CaptionMax Builds A Cool Converter App!

Posted by Emma on June 30, 2010 at 9:55 am. Techy

In the world of web captioning, you have lots of options. Probably too many: Captions for Flash, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, QuickTime, YouTube, and the list goes on. Each of these video players require a unique kind of caption file.

CaptionMax can create many different caption files, but some of the trickier ones would require several steps, find-and-replace, and even a couple of different software applications.

To simplify things, we developed our own application. The Caption Converter. Your program is captioned as normal, then we use our one tool to create many different file types and variations. As of this writing, we can export 15 different files types, all with one simple click!

A captioned program is imported into the Caption Converter.

An export is chosen.  In this case, Standard XML for Flash.

And there you have it!  The caption file is saved, and ready for Flash.

This program also has internal checks to make sure all captions are properly formatted.  Any illegal characters or problems are quickly fixed.

The most exciting feature is adding new exports.  Within minutes, we can add your custom export, and we’re good to go.  All files after that will be consistent and accurate.

At CaptionMax, we’re all about efficiency. If the right tool for the job doesn’t exist, we make our own.

Captioning…It’s a Dangerous Job

Posted by Emma on June 23, 2010 at 8:21 am. Captioners, Captioning

by Jessica Matelski

Okay, you’ve looked into captioning and decided you’d like to give it a whirl. Before you do, you should know that it’s not all glitz and glamor and stylish head gear. There are dangerous side-effects to this job, which may include the following.

CaptionBrain: (for external symptoms, see CaptionHead) CaptionBrain is a phenomenon wherein the afflicted person captions reality as it happens before him or her. You may be having a conversation with someone suffering from CaptionBrain if you notice a far-off look in their eyes as you talk; they may wince when you stammer or go back and correct yourself. They may even request exact spellings of any proper names you might mention. CaptionBrain can also manifest when listening to the radio.

CaptionHead: Not to be confused with CaptionBrain, CaptionHead refers to the array of outward symptoms, usually bruising, caused by sudden, violent reactions to stupid mistakes made while captioning. Hypothetically, let’s say a captioner—we’ll call her Fessica—doesn’t pay close enough attention during the spell check of a file for a corporate client. Let’s say that she’d absolutely mutilated the word “project” when she transcribed it so that letters were jumbled, extra ones added, and the spell check, having no idea what she could possibly mean by “prstjecion,” suggested she change it to “prostitution.” Fessica mindlessly hits the “accept change” button. When the very forgiving corporate client inquires of Fessica’s project manager whether they might be able to get a file WITHOUT random references to international prostitution, Fessica’s hand might very well fly with great force to her forehead. Thus, the bruising. Patients suffering from CaptionHead should just be left alone. They’ve already literally beaten themselves up, so just quit it with the jokes, okay? On the upside, mistakes big enough to warrant a CaptionHead incident are usually a one-time thing.

The CaptionClaw: After five years of captioning, “the claw” is what I call my right hand. A quick survey of captioners finds a wide array of wrist- and hand-related maladies that we treat with various splints, guards, and ergonomic contraptions. Above is an artist’s rendering of a typical captioning station. Note the state-of-the-art video display and the heavy-duty armored wrist guard with ergonomic spikes for added support. Captioners are also provided with desktop cats to calm the nerves during particularly stressful projects.

Fun Film Friday!

Posted by CLeininger on June 18, 2010 at 8:46 am. Movies, Techy, Video Description

Audio description…video description…or just plain description?? You’ve seen those phrases but what do they mean? Why is it important? How do you tell someone what description is?

CaptionMax to the rescue! We’ve just made a video that explains it all!

We are happy to show people what description is quickly and easily. We also think our team of describers is the best.

CaptionMax has described over 3,000 hours of educational programs through U.S. Department of Education grants. Now that you’ve watched our video, go to our description page and show your support for description!

A Typical Day in AD

Posted by CLeininger on June 16, 2010 at 9:20 am. Video Describers, Video Description

by Adam Gregory

Have you heard about audio description? Watched the many videos of describers talking about their craft, but you still don’t really know what goes into the day-in-a-life of an audio describer? Our Adam Gregory is here to tell you all about what’s it’s like to work as a CaptionMax audio describer.

Do you support all our description and our highly trained team? Click here to help us get more funding for description!

7:00am: I arrive at work and check my email.  The night before, Kate edited a script I wrote for a documentary about Alaska’s rail infrastructure.  She recommends changing “sleepers” to “ties” because “ties” is the more common American term.  She’s made a few other minor changes and sent the script to the booth computer for recording later today.

7:10 – 8:00am: I finish up a script for a formulaic show consisting of on location interviews and a host in the studio.  These shows are easy because the content is delivered almost entirely through narration and interviews, rather than visuals.  My descriptions relay any onscreen graphics and the occasional shot of a city skyline or pedestrian-packed street.

8:00 – 9:30am: I edit a children’s show Annie scripted the day before, checking each description for accuracy, timing, and levels.  The writing needs to describe what’s happening on screen clearly and quickly, and because this is a children’s show, the language and sentence structure need to be age appropriate.  The descriptions must fit snugly between the program dialogue and properly fade out the background audio.  Annie has written a great script, so I make a few minor timing tweaks and send it to the booth for recording.

9:30 – 11:30am: I’ve spent the morning guzzling a mix of coffee and water and avoiding food to wake up my voice for recording the Alaska program I scripted the day before.  The show is visuals-heavy, so there are nearly 300 descriptions to record.  Most will be recorded more than once to get the proper emphasis and a clean recording free of spits and clicks and pops and all the other things the microphone picks up in the dead-quiet booth.

11:30 – 1:00pm: I start scripting a new program.  This one is full of fast-paced action and lots of dialogue that I absolutely cannot cover, so I spend a lot of time writing and rewriting and rewriting short descriptions to pack as much detail as possible into spans of 1, 2, or 3 seconds (and some odd frames).

1:00 – 1:30pm: Jeremy finished tech proofing my Alaska voice work, so I’m back in the booth re-recording descriptions he marked as spoken inaccurately, with odd emphasis or weird mouth sounds.

1:30 – 2:00pm: Lunch.  I spend it avoiding TV.  When I eat is often determined by when I’ve completed my voice work for the day.  It’s hard to speak quickly and clearly with residual burrito goo in your mouth.

2:30 – 3:30pm: I continue writing the script I started late morning.  By 3:30, I’m about half way through the 22 minute-long program and have written about 60 descriptions.  Writing a script for a half hour program requires about four hours.  It will take one of my coworkers about an hour and a half to watch the program and proof my writing.  Jeremy will need about 30 minutes to do the voice work, and one of us will spend another 15 minutes to a half hour listening to his recordings and marking any we want re-voiced before we send it to the machine room for encoding.

Switching between tasks and in and out of projects all day makes for a fast 8.5 hours.  I like the constant barrage of random information from the varied programming.  And after nearly four years, I still enjoy the challenge of writing within the confines of what often seem like impossibly small snippets of time.  I find that most days I enjoy the mental strain that comes with the job, and I have no interest in television when I get home, which keeps me off the couch.

You Can Make a Difference for Description

Posted by CLeininger on June 11, 2010 at 8:58 am. Movies, Video Description

We need you to make a difference for description!

Description is the art of conveying important visual details through narration. It’s like painting a picture with words for the blind audience!

See an example of description.

Did you know that broadcasters aren’t required to describe their programs? Video is a frequently used resource in the classroom, and blind students can miss out on critical information on the screen.

How can you help?
1. Go to our description page and write a letter of support to the government!
2. Watch our quick video about description and pass it along to your friends. Help us raise awareness.
3. Send our website info to your friends. A chorus of voices in support of description will send a strong message to the government.

With your help, we can continue to expand description on TV and in the classroom. Thank you for supporting description.

Caption Control in the Digital World

Posted by Emma on June 9, 2010 at 8:04 am. Captioning, Techy

by our very own Tom Hinckley

About once a month, usually about mid-evening, I get the same call. It usually starts with something like, “How do I turn the [argggg] captions off??!!”

I mention the website FAQ—Yes, they’ve already tried that. That’s why they’re calling. And by this point they’re usually somewhere between mildly agitated and very irritated.

And here’s the thing—They’re right.

In the brave new digital cable/satellite universe, here is what I have to do to turn captions on and off at home:

First, I have to turn off the signal decoder box–That’s right, turn it off, completely.

Except it’s not really off. It’s sort of, I don’t know, sleeping or something. The next step is to hit the settings button on the remote, which gives me an onscreen menu. From there I have to find the closed captioning sub-menu, which has an on/off toggle along with many, many other settings relating to caption size, shape, color, background.

But I don’t care. I just want to turn them on or off and get on with my life.

I have to toggle the setting to on, restart the box, then, often, retune it to the channel I was watching before I decided I wanted to check out the CC. Of course, to turn it off, I have to do all of this in reverse.

I’ve tried walking callers through this process over the phone, but we usually hit a wall at some point. That’s because not all boxes are the same and not all signal providers handle captioning in the same way. Whether it’s an easy fix or not, I usually refer them back to their provider on the theory that if the providers get enough of these calls, they’ll fix the process to make accessing (as well as de-accessing) CC data easier, and the TV world will be a much better place for everybody.

Meet Jane Cacich

Posted by Emma on June 2, 2010 at 8:24 am. Consumer Advisory Board

CaptionMax has a dedicated Consumer Advisory Board with experts in all kinds of accessibility.  As guest bloggers, our board members can share their accessibility stories. Now we introduce Jane Cacich.

My name is Jane Cacich and I am the Lead Teacher for the Vision Program of St. Paul Public Schools in St. Paul, MN. My career path has taken me from a Peace Corps volunteer to a counselor at MN State Services for the Blind to a teacher of students who are blind/visually impaired. I have always thought I work with the best students in the world in a field where teachers are innovative and impassioned about their jobs. Yes, at times it is frustrating especially with the onslaught of paper work and declining budgets. Still, all in all, there is nothing I would rather do and no other population of students with whom I would rather work. This enthusiasm must have been apparent as my daughter; a recent graduate of Loyola in Chicago will be starting a Master’s Program at Northern Illinois and will be a dually certified teacher in Vision and Orientation and Mobility. I am thrilled about her decision since there is a crisis in our field that is looming around the corner – the retirement of the baby boomers and the shortage of teachers being trained for the field of vision. There are some generous federal grants available to encourage college graduates to earn advanced degrees in vision and I am continually trying to get that word out. To that end, if there is anyone out there in the blogosphere who might be interested in these programs feel free to contact me at 651-603-4899!

On to accessibility. Being a vision teacher, it is all about accessibility, accessibility, and accessibility. We work hard to make sure that curriculum, classroom materials and activities that are available to students who are sighted are also available to our students who are blind/visually impaired. We are successful now more than ever but the system isn’t perfect. It has been wonderful (sometimes wonderfully frustrating) to see the advancement of technology and how it has impacted the lives of our students and teachers. I feel fortunate to have witnessed our students advancing from Perkin’s Braillers, slate and stylus, abacus and 4 track tapes to braille notetakers, portable CCTV’s, Jaws and Zoomtext, refreshable braille displays, Victor Streams and smart boards. As indicated above, this can be frustrating, as well. One of our current dilemmas is the mandated district tests now being done on computers. While Jaws and Zoomtext may help with some of this, it does not help in dealing with graphics, charts, pictures, etc. Also, there can be compatibility issues with the district computers or list serves. It is critical for any teacher in our field to stay current with technology because it is ever changing and sooner or later there are solutions. As lead teacher, I try to schedule ongoing professional development training on technology. Next week, we have an all day training workshop on the Mountbatten Brailler, a device that has been especially useful with our younger students learning braille.

I am one of those teachers preparing to retire and as I plan, I hope to include continued work in this field. I have been in the Peace Corps but more recently I have volunteered with an organization called Give Us Wings. I was fortunate enough to travel to Kenya and Uganda in 2005. At that time, I participated in bringing an ophthalmologist for the first time to a small village in Kenya. Glasses were prescribed and medicine was given to children with eye allergies and irritants. Most importantly 57 people were identified as having cataracts. When they were removed they were able to see clearly for the first time in many years. Most of the students I work with have eye conditions that are irreversible so it was especially gratifying for me to be involved in a project that actually restored vision to people nearly totally blind. I hope to do more of this type of work. After all, my daughter can handle things state side!



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