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

Posted by Anna on July 28, 2016 at 9:00 am. Just Add Words, Video Describers, Video Description

This years First Place winner Diane Kollman

2016 First Place winner Diane Kollman

The results are in from this year’s Just Add Words competition! Meet, Diane Kollman, our first place winner who did a fabulous job describing this year’s short film, Canned:

How old are you?

I’m 23 going on 24 this September.

What is your occupation?

I am currently in-between jobs, although I have a side gig doing online tutoring in psychology and writing.

Do you have a writing background?

I earned my Bachelor of Arts in English and psychology with minors in professional writing and creative writing from The Ohio State University, so you could say I have a strong interest in writing! My life’s ambition is to become a fantasy author, and I enjoy seeking out writing contests like this one to test my skills.

What are your hobbies/interests?

Other than my obvious interest in writing and reading, I also love planning epic road trips, solving puzzles in escape rooms, and appreciating nature through geocaching.

Do you have any fun plans for your prize money?

My fiancé and I will be getting married next October, so I’ll be putting it all in the piggy bank for our honeymoon. A big thanks to the CaptionMax team for their generosity and commitment to providing accessible media!


To find out how you can add video description to your content, contact sales@captionmax.com.

CaptionMax Hosts Open-Described Film Screening At 2016 ACB Convention

Posted by Anna on July 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm. Movies, Video Describers, Video Description
CaptionMax CEO Truck Morrison and head of Video Description Brian Gebhart introduce Shoulder The Lion

CaptionMax CEO Truck Morrison and head of Video Description Brian Gebhart introduce Shoulder The Lion

Last night, we hosted an open-described screening of acclaimed documentary Shoulder The Lion as a part of the 2016 ACB Convention that has been held here in Minneapolis all week.  This film is a visually rich exploration of the story of three artists who have lost a sense that defines their art, and it is some of the most challenging and rewarding work we have ever done in video description. It was an absolute delight to get such warm and affirming feedback from those in attendance. To watch the open described trailer, click here.

Brian talks with CaptionMax Quality Assurance Panel member Viola Cruz before the screening begins

Brian talks with CaptionMax Quality Assurance Panel member Viola Cruz before the screening begins

How To Write A Winning Entry For Just Add Words!

Posted by Anna on May 12, 2016 at 10:00 am. Just Add Words, Video Describers, Video Description

A man writes with a pen on lined notebook paper

A man writes with a pen on lined notebook paper

Thinking about entering our third annual Just Add Words Video Description Contest? Here are some tips for creating a winning entry:

Relevance of Detail

Writers should describe whatever information (settings, characters, actions, graphics, on-screen text, and other details) is most important for a blind viewer to understand what is happening in the program. Description should not duplicate any material that is already clear from the program’s dialogue or sound effects, such as “a woman laughs” or “the doorbell rang.”

Clarity of Description

Descriptions should be accurate and easy to visualize. Writers should remain as objective as possible and avoid adding their own opinions or interpretations.

Vividness of Language

Writers should bring the scene to life by using the active voice, precise verbs, and evocative diction.

Consistency of Mood

Writers should choose language that matches the mood, tone, and visual style of the program.

Timing and Readability

The descriptions must fit around the characters’ dialogue and within the total run time of the seen. They should be readable at a natural pace by voiceover talent. Try reading your entry along with the video and edit it down if necessary.

Finally, watch last year’s winners and learn! They did an amazing job.

Video description is an incredible assistive technology that allows blind and low-vision audiences to access a program’s visual content by translating images into words. To learn more about how to add content to your description, contact sales@captionmax.com

FCC Proposes Rules to Expand Video Description Access

Posted by Anna on April 5, 2016 at 9:00 am. CVAA, FCC, Video Describers, Video Description
Video Description Symbol In White And Gray Tones

Video Description Symbol In White And Gray Tones

On April 1, 2016, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to expand the availability of video described programming. Video description makes video programming accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired by enabling audio-narration to describe key visual elements of a television program during pauses in the dialogue. This came shortly after the Disability Advisory Council Video Programming Subcommittee presented a list of issues to be considered should the FCC decide to issue a NPRM of this type.

The FCC proposes the following key rule changes:

Increase the amount of described programming on each included network carried by a covered broadcast station or multichannel video programming distributor, from 50 hours per calendar quarter to 87.5 (a 75% increase);

Increase the number of networks required to provide video description from four broadcast and five non-broadcast networks to five broadcast and ten non-broadcast networks;

Create a “no-backsliding” rule, so a network would remain subject to the rules even if it is no longer one of the top five or top ten ranking networks; and

Require video programming distributors to provide proper customer support contacts in order to improve consumer access to video description.

The NPRM also seeks comment on other matters, such as a potential requirement for described video-on-demand programming, a dedicated audio stream for video description, and a change of terminology from “video described” to “audio described.”

Comment and reply comment due dates will be announced once the Notice is published in the Federal Register.

To find out more about how you can have your program video described, contact your CaptionMax representative or sales@captionmax.com.

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.

CaptionMax 2015 Consumer Advisory Board Meeting

Posted by Anna on September 29, 2015 at 11:00 am. CVAA, Consumer Advisory Board, FCC, Video Describers, Video Description
CaptionMax executives, production staff, and Consumer Advisory Board members seated at a conference table

CaptionMax executives, production staff, and Consumer Advisory Board members seated at a conference table

September 26th marked CaptionMax’s 18th annual Consumer Advisory Board meeting, which was every bit as fun as it was productive. Our board members are consumers of video description and closed captioning, consumer advocates, and educators of blind and deaf children. They travel from near and far to come together and discuss the finer points of media accessibility, particularly within the realm of video description.

CaptionMax CAB members: Tim, Cathy, Ardis, and Joya

CaptionMax CAB members: Tim, Cathy, Ardis, and Joya

In addition to talking about larger regulatory facets of description, like the expansion from the top 25 largest local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox to the top 60 television markets for the top four broadcast networks, the board discussed a number of scenarios that come up frequently. These scenarios included the best way to describe transitional shots, archaic technology, camera effects, flashbacks, and flash-forwards.  There was also a great deal of discussion regarding the nuance that goes into creating voice-over for different types of programming.

Our menu of topics for the day

Our menu of topics for the day

We owe a debt of gratitude to our board members for the time they spend with us each year. The wealth of insight their diversity of experience brings to our organization helps refine our best practices and grow our expertise in the field of media accessibility.

CaptionMax CAB members: Tim, Ardis, Cathy, Joya, and Jordan

CaptionMax CAB members: Tim, Ardis, Cathy, Joya, and Jordan

Intern Spotlight: Justin Heard

Posted by Anna on August 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm. Video Describers, Video Description
Justin with our head of video description, Brian Gebhart

Justin with our head of video description, Brian Gebhart

This summer, we were very fortunate to have Justin Heard join us as an intern through BLIND, Inc’s PREP Program. As an avid video description enthusiast, Justin provided us with invaluable feedback to incorporate into our creative and technical processes. His quick wit and easygoing nature made him a delight to work with, and we wanted everyone to get a chance to know him better.

What’s been your favorite part of your time at CaptionMax?

Getting a chance to talk with all of the describers about techniques.

What are your plans for after high school?

First, I’m attending Blind, Inc. This is a center for blind people dedicated to training us in daily living skills, travel, technology, Braille, and more. After that, I plan on getting a guide dog. Then, hopefully I’ll be heading to college to get a bachelor’s degree in communications, followed by a master’s in sound engineering.

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

Books.

Do you have any hidden talents?

If I do, they’re hiding from me as well.

What is your biggest hobby?

Reading.

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

Brent Weeks. He’s a fantasy writer. Did I mention I love reading?

What is your favorite TV show/movie?

That’s a tough choice. If it’s a currently airing TV show, I choose Daredevil. A past one, Hostages. As for movies, there are too many good ones. The first films that come to mind are Batman, The Dark Knight, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. No, The Hobbit movies are not included in that, although they are pretty good.

Justin in a meeting with our team of describers, giving us excellent feedback

Justin in a meeting with our team of describers, giving us excellent feedback

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?

27

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.

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.

 

Locations

  • Minneapolis, MN
  • (CaptionMax World Headquarters)
  • 2438 27th Avenue South
  • Minneapolis, MN 55406
  • Phone: 612.341.3566
  • Fax: 612.341.2345
  • Burbank, CA
  • 245 East Olive Avenue, Suite 600
  • Burbank, CA 91502
  • Phone: 818.295.2500
  • Fax: 818.295.2509
  • New York, NY
  • 5 Columbus Circle
  • Suite 810
  • New York, NY 10019
  • Phone: 212.462.0060
  • Fax: 212.462.0061