Best Practices for Adding Captions to Your Panopto Videos

Contents

Overview
What You Need to Know Before Producing Your Video
What Can Panopto Do?
Captioning In Panopto
Using YouTube to Create Captions
Third Party Paid Captioning
How Captions are Viewed in Panopto

Overview

Videos you produce for your classes should be captioned for those with hearing impairments or other disabilities, according to Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This post outlines considerations before creating captions for a video and evaluates several software options and workflows for captioning. The end result will be a video hosted on Panopto that has a full set of properly-synced captions.

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What You Need to Know Before Producing Your Video

No matter how you plan on producing and captioning your video, it is always easier to start with a script. Even if you occasionally go off-script as you make your presentation, having a script will make your delivery smoother, your presentation more streamlined, and in some cases can cut the time it takes you to produce captions down considerably.

You should also do any editing you wish to do with your video footage before creating captions. No matter how you do it, captioning should be your final step in the video production process.

This article will outline a number of different options, and which workflow is right for you depends upon a number of factors. Understanding the technologies involved will make the decision-making process much easier:

Caption Files: When you view a streaming video that has closed captions associated with it, what you are actually seeing is not one file, but two. There is the video file containing the audiovisual content, and then there is a caption file, containing a transcript of the audio and specially encoded time stamps so that the player knows when to display each line of text on top of the video. The most common format for these caption files is .srt which stands for SubRip Text.

Speech-to-Text: Modern voice recognition technologies have made it much easier to create caption files, with some important caveats. Speech-to-Text programs at the best of times offer about 80% accuracy, and the level of accuracy goes down when sound quality is poor or if the speaker speaks in accented English. So, when using voice-to-text to create captions, users should be aware that they will almost always require a human to go back through the resulting captions and make corrections and edits.

Transcription: Transcribing speech is a task that can require some special equipment or software. Most people speak a good deal faster than they type, and stopping and starting an audio track to catch up can be aggravating. Whether you are creating a new transcript from scratch or cleaning up a transcript produced by a Speech-to-Text program, how easy an application makes it to type/edit while stopping and starting the audio track can be important if you have a lot of audio to get through.

Non-Destructive Editing: Panopto’s Edit tools utilize a method called Non-Destructive Editing. This means that any editing you do to your video in Panopto does not destroy the original video, but instead re-encodes it so that it plays for viewers in a way that reflects the edits you made. For instance, if you deleted the first 30 seconds of your video, viewers of the video will not see those first 30 seconds, but they are still present in the raw video data. That way, if you decide that you’d like those 30 seconds to be included after all, you can restore them easily. Nothing is gone forever. The reason this is important to mention in an article about captioning is that this editing method creates issues when you use a service outside of Panopto to do the captioning. Caption files include timecodes, which synch the text appearing on screen to the audio track of the video. Inside Panopto’s editing tools, this fact is taken into account when producing timecodes for captions. Outside of Panopto, however, there will be a discrepancy that can render caption timings inaccurate. If you want to both heavily edit your video and use a captioning service outside of Panopto, such as YouTube, please contact us to discuss your options.

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What can Panopto Do?

With its December 2016 update, Panopto has made enormous strides in its captioning features. It still may not be the perfect tool for your own captioning job, but with its new features it will now be the only solution that many users need.

Panopto now includes a speech-to-text feature that will listen to the audio track and automatically produce captions that are synched to the correct time points in your video. You can view these captions and edit them as necessary. For step-by-step instructions for captioning in Panopto, see below.

Panopto’s native transcription capabilities are still less than ideal, however, so if the editing job is very large (because the video is extremely long, and/or the automatically-produced captions are extremely inaccurate), Panopto still might not be the right tool for the job. If that’s the case, we’ll discuss some other tools that are available to you below.

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Captioning in Panopto

The new captioning service in Panopto is only available on newly created or updated videos. If you have an on old video that you would like to put captions on, please contact Educational Technology Services—there are a few options for doing this that we can discuss with you.

To caption a new video, follow these steps:

  1. Create or upload your video into Panopto as you normally would. The captioning process occurs after the video is uploaded and processed.
  2. Mouse over the video once it has been processed and click the Edit button.
    Image of the Edit button being selected in Panopto
  3. At the top left, select the Captions tab, and pull down the Import captions menu. Select Import automatic captions.
    Image of the steps for importing automatic captions in Panopto
  4. You will now see the automatically generated captions appear along the lefthand side of the screen.
  5. With high audio quality and clear English, these automatically generated captions will be 80+% accurate, but all users will need to review these captions and edit where necessary. The captions will also lack punctuation and capitalization. You can edit each caption by clicking on the text.
  6. If you need to edit the time that a caption appears, click on the pencil icon for that particular caption. A pop-up window will appear where you can alter the timecode.
    Image of editing automatic captions in Panopto
  7. You may listen and watch your video as you edit the captions, clicking the pause and play buttons as necessary.
  8. When you are finished editing your captions, click the Publish button at the top right-hand corner of the window.
    Image of the Publish button in Panopto

 

To upload a caption file created by another program into Panopto (see below for cases in which one might want to do this), follow these steps:

  1. Create or upload your video into Panopto as you normally would.
  2. Mouse over the video once it has been processed and click the Edit button.
  3. At the top left, select the Captions tab, and pull down the Import captions menu. Select Upload or request captions.
  4. In the pop-up window, click the Browse button and locate the .srt caption file you would like to upload.
  5. Click Upload Captions.
  6. Close the pop-up window.

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Using YouTube to Create Captions

In certain situations, Panopto’s native captioning abilities might not be the best choice. Panopto only offers one option for automatically creating captions: using speech-to-text generation to produce a mostly-accurate but rough transcription based on the audio track of your video. In many cases, using this method and then editing for accuracy is enough to quickly and easily produce captions.

YouTube, however, offers a couple of other options which may be attractive in certain circumstances. For instance, if you have a script that you hewed to closely while producing your video, YouTube can take that script as an upload and automatically produce captions correctly synched to the video just by “reading” the script and “listening” to the audio track of your video, you might want to use Method 1, outlined below. Or, if your video has poor quality audio or the speaker has strongly accented English that renders Panopto’s automatically-generated captions extremely inaccurate, you might want to consider YouTube’s transcribing workflow, outlined in Method 2, below.

Using YouTube to produce a caption file does not mean you have to host your videos on YouTube. After producing the captions, you can download the caption file and then delete your video off YouTube. You can then upload the caption file produced by YouTube into Panopto to accompany your video there.

Please note that editing your video with Panopto’s Edit tools will cause problems when using YouTube to caption, because of Panopto’s use of non-destructive editing. Contact us to learn more.

Method 1: Using YouTube to create captions from a script.

To create captions using this method, you should have a copy of your video in a common video format (.mp4, .avi, .mov, etc…) on your computer. The steps below demonstrate how to get such a copy of your video if you used the Panopto Focus recorder to record it (remember: if you used the Pause button during the recording, or have done any editing to your video with the Panopto Editing Tool, you cannot generate captions using YouTube). If you used another method to capture the video, produce or output your finished video to a common video format before proceeding.

The following workflow will turn your script into captions with relative ease:

  1. If your script is in a Word document, you will need to save it as a .txt file by either using a Notepad application or, in Word, doing a Save As… and selecting “plain text” as the document format.
  2. Navigate your web browser to the Panopto web application.
  3. Mouse over the video you would like to add captions to and click Settings.
  4. Select the Outputs tab and click Download Podcast. This will download an .mp4 version of your video onto your computer.
  5. Navigate your web browser to youtube.com. If you do not have an account, you will need to create one.
  6. Click on the Upload button in the top, right-hand corner.
  7. Select Private from the privacy dropdown box and then click anywhere in the upload area to select the .mp4 you just downloaded onto your computer. Click Open to begin uploading the video to YouTube. This process will take some time as YouTube imports and processes your video.
  8. When your video has finished uploading, click the Video Manager button at the bottom of the screen.
  9. Find the video you just uploaded and click the dropdown menu next to the Edit button. Select Subtitles and CC.
  10. Click Add new subtitles or CC and select English (there are other languages available if necessary).
  11. Click Upload a File. In the dialogue box, select Transcript and then browse to locate the text file version of your script. Click Upload.
  12. You will see your script now displayed in a box next to your video. Click Set timings. This process will take a few minutes (or longer, depending on how long your video is).
  13. You may edit your captions, add new captions, or delete them. It’s a good idea to watch your video through with the captions, to make sure they are timed correctly and to make any necessary edits.
  14. When you’re finished, click Publish.
  15. Now click the Actions dropdown menu at the top right and select Download .srt. This will download a text file of your captions and their timings in a format that Panopto can read.
  16. Back in Panopto, open the Settings for the video you would like to add captions to, click on the Captions tab, and click Browse. Find the .srt file you downloaded and click Upload Captions.
  17. Captions have now been uploaded to your video and after a few moments of processing will be available for your viewers. You can also edit your captions in Panopto if desired by opening up the Panopto editor. Once you are finished captioning, you may edit your video using the Panopto editing tool.
  18. . If you wish, you may go back to YouTube now and delete your video.

 

Method 2: Using YouTube to create captions without a script.

While it’s always preferable to have a script prior to producing your video, sometimes that’s not possible. In those cases, to create accurate captions, someone will need to transcribe the audio track and set the captions to appear at the correct timepoints. Speech recognition software has come a long way in recent years, but still leaves much to be desired for most users. In the video below, you can see a demonstration of YouTube’s speech recognition function, and you will see that it is fairly unsatisfactory.

Instead, YouTube also provides a function that will allow you to view your video and add captions at the appropriate points with a minimum of fuss. The time it takes to complete this process will be necessarily limited by how fast your type, and how long your video is.

  1. Navigate your web browser to the Panopto web application.
  2. Mouse over the video you would like to add captions to and click Settings.
  3. Select the Outputs tab and click Download Podcast. This will download an .mp4 version of your video onto your computer.
  4. Navigate your web browser to youtube.com. If you do not have an account, you will need to create one.
  5. Click on the Upload button in the top, right-hand corner.
  6. Select Private from the privacy dropdown box and then click anywhere in the upload area to select the .mp4 you just downloaded onto your computer. Click Open to begin uploading the video to YouTube. This process will take some time as YouTube imports and processes your video.
  7. When your video has finished uploading, click the Video Manager button at the bottom of the screen.
  8. Find the video you just uploaded and click the dropdown menu next to the Edit button. Select Subtitles and CC.
  9. Click Transcribe and Set Timings.
  10. Play your video and use the box at the right to type what you hear being said. The player will automatically stop when you begin typing, and then will play again once you stop typing. You do not need to worry about paragraph or line breaks as these will be automatically added in later. Do use appropriate punctuation and any necessary notations of who is speaking.
  11. When you’re finished, click Set Timings. YouTube will now compare what you have typed to the audio track of your video and will set the timings of your captions to match the audio track.
  12. When the program has finished setting the timings, click Publish.
  13. Now click the Actions dropdown menu at the top right and select Download .srt. This will download a text file of your captions and their timings in a format that Panopto can read.
  14. Back in Panopto, open the Settings for the video you would like to add captions to, click on the Captions tab, and click Browse. Find the .srt file you downloaded and click Upload Captions.
  15. Captions have now been uploaded to your video and after a few moments of processing will be available for your viewers. You can also edit your captions in Panopto if desired by opening up the Panopto editor. Once you are finished captioning, you may edit your video using the Panopto editing tool.
  16. . If you wish, you may go back to YouTube now and delete your video.

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Third Party Paid Captioning

There exist many companies that provide captions for a fee. Panopto itself can provide such a service if your department or school is willing to pay for it. Current prices for captions run approximately $2/minute, and if you’re interested in having Panopto caption your video for you, please contact the CSSD Help Desk.

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How Captions are Viewed in Panopto

Panopto allows for several different kinds of output. If you include a link to a Panopto video in Blackboard, students who click on it will open a new tab with full the Panopto Web Viewer. This viewer does not provide captions superimposed over the video, but instead has a separate captions frame that students can click on and view, to the left of the video. Each caption is highlighted in grey as it becomes active. This is the most common way that students will access Panopto videos.

Image of the captions pane of the Panopto Web Viewer

The captions pane of the Panopto Web Viewer displays to the left of the video.

 

Panopto videos can also be embedded into other webpages uses the Embed Code provided in the Output Settings. When a video is embedded, captions will appear as closed captions superimposed on top of the video. These captions can be turned on or off by the viewer (You can see some examples of embedded Panopto videos below.)

Panopto also has a video podcast feature. When this feature is used to view a video, captions do not appear and are not available for the viewer. For this reason, it is recommended that videos only be provided as video podcasts if there is also an alternative method of viewing available to students, such as the Web Viewer or an embedded video.

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