Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

How I Will Caption My Videos

I’ve been needing to caption some videos for a while now. It was not urgent so I delayed a bit. But it is now becoming imperative to be able to caption videos before they are available. My experiments were somewhat frustrating, but I think I finally got it right!

My Captioning Needs

I needed to be able to get English captions for the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers (and for those of us who can’t have the sound turned on when viewing websites!). I also needed to be able to offer French subtitles. Finally, the captions & subtitles needed to work on Youtube, as that is the "server" selected.

Selecting Captioning Software

I researched the issue, and looked at several applications. I also looked at a couple online solutions. In the end, the software that seemed like it would be the best solution was MAGpie.

Getting Magpie going was a frustrating experience. But after getting it working, using it is a breeze!

Installing and Using Captioning Software

The instructions say to download and install the latest Java version, then download and install the latest Quicktime, then (if you’re on PC) download and install GRINS (an application that helps working with a specific movie format), and finally download and install MAGpie. I did all that. Didn’t work. There’s a known bug that talks about having to uninstall and reinstall Quicktime. Tried that, wasn’t working nice.

I was able to start a new project, but the moment I tried adding a caption track, the whole lot would shut down. My video was an MP4. Eventually, after trying all kind of variations, I rendered the video as a Quicktime’s .mov format. That got me somewhere. I was able to work the clip, add captions, add timing, etc. All worked well.

Except… Except that Youtube was not happy with the exported caption files! I had to try different formats to make it work. In the end, exporting as a SAMI (RealVideo) format worked and was acceptable for Youtube! Problem being, MAGpie exported only the latest track (in this case the French subtitles) to the SAMI file. Try a few more thing. In the end, I settled for saving the project with both tracks, then deleting one track, exporting as a SAMI, reverting the project, delete the other track, and export as a second SAMI. Phew. There’s GOT to be an easier way.

My Captioning Process

In any case, here’s what works for me in the end:

  • Prepare the video clip.
    • Render as MP4 to upload to Youtube
    • Render as MOV to caption in MAGpie
  • Prepare the captions and subtitle
  • Export each caption/subtitle track as SAMI
  • Upload MP4 to Youtube
  • Add each caption track to the video.

In Conclusion

Captioning of video is extremely important. Yet it’s almost not done. I’m not too surprised it isn’t done more often. Because captioning is tedious, time-consuming work. And because finding the right software, installing it, and using it just isn’t too obvious, even for those who are keen to make it happen. I hope the new Youtube feature of “auto captioning” works well and is soon available to everyone!