Getting Started with Captions

What are captions, and do I really need them?

Have you ever been in a noisy environment, needed to watch a video, and didn’t have headphones? Or maybe you were at the gym or waiting at the doctor’s office, and you noticed the scroll of text at the bottom of the screen. Even if you don’t have a disability, captions can be helpful to all people. It’s the same in an online course– captions are helpful learning tools that should be implemented on all video content. To get a feel of what it’s like on the “other side” of not having a secondary source of information, watch this video of a woman using sign language.

What makes a good caption?

A good caption captures exactly what the presenter is saying. Correct spelling is of paramount importance. Filler words such as Um and Uh can generally be left out, unless they are actually a really long part of the dialogue, such as when someone is asked a question and they take many seconds to respond. It can be helpful to chunk the dialogue, so when it shows up on the screen it doesn’t overwhelm the reader. The Carmen wiki for Accessible Classroom Technologies has some great tips and suggestions.

How do I caption this stuff?

Let’s say you’re new to the online teaching realm and you’ve  discovered that your lectures need to have captions, or an equivalent resource. What do you do? Thankfully, there’s a couple different ways to approach this.

  1. Have a transcript already written, and then just set the timings on the video.
  2. Use YouTube to create a guesstimate on what the audio is, then spend time fixing its sometimes hilarious mistakes.
  3. Pay someone else to do it, such as the Web Accessibility Center.

Pre-planning can save you huge amounts of time. If you have the time, you can write a script and then use YouTube to copy and paste in the text. YouTube will automatically set the timings of the video and does a pretty decent job. You can then download the .SRT file (which sets the text to the video) and upload it to Mediasite, if you are storing your videos there.

The next steps

If you’re serious about captioning, I would recommend you spend some time in the  Carmen wiki for Accessible Classroom Technologies. They have some Quickstart guides that explain the basic steps to getting started on creating meaningful and helpful captions. Also take a look at the ODEE Resource Center  for more information on getting started with captions.

2 thoughts on “Getting Started with Captions

  1. Thanks, James, for that nice guide to the differences between captions and transcripts! I think you bring up a good point that those words seem to be used interchangeably, when they’re really different in usage.

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