On a recent visit to YouTube I was pleased to notice that the ability of the site to support captioning or subtitling is being promoted on the front page in a section titled “What’s New”. Clicking on the link takes you to a page where you can learn about the captioning system in general; basically, how to attach captioning to videos that belong to you and how to turn captioning on for those videos that captioning has been provided for.
A link from this first page will take you to a page with details about adding and editing captions. It is here that you find out YouTube will allow you to attach captions to your video in any format you would like; however, they only promise to fully support captions formatted as SubViewer (*.SUB) or SubRip (*.SRT) files. This page also explains the formatting of a file that may be used for captioning. This description is in sufficient detail that it is likely possible to create a captioning file for sufficiently short videos using a simple text editor . Of course, if you have anything longer than a few minutes plan to do your own captioning you will likely want a program to help you manage the process. In this regard YouTube provide a page with a list of captioning software and services.
They also direct you to a set of captioning guidelines hosted by the Described and Captioned Media Program (www.dcmp.org), US organization that sees its mission as “to promote and provide equal access to communication and learning for students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.” This page is directed at do it yourself (DIY) captioners and provides more than a set of guidelines, offering an extensive list of links to tools to aid in captioning as well as some comments about these tools and where they are best used. I hope to be able to try some of these out over the next little while and report back on my experience.
Anyone who is interested in seeing YouTube’s promotional demonstration of the captioning system can do so here or immediately below. (Note: The icon that they refer to at the start of the video is the little white triangle in a grey boy at the bottom right corner of the video window).
Promoting the ability to caption is a very nice gesture on the part of YouTube. Could they go farther? Sure. One possibility would be to provide additional support or services for those who take the time and effort to actually include captions/subtitles in their videos. This could be as simple as placing captioned videos earlier than videos without in search results where the videos returned are all of similar relevance or providing a sample video and caption file for people to download and work with. Something to work towards anyway.