Fun Film Friday!

Posted by CLeininger on May 28, 2010 at 8:56 am. Captioning, Fun Word Friday, High Definition, Subtitling, Video Description, YouTube

CaptionMax has just made another YouTube video! We wanted to show you more about our services and specifically what is available for YouTube Captioning.

When you’re watching our new video you can choose to view English timed captions, Spanish timed captions or an English transcript that uses YouTube’s auto-timing. We think it’s really cool to see how all the different files work in YouTube’s player (or maybe we’re just really nerdy).

You can even watch our video in HD…up to 1080p. The graphics look awesome (okay, again we’re just being too nerdy).

Tell us what you think? Did you notice a difference? How cool is the Spanish?

Creating Spoken Menus in DVD Studio Pro

Posted by CLeininger on May 26, 2010 at 8:48 am. Techy, Video Description

by Corey Scherbing

Your content is top-of-the-line.  You have precision subtitles to engage your hearing-impaired audience.  You have an audio track with descriptions for the visually-impaired.  Your stellar DVD is now fully accessible to all audiences… or is it?  How does a visually-impaired user navigate?  How do they know which button to press? How many buttons are there?  Are the buttons easy to select?

You can make DVD navigation accessible by creating spoken menus.  Each menu button uses an audio file to narrate the button text to the user.  This can be accomplished with any DVD authoring system, but there can be some obstacles.  DVD Studio Pro only allows you to add audio to a menu but not to a specific button. We’ve come up with a solution.

Here’s an example:

1. Our simple DVD has six buttons that we need spoken. First we design our menu and then duplicate it for a total of six identical menus.  Each menu is then named according to the button we would like to voice (eg. Chapter 1, Chapter 2).

2. Now it’s time to add an audio file to each menu.
The At End: property is set to still to keep the audio from looping.

3. Linking the buttons. On the Chapter 1 menu, we select the Chapter 1 button and link it to Chapter 1 of the video track, just as we always would.  This button has a yellow highlight, and has Auto Action turned OFF in the advanced settings.

For all of the “extra” buttons in this Chapter 1 menu, we set the yellow highlight to zero opacity, we turn Auto Action ON in the advanced settings, and we link the button to its appropriate menu.  (eg. Chapter 2 Button will link to the Chapter 2 Menu :: Chapter 2 Button of that menu.)  We repeat this for all menus.

Auto Action causes a button to automatically navigate to its target as soon as it is selected (using either a mouse or remote control).

Because of varying DVD load times, we recommend adding 1/2 second of blank audio at the beginning of all audio files.  This helps prevent the DVD player from clipping the beginning of each of your button audio clips.

This works great with still menus.
This helps people watching on a DVD player or computer.
This provides a good solution for DVD Studio Pro limitations.
This technique is transferable to other DVD authoring systems.

Doesn’t work with motion menus.
Takes a little bit of extra time to connect all of the buttons properly.
When playing on a DVD player, jumping between chapters will have a slight, but noticeable, pause.

What other solutions have you found for making DVDs easily accessible? We would love to hear about what you’ve done.

Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on May 21, 2010 at 8:57 am. Fun Word Friday

Welcome to Fun Word Friday!

Here are some of our favorite words from this week:

Profligate: Completely given up to dissipation and licentiousness, wildly extravagant. “Those people are essentially the victims of the really profligate use of fossil fuels by the industrialized North.”

Muntjac: A small deer of southeastern Asia and England

Tmesis: To break one word with another. For example: disbloomin’-graceful, un-flippin’-believable.

Kapok: A mass of silky fibers that invest the seeds of the ceiba tree and are used especially as a filling for mattresses, life preservers, and sleeping bags and as insulation.

Bargello: A needlework stitch that produces a zigzag pattern.

Description in 3D!

Posted by CLeininger on May 19, 2010 at 8:24 am. Video Describers, Video Description

by Jeremy Fisher

In a world where droves of people are paying a premium at the movie theater to wear funny looking glasses, the 3-D craze was bound to seep over into the world of television. That’s right; CaptionMax can add 3-D media to its long list of ‘things we’ve made accessible.’ And we’ve got the good folks at NASA to thank. NASA Launchpad, I see you–sorry, Avatar references are soooo last fall.

But back to the task at hand. What the heck do I do with snazzy 3-D video of cool NASA equipment when describing it for the blind and low vision?

Step one, of course, is to put my 3D glasses on and get blown away.

Step two, take a step back. Remember, I’m describing everything, not just what seems like it’s popping off the screen in 3-D.  I’m describing things like the L.E.R., the Lunar Electric Rover—and I quote my description here–“with its rounded, window-lined front cabin resembling a gunner’s turret on the nose of a bomber.”

Step three, pepper in some of those snazzy 3-D effects: “As the vehicle travels, dust and rocks fly up and forward, popping off the screen in 3-D.”

Step four, ask the experts. I smell a focus group session coming on, Consumer Advisory Board!

I’ll post again with input from blind and low vision viewers.

For now, check out Desert Rats in 3D for yourself from the NASA eClips YouTube site. (This video is not posted with our audio description yet.)

Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on May 14, 2010 at 8:42 am. Fun Word Friday

by Kirsten Larsen-Dirkes

bosk or bosque: a small wooded area

codd-neck bottle: a glass beverage bottle sealed with a marble, which is then pushed down into the bottle in order to drink the contents.  Currently used for Japanese Ramune soda and Indian Banta.

dopp kit: a small bag for keeping a man’s toiletries

tsukubai: a small water basin for people to use for washing at a Japanese Buddhist temple or before a Japanese tea ceremony

quoll: a marsupial of Australia and Papua New Guinea
of brown fur with white spots

vexillographer: someone who designs flags

The Minnesota Beatle Project

Posted by Emma on May 12, 2010 at 8:16 am. Captioners

This blog is also a place for our staff to tell you about all the cool things going on! We’d like to introduce Bill Anholzer, a caption editor at CaptionMax in Minneapolis. Take it away Bill!

I recently came across The Minnesota Beatle Project. Produced by Vega Productions, it offers listeners a chance to hear classic Beatles songs reimagined by local Twin Cities musicians and bands. Whether it’s a discordant rendition of Sexy Sadie by Lucy Michelle & The Velvet Lapelles or an instrumentally robust cover of Come Together by The Ronny Loew Band, each reimagining takes the spirit of an old favorite and adds a unique, contemporary feel to the arrangement. The rockin’ saxophone in Come Together is particularly excellent.

The final track of The Minnesota Beatle Project is Sgt. Pepper’s Medley, which showcases the talent of the Anthony Middle School concert band. Anthony Middle School was the first school to receive over 30 musical instruments from Vega Productions. Through festivals, benefit events, and concerts, Vega Productions helps to combat the effect of budget cuts in education by rebuilding and revitalizing music and art programs in Minnesota public schools.

So if you’re a Beatles fan, a supporter of education, or someone who wants to see a little more of what Twin Cities musicians have to offer, check out to get more information on Vega Productions and The Minnesota Beatle Project.

- Bill Anholzer, Proofreader

Gerald Freda: 10 years with CaptionMax

Posted by Max Duckler on May 6, 2010 at 7:32 pm. Captioning, Techy

Congratulations and an enormous Thank You goes out to Mr. Gerald Freda, COO, CaptionMax.  Gerald celebrates 10 years with CaptionMax this week, and oh, what a decade it has been!

Immediately upon starting to work for us, Gerald was tasked with opening our Burbank office—staffed it, found it, designed it, ran it—still does.

That task out of the way, sometime within the next week he took over our realtime captioning department, brought some order to it- staffed it, built it, ran it—still does.

OK. We’re on a roll, I thought…no matter what I give this guy to do, he gets it done in like, what? An hour?

So, I said, “Hey, why don’t you just run the Minneapolis office while you are at it?”  Did it, done, BAM.  Then, maybe a year or so later, “Hey Gerald, we’re starting this audio description thing, how about you run that too?” Boom!  It’s done.

Then, “Hey Freda, I think I want to buy a building in Burbank for CaptionMax to be housed in.  Would you find a space, design it, build the tech center in Virginia and ship it out in parts on semis to Burbank, put it together, manage the construction, and do it while keeping all the other departments you are running… well, running.  Badda bing badda boom. “Consider it done, Max!”

“Well,” I said, 2 years later.. “That went so well, we may as well buy a building in Minneapolis.  Hey, when you have a minute,” I said, “would you design the building, the new equipment facility, oversee the construction, and take care of the move?”  Ding dong, Gerald’s calling:  “All done Mr Duckler, what color would you like your office wall to be?”

After 10 years of this miracle work—watching our company grow to bring in over TEN times the revenue it did when he started, I just threw out the ultimate: ”Hey Gerald, let’s be honest, you basically run the company.  Can we make it official?  Can you just be the guy?  Can you find a few minutes between everything else you do and run the strategy meetings and the entire company?”  “Sure, Max, but could I have a few months to transition?”

“Well all right, since you asked, I guess so.”

It may seem like I’m exaggerating—on the contrary, it’s all true, and if anything, I’ve oversimplified how complex all the things Gerald has done for CaptionMax have been.  It’s true that we’ve witnessed his hair go from redtop to grey top—but that’s true of everyone..

All the time, with all the crises that have happened along the way, Gerald was, and is, my constant voice of reason.  He keeps me calm, and I can sleep a lot better now that there is someone who knows what he is doing running the company.

My feelings toward Gerald are too large to put into a blog.  The man is a lifesaver and huge asset to our entire industry.  Gerald’s roots in captioning and passion for the service date back to the inventions of the technology—some of which he holds the original patents to.

Deaf and hard of hearing citizens, the families of hundreds of employees, networks, studios, corporations, schools and even the FCC all join me in a big huge salute to the G-Man, G, Freda, Jerry, Jack, Teddy Bear, and all the other names he answers to.

Personally, I feel extremely lucky to have Gerald as my business partner and more importantly, my friend.  Thanks G!  I love you, dude.


Top 5 Tips for Designing Accessible DVD Menus

Posted by Emma on May 5, 2010 at 8:50 am. Techy

You’ve carefully constructed your online queue of DVDs, anxiously awaited the arrival of your choice in the mail, and finally have the disc in your hands. You put it in your DVD player, get all cozy in your favorite spot, arrange your array of remote controls, even put the phone within reach. You hunker down and prepare to hit the Play button—wait. Where’s the Play button on this DVD menu? You squint at your television, which is really annoying, since you bought a big TV so you wouldn’t have to squint anymore. You strain your eyes until you admit defeat, rouse yourself from your nest of comfort, disturb your array of remotes, and stand next to the television so you can see your menu choices.

Sound familiar? The motion graphics and sound on a DVD menu might be amazing, but if you’re struggling to read it, the designer forgot one important thing: to design for the user. Now imagine being colorblind or having low vision and navigating that same menu. Frustrating, right?

Here, let’s show you some examples of what it means to design a DVD menu for accessibility.

1. Contrast background color to button color.

It’s easiest for our eyes to read text when the contrast is high. Button colors should be at the highest possible contrast to the background: either light colors (white or yellows) on a dark background or dark letters on a white background.

2. Make button text large.

For easiest readability, the type should be large. We at CaptionMax like our type to be at least 12pt but 16pt-18pt is the best.

3.  Give visual cues.

The best buttons are ones that change color and have an arrow, or other indicator, that changes color as you move around the menu. This helps the eye focus.  It also provides two ways to “find” the button.

4. Use an easy-to-read typeface.

Avoid complicated or decorative fonts. Most serif fonts will shutter or vibrate on a TV screen because the type isn’t wide enough. Sans-serif fonts are more readable to all viewers.

5. Use clear grammar.

Many of our chapter menus are numbered. This is especially helpful for educational DVDs because it allows teachers and students to communicate more clearly. Simple chapter names also give viewers more complete information.

At CaptionMax, we understand the need for useful buttons with large, readable text. When our DVD authors design for accessibility, we try to think of everyone who might use the DVD. With larger text, eye-catching button graphics, and contrasting text colors, you can stay in your comfy spot until the credits roll.




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