Like accessible web design, captions — the text versions of audio content — benefit everyone. In addition to making a video accessible, captions make audio content searchable, and they can even help students or non-native speakers learn the terms spoken in the video.

There are two general approaches to captioning: outsourcing, via vendors like 3Play Media, or doing it yourself with free or low-cost tools. The University currently offers DocSoft, a captioning device that produces transcripts and timed caption files via custom voice profiles. It’s a great tool for single speaker recordings like Tegrity lectures, but it can’t be trained to recognize multiple voices.

Here in eTech, we find it easier to caption using a few alternative programs. Here’s what our process looks like:

We typically transcribe shorter videos ourselves using a simple text editor (e.g., TextEdit), and then, if the video will live in Vimeo, we’ll caption it ourselves using Amara, Vimeo’s native subtitle software. The process is somewhat tedious, but the Amara interface is simple, and it tends to yield smoother, more accurate captions than DocSoft.

If on the other hand, the video is lengthy or will be posted to iTunes U, we transcribe using Dragon Dictation and then upload the transcript to DocSoft. The end result is a timed caption file, which can be downloaded and attached to the video in .srt or .scc format — iTunes’s preferred file type.

If you’re new to captioning, a good place to start learning about best practices is the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) Captioning Key. Resources on captioning with Docsoft, Tegrity, and YouTube can be found on the University’s accessibility website, accessibility.ua.edu.