Sunday, December 16, 2012

Problems with AVC Coding and Captioning

A not-so-new video encoding algorithm has a not-so-good affect on video captioning. It has caused a lot of tech questions from MovieCaptioner users who are trying to embed captions into movies. AVC Coding (Advanced Video Coding) is a commonly used video format for high definition video, and has been around since about 2003. Unfortunately this advanced format cannot be used to embed captions. What users will find is that they might (or might not) see their captions in their video, but when they go to save it they will get an error and/or the video will not save at all. Since MovieCaptioner uses QuickTime's method of adding text tracks to movies, I manually tried to add a caption track (without using MovieCaptioner) and got the same results. It simply would fail when it came to saving the movie with captions. If you're having such problems saving your captions in your movie, open it in QuickTime Pro and check the Movie Inspector window. This is one of the reasons I strongly suggest that MovieCaptioner users upgrade QuickTime 7 to the Pro version ($30 from Apple). It will look something like this if AVC Coding was used...
If you see AVC Coding or JVT/AVC Coding, you can probably forget about adding captions to this video. In fact, if your video uses JVT/AVC Coding it may even crash MovieCaptioner and not play in QuickTime Player. You will need to re-export your video using a different codec. If you try to use QuickTime Pro to export, however, you will find that it will not export properly. Most of the time you'll get the audio, but with a blank white video track. Not what you want. I have found, however, that the solution is to use MPEG Streamclip to re-export your movie as an MPEG-4 movie.
MPEG Streamclip is free and is available for both Mac and Windows platforms. You can download it from the Squared5 website. Just drag your movie onto the MPEG Streamclip interface, go to the File menu and choose Export to MPEG-4. Then choose H.264 as the video compression and set the quality to 100%. It does a nice job of converting the video while maintaining quality.
If that doesn't work, another trick is to upload your movie to YouTube, then use the Download MP4 option in Youtube's Video Manager to download a reformatted version of your movie. As long as your movie isn't too long for YouTube's time limit, this is usually a good way to do it.
Once you have your video converted, it's time to use it in MovieCaptioner. We're going to replace the movie you tried to use before with the new one you just exported from MPEG Streamclip. Open your MovieCaptioner project and go to the File menu and choose Load Movie, then locate your new movie on your hard drive. Always work off your main hard drive and not a mounted drive with MovieCaptioner and you'll have few problems. Once you load the movie, you'll be asked to save your project again. Either save over the old project or give it a new name. Once you've done that you should be able to export with embedded captions and it should save correctly.

UPDATE: If you're using Premiere to export your videos, I've found that using H.264 as the video Format will save the movie with AVC Coding. However, if you select QuickTime as the Format and set the Video Codec to H.264, you can get a movie that works with MovieCaptioner right out of the gate.


If you'd like to try MovieCaptioner to caption your movies, you can download a fully functional 14 day demo version here: http://www.synchrimedia.com. There are also some video tutorials on the Tutorials link on that page to get you up and running quickly. It requires no specialized knowledge. In fact, if you can type, you're already an expert at using MovieCaptioner. It can also work with Nuance's Dragon speech-to-text software if you'd rather talk than type. Good luck with your video captioning. I hope this helps.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Closed Captioning for the iPad

Closed captioning for the iPad is really very easy. First we will use MovieCaptioner to create our captions and then we will export them as a Sonic Scenarist (SCC) caption file. These are the same type of captions you might see on TV and are often called Line 21 captions. We will use Apple's Compressor software to create the captioned video for the iPad. First, after opening Compressor, if you see a Templates Chooser window, just hit the Cancel button. We won't need this. template chooser window Drag your movie to the window with the downward facing arrow... drag your movie to the window Next, go to the Window menu and select Show Inspector if the Inspector window is not already open... choose the Inspector window from the Window menu Once the Inpector window is open, if it appears blank, click on your movie in the main window and the info for the movie should appear in the Inspector window... Inspector window Now click the Additional Information tab in the Inspector window and choose your SCC file from your hard drive... choose your SCC file You can close the Inspector window, then go to the Window menu and choose Settings... template chooser window In the Settings window, click the triangle next to Apple Devices and select one of the four choices under it depending on your movie and target device... choose an Apple Devices setting Drag your choice to the main window where your movie is. It should appear like this... template chooser window Now just click the Submit button and give your project a name and click the Submit button for that window... template chooser window It will begin to compress the movie... movie is compressing When it's done, it will create a movie that has the name of the setting you used tacked onto the name of your movie with a ".m4v" file extension...

finished movie

Now all you need to do is drag your movie into iBooks Author and it will create a widget for the movie. You can test your movie on your iPad if you have it connected to your computer. Open iBooks on the iPad, then click the Preview button in the top panel of the iBooks Author interface... template chooser window If you have closed captioning turned on in your iPad's Video settings, you should see the captions play along with the movie. Here is how to enable closed captioning on your iPad... iPad video settings with closed captioning enabled So, creating captions for videos on the iPad is really a pretty simple process. MovieCaptioner makes it a lot easier by creating the SCC file that you need to import into Compressor. Give MovieCaptioner a try. You can download a free, fully-functional demo that is good for 14 days from http://www.synchrimedia.com. Please view the tutorial videos there to see how easy it is to be up and running with MovieCaptioner in a few minutes. Good luck with your captioning projects!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Captioning Recorded Adobe Connect Meetings

If you need to caption Adobe Connect meetings that have already been recorded, there is an easy way. First, download these template files. The files contain an instructional PDF with screenshots showing you how to download your recorded meeting, how to caption it using MovieCaptioner, and how to make the captions work. The process is simply this:

  1. Download your Adobe Connect recording and name it "main.flv" (case sensitive).
  2. Load the movie into MovieCaptioner and create the captions.
  3. Export the captions as Flash (DFXP) caption file naming it "captions.xml" (the default name from MovieCaptioner for Flash captions).
  4. Copy the template folder and name it what you want.
  5. Drop the "main.flv" and "captions.xml" files in the folder, replacing the 2 files with the same name in the template folder.
  6. Launch the "index.html" file in the folder to check your work.
  7. Upload the whole folder to your Web space and link to the "index.html" file

image of Adobe Connect recording with captions below it

The big thing is to keep the naming convention of "main.flv" for the movie and "captions.xml" for the caption file as that is how it's hard-coded in the Flash file that plays the movie. The original Flash FLA file is also included in case you know Flash and want to change any aspects of the player.

Also note that this method does not use the files that are on the Adobe Connect server to deliver the video. You upload your template folder to your Web space and link to the "index.html" file inside this folder. The file sizes are not too bad to download for the user. For example, a 50 minute meeting recording is only 180MB in size for a 1920x1072 video that scales in size as you scale your browser window.

It is recommended that you use the Mac version of MovieCaptioner to do the captioning as it will eliminate the need to create a .MOV movie file from the .FLV file that you download from the Adobe Connect server. This is because there is a free plugin for QuickTime on the Mac called Perian http://www.perian.org that allows you to play FLV movies in the QuickTime Player. This plugin is not made for Windows. Perian will discontinue developing/supporting this plugin at some point as it says on their Web site, but you can still download it.

You can certainly use the Windows version, but you will need to convert the FLV to either a .MOV or MPEG-4 movie that can play in QuickTime prior to loading into MovieCaptioner for Windows. Sorry that I cannot recommend a particular video conversion app for this on Windows. Please beware of downloading software that may contain viruses or trojans on Windows. You would only need the MOV file for use with MovieCaptioner. You will still use the FLV file in the template folder.

If you've never tried MovieCaptioner, give it a whirl. You can download the demo which is fully functional for 14 days. There are also tutorial videos to get you up to speed with it in minutes here: MovieCaptioner Tutorial Videos.

Good luck with your captioning projects!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to Tag Team a Video Captioning Project

Do you have a deadline you have to meet for captioning a video? One way to get the job done in half the time is to do as the pro wrestlers do and tag team the project. With MovieCaptioner, this is pretty easy to do.

Let's break the project up between Person A and Person B. Person A will review the movie and find a spot about halfway through it where there is either no talking, or some type of break, like between sentences. Let's say about 30 minutes into the movie there is a spot where there is no talking and maybe some music starts playing. This might be an ideal spot. Maybe the music begins a 00:31:25.15. Person A tells Person B to start there. Person A just follows the normal work flow. She clicks the Load Movie button, sets the text attributes to what she wants and then hits the Start button to begin captioning the movie. She continues until she reaches the point agreed upon just prior to the music starting.

Person A's project file

Person B will also open MovieCaptioner and instead of starting at the beginning, will drag the movie's playhead to just before 00:31:25.15 as close as he can get it, then hit the Play button on the movie control until it gets closer to the music point and then quickly click the Stop button on the movie controller. Now his movie is cued up to where he needs to start. He clicks the Start button and begins captioning from that point.

Person Bs project file

Once he has completed all the captions, Person B will go to the Export menu and choose Transcripts With Timecode. This will export a transcript of his project with the timecode next to each caption.

Person B exports as Transcripts With Timecode

He'll open this in a text editor and delete the first line, which is just the title of the movie. He saves the file and emails it to Person A.

Person B deletes the first line of the transcript which is just the title.

Person A opens her project again in MovieCaptioner and goes to the Import menu and selects Text in Line Form.
The final project with all imported captions.She locates the transcript file Person B has sent her and it imports all the captions and timecode from the transcript, adding it to the end of her project. Now she has a complete hour long captioning project that she can export in any of over 20 export formats that MovieCaptioner offers.

The final project with all imported captions.

Please try MovieCaptioner to make your movies accessible. You can download a free, fully-functional 14 day demo.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are QuickTime Text Tracks Dying?

Lately I've been seeing increased problems with QuickTime text tracks that are either embedded in QT movies or are called in externally via a QT SMIL file, both of which MovieCaptioner can create.

First I saw problems on the Windows side. QuickTime 7.7.2 for Windows simply will not read any QT Text file embedded into the movie. It seemed to choke somewhere on a font attribute and would only display something like "al}" (when Arial was selected as the font). The same problems were exhibited with QT SMIL captions, where the .qt.smi file would call in the movie and the QT text file to display them together. I found that removing QT 7.7.2 and reinstalling QT 7.7.1 fixed this problem. I reported this as a bug to Apple in May 2012. If you need to revert to QT 7.7.1, send me an email at synchrimedia@gmail.com and I'll get it to you. It seems to have disappeared from Apple's downloads page.

Most recently I've found an issue on the Mac side of things as well. With my brand new MacBook Pro with retina display I get some pretty bizarre results with QT Text files as well. This is with QuickTime 7.6.6, the latest version of QT for the Mac. I did some experimenting and found that it was the retina display that seems to be causing the issues. When I hook my laptop up to an external monitor, the captions display perfectly. But, as I drag that movie from my non-retina display to the retina display on my laptop, the QT text track suddenly shrinks to half its size and moves halfway up the movie instead of being below the movie as it displays on the non-retina display. Here is the captioned movie as displayed with a non-retina display:


movie with captions as displayed on a non-retina display monitor

Here is the same movie after sliding it horizontally to my laptop's retina display:

movie with captions as displayed on a retina display monitor

As the movie moves to the retina display, the QT text track suddenly shrinks to half its size and moves halfway up the movie window. Typically, though, after embedding the text track into the movie, the movie will obscure the text track behind it. I also tried adjusting the QT text file to change the width and it will suddenly jump to a huge width if I go larger than what it is (320 as set here).

It's a shame Apple doesn't do a better job of supporting their own technology. I'm afraid this may cause many headaches for people who have gone to a lot of trouble to make their videos accessible only to find that when viewed on a retina display, all their work is for naught. Does that mean they are suddenly non-compliant with captioning laws? I hope not, but it will raise questions from people who do not know that this is a bug between QuickTime and retina displays, which I'm sure will become more prevalent in the future.

Fortunately, I've found that embedding an XML file instead of a QT text track still seems to work for some reason. I will most likely switch from using the SMIL captions with QT text files to using XML instead. The XML files will still work perfectly, both embedded and in the SMIL files on the retina display. If you're using MovieCaptioner, this will be the second export option under the Export menu called "Embedded QT (Unicode)". This format has the advantage of being able to display many characters that regular QT text files cannot display, including Asian character sets. The only problem with the XML format is that it will not wrap text as QT text files do by default, so you'll have to make sure to add the "|" symbol to denote a hard line break in MovieCaptioner so that it will know where to put the line breaks in the final XML file. MovieCaptioner now has an auto line break feature under the Edit menu that will allow you to add line breaks automatically every so many characters. You can set that amount to anything that suits your movie. It will look for a space between words on or before that character limit.

So, look for a change in the next version of MovieCaptioner unless Apple does a quick fix for this problem. I will most likely drop support for QT text files in favor of XML.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Create Open Captions for Your Movie

First of all, let me explain the difference between closed captions and open captions. Closed captions can be toggled on and off, while open captions are on all the time. Simple and straightforward.


Update: Apple is no longer selling QuickTime Pro. If you already have QuickTime Pro, read on. If not, there is an alternative solution here: http://synchrimedia.blogspot.com/2017/02/creating-open-captions-update.html


Open captions are the better choice when the site where the movie is displayed does not support any type of captioning. An example of this is the popular Vimeo site. Since it does not support closed captioning, the captions must be made part of the video and not a separate track. If you attempt to upload a movie that has a video track, a sound track, and a text track, the text track will get stripped out on upload. What we need to do is to burn the text track into the video track.

In the video below, I've used MovieCaptioner to embed a text track into a movie. Note that in this case there is actually 2 text tracks. One is for the text and a separate track is for the translucent background, which gives it better contrast than just making the text track translucent. You see when you go to the Movie Properties window in QuickTime Pro that there is a Video Track, a Sound Track, Text Track 1 and Text Track 2. If I were to upload this, the 2 text tracks would be stripped out. (Click the image to see it larger.)

Movie properties window shows 2 text tracks along with the video track and sound track

What I need to do at this point is to go to the File menu and Export to a new movie. Note that just doing a Save As will NOT do the trick. You must Export to combine the text track with the video track.

Exporting from quicktime pro to create a new movie with open captions

Use the Movie to QuickTime Movie option and then click the Options button to set the quality and size of your exported movie.

Use the Movie to QuickTime Movie option

I would suggest using High or Best Quality settings with Multi-Pass encoding and not resizing the movie (use Current Size) in order to minimize any loss in quality of the movie's captions. Note that there will be some degradation in the quality since the text will no longer be vector-based like it is when it's a separate text track. If you're not worried about the file size of the movie, try using Photo-JPEG as the movie compression algorithm. It seems to produce crisp text, although the file size can be around 500 MB per minute for a movie that is 720x480. YMMV of course!

Movie export settings

After exporting as a new movie and opening the new movie up in QuickTime Pro, I see that in the Movie Properties window I now have only a Sound Track and a Video Track, but I still have my captions and the translucent background that was added by MovieCaptioner. I can now upload this to my video site without fear of having the captions stripped out. (Click the image to see it larger.)

Movie properties window shows 2 text tracks along with the video track and sound track

So you see it's pretty easy to create a movie with open captions. Hope this helps you make your videos more accessible!