Meet Laura, First Place Winner In Our Just Add Words Video Description Contest!

Posted by Anna on July 23, 2015 at 5:18 pm. Just Add Words, Video Describers, Video Description
Just Add Words First Place Winner 2015 Laura Lynch

Just Add Words First Place Winner 2015 Laura Lynch in North Berwick

Here at CaptionMax, we always keep the end-user of our closed captions and video description in mind as we create them, which is why we were positively beaming when the first place winner of our second annual Just Add Words video description contest had this to say about writing her entry:

I actually had a friend of mine from college in mind when I wrote it. I was just at her wedding a month ago, and in spite of being blind, she’s also earned her Masters in Linguistics (from an English-speaking university when her native language is Polish) and runs marathons for charity (arm-in-arm with her marathon-running friends). “Inspirational” just seems to fall a little short when talking about her. I was trying to remember how I used to try to describe things to her when we were together, and how difficult it was not to rely on color words, or to forget details that seemed obvious to me because I could see them. So I’m really proud to have done a good job, and I hope competitions like this help people to try to think of the world from the perspective of the blind and visually disabled.

Laura seemed so incredibly rad that we wanted everyone to get to know her a little better, so here she is in her own words:

How old are you?


What is your occupation?

Varied. I work in the Communications field as an independent contractor and am trying to build up a business as a freelance copywriter. In the past month I’ve helped organize a live event hosting over 800 guests, worked as a production assistant on a video shoot, tried my hand at video editing, proofread several indexes, and picked up some basic web administration skills via WordPress. And I’ve written some copy.

Do you have a writing background?

I’ve been an irregular blogger since 2007, and I currently get to do some copywriting on occasion for work. I also finished the first draft of a science fiction novel a year ago, and have spent my time since trying to decide what to do about draft two. I had a really good method to get through the first draft, but I’ve found I can’t apply it to editing. I’ve worked on the “science” part of the story a little, and have tried picking up a few other writing projects, but nothing’s stuck yet. I’ve heard it said that if you write every day, you’re a writer. For the time being, I’m trying to live up to that.

What are your hobbies/interests?

I draw, I read, I inwardly critique all the media I consume. Someday I would like to write/draw a graphic novel. Also, I sew a lot of my own clothes and am big into languages. I speak Russian (well enough to hold a conversation indefinitely, albeit with errors) and German (at about the level of a 4-year-old). Linguistics is a major area of interest. I love hearing the different ways in which people experiment with language, whether they know that’s what they’re doing or not.

Do you have any fun plans for your prize money?

Definitely: I’m getting a new computer! My current machine barely functions. I’ve had its replacement picked out for months, but haven’t been able to afford it. Meanwhile, I have a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud that I’ve been dying to explore, but haven’t been able to make good use of yet. So I see a new laptop as fixing a very practical problem I have, but also expanding my creative possibilities. So, yeah, I’m super excited!

How did you find out about the contest?

I subscribe to Brian Scott’s “Morning Coffee” freelance writing newsletter, and saw the contest listed there. I liked the idea and thought it would be a challenge. I found it hard to take myself out of my usual framework of, “what do I want to say?” and move into, “what do they need to know?”

My mom is hearing impaired, so I grew up watching captions on everything. For a while in high school as well I watched a lot of anime in Japanese with subtitles, because I was used to them being there, and I think it helped fuel my interest in language. My mom’s hearing deteriorated to the point that she was nearly deaf, but a few years ago she was able to have an operation which improved her hearing to an incredible extent. As in, afterwards she could hear the tap water running for the first time in a decade. So what drew me to this contest wasn’t just the connection I had to my blind friend, but a value for captions and subtitles more generally and the great gift they can be to all sorts of people.

ADA Celebrates 25 Years

Posted by Anna on at 12:00 pm. ADA
ADA 25: Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA 25: Americans with Disabilities Act 1990-2015

This coming Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. The legislation includes both mental and physical medical conditions, which do not need to be severe or permanent to be considered a disability. While in many ways similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal, the ADA also imposed accessibility requirements on public accommodations, as well as requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.

Though it was met with resistance by some religious and business organizations who cited that the effects would be too financially burdensome, George H. W. Bush emphasized how overdue this essential legislation was as he signed it into law:

“I know there may have been concerns that the ADA may be too vague or too costly, or may lead endlessly to litigation. But I want to reassure you right now that my administration and the United States Congress have carefully crafted this Act. We’ve all been determined to ensure that it gives flexibility, particularly in terms of the timetable of implementation; and we’ve been committed to containing the costs that may be incurred. Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

President George H. W. Bush signing the ADA into law

President George H. W. Bush signing the ADA into law July 26, 1990

The ADA has undoubtedly changed millions of lives for the better.  And while there is so much more progress to be made, there is quite a bit to celebrate this coming weekend.

BLIND, Inc. Tours CaptionMax

Posted by Anna on July 15, 2015 at 3:53 pm. Video Describers, Video Description
Students from the BLIND, Inc. PREP program gathered in the CaptionMax conference room

Students from the BLIND, Inc. PREP program gathered in the CaptionMax conference room.

Yesterday we had an absolute blast leading a tour of our office with a group of local high schoolers from the BLIND, Inc. PREP Program, created by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.

Video Description Supervisor Brian Gebhart explains the different phases of creating video description

Video Description Supervisor Brian Gebhart explains the different phases of creating video description.

We started off watching an undescribed movie clip and talking about what visual information the students would have liked to have received. Then the head of our video description department, Brian Gebhart, walked students through the different phases of creating video description and the hierarchy we use as a guideline to decide what visual elements should be prioritized.

Describer Caiti Laszewski shows students the CaptionMax recording booth where descriptions are voiced in house.

Describer Caiti Laszewski shows students the CaptionMax recording booth where descriptions are voiced.

After touring some of our administrative offices, describer Caiti Laszewski showed students the CaptionMax recording booth, where all of our descriptions are voiced.  She demonstrated recording some descriptions of the clip we had watched in the conference room earlier.

Caiti voices and plays back descriptions from the clip we watched earlier.

Caiti voices and plays back descriptions from the clip we watched earlier.

Next we stopped in the machine room so our Manager of Prerecorded Operations, Jess Matelski, could explain the technical side of video description, offline closed captioning, and realtime captioning.

Jess explains the technical side of media accessibility.

Jess explains the technical side of media accessibility.

At the end of the tour, we went back to the conference room and enjoyed the fully described version of the movie clip we had watched earlier.  The increase of laughter from the first viewing was dramatic because the visual context necessary to fully appreciate the jokes was all there.

We want to extend a huge thank you to all of the students who came to visit us yesterday.  You gave us fantastic feedback, asked great questions, and gave us the joy of watching people appreciate a service we love to create.

iTunes To Begin Pulling Content That Is Not Closed Captioned

Posted by Anna on July 1, 2015 at 11:34 am. Captioning, FCC, OTT

Right on the heels of releasing version 12.2 of iTunes, today is the day Apple will begin pulling any content that is not closed captioned that was originally broadcast with captions off of its platform. This effort stems from a requirement of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) that ensures distributors are only offering FCC-compliant content within digital U.S. markets. Apple made a commitment to this deadline in June of 2013.

While this deadline only applies to full-length programming, beginning January 1, 2016, this will apply to all single excerpt clips that are lifted from programs that were originally broadcast with closed captions. These clips are also referred to as “direct lift clips” or “straight lift clips.” There are estimates that, leading up to this deadline, as much as 18% of content on iTunes lacks closed captions, meaning the potential removal of many widely-loved TV shows and films.

To learn more about offline closed captioning workflows for your programming, contact or request a quote.



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