I once had a client who wanted their training videos captioned for their hearing-impaired customers. There were approximately 10
If only I’d had the Captions feature available to me at the time, I could have saved
As you paste in your narration text and sync it with the audio, you’ll be able to monitor your captions right inside your Video Preview.
A lot of attention is being paid to video captioning these days due to the Section 508 laws, which require federal agencies and departments (and depending on the state, some state entities as well) to make some basic accessibility provisions for people with
For all video formats except Flash, Camtasia Studio employs what is known as
Flash users, however, have the ability to add closed captions to their work. When playing the file back in their browsers, they’ll be able to view the captions, or not, simply by clicking the appropriate button.
To get started down the road of captioning our narration, we first have to open the Open Captions pane in Camtasia Studio, which is accomplished thusly:
Choose Captions… from the Edit menu.
In the Task List, choose Captions… from the Edit subsection.
If you have any pre-existing captions on the Timeline, double-click one. The Open Captions pane will appear, starting right with the caption you selected.
If this is your first time bringing up the Open Captions pane, a tip screen will appear. Read through it if desired, and then close it to continue.
If you followed the above procedure, the Open Captions pane should be open. Now it’s time to insert your narration text. The
To recap, here’s how to add narration text to create your captions :
Make sure the Open Captions pane is visible.
Move the seek bar on your Timeline to the point where your narration starts, presumably near the beginning of the video.
If importing text from a pre-existing script, select and copy the entire text in your source file.
Make sure that your script is as clean as possible prior to importing. You might want to perform a quick spelling/grammar check right before executing that copy command. Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to run through the video with an eye on your script to make sure that nothing has changed,
Return to Camtasia Studio, and then click the Paste button, located just above the narration text box.
If creating a new script from scratch, scan through the video using the controls on the Video Preview pane. Transcribe the audio as you go by clicking in the text box and typing your caption content.
Perform any needed editing to remove superfluous text.
The first caption is automatically inserted at the point where you placed your seek bar. Since Camtasia Studio displays three lines of caption content at a time, the first three lines of your script should be colored black. The rest of your text will be colored red, meaning that this text has not yet been assigned to a caption point (a point on the Timeline where a caption appears). Caption points are symbolized by small blue dots, and appear on your Timeline in a special Caption track, like so:
Notice that you’ll have a bit o’ text from the first line
The first method of synchronizing your captions, and by far the simplest, is to utilize the Sync text and audio commands. This will play through the video, and will allow you to click the first word of each caption block (the three-line block of text that belongs to every caption) as it appears in the voiceover narration. Every time you click, a new caption point appears on your Timeline.
This is how to synchronize captions to your audio :
Make sure you’ve inserted all needed text and edited it appropriately, so that it mirrors your audio track. I also insert
If you’ve been scrolling around in your video, move your seek bar back to the beginning of your video.
Press the Start button, located just above your caption text window. The video will begin to play back.
Mouse over the text in your caption text window. See how the mouse cursor changed to a pointing hand? Proceed to the first word on the fourth line (i.e., the first red word). When you come to that word in your audio narration, click it. That second block of caption text will be synchronized with the narration. Congratulations, you just created your second caption point.
Repeat the process for each new three-line block of text. A new
will be automatically added every three lines. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be three lines. You can click to create a one-line or
Feel free to pause the action by clicking the Pause button (which toggles between Play and Pause). Simply click Play to resume, and the playback continues right where it left off. When finished, or if you need to stop for an extended period, clicking the Stop button will conclude that session.
If you ever want to resume a
The first option will completely wipe out all your previous captions and kick you back to the start of your video. With this selection, you’re
Of course, you’ve probably figured out by now that you don’t even need audio narration to insert captions. If you just want to use captions alone, you may
As cool as the Sync text and audio tools are, if you demand greater precision (or if you just have poor reflexes), you can add a caption point manually. Manual control is also handy for those
Need more detail? This is the drill for manually adding your caption points :
Place the seek bar at the exact point on your Timeline where you want your new caption to start. The sound waveform in your audio track(s) can be a handy guide for getting the placement right. Feel free to zoom in for greater precision.
Click in your caption text window at the beginning of the first word in your desired caption. The placement of your cursor is important. If you’ve clicked in the middle of a word, the word will be split in two, and the caption block will begin with the second half of that word.
Click the Add button in the section labeled Manual on the Open Captions pane.
A caption point will appear both at the designated spot on your Timeline and next to your specified caption block. For the caption point in your text window, on the left-hand side you’ll see the exact point in the video’s running time that the caption will appear.
Adding to the fun is the fact that your caption points are not set in stone. No sir, not by any stretch. Simply click and hold on one to see what I mean. The selected caption point turns a lovely
Timeline caption points. Dragging a caption point here changes the time at which that caption is introduced. You can make subtle adjustments to the timing of your captions in this way. You can’t go hog-wild, though. You cannot drag to reorder captions, nor can you come within one second of any adjacent caption.
Your caption points require a certain amount of
Text window caption points. These caption points can also be dragged about, with dramatically different results. If you click and hold on these caption points, notice that a horizontal line appears in your text window:
Drag your caption point to choose what text to include in your caption.
This line shows exactly what is included in the current caption point. While Camtasia Studio sections off your captions into three lines by default, you can place your caption points to include one, two, or three lines of text. Three’s the maximum. If you try to rope in more, you’ll end up with more of the dreaded red text, and you’ll need to move the next caption point upward to help take up the
Keep in mind that a caption will remain on the screen until the next caption comes in. If you have breaks in your video that don’t have any audio commentary, and you don’t want the most recent caption to linger on through 30 seconds of silence, you can take it off the screen by manually inserting a blank caption point:
Just place your mouse cursor right at the beginning of the second caption block (the caption you want to appear after the pause). Then click Add . A blank caption point appears. Note that you might have to adjust the timing afterward to get it just right.
Likewise, you can also edit the text itself to change the amount you’ll see on each line. For example, the DCMP recommends that every new sentence start on its own line. Just place your cursor in the appropriate spot, press Enter , and then adjust the caption point if necessary. As another example, you may occasionally find that you have odd breaks where a phrase is broken up into two different caption blocks, thus obscuring the meaning. Feel free to get in there and move that text around. Of course, it does facilitate the process if you do it sooner rather than later. That way, you’ll only have to lay down the caption points once, rather than needing to juggle them around because you made all kinds of text edits after the fact.
However, now that we’ve added all the captions, the next issue that naturally comes up is how in the world we can delete one should the need arise. Fortunately for us, this too is rather straightforward. Simply right-click on one of your caption points (whether in the text window or on your Timeline). It
Delete caption and text. This option not only gets rid of a particular caption point but also the text block associated with it. It’s useful if you ended up striking a phrase in your audio narration, and this change never made it back into the script file for whatever reason.
Delete caption point only.
Delete all captions and text.
This is another “do-over” option that gets rid of
. Don’t fret about
After adding and editing all our script text and its corresponding caption points, it’s now time to point out a few additional options that help specify how and when the captions get displayed. While advanced formatting and placement options are not
As you can see here, we’ve got some choices to make. Fortunately, they’re pretty simple ones.
The Overlay toggle button will let you determine whether the caption is laid over the actual video content (always at the bottom of the window) or whether the caption will appear in its own box. Here are examples of each:
This caption makes use of the Overlay option. It appears right over the top of your actual video.
The Overlay option is off. The caption appears below the video.
With Overlay disabled, the vertical length of your video will be extended to accommodate the captioning text box. In other words, your actual video won’t be shrunk down in any way to make room for the caption box, so you needn’t worry about that. Overlaying the captions doesn’t increase your video dimensions at all.
Keep in mind that the text is always white, and the font is always Arial. For overlaid text, the text will have a black outline around it (useful when dealing with white backgrounds). For the overlay-abstainers, the caption box is always black (even if you’ve selected another
It’s important to note that the Overlay button only works for open caption formats, that is, all formats except for Flash (SWF and FLV). For Flash videos, closed captioning is in effect, and the Overlay setting does nothing.
The job of the Display toggle button is simple: It allows you to choose whether you want to include captions in your video. Come again? you’re probably saying. Why do I need this? What was the point of this whole section if not to include captions in my video?
Well, friends, in the creation of your video project, depending on the demand from your audience and/or the decisions from the boardroom, you may find yourself in the position of having to create two versions of your video, one captioned and one not. Rather than forcing you to maintain two separate project files, this handy button will let you toggle the presence of captions in your video, while maintaining the actual data should you need it again. This setting is also reflected in your video’s preview, so if you’re working with captions and wondering why they’re not being displayed, your troubleshooting should begin with this option.
As you’ve probably figured out, the Width option specifies the maximum number of characters in each line of your caption block. It can accept any value from 20 to 100. Though it can be tempting to squeeze more information onto one line, I strongly urge you to resist. The setting of 32
To help you in achieving better captions for your Meisterwerk-in-progress, I’ve compiled a short list of tips for formatting them. Most of these are borrowed from the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), a program of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). These folks compile an annual Captioning Key
to aid aspiring captioneers (which is
All captions should be left aligned.
If a phrase is repeated (i.e., “Move it slowly. Move it slowly.”), then the second line should be indented a couple of spaces.
The standard 32 characters per line is strongly recommended.
If sound effects are used, you might want to caption the sound in parentheses or brackets, especially if it’s critical to the meaning.
Every sentence should begin on a new line unless the sentences are short and thematically
Additionally, line breaks should be done in as commonsensical a way as possible so as not to obscure meaning. Try not to break up prepositional phrases, noun phrases, verb phrases,
The words-per-minute that the
On a related note, try to keep each caption on-screen for at least two seconds.
There’s no need to caption information that is already shown on-screen, such as a callout.
That’s it for captions. When finished captioning your video, clicking the Finished button at the top of the Open Captions pane will take you back to the main Camtasia Studio interface.
[*] At the time of this writing, the 2006 version of the Captioning Key was available here: www.cfv.org/caai/nadh7.pdf.