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  • iheartsubtitles 1:18 pm on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Streaming Content, , ,   

    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.

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    • 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 😦

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    • 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.

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    • 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

    • Jodene Antoniou 9:35 am on June 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Dawn, nice article!

      I believe a lot of the issues really come down to price. There is a huge gap in the market between incredibly cheap automated subtitling which is of a very poor quality and subtitles that are written by professionals but are incredibly expensive.

      Converting between subtitle formats is relatively simple with professional software and subtitles should be supported on most platforms. Most companies, including the BBC are shifting away from EBU-STL subtitles and more into Timed Text that can be used on more platforms. But supplying subtitles for all formats is still a cost and it’s far too tempting for providers to choose not to save money and not use VoD subtitles when still not all platforms support them.

      I have a son who has moderate hearing loss, and run a subtitling and closed captioning company, http://www.capitalcaptions.com. Our subtitles are ALWAYS written by professionals but offered at reasonable prices in order to encourage more TV providers to utilise them for all formats. But without the platform providers also taking responsibility soon, real changes are going to take a very long time.

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

    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.

        Like

    • 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 10:09 am on September 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Streaming Content, , ,   

    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 12:59 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Streaming Content, , ,   

    Q&A with Films14 Director Shaun Sadlier 

    A fully subtitled from launch, with the aim to also eventually provided full BSL signed movies from a Video On Demand service.  Imagine that? Well one business entrepreneur Shaun Sadlier is planning to do just that through Films14.  Read the Q&A from Shaun below and watch the video for more information:

    Q:  Your service is called Films14.  Is there a story behind the name?
    A: I was looking for a name which it is easy to remember and maximum is 7 letters or numbers, films is what we provide and 14 references 2014 when we want to launch.

    Q: You are based in the UK but the internet is global. Can anyone sign up to Films14 or is it UK residents only?
    A: That’s correct, we are global brand but we start out in UK and if it goes well then we will expand across the world. Anyone can sign up but it is for UK residents only. If I found anyone who aren’t UK residents then they have to wait for us to come over.

    Q: Can you reveal what content there will be available to watch?
    A: We’ve got two types of content, Subscription and On Demands. There will be 50+ movies / TV shows in the first month and additional 50 or more on every month for Subscription. There will be 60+ blockbusters movies every year for On Demands.

    Q: The subscription content – does that cost extra to access it in addition to the monthly fee? Or does the monthly fee give you access to the subscription content?
    A: No, it will not cost extra. It is a monthly fee to access subscription and discount blockbuster movie from On Demand.

    Q: Are there any benefits to signing up in advance of the Films14 launch?
    A: Yes, there is a benefit.

    1. £4.99 for first month and then £6.99 monthly
    2. Access to subscription movie’s and TV series (50+ Movie’s & TV Series addition every month)
    3. Discount Blockbusters movie’s On Demands (60+ New movie’s in a year)
    4. Can cancel membership after first month
    5. Pay nothing until launch
    6. 100% Subtitles and In-vision signer for sign language (On and Off feature!) – World first!
    7. Mystery Gift on the Launch day for Pre-Launch membership only

    About the Mystery Gift.
    1. If we get over 20,000 UK residents sign up before launch then Pre-Launch membership will get £4.99 monthly for life.
    2. If we get over 50,000 UK residents sign up then before launch Pre-Launch membership will get £3.99 monthly for life.
    3. If we get over 150,000 UK residents sign up then before launch Pre-Launch membership will get £2.99 monthly for life.

    Q: How is this service funded?
    A: This service will be funded by crowdfunding and then membership sign up on the first month of launch. Our Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and Enterprise Investment Scheme are currently pending which take up 4 to 6 weeks.

    Q: How will the subtitles be provided, are you creating them?
    A: Our content distributors provides movies with subtitles included. I won’t accept any movies or TV show without subtitles available because in my view, it is pieces of junk.

    Q: How will the BSL be provided, are you creating them?
    A: I have a studio which I can use and hire professional BSL signer’s but it will take lots of time to edit them therefore I am looking around for a professional company that can offer a good deal.

    Q: Will all content released on the website have subtitles and BSL immediately?
    A:  All will have subtitles immediately and BSL will start out with a few titles because it is very expensive and it is new technology. Eventually, all movies will have Sign Language included. That’s our mission.

    Q: What are the challenges you are facing in getting this service up and running?
    A: The most challenging is to get as many subscriber’s as possible to cover the costs and in-vision signer features. I am very confident it will go OK.

    Q: Will you be able to watch the content on all internet enabled devices or desktop and laptops only?
    A: It will work on Playstation 3, Wii, iPad and any devices with an internet connection and screen because we are going to use HTML5 video player.

    Q: What can readers do to help get the service up and running?
    A: Readers can help us to find weakness in our services and sign up please.

    Q: What is your favourite subtitled content?
    A: 100% Subtitles with options of size, colour and background colour to suit their need.   I don’t have a favourite subtitled movie because I love so many movie’s so it is very difficult to choose. But I mostly watch Sci-fi, Horror, Thriller, Adventure and Drama. Sometime Comedy.

    Q: What is your favourite BSL content?
    A: In-vision signer with on and off feature. We are going to start with British Sign Language and when we expand to USA we will put in America Sign Language. American’s are excited and want us to come over, even Australia as well!  I don’t have a favourite British Sign Language movie because I haven’t seen one yet considering we don’t get 24/7 access to entertainment and currently it is very limited access.  When I heard about a movie with in-vision signer on TV, they normally show these at 2am in the morning which it is frustrating for us. And, some BSL TV series are shown on PC or Laptop which is limited devices. Therefore, our company is 24/7 access, you can watch anytime, anywhere and any devices with internet connection and screen. It will also be the fastest way to watch movies.

    Q: Why do you think current content providers are so slow at providing access?
    A: They don’t think how important about our access need because they don’t see how we feel after all these years. I feel so frustrated to have limited access to entertainment and it is getting worse. So, here I am.

    Q: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about Films14?
    A: Films14 is Deaf-led company and we know what we need to access the enjoyment of movies and TV Series. Also, we are world first to have sign language with on and off features. Just like subtitles.

    All the best!

    Shaun Sadlier
    Director
    Films14

    Shaun has already made a BSL signed and subtitled video explaining the service which you can watch on the Films14 website or watch it below:

     
  • iheartsubtitles 6:59 pm on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Streaming Content, , , ,   

    Subtitles and Captioning – Regulatory requirements update 

    In the USA the deadline set by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVVA) passed at the end of March. This was the deadline for US broadcasters to ensure that any live or near live programmes captioned for TV linear channel broadcast are also captioned on online catch-up services. So for anyone living in the USA reading this should you wish to file a complaint due to lack of captions online you can do so by completing a FCC Form.

    Currently in the UK there are no regulatory requirements covering online catch-up services. The major broadcasters services such as BBC iPlayer, itv player, 4OD, and Demand 5 do provide subtitles where available. In addition BBC iPlayer and 40D provide audio description online if it has been providing during TV broadcast. This is assuming you are streaming the content online from a PC, as opposed to downloading for which subtitles are not yet available. So, a fairly good start has been made without regulatory requirements being put in place. The question is, is it enough? I don’t think it is. Not all broadcasters are doing it. This is not equal access to a catch up online service.

    A broader but related issue to this is that broadcast services and the technology behind it is moving at a fast pace. One of the poorest areas for captions and subtitles availability is in OTT* services. When connected TV becomes the norm, it makes sense that these OTT services will sit next to traditional broadcast channels and online catch up services. Maybe they will even appear in the same EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) on your TV. The issue here is, consumers aren’t going to know or be interested in the difference. Both are TV channels offering content to watch, both should provide the same kind of access through captions or subtitles. And why shouldn’t consumers think and feel like this? For OTT services, Netflix is probably currently leading the field in the provision of captions and subtitles (anyone disagree?) but it’s interesting that this appears to have come about as result of the company being sued by National Association for the Deaf (NAD) back in 2011 for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) for doing the exact opposite and failing to provide closed captioning! Maybe we do need more regulatory requirements. What do you think?

    *OTT refers to ‘Over The Top’ Television and refers to broadband delivery of video and audio without a multiple system operator being involved in the control or distribution of the content itself. For example Netflix provide content but to access their services you need a broadband connection that they do not control but ‘ride over the top’ of this service to provide content to consumers. Consumers can access OTT content through internet-connected devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, set-top boxes, Smart TVs and gaming consoles such as the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

     
    • Larry Goldberg 7:59 pm on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Though Netflix is definitely building up their inventory of captioned (subtitled) TV programs, Apple’s iTunes (available via their OTT Apple TV device or Mac or PC) probably has just as much captioned content.

      Like

    • iheartsubtitles 10:33 pm on April 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the info Larry. Good to know.

      Like

  • iheartsubtitles 2:56 pm on February 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Closed Captioning to learn a language – old tech meets new tech 

    I have blogged before about whether using subtitles to learn a second language is a good or bad thing, but recently I came across a nifty project that aims to help people do just that. Easy Way Language Center has hooked up a computer to capture the closed captions of Brazilian TV stations. The computer then uses Google Translate to translate the captions into another language of your choice. Click on the image below to watch the video explaining how this works.

    Image - Easy Way Subtitles

    Easy Way Subtitles uses Closed Captioning [CC] and Google Translate

    Image - Easy Way Subtitles

    Easy Way Subtitles – A computer hooked up to the TV captures all the closed captioning to put into Google Translate

    Image - Easy Way Subtitles on iPhone

    Easy Way Subtitles – The translation is streamed to a second screen

    The Easy Way Subtitles website allows you to select the TV channel and the language you wish to translate the captions into online and you can watch the subtitles stream back to you on the web page, although without the context of knowing what is airing on the channel itself at the time you do this makes it difficult to apply any context to what you are reading. Still I like the use of technology here. What do you think? A good way to learn, or not enough quality control to avoid translation mistakes? After all the captions themselves in the original language might not be correct in the first place though of course they should be.

     
  • iheartsubtitles 3:23 pm on January 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Streaming Content,   

    Web Series – increasing in popularity? Where are the captions? 

    So far on this blog when discussing access to video content on the web I have focused on catch-up services provided by traditional linear TV broadcasters. But increasingly there is some content that is available on the web only, usually refered to as a web series.

    A web series is a series of videos, generally in episodic form, released on the Internet or also by mobile or cellular phone, and part of the newly emerging medium called web television. A single instance of a web series program is called an episode or webisode.

    SOURCE: Wikipedia

    Web Series shouldn’t be mistaken for being small-fry, it is an industry big enough to have its own awards called The Streamys. The number 1 subscribed web series on You Tube is currently Smoosh with over 7,000,000 subscribers! This kind of content is not subject to the same regulatory rules as web catch up services in any country so far as I am aware (readers please correct me by commenting on this post if I am wrong). Unfortunately much of this content is without captions or subtitles but there are some fantastic individuals working hard to advocate and educate producers of web series to encourage them to include it. Captioned Web TV is a fantastic blog that lists all web series it finds that includes captions. It also contains useful information for web producers to take steps in captioning their videos. If you know of any web series with captions that is not listed you can submit that information to the site.

    In addition to web series created by individual producers, OTT platforms such as Amazon and Netflix are starting to produce their own exclusive shows. Netflix’s first produced show is a remake of the TV series House Of Cards. To my pleasant surprise the trailer which is already online has been captioned and so I hope the same will be true of the series itself:

    In a similar vein Amazon Studios has greenlit several productions but have not yet completed production. And in the US Hulu has several exclusive series, the captioning of which seems to be a mixed bag:

    It is not just the OTT companies, traditional Film & TV production companies also produce series exclusively for the web. One of the series I would very much like to watch but cannot because it is not captioned is from Crackle (run by Sony) called Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. It’s success in bringing viewers to the site has meant that a second series is being produced, and according to paidContent, “2013 is the year of the web series second season”. What I’d like to see is “2013 – the year of captioned web series”. I’ll settle for 2014 if I have to. I’m not convinced changes will happen this quickly. For a start because of its very nature – anyone can upload a web series anywhere at anytime once they have made it, how to keep up with it all? Here’s a list that is fairly current of the many ways to watch web series. I don’t doubt this list could be out of date fairly quickly. But what if The Streamys gave an awards category for the most accessible content? I’d like to see producers whether individuals, OTT platforms, or web content from traditional production companies all competing for that as much as they are for subscribers/hits/views at the very least. Right now, a lot of us are missing out.

     
  • iheartsubtitles 5:18 pm on January 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    CSI User Experience Conference 2012 Part 6 – Does technology help or hinder progress? 

    CSI User Experience Conference 2012: TV Accessibility

    CSI User Experience Conference 2012: TV Accessibility

    For background info on this conference read:Part 1.

    A panel discussion on technology and access discussed whether the provision of access services by broadcast is helped or hindered by technology. Not surprisingly, the answer is both.

    Gareth Ford Williams, Acting Head of Usability and Accessibility for the BBC discussed some of the technological challenges explaining that they are different barriers for different types of access services – subtitling, audio description and sign language:

    We move from a world where you are taking something that is linear broadcast, trying to turn it into catch up and on demand we’re basically taking stuff that’s again from one set of format to another set. We luckily made the choice very early on with BBC iPlayer, to support time text which has paid off. It was a little bit of a punt at the time because no-one else was doing it. But the thing is that is one kind of solution, we hope that the platforms catch up and there’s more platforms support that, support the delivery of that standard than we can roll that out. But I think then when you look at the other access services, you have other issues or not. Signed content for instance is already packaged up and broadcast as a programme asset. There’s no conversion, nothing to be done which I why I made the point earlier the first access service we had all the available content on all of the devices and platforms iPlayer is on because it’s just 5% of the content. We just treated it like another programme. Audio description is a whole other kettle of fish suddenly we’re going from delivery an additional audio asset which is even more challenging than trying to deliver subtitles and making that work. We spent a year of effort in on iPlayer trying to make that work. Realised what we would be better off doing was turn it into another programme asset. Every single time we did it broke in many wonderful ways, now we have 600 devices to try to support, I think that again has become even more bigger and impossible task. So the issue there is then how do the solutions just built online. How do we now completely reengineer that make that scalable across more platforms. It’s not straight forward and easy, we’re several years into it and are still learning as we’re going along. But that’s where we are.

    Regarding the provision of subtitling Andrew Lambourne from Screen Systems made an excellent point that access provision needs to be considered at the production level to assist broadcasters in providing the service, and it is often this lack of approach not technology that can hinder access:

    There’s a need for some joined up thinking and a holistic approach. Often these problems after easily solved by stepping back and looking at what we’re doing here. If you step back from this industry of providing access to media you see an industry that producing media. During the course of that production they are creating a awful lot of data which is kept or thrown away and kept to one side which is not necessarily passed on to the people providing the subtitles or the audio description. You might have to go and research how they spell, what the lyrics of songs are etc. So if we were to take a step back it’s not necessarily a technological issue in and of itself it’s a product of speed with which some parts of the industry move compared to others. This is a product of commercial motivation. That happen because producers wanted to get their content out as in many ways as possible. DVD worked it was implemented it was fine. What they didn’t think was where it goes next down the chain. I think a very useful change of attitude would be to start to think of accessibility as part of the responsibility of the producer, not the deliverer or the broadcaster of the content so you think more holistically, you are bearing in mind at the beginning you are factoring it in at the beginning you can design your technological chain to make it easy. So if you take a cinema production, you recut it for television, let’s know where the cuts were then they can automate the refactoring of the subtitles. It can be built in, what’s needed is the right motivation to do it. I think the need to further save on cost, is the right kind of motivation.

    Later on Lambourne went on to say that the barriers are less technological and more commercial and gave a passionate reminder that access services are not about punishing or attacking broadcast companies:

    If the requirement is to have a commercial motivation I think the need for that requirement or the justification for that has come out obviously today, when somebody said ‘it’s all about bums on seats’. Access services aren’t attacks on broadcasters or anything, they are a means of reaching more people, and you’re talking about 10% extra audience or more, depending on the access you are providing. That’s a huge justification the other thing that is happening of course as we said earlier is the number of platforms to which you are targeting your media is increasing. One of the things that Screen have been doing recently is how you can make it easy to take the subtitles you did for broadcast perhaps as DVB, using STL or whatever files and how can you make those same subtitles available when you distribute the content on the web…It’s all about looking at the work flows, looking at the way that the technology is linked together, and then finding technical solutions. There are not very many barriers left except the barriers of needing budgets.

    It was also lovely to hear someone speak of the advantages of providing subtitles and give a reminder that the benefits are not limited to those who are deaf and hard of hearing and that perhaps this message should be shouted louder. Lambourne continued:

    Live subtitling which I something I have worked on for my entire career, is now reaching a point of maturity for half a dozen European languages you can train somebody without huge difficulty to sit and listen to more or less any kind of live broadcast, and to respeak it into a speech recognition system with good enough quality to broadcast that immediately as subtitles. But there are not speech recognition system available for all European languages. The costs are not massive at a national scale, the benefit are huge because of course subtitling is not just for access for people who can’t hear, audio description for people who can’t see, it helps people learn the language did preserves the quality did gives a cultural benefit. So for people who are not first language speakers in a given territory , the subtitles can help them to learn to read, the same with children. Subtitles on cartoon are a great motivator for children to learn to read. I think the value add benefits need to be brought out more sharply, perhaps even by the regulators, they don’t need sticks they can actually talk about the benefits of providing access.

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

     
  • iheartsubtitles 4:11 pm on October 31, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Captioning, subtitling and SEO and the second screen 

    If you’ve read the about page you’ll know that one of the aims of this blog is to highlight how subtitles and captioning are not just an accessibility aid. One context that it keeps coming up in is in the discussion of online content and search engine optimisation (SEO).

    This is important to internet marketing because getting your website high up the search engine results list means more prospective customers and web hits. According to Wikipedia:

    As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.

    SOURCE: Search Engine Optimization

    More and more website content is video. The problem is unlike text,a search engine cannot automatically read online video content to determine if the video content is relevant to a search term someone carries out. The solution? Yes you guessed it – adding closed captions or subtitles. This text can be read by a search engine and ensures that the video content is not missed out or lost during a web search. There have been numerous articles explaining this benefit (here’s one, and here’s another) so this makes me wonder why the heck don’t we see more content online with captions or subtitles available? There are premium services offering captioning within this context such as Speaker Text’s Caption Box* They point out that using their service of adding captions allows a viewer to point to a particular area of the video and share easily on social network sites.

    Recently I came across some interesting services that are taking this concept a step further. The Internet Archive website has launched a service TV News – Search Borrow. It’s a search engine that trawls the closed captions of online news videos (currently predominantly US channels) and displays the results. Here’s what I searched:

    TV News - Search Borrow

    Search results using closed captioning from the query ‘binders full of women’ from a recent US Presidential debate.

    I like this is a lot, and it seems others are wondering if this is “The Newest Technology That Could Transform Internet Media” There is also tveeder live stream which highlights closed captioning taken from Australia’s ABC News 24 . What I like about this feed is that it displays different speakers in different coloured text. Another live stream of captioning online is Opened Captions which streams the live captioning coming from TV channel C-SPAN. I encourage you to read this blog entry from its creator for his suggestions on some creative and clever things it could be used for. It is interesting also to discover that researchers working on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show are using a software application that searches the text from closed captioning of C-SPAN and news programs to find keywords and phrases that politicians probably want to forget.

    It’s not just TV programme researchers using it, TV broadcasters are constantly trying to come up with new ways to embrace the relatively new trend of the second screen. Research shows more and more television viewers are using a second screen (such as a computer or a smart phone) to compliment their TV viewing. Boxfish is an iOS app that searches the the closed captions from US cable and local broadcast stations and indexes and analyses all this data in real time. The result is presented as a constantly updating stream of trends and topics. I haven’t used this myself yet but you can read a review and see screen shots in this article.

    *This is not an endorsement, and there are others out there. Go research! And of course, there are numerous free resources that allow anyone to add captioning or subtitles to online content.

     
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