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Why Captioning?

[Photo - Television screen featuring captioning] Captioning today is a part of most people's lives whether they realize it or not.

While captioning audio/video presentations is a lifeline for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, captioning can also be used to improve your media product and enhance its accessibility to a much larger community.

Think of the last time you saw a captioned newscast in a busy location, or a captioned sportscast in your favorite bar or restaurant. The addition of captioning - either Open Caption (always present) or Closed Caption (captions that can be turned on and off) - enhances your multimedia presentation, improving its overall value and usefulness.

Captioning web media offers the following important benefits:

Indexing and Searching:
Because captioning involves the synchronization of text content with the audio/video material, it allows the content to become easily searchable with traditional text searches.

This allows your viewers to have rapid access to the parts of the content they need. This is particularly important for educational materials and other presentations; for academics, this is invaluable. Imagine a series of lectures captured on video- you recall that in one of those lectures the speaker references a particular point that you wish to focus on. With searchable transcripts, finding that specific clip is easy; without it you must sit through all of the lectures waiting for the specific point in time. Captioning saves researchers' time!

Improving Comprehension:
Captioning improves comprehension for all viewers, especially for those with English as a second language.

Noise or distractions in the listening environment, underdeveloped English skills on the part of the listener, or heavy accents on the part of the talker all work to deteriorate the message being communicated. Captioning can improve comprehension in all these cases. With an increased move towards online video, computer systems without speakers or soundcards (typical in libraries and other public access points), or mobile computing devices such as hand-held PDAs all benefit from captioning as well. Finally, with a text transcript created, translations can be produced and provided, creating not only captioned media but sub-titled media-a huge benefit to non- native speaker of English as well as an enhanced multi-modal learning tool!

Compliance Requirements:
Compliance with ADA and other Human Rights legislation indicates that all broadcast or distributed video content be captioned.

This applies to web cast (also known as PodCast) material as well as traditional video broadcasts, video tapes and DVDs. Equally important is the moral imperative to ensure equal access; providing captioning is The Right Thing to Do- already major corporations spend extra to underwrite (and take credit for) television captioning, as any single night of television viewing will confirm. In June 2008, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives (H6320: ''Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2008'') which, if enacted, will make captioned media on the web a requirement for all.

Universal Access:
Design your content from the ground up to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible.

Captioning is a key element of Universal Design for video material, especially for educational material. Captioning provides an alternative channel of information and allows a larger community of content consumers to have access.

The Problem today is...

...creating captioned media for the web is still seen as very much a difficult hands-on process, which requires specific skills, technologies, and/or software that is complex, expensive, and intricate to work with. Because of this, creating captioned media is often out-sourced to third-party, for-profit production houses, leaving the perception that it is also an expensive proposition. For captioned media to be fully embraced at Stanford a system and work-flow must be developed that addresses these issues - it needs to appear to be as simple and seamless as posting a video to YouTube.

This is the primary goal of Stanford Captioning.