How-To: Create Closed Caption Video…For Free

Here’s the run down of tools used:

Zamzar – for converting videos to multiple formats
Notepad – for writing and editing of the text only transcript
MAGpie – for the creation of the timestamped XML closed-caption file
JW FLV Player – for embedding of the final video

The video was fast, but here’s how you create the closed-caption file for your video.

The Transcript

First, you’ll want to get a text only transcript of your video content. You can either do this yourself or have someone in your office transcribe it. However, you’re better off spending a few bucks on a service that will do transcripts of video, audio, etc for $1/minute. If you have a 5 minute video, it’s $5. Much cheaper than having one of your staff do it…and you’re saving the American taxpayers money as well by not wasting your time! Score!

Next, you’ll want to edit the transcript into 2 line segments. Each segment will be what you see on the video in your final product. Also, be sure to make the segments short like this sentence <-

Create the Caption File
Then install the MAGpie software on your system (Windows or Mac…although the Mac seems to have issues with running properly). Start a “New Project” and then select your video. MAGpie only supports QuickTime or Real formats. So you’ll want to convert your video to a QuickTime format first in order to do the captioning. You can typically stay with the default options for creating captions. Even if your video is 16:9 format you should still be OK with the defaults.

Next, select the Captions menu and select to “import” the text file. The program will split up each of your two lines segments from the transcript into individual rows. Each row represents a timestamped section of the text that will appear on the video. (Note: There’s a few bugs in MAGpie, so you’ll first have to delete the first blank row you see by right-clicking and deleting. You’ll also need to do it for the last row after you’ve finished the timestamps).

Now you’re ready to timestamp your video! Put your cursor into the first “Start” box in the first row and then press the “F6” key on your keyboard to start playing the video. As you hear the speech in the video match up with the segment of text in your row, press the “F9” key to automatically add the timestamp for the “Start” field. The time will be entered and it will jump to the next row automatically waiting for your next F9 key press for the next segment. You can also press “F10” if you wanted to add an “End” timestamp which would clear the text from the video until you press “F9” again in the next segment. Continue this for the full length of your video.

Once you’ve finished, “Save” your project. Then go to the “Export” menu and choose the format you want to export to. For the JW FLV Player you should choose the W3C version at the bottom of that menu. This is a W3C Timed-Text format (XML).

Posting to Your Site

Now you’re ready to put the video and the captions together on your site. You’ll then want to download the JW FLV Media player. This is a highly used player on the web. It will support many formats including MP4, FLV, WMV, and more. For file size and bandwidth I like to use FLV format. You can easily convert your video to FLV format using the Zamzar site listed above. From here on you’ll need to follow the coding instructions for adding the player to your page and pointing to your video and XML caption file. It’s relatively easily actually, and you can use their online wizard to select a variety of options and provide the code to you to add to your page.

That’s it! It may seem like a long process…and it is once you first begin. But after repeating the process several times, you’ll see that it quickly becomes second nature. The only daunting part is creating the caption file with the timestamps. This is a manual process. Eventually software companies will create some automated method using voice recognition to match up text with the video, but until then you’re on your own.

Note: This post is of my own opinion and is not endorsed by any Federal, State, or Local government organization.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Nice work, Scott. I think video is going to become an increasingly important medium/vehicle for sharing agency messages and this tutorial is helpful to ensure that they meet requirements such as 508 compliance. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

Scott Horvath

I’m sure there are other tools and methods out there to accomplishing the same result, however this is the one I’ve chosen to do since it costs me nothing other than a little bit of time and learning. If people are trying to get their videos posted on the web and making sure they have synced captions then this is a great way to get the ball rolling.

Sam Allgood

Thanks for sharing Scott. This was very helpful, but more for personal use than professional. Wasn’t aware of most of these tools, but I do use and recommend Notepad++ as an excellent freeware text editor.

Sam Allgood

Oh, and do you know where that video that was being created/used in the example is available on the web … that looked interesting.

Scott Horvath

@Richard: Thanks! Yes, actually I have. I updated our YouTube Channel and all 36 videos (that needed it) with the YouTube captions as well. With that you need to upload your text transcript file and then YouTube does the rest. You can also download your file as well afterwards into a different format. However, I don’t believe the JW Player supports that file format although it would be worth looking into. If it does it may make the timestamping part much easier.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Michael Riedyk just posted an excellent piece (Accessibility Hack #1: Captioning Online Video) that shares the “why” and “what” behind captioning…and this shares the “how.”

IDEA: What if the two of you combined your posts and produced a 2-3 page Guide on Captioning for Government Agencies? We’d be happy to post it to GovLoop’s Scribd and Slideshare sites so that people can embed it across the Web.

Let me know if/how I can help to put it together…

Scott Horvath

Not a bad idea. Everything is pretty much there, it’s probably more a matter of simply combining the two. He’s also got some links to alternative ways (like Camtasia Studio) to do captioning. Well, can we set up a wiki page to get the ball rolling?