3Play Media aims to lower online video captioning barriers as accessibility advocates step up their game

As regulations around captioning of online content take hold--including, as of January 2016, video clips--online video providers increasingly are looking for solutions that make the captioning process easier and more affordable.  

The Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) of 2010 requires previously broadcast content that is posted online to contain captions.

Attendees at a recent 3Play Media webinar cited cost, workflow and turnaround time as significant barriers to captioning their digital video clips.

Those are pain points 3Play is hoping to address with new software it's launching in April at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) tradeshow in Las Vegas. Video Clip Captioner will specifically provide accurate captions for broadcast and online video clips, the company says--including both "straight lift" clips, which show a single scene from a long-form video, and "montage" clips, which combine scenes or parts from several points in a long-form video. Montage clips do not yet require captions, but that will change in early 2017.

A 3Play Media webinar poll showing workflow and cost as almost equal concerns among those providing online video clips, with turnaround time as a third factor. (Source: 3Play Media)

Video Clip Captioner will use a "fingerprinting mechanism" that matches the "child segment" (the portion of the video being used for the clip) to its position in the full-length caption file, 3Play Media founder Josh Miller told FierceOnlineVideo.

Miller told attendees of a webinar promoting the new platform that, with a usage-based pricing scheme in place, the cost of captioning clips would run about $1 per minute of video captioned.

That may address providers' cost concerns. The Digital Media Association last year complained about the expense of captioning video clips, saying that the expense wasn't much less than the cost of captioning an entire two-hour program.

Although a number of automated or human-assisted online video captioning services have arisen over the past couple of years to address increased demand--Dotsub, Viki and YouTube's automatic captioning feature are just a few--3Play Media's platform appears to be the first to directly address clips and montages.

Even though the CVAA applies mainly to broadcasters' previously aired content that is being licensed for online video, those outside the regulations are under increased scrutiny as well.

Two lawsuits filed in mid-February against Harvard and MIT complained that much of their online course material is either not captioned or is inadequately captioned. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) cited the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act in its complaints, saying that despite repeated requests to bring their online courses into compliance, captioning was provided in just a fraction of the materials and was sometimes unintelligible.

Harvard and MIT were specifically chosen by the NAD, a New York Times article said, because the institutions are leaders in putting course content online and "a change in their practices would have an impact on other universities' policies."

Miller explained that the CVAA mandate, along with the NAD lawsuits, are drawing more attention to the captioning issue. "It's all happening quickly. Netflix and Amazon and Hulu, all these distribution points technically aren't susceptible to the CVAA the way the broadcasters are," he said. The CVAA currently says that content owners are responsible for captioning online clips, and a good deal of direct-to-OTT content, such as user-uploaded video, is not required to be compliant. However, "the attention is enough that any deaf advocacy groups, they're looking around for who's not being supportive of captioning and they'll cite the ADA," he added.

For more:
- see 3Play's website
- read this New York Times article on the lawsuits
- and this 3Play blog post

Special Report: Closed captioning's role becomes more complex in multiscreen world

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