Thursday, August 13, 2009

An Open Request to TechSmith

The videographers on my campus, quite a good and talented crew, are dedicated to making video on the Web that they produce on campus accessible, i.e., with captions. It's the law. They take it as a mandate.

Yet the task remains daunting. Further, much of the video content produced on campus is made by amateurs (like me) and the vast majority of them may not feel so impelled. Partly for that reason and partly because I'm interested in extending the reach of the content we do produce here, I became enamored with captioning in YouTube, since it does things with the captions that simply aren't available in other products. First, the videos become searchable via the text in the captions. Second, the captions can be translated into many other languages, making the content accessible on an international basis. That latter feature is very intriguing to me.

However, the process of making the captions is arduous at present. Yesterday I made captions for this video, with lasts 4:39 (four minutes and thirty nine seconds). The original video was captured with Jing Pro and posted to YouTube. That is a snap. But making the captions took me more than 90 minutes and the work was so tedious that I had to break it up doing some in the morning and the rest in the evening. The problem is there no good way to set the timings and so what I do manually is to caption a phrase of text and find the timings for it more or less at the same time, listening to a segment of the movie, then pausing, then rewinding, then doing it again to check.

Camtasia has a reasonably easy to use caption tool but at present it doesn't integrate with the YouTube captioning at all. My request is that in the next version that becomes a feature. It would make Camtasia an indispensable video creation tool for Windows users and it would make a lot more people create captioning for the videos they do make. My guess it that it wouldn't be that hard to do it technically, because all the YouTube wants is a text file with the timings and the captions, in an appropriate format.

If you read this and use TechSmith products, perhaps you could make a similar request. It seems like win-win from where I sit.

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