Just Add Words Video Description Contest Returns In May!

Posted by Anna on March 31, 2016 at 11:00 am. Captioning

Just Add Words Video Description Contest

Just Add Words Video Description Contest

In 2014, CaptionMax held its first annual video description contest, Just Add Words. Just Add Words was designed as a fun and engaging way to educate people about video description and what a valuable service it is to blind and low-vision audiences.  Video description bring to life the key visual images, body language, and visual expressions necessary to understand a program’s content using language that is age-appropriate and objective.

Signed into law in 2010, the 21st Century Communications & Video Act outlines a bright future for video description.  Currently the top 4 broadcast channels and the top 5 cable channels in the top 60 most populated markets in the country must provide 4 hours per week of video description. After 2020, the law gives the FCC the right to further expand the service to 10 new markets yearly until 100% nationwide coverage is achieved.

The 3rd annual Just Add Words contest is happening soon and will run through the entire month of May, overlapping with Global Accessibility Awareness Day on the 19th. You’ll have to stay tuned to learn more details, but in the meantime, check out last year’s winners and get inspired to describe!

To learn how you can have video description added to your program, contact

Mixing Video Description for 5.1

Posted by Anna on March 25, 2016 at 9:30 am. Captioning, OTT, Techy, Video Describers, Video Description
5.1 logo

5.1 logo

More and more clients are coming to us wanting Video Description mixed for 5.1 surround sound, so we enlisted CaptionMax Video Describer Caiti Laszewski to explain the ins and outs of mixing for 5.1.

What is a 5.1 mix?

A 5.1 surround mix is an audio mix made of six sound sources assigned to a field of left, right, center, left surround, right surround, and low frequency effects, or LFE, channels. The LFE channel, containing only the lowest frequencies, is typically played through a subwoofer and is represented by the .1. The remaining channels can contain a full range of frequencies, and they make up the five main channels of the mix. The 5.1 mix is meant to envelop the viewer with the program’s soundtrack, bringing the theatrical surround sound experience home.

How we mix to 5.1

For mono, stereo, and 5.1 mixing, we take the client’s completed mix of program audio and combine it with our descriptive audio track. We strategically alter the volume of the client mixes where our description comes in to allow the descriptive audio to be understood as clearly as possible without covering the essential elements of the program audio.

We complete all of our 5.1 mixes using Pro Tools software in a surround monitoring suite. This allows us the most flexibility in description timing and volume when combining our audio with the client’s mix, resulting in the best possible finished product. The granular control Pro Tools affords us allows our description to come through as clearly as possible, even when it covers extended sound effects (like gunfire or prolonged explosions) or stretches of subtitled dialogue.

Differences between a 5.1 mix and a mono or stereo mix

In a traditional mono or stereo mix, dialogue, music, and sound effects are mixed together and audible on all channels. This means that the volume of the entire mix needs to be lowered to allow description to be heard clearly.

A 5.1 mix sends all dialogue (including descriptive audio) to the center channel, allowing music and sound effects to come through from the other channels. In a surround mix, the volume of any program content in the center channel needs to be lowered so description can pass and be easily understood. Often, the left and right channels need a slight reduction in volume to ensure description can pass clearly over any music or effects on those channels.

Benefits of a 5.1 mix

Mixing in 5.1 gives us the flexibility to decide when, how much, and on which channels to lower the volume of program audio. Occasionally, the center channel is the only channel requiring volume alteration, and all the other channels can be left alone without a negative impact on the clarity of descriptive audio. In a mono or stereo mix, lowering the volume of the mix as a whole means covering music and effects. In a 5.1 mix, more of these secondary elements can be heard, helping our description blend with program audio. It’s a more labor-intensive process, but it’s worth the work to help the consumer have a more seamless experience of the finalized program.

Employee Spotlight: Brian Gebhart

Posted by Anna on March 22, 2016 at 10:30 am. Employee Spotlight, Video Describers, Video Description
Video Description Supervisor Brian Gebhart

Video Description Supervisor Brian Gebhart

At CaptionMax, we believe that our greatest strength is our employees. They’re clever, creative, and we can’t wait for you to get to know them a little better. Brian Gebhart joined CaptionMax as an offline caption editor in July 2011 before going on to join and now supervise our video description department:

What’s your favorite part of working at CaptionMax?

Definitely the people. I get to work with a bunch of creative, media-obsessed nerds in a fun and collaborative environment. In video description, many of our day-to-day problems revolve around diction and usage (Is that character striding or sauntering? Is that medieval weapon a halberd, or should we just call it a long-handled axe? What’s the minimum number of crows necessary to describe them as a murder, and is it advisable even if technically correct?), which is pretty much a dream for a word nerd like myself.

What job did you want when you were 10 years old?

I was torn between writer and paleontologist. I’ve loved to read ever since I learned how, and telling stories has always felt like the most essential form of human expression to me, so I guess that’s why I ended up with writing. But dinosaurs are indisputably awesome.

What’s one thing you couldn’t live without?

Food (literally, har, har). But also figuratively, in the sense that I love trying new dishes, new recipes, new restaurants. I’ll also add beer, which I could live without but am not sure I’d want to.

Do you have any hidden talents?

In fourth grade I learned a song that lists all the presidents in order. Fifty years from now, I may have forgotten all the names of my family members, but I can guarantee I’ll remember that Polk came after Tyler and before Taylor.

What is your biggest hobby outside of work?

Before I had a kid, I might have said reading. Or hiking, or gardening, or board games, or watching movies. What I’m saying is: I don’t remember.

If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

Impossible question – all the good answers sound fake, or like you’re trying to prove something. But I would love to meet my maternal grandfather, who died before I was born.

What is your favorite TV show/movie?

Another impossible question, because how can a person choose one? So I’ll just say that, while it’s probably not my favorite TV show/movie, right now I’m enjoying season five of Louie.

FCC Disability Advisory Committee Issues Recommendations Regarding Video Description NPRM

Posted by Anna on March 4, 2016 at 10:30 am. CVAA, FCC, Video Description
FCC Disability Advisory Committee Meeting Graphic - February 23, 2016

FCC Disability Advisory Committee Meeting Graphic - February 23, 2016

Last week, the FCC Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) held their quarterly meeting. Among the many topics that were discussed, the Video Description Working Group, a part of the DAC Video Programming Subcommittee, presented a list of issues that should be considered if the FCC decides to issue a Notice  of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to determine whether to increase the number of hours of video-described programming, which was approved and adopted by the DAC.

Currently the FCC rules require the top four commercial television broadcast networks and the top five national non-broadcast networks (the “covered networks”) to provide at least 50 hours per quarter of prime time or children’s programming with video description. They are prohibited from issuing additional video description rules unless it determines, no earlier than June 30, 2016, “that the need for and benefits of providing video description for video programming, insofar as such programming is transmitted for display on television, are greater than the technical and economic costs of providing such additional programming.”  If the FCC if does decide that the need for and benefits of providing video description for video programming displayed on television are greater than the technical and economic costs of providing such additional programming, the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) prohibits the FCC from increasing the amount of required video-described programming by more than 75% of the current requirement.

The following are the issues that the were adopted by the DAC for the FCC to consider:

What is the extent of current consumer use of video- described programming required under the existing rules? Are there any studies or metrics on such use?

Would an increase in the number of mandated hours of video-described programming introduce any technical or operational problems?

What are the financial, operational, and/or opportunity costs of providing additional video-described programming? How should they be measured and quantified?

Since the Act instructs the FCC to weigh the costs of additional video-described programming against the benefits of and needs for such programming, how should the FCC measure the benefits and assess the needs?

If the FCC were to increase the number of required hours of video-described programming, should its rules take into account program schedules that contain less than the required number of hours of prime time or children’s programming that could be video-described? For example, NCTA previously urged the FCC to modify its rules to provide flexibility to networks that may air a significant amount of live prime time programming in a given quarter that would be inappropriate for video description.

If the FCC were to modify its rules to take into account quarters in which a covered network airs less than the required number of hours of prime time or children’s programming that could be video-described, should an affected network be required to file for a waiver based on its anticipated program schedule? Or should any revised rule avoid the need for FCC pre-approval by allowing the network to make a showing in response to a complaint?

If the FCC were to increase the required number of hours of video-described programming, should programmers be allowed to count toward compliance not only prime time or children’s programming, but other categories of programming, too?

If the FCC were to increase the required number of hours of video-described programming, should it relax its rules on counting repeat programming?

If you are interested in learning how to add video description to your accessibility strategy, contact us at

CaptionMax To Provide Subtitles For FIFE Premiere of ROOTED IN PEACE

Posted by Anna on March 2, 2016 at 2:38 pm. Captioning

Filmmaker Greg Reitman Stands In A Forest

Filmmaker Greg Reitman Stands In A Forest

For creators of film and television, nothing beats the thrill of experiencing your work reach new audiences.  When award-winning documentary filmmaker Greg Reitman found out that his film ROOTED IN PEACE had been accepted to the prestigious Le Festival International du Film d’Environnement (FIFE) in Paris, he immediately turned to CaptionMax for its finishing touch, French subtitles:

“As a producer, when it comes to captioning or subtitling for your feature film or television show, it’s all about timing, delivery, and execution. Looking at various vendors in the marketplace, CaptionMax clearly defines what it means to be a winner. We are beyond delighted to be working with them on our new film, ROOTED IN PEACE, for its premiere at the 33rd annual Environmental Film Festival in Paris.”

CaptionMax understands that closed captions and subtitles are an extension of a producer’s creative content, which means quality is of the essence. We are proud to provide our clients with the finest accessibility products so their message and artistry can reach every audience possible.

Rooted In Peace Poster: Change Begins Within, The World Is As You Are

Rooted In Peace Poster: Change Begins Within, The World Is As You Are

Sundance award-winning green filmmaker, Greg Reitman, takes us on a cinematic journey to take notice, stop the cycle of violence, and seek ways to find personal and ecological peace. ROOTED IN PEACE challenges viewers to examine their values as Americans, and as human beings. Today we are at war within ourselves, with our environment, and with the world, and it’s up to each of us to make peace with ourselves, and our planet.

Employing both memoir and interviews with such luminaries and activists as Deepak Chopra, music legends Donovan, Mike Love, and Pete Seeger, film director David Lynch, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, media mogul Ted Turner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, green architect William McDonough, neuroscientist Dan Siegel and many others, Reitman heeds former guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s words: “If the forest is to be green, every tree must be green, if there’s going to be Peace on earth than everybody must need to feel that quality of Peace” Reitman poses the basic question: How do we want to live? And asks viewers to do the same.



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