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Adding captions to online video benefits viewers, meets Purdue policy

video with captions
A screenshot of a video with captions produced by visual resource librarian Kathy Evans and the Disability Resource Center.

As tools like Video Express and Kaltura make it easier for Purdue faculty and staff to create and share online video content, ensuring that information is understandable to viewers and easy to find is an increasingly important part of digital content creation.

Adding captions to video helps on both fronts, clarifying language and unfamiliar terminology for viewers and creating searchable media files by key word. Captions make video content accessible to a wider audience, especially people with hearing or learning disabilities and non-native English speakers. They also are required by federal law and Purdue policy.  

“Most people think a person needs captions because they can’t hear,” says ITaP assistive technology specialist Dean Brusnighan. “But captions are a plus for anyone who benefits from seeing and hearing words together. This could be an English Language learner, a person with a learning disability or a visual learner.”

This summer, Kathy Evans, a visual resource librarian in the School of Visual and Performing Arts, is working on creating a video archive of studio art demonstrations for students. The videos will be a resource for students who want to review a technique or find out how to safely operate a machine.

To caption her first video, Evans contacted Purdue’s Disability Resource Center (DRC), which assists faculty and staff by employing a professional vendor and charging back any related costs to the individual or department. Evans submitted an MP4 file to be captioned, receiving a SubRip caption file about two weeks later. She united the two files in Kaltura to create a fully captioned, fully searchable video.

“Working with the DRC was fabulous,” Evans says. “They already have an account set up with the vendor. You just give them your project, and they take care of the rest.”

In addition to original video content, the DRC will also help faculty and staff caption copyrighted material. However, permission must first be obtained from the copyright owner. For more information, contact the DRC’s auxiliary service staff at 765-494-1246 or send a message to drc@purdue.edu.

Another Purdue unit, ITaP’s Video and Multimedia Production Services (VMPS), offers in-house captioning services and can also connect individuals with outside vendors. For details, contact VMPS manager Ed Dunn at 765-494-1043 or dunn@purdue.edu.

Additionally, faculty and staff can caption videos on their own using video editing software, such as Camtasia. Adding captions with Camtasia is easiest when users upload a prepared script and sync the text with the audio playback. This method produces more accurate results than Camtasia’s speech-to-text feature or YouTube’s automatic captioning. Individuals who would like to learn how to add their own captions are encouraged to contact ITaP’s teaching and learning group at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Writer: Jonathan Hines, technology writer, ITaP, 765-496-7998, hines18@purdue.edu

Sources: Dean Brusnighan, ITaP assistive technology specialist, 765-494-9082, dabrus@purdue.edu

Kathy Evans, visual resource librarian, School of Visual and Performing Arts, 765-494-7666, kathy@purdue.edu

Angie Martinez, academic services specialist, Disability Resource Center, 765-494-1246, adiamode@purdue.edu

Ed Dunn, manager of video and multimedia production services, ITaP, 765-494-1043, dunn@purdue.edu

Last updated: May 16, 2014