would like to join. Only a few did, but they got really interested, and some posted about it in their blogs.

      (1) See https://github.com/acli/Coursera-subtitles#things-to-watch-out-for-if-you-want-to-work-on-courseras-subtitles

      (2) From the the transcript generated by the captions in http://www.amara.org/en/videos/4H50v2EYDXP7/info/global-translator-community-hangout-with-daphne-koller/

      (3) See his http://iamarf.org/ blog

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      • iheartsubtitles 10:22 am on September 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Claude, thanks for commenting. Some very interesting background and links with regards to Coursera’s subtitling and captioning methods.

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    • Arlene Mayerson 7:57 pm on September 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I am a lawyer with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund who litigated the Netflix case. If any one has trouble accessing MOOC’s because of lack of captions, please contact me at amayerson@dredf.org. Thanks.

      Like

  • iheartsubtitles 10:18 am on August 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Stenography,   

    Captioned Music – automated vs human skill 

    Here are two fun videos that illustrate two very different results when captioning music.

    The first is lyric video for One Direction lyrics as captioned by You Tube’s auto captioning system. (You can also view the results of Taylor Swift’s lyrics)

    Machine translation does have a role to play in providing access and despite these funny videos continues to improve but that is for another blog post.

    Continuing on, compare the above with the fantastic skill of this stenographer and watch them subtitle Eminem’s Lose Yourself in real-time (music starts at 1:35 in).

    Stenography is also used to caption/subtitle live television – see #subtitlefail! TV

     
  • iheartsubtitles 8:58 am on April 24, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Stenography, ,   

    Festival Of The Spoken Nerd – subtitled comedy 

    Last week I attended an event captioned by STAGETEXT but this time it wasn’t a play but live comedy. Consequently rather than scripted and cued captions being used, the comedy event called Festival Of The Spoken Nerd was captioned live by a stenographer. To get an idea of the comedy show style watch this clip:

    What was great about the event was that there was very much an element of audience participation both on stage and through the use of smart phones and Twitter. I think it is the first time I have ever been in a theatre and been encouraged to keep my mobile phone switched on and use it! As a result I was able to capture some great moments that were unique to this particular gig. Because it was captioned the Festival Of The Spoken Nerd cast sometimes spoke about and interacted with the live captions appearing above their head:

    Later on in the show the stenographer Kate was made part of the show with the use of a video camera that recorded her typing away and displaying this on screen:

    It was such a refreshing change to see technology being used for access celebrated and then being integrated into the show. There were no complaints, everyone in the audience thoroughly enjoyed it. Captioning aside, the show is both funny and fascinating. I’ve not seen anything like it before. This was the first comedy I have ever had the pleasure of attending that has been captioned live for audience and I certainly hope it is not the last. I would love to see more.

    Caption users are needed for STAGETEXT film. If you are available on May 7th and can get to London, why not help STAGETEXT promote the services it provides by taking part in the film.

     
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