Closed captioning — and metadata! — for vlogs

Closed captioning — and metadata! — for vlogs and online video

: Go take a look at this version of the vlog I put up the other day to demonstrate the form for TV and newspaper folks. (The link works only in IE with Microsoft Media Player).

Chicago Captioning Corp. added closed captioning to the video.

They did that in an effort to serve the 10 percent of Americans who are hard of hearing. And that’s great.

But I see another important use that is of value to 100 percent of Internet users:

By attaching a script to the video, we get metadata associated with it. That makes the video searchable via Google et al. That means that the content of the video can be analyzed. That means we can link to specific content.

That’s big.

Now it so happens that because I was using Visual Communicator, I had a script in the teleprompter (aka my laptop) that is timed specifically to my reading of the script. To me, that means it’d be trivial to publish the script as a closed caption file timed to the video.

I even wonder whether URLs could be associated with the graphic files inserted into the video — or simply with text — so people could go to addresses. More metadata. More interactivity.

I got email with that link from Steven Knoerr at Chicago Captioning and emailed him back this bit of excited blathering. I have no idea what Chicago Captioning’s business proposition is; I’m not trying to sell them.

But I do think there’s something important here for citizens’ video (and TV news video brought online): If we can associate closed captions and scripts with video, we make that video far more accessible not only to the hard-of-hearing but also to Google searchers.

: UPDATE: Mark Randall of Serious Magic (the Visual Communicator and VlogIt folks) emails me to report that there is a free plug-in for the latest version of the software (which, regretably won’t work on my machine) that automates the creation of closed captions from the teleprompter script. I hope they include this in VlogIt (hint) and encourage all vloggers to use it.

Metadata, man, metadata.

  • It needs to be automated, too! See “podcast transcripts web service“. Imagine every popdcast and vidcast getting the text/metadata automatically generated for it. I know I know, too hard, right? Like I said, first one to do it wins a million bucks! ;-)

  • Hi Jeff.
    Another cool feature of simultaneously running text with video is that anyone can follow a vlog without speakers. Or perhaps they need the sound off because of where they might be.

  • There’s 1 major hurdle to climb before this metadata revolution arrives–improved captioning quality.
    It’s a regular occurence (at least from my experiences) that closed-captions will misspell and/or omit words, while still getting the general meaning across.
    BUT…if it were being used as a record of note in metadata searches, current captioning data would leave some holes (omitting/paraphrasing what someone’s verbatim words were) and could potentially lead to a lot of people being misquoted or misrepresented.
    Anyone got any “improved caption accuracy” software up their sleeve?

  • Hey Jeff, there are a few companies already working on this, but more from an archiving/library/search perspective than a citizens media approach.
    They’re also combining speech recognition into the closed captioning equation, because as Kyle says, CC is not always 100% accurate.

  • Closed captioning is going to be a critical component of searchable video (and audio). The problem remains, however, that even once a video source is found, viewing that video to assess its relevance is much more time consuming than scanning a blog entry or previewing some photos. Metadata is going to help, but context is still going to be important, even more important than it is with standard text searches.

  • Nice. Please keep us updated.

  • -asx-

    Very nicely done!

  • Mumblix Grumph

    Closed captioning is a great feaure not just for the hearing-impaired.
    I jog on my treadmill with the iPod, and have a TV showing the cable news networks with the sound off and closed captioning on.
    I could easily slap up a flat panel monitor and surf vlogs…I LIKE that idea.
    Stay on the cutting edge, Jeff, someday your name will be as well known as Philo T. Farnsworth!

  • Ed

    ATI, which makes graphic processors and cards, also has a function in some of its products where, when Cable TV is attached to your PC, it will automatically scan every channel and search for keywords in the closed captioning (keywords which you’ve already programmed.) I believe that when a “hit” comes up, it will begin to record the program digitally to your hard drive.

  • I’ve met Steve C and have found him a critical part of my team in an effort to make audio more accessible online.
    Thanks for the post.
    Paulie Sabol
    My Blog

  • Hi, everyone. And thank you, Jeff, for devoting some 0’s and 1’s to Web captioning. It’s not the most glamorous subject, but I think captioning will serve to make video content producers’ work find a much wider audience.
    Jeff, you really smacked the nail on the head with your post. Ordinarily, just the news that the overlooked 10%, the deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) audience, can be inexpensively and easily reached, should motivate video producers to get their work captioned. But with Google and Yahoo! getting in on the act by searching TV captions, the lid is off the box. And, as you say, captions-as-metadata will allow all that online content to be searchable as well.
    As I see it, I should be able to search Google for “vlog,” find an excerpt of your caption script, click, and be watching your vlog post in under a minute. And if you make your caption script available as a clickable link (via a text file), people could easily download and print off the bits they want to quote. Combining search engines and vlog captions is really entering “Long Tail” territory.
    Regarding some of the comments above:
    1) WATCHING AT WORK (Ted). A lot of people in an office environment are not able to watch video content because they don’t have sound cards, or because it’s not appropriate to have the sound playing. This technology will enable vlogs to reach all those work-hour surfers.
    2) CAPTIONING QUALITY (Kyle). Yes, this is a serious problem. Now, some of the problems one frequently sees with captions comes from the technology of live captions– where a captioning-trained, CART court reporter types live while the program plays. Because of either inexperience or because of technical problems with the software, some very strange mistakes can occur.
    However, much captioning can be done offline using normal computer equipment. But even here, the limitations are related to the user. Many writers– even fairly brilliant ones– don’t necessarily have very good grammar skills. Technology such as spell checkers can mitigate some of this, but machines can’t entirely compensate for poor writing skills. A good proofreader or copyeditor can do wonders. For example, if I buy Photoshop, that doesn’t automatically make me a competent graphic designer. The same goes for captioning equipment.
    There are lots of caption agencies out there, but not all of them have high standards. You may wish to check out the Captioned Media Program ( for the list of Preferred Vendors– all of whom (including myself) have passed their rather rigorous examination.
    I mean, it’s not rocket science, but English-language captioning does require having a good handle on the English language. The problem the industry is having right now is that there is more captioning work out there than there are competent captioners to do it. This gap creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs who have a vision of ‘democracy in media’ (thanks, Alex, for the phrase).
    By the way, and to close this ridiculously long post, I’ve been very influenced by Chris Anderson’s article in Wired, “The Long Tail.” My company’s vision is to develop inexpensive, high-quality captioning solutions, so that producers of niche-market videos (such as vlogs) can reach further and further down the long tail. I’ve posted on this on my nascent blog,
    Thanks, again, Jeff, for bringing captioning to everyone’s attention. And I enjoyed working on your vlog, and I look forward to your next plunge into the world of video.

    Jeff, it just occurred to me: I think yours is the world’s first captioned VLog. You need to stake your claim before anyone writes up the standard college textbook, “The World History of VLogs: A Video Journey.”

  • mr lawson

    serious magic rocks..btw

  • Howard Stern

    Hey, how about some strippers and fart noises?
    How fast are people gonna get bored with looking at you yap away wearing a suit and tie?
    The FCC doesn’t regulate this, why not show some bush?

  • If you were really Howard, you’d start the list with lesbians…

  • Terri Schiavo

    This shit puts me to sleep, no really.

  • rodrigo nino

    just to let you know, your vlog works in mac os x safari as well…

  • jimbonator

    The idea of working out while reading the internet is very cool. I could be running on the treadmill working up a sweat, tune in to the Anthony Robbins vlog, get some motivational mojo on, stop, go to the juice bar, come back, lean on the treadmill, watch another motivational blog, get up, go to the BAR bar, come back, lean on the treadmill… I might just take to bringing in one of those beer-holding hats and a a sixer in a cooler, pulling down motivational energy from the treadmillers around me and the Anthony Robbins vlogs on the screen in front of me. Very cool.

  • ted

    For those wise enough not to use IE, here the media file URL:
    – Ted

  • Videocue, a tool you can use to create videos for vlogging actually already does this — just check the “Include Captions” and it will include the captions in the video.