If integrating captions in your workflow is making you reach for the Aspirin, then here are a few tips that might alleviate the pain:
1. Follow the Law
At the end of 2012 the FCC passed the 21st Century Communications Act. According to the new regulation, all video content that is broadcast on television in the United States with captions now also requires captions when it is distributed over Internet Protocol (IP). This includes all video content that is distributed on mobile smartphone apps, services like Hulu or Netflix, websites, YouTube, Internet-enabled televisions, DVD players, gaming consoles etc. And since failure to comply with regulations will result in fines, everyone is scrambling to find more efficient ways to deal with captions because, let’s be honest the traditional captioning workflows that go around the outside of the main workflow are simply too expensive and time consuming.
2. But Don’t Always Believe What You’re Told
Captions in file-based workflows are a tricky issue. But whatever you do, don’t believe any bar-room expert who says “it’s simple and will just work”. Likewise don’t believe anyone who says it’s too complicated and can’t be done. In the file based domain, audio-visual workflows are getting increasingly more sophisticated with more formats, more resolution and more “manufacturing” of media rather than simple transcoding. It is possible to create simple workflows that produce complex captioning results – as long as you have the right software.
3. Don’t Think it’s Not Your Job
Unlike regulations for television, which puts regulations on the station and cable providers, the regulations for IP delivery put the major responsibility on the program owner. This means that if you own the copyrights to the material, you are responsible for providing captions and the program distributor, in turn, is required to make them accessible to the end user without degrading quality.
4. Think Mezzanine
As you already know, creating a Mezzanine file format to simplify the authoring of all your multi-platform deliverables has many advantages. The good news is that the same principles hold true with captions and subtitles. If you define a Mezzanine format from which all your deliverables can be authored and published, you’ll not only see a reduction in costs but you’ll also see a huge improvement on testability.
5. You Don’t Need to Feel the Pain
We happen to believe that a complex workflow problem should not cause pain for everyone, except the person building the tool. At the end of the day, what you need is a system where you don’t really care about the input and output formats to the ingest, playback, QC or transcode systems. All you need to care about is that if you have captions at the input and they should still be there at the output. The mind-boggling minutia of caption transformations and synchronization with an audio-visual cut and splice job should not be your problem, it should be taken care of in the system.