Captioning and Audio Description for DVD and Multimedia Environment – Part One

Captioning and Audio Description for DVD and Multimedia Environment – Part One

By Cheryl Heppner

Editor: This article is part of our coverage of the 2007 TDI convention and is brought to you by the folks at NVRC. You do not need permission to share this information, but please be sure to credit NVRC.

The presenters were John Mazza and Jay Wyant of CaptionMax. This is part one of four parts.

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Here’s Part One

Here’s Part Two

Here’s Part Three

Here’s Part Four

John Mazza works out of the LA office of CaptionMax. He has been involved in CaptionMax since its creation. He is Vice President of Finance and Human Resources. At one time, John was a teacher working with disadvantaged youth in his home state of Rhode Island. For 24 years he worked to develop a small technical staffing firm that grew to a revenue of over $1.3 billion. John “returned to his roots” after his eldest daughter became severely impaired at age nine due to a stroke, and now uses his business acumen in pursuit of accessibility and inclusion.

Jay Wyant works out of Minneapolis office of CaptionMax, where he is Marketing Director. He has an extensive background in telecommunications and technology accessibility. Deaf since birth, he has authored numerous books for the telecommunications industry on various network and communications technologies. He currently writes a column for AG Bell’s Volta Voices on technology issues. He serves as President Elect of AG Bell’s Board of Trustees.

About CaptionMax: John Mazza

Our theme is going beyond TV to captioning and video description for DVD and multi-entertainment environments. CaptionMax is a privately held company started by Max Duckler, a very successful video engineer, in 1993. Since 2003 we have been really involved in video description. Our only concern is media accessibility, which we do through closed captioning and audio description.

Our goal, and the goal of our emerging technology grant, is to level the educational playing field. We want to be able to provide equal access to blind and low vision, deaf and hard of hearing students and people in the classroom environment.

The Basics on Captioning: Jay Wyant

As you know, captions are more than just a dialogue. They involve speaker identification, sound effects, tone of voice and other auditory cues. There are limitations to closed captions. The FCC requires closed captions only for television broadcasts. That means DVD, movies, and theater are not covered by the FCC rules. Another issue with broadcast captioning is that a viewer has no control over the setting. One TV show uses a font that is one way. Another show may do the font a different way.

Another thing with captioning is that you can see CC1, CC2, CC3 and CC4, all on the same channel. If you have English on CC1 and Spanish on CC2, they can interfere with each other. If you like watching Spanish captions of English language shows, your TV needs the CC3 channel. Not all TVs are capable of reading all captioning signals. Some only may only allow you to read captions for CC1 and CC2.

Audio Description: Jay Wyant

How many of you are familiar with description? You may be thinking to yourself, well TDI is all about captioning, why do I have to know about audio description? We think that a lot of what we are doing may benefit hard of hearing people as well.

Audio description is generally defined as narration in between the dialogue. You could be watching a program with dialogue going on, and somebody walks into the room or there is some other action. Audio description tells you what is going on, provided there is room in the dialogue to do it. That narration is only available through SAP.

You find the program, turn it on, and activate the captions. Then SAP becomes available to you. It only works for stereo television, because it takes stereo sound. General sound is moved to one of the two components, then SAP is put on the other component.

We tend to use one person to narrate an entire program. You rely on, and learn to listen to, that voice and that pace for the rest of the dialogue. And for those of you who may not be aware, a lot of people who are blind or low vision can understand very fast speech. It’s like people who become good at speed reading. The FCC regulations for captioning do not apply to audio description. There is no requirement for audio in any form anywhere.

Audio description has limitations too. The SAP channel is wonderful; so is Spanish. You might have an ABC television show, prime time, in Spanish. You turn on the channel, and audio description is not available. You can’t find it. That’s because you can either have one or the other with broadcast television. [Demonstrates a quick sample of an audio described program, with captioning of the program on the bottom of the screen, and captioning of what is being described in the upper left hand corner].

Here’s Part One

Here’s Part Two

Here’s Part Three

Here’s Part Four

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(c)2007 by Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC), 3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130, Fairfax, VA 22030; www.nvrc.org. 703-352-9055 V, 703-352-9056 TTY, 703-352-9058 Fax. You do not need permission to share this information, but please be sure to credit NVRC.