Why Video Producers Should Accept Captioning as “Just Another Production Value”

How else can we explain the fact that 90% of major American non-profits provide no intelligible captioning for their online videos? Video producers themselves obviously didn't provide captions, and the video client is now in no hurry to spend the money to correct that oversight. And so the deaf go without access while the captioning requirement gets passed on like a white elephant.

In order to combat this status quo, which is now threatening to leave the deaf community behind in an increasingly video-centric world, here are ten reasons we all should start taking responsibility for the captioning of our videos.

1. Captioning requirements become more stringent every year.

2. FCC regulations will soon require Internet video publishers to provide captions for their own video clip demos, whenever the clip content has been previously aired on television.

3. Companies that caption videos will often caption any related video clips at a discount rate, or even for free.

4. Caption companies can create as-aired transcripts and even full-blown continuity scripts from the captions that they create, thereby saving their customers the cost of hiring an additional transcription service.

5. Caption companies can leverage their captions to provide their client’s website (or intranet) with a text-searchable archive of the client’s videos.

6. Caption companies can leverage caption files to generate interactive online transcripts that advance as your video is played, like the transcripts currently used by TED Talks.

7. Captions are not just seen by the deaf these days: they are seen by diners, pub patrons and even weight lifters in your local gym.

By hiring an experienced company to provide SDH subtitles for your broadcast or DVD video (instead of the usual line 21 captions), video producers can choose from a wide variety of fonts, shadowing, background colors and even line lengths for their caption/subtitles, thereby giving them a classy and personalized appearance instead of the generic boxy, white-on-black look of the old decoder-based captioning format.

Captioned videos rank higher in search engines than those that are not captioned.

By recognizing captioning as a legitimate production value, video producers are doing both their clients and the deaf community a favor. The former will no longer have to deal with deaf complaints and potential fines from the FCC, and the latter will no longer be excluded from understanding and enjoying the millions of online videos, which, to this day, remain accessible only to the hearing audience.

If your video is destined only for a limited audience on the internet, you can find basic "no frills" captioning services for as low as $1 per video minute — and you can even provide your own captions for free using the Google or Vimeo interfaces created for that purpose. 

If your ultimate goal is to air your video on broadcast television, DVD or Netflix, however, you may as well bite the bullet now and purchase the appropriate captions from a provider experienced with those formats. Such high-end captions and subtitles can be easily re-purposed into internet captioning, but it doesn't work the other way around.

Finally, here is a list of captioning and subtitling companies who can work with you to create attractive SDH subtitles. 

BTI Studios http://www.btistudios.com/
Deluxe New York http://www.bydeluxe.com/
SDI Media http://www.sdimedia.com/
Sfera http://www.sferastudios.com/
Visual Data Media Services https://npv.netflix.com/www.visualdatamedia.com
Zoo Digital http://www.zoodigital.com/

SDH subtitles are increasingly used by video publishers in place of line 21 captions in order to meet deaf accessibility requirements. This is partly because most people prefer the appearance of SDH subtitles over standard captioning and partly because English-language SDH subtitle files can be used as templates for creating subtitles in foreign languages, thereby saving the caption client money on subtitling costs. There are many companies that can provide you with quality SDH subtitles, but I've chosen to list these six since they are all stateside Netflix Partners and as such have a track record of creating SDH subtitles to exacting standards.
If you're a video producer who's interested in taking responsibility for the captioning of your own videos, there are plenty of resources and companies online that you can look to for help. There really is no excuse for neglecting to caption your video.

Brian Quass has provided captions and subtitles for a variety of clients, including BTI Studios, Aberdeen Broadcast Services, Captions and Subtitle Services, and Featuring Subtitling.

Susan Schmierer
Susan Schmierer
Susan is the Art Director at Videomaker and Creator Handbook Magazines.

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