Captioning and Transcribing – What Standard Should I Aim for?

When captioning and transcribing, what is meant by ‘accuracy’? When are captions good enough?

In FMS TEL and LTDS many team members regularly work with captioning videos, in particular for our own instructional videos or webinars. Recently a few of us have been talking about how we caption videos and how we decide what to correct. After discovering we all had differences of opinion about what to keep and what to edit, it seemed like a good idea to think through the issues.

This webinar from the University of Kent features Nigel Megitt from the BBC talking about priorities when captioning and audio describing TV programme. It includes research on how people with different levels of hearing feel about captions.

Note: These discussions refer to materials created for staff training and other internal uses. For student materials, please see the university policies on captioning materials for students and the captioning disclaimer to help with your decision-making.

Different Types of Captioning and Transcription

Commercial captioning companies offer a range of levels of detail. We do not outsource these tasks, but the predefined service levels can help clarify what decisions are made when captioning. Is verbatim captioning better than a lightly edited video? An accurate set of captions or transcript should include hesitations and false starts, but a more readable one might remove these for fast comprehensibility and more closely resemble the script of a speech.

Key Considerations

  • Destination – who is the audience? What do they need?
  • Speaker(s) – how can they be best represented? How do they feel about you editing their speech for clarity (e.g. removing filler words) vs correcting captions to verbatim?
  • Timescale – how fast do you need to turn this around? Longer videos and heavier editing takes longer.
  • Longevity – will this resource be around for a long time and reach a wider audience? If so it may merit extra polish.

Once you have broadly decided on the above, you can deal with the nitty-gritty of deciding what to fix, edit or remove. Deciding on your approach to these common issues means you won’t have to make a decision each time you find an error in your transcript. If working with a few other colleagues on a larger project you might want to agree with each other what standard you are aiming for to create uniformity.

Editing Decisions

The ASR occasionally misunderstands speech and adds incorrect captions that may be distracting, embarrassing or inappropriate, for example adding swearing or discriminatory language that the speaker has not in fact used. Checking the captions for these is a great start, and is likely to be appreciated by all speakers!

We don’t usually speak in the same way we write. Normal speech is full of little quirks that don’t appear in text. Some of these include…

  • False starts (If we take… no actually let’s start with… yes, OK, if we take question 4 next…)
  • Hesitations (um….ah…)
  • Filler Words (you know, like, so…)
  • Repeated words (You can do this by… by reading the text)

Other Considerations for Captioning

Remember that captions will be read on screen at the pace of the video. This means that anything that you can do to increase readability may be useful for the viewer. This includes simple things like…

  • Fixing initialisms and acronyms (PGR not p g r, SAgE not sage)
  • Fixing web and email addresses (abc1@ncl.ac.uk, not A B C One At Newcastle Dot A See Dot UK)
  • Adding quotation marks around quotes.

You may also consider…

  • Presenting numbers using figures rather than words (99% not ninety-nine percent)
  • Removing awkward breaks (When Panopto separates a final word from its sentence.)
  • Fixing inaccurate punctuation like full stops in the wrong places, or commas and apostrophes (this is quite time consuming).

Considerations for Transcription

As well as the editing and tidying jobs above, before beginning to work with your file, consider whether or not the timing points are going to be important, and how you are going to denote different speakers, or break up the text. For example, for an interview you may need to denote various speakers very clearly. By contrast, for a training webinar, even if there are two presenters it might not be crucial to distinguish them. Instead it might be better to add headings for each slide so that the two resources can be used side by side.

Once you have decided on what to edit and what to ignore, your process will move along much faster as you won’t need to decide on the fly.

Keep an eye on the blog over the next few weeks for tips on how to quickly manage and edit your caption and transcription files.

Video Award Success for FMS TEL Team

The team shares success at the Learning and Teaching Conference – find out more about how DIY and bespoke animations can help boost learning in your course.

Several members of the FMS TEL team attended the NU Teaching & Learning Conference on Thursday 31st March giving strong representation of the team.

It was a great day with some very insightful presentations on a broad range of topics and a very interesting keynote from Professor Paul Ashwin. It was also the first time in years that the conference has been able to be run ‘in person’ and with around 300 attendees it felt like a slight return to normality.

Members of the FMS TEL team had both ‘posters’ and ‘video presentations’ entered into the competitions. Attendees were sent a link to view them and were able to vote for their favourites both in the week leading up to the conference and also on the day itself.

Eleanor Gordon (left) and Ashley Reynolds (right)

Ashley Reynolds and Eleanor Gordon from the FMS TEL team were delighted to be announced winners of the ‘Best Video Award’ for their video presentation titled ‘Creating and using animations to explain concepts’ which highlighted how animations could be used to enhance teaching, and techniques that will both improve memory retention and also increase learner engagement. The video presentation entry can be seen below.

Video submission

If you would like to know more about animations and the services that the team can offer, please get in touch.

We would like to say ‘Thank you very much’ to the LTDS team for organising a great conference. Can’t wait for next year!

Creating and Using Animations to Explain Concepts – NULT2022

A video explanation and demonstration of how animations can be used to explain concepts, and when this is most effective.

Teaching and Learning Conference Presentation

Ashley Reynolds and Eleanor Gordon

This video demonstrates how animations can be used to enhance teaching. Some animations require specialist experience to create, but a great deal can be achieved by adding purposeful animations in PowerPoint, or utilising H5P.

Animated diagrams are a rich resource for explaining processes and relationships. Online teaching sometimes means that gestures such as pointing, highlighting and demonstrating motion are lost. Including these dynamic elements in presentations boosts understanding of concepts and processes when compared with static images. (Goff et al., 2017).

Resources

Cropping Video: Removing the date from Screencasts

Over the last year or so most of us will have taken the plunge and recorded a lecture or tutorial to share with students. You may be considering reusing this content for years to come, however the date and time on your screencast will give the game away.

I don’t know if some students would have a problem with a video from last year being used again this year… I would prefer the date (which is visible at the bottom left of my laptop screen) to not be visible

FMS Module Leader

We can do this with video editing software such as Adobe Premier Pro or Final Cut Pro, but what if you do not have access to such software?

At this point most of us usually head to Google to find a free alternative. Trying to find a free online tool can be a little daunting and it’s always worth double-checking the usage terms and privacy policies are reasonable.

We have previously recommended ezgif.com to be used to create animated gifs for instruction and demonstrations. Ezgif don’t store your files or claim any intellectual property rights over anything you upload, and your file is removed from their servers in an hour.

This free content editing website can be used for so much more than just creating gifs. They have a designated area for editing videos, including an easy to use cropping tool.

Exploring 3D Anatomy – A New MOOC Developed with FMS TEL

Over the past few months, the FMS TEL team have been working on bringing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to life. The course, Exploring 3D Anatomy, is an active, hands-on, and engaging online course now available to Newcastle students and staff! The course was designed by Dr Iain Keenan of Newcastle University and Mr Leonard Shapiro of the University of Cape Town.

3D spatial awareness is a cognitive function. Improving it improves students’ 3D visualisation ability and spatial skills in anatomy learning.

In our experience, medical, dental, and other healthcare students can experience significant challenges in 3D spatial anatomy. Because of the three-dimensional arrangement of the human body, student spatial awareness can be a major influence on their anatomical education. In this online course, students can practice several  easy-to-follow, hands-on exercises that we have designed to address and improve 3D spatial awareness. Video demonstrations by Iain and Leonard guide students through each activity, which involve the use of  readily available household objects such as a piece of fruit, a jar, or a fork.

As simple as these exercises are to follow and carry out, the effect of such activities on improving 3D spatial awareness can be notable. What’s more, the exercises can be enjoyable too!

The Fruit Exercise: a guided dissection of this 3D object can improve 3D spatial understanding of the anatomical planes.

The practical exercises in the course are demonstrated by Iain and Leonard on video, allowing students to access the content at their own pace. These videos show the exercises in detail and allow students to hear the conversation as the exercise unfolds. Videos are short and simple to follow, and have been captioned by the team to ensure clarity.

Leonard Demonstrating the Fruit Exercise with a Lemon
Iain Starting the Fruit Exercise with a Lime

All Newcastle University staff and students can join the Canvas course, which is structured in three parts and requires around 4 hours of activity in total. We hope to expand access to an extended version of the course in 2022/23. For further information, please contact Dr Iain Keenan.

Contacts 

Dr Iain Keenan, Senior Lecturer in Anatomy, School of Medical Education, Newcastle University 

Mr Leonard Shapiro, Observation and Spatial Awareness Teacher, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town 

Further Reading 

This course is supported by the following research: 

Backhouse, M., Fitzpatrick, M., Hutchinson, J., Thandi, C.S. and Keenan, I.D. (2017), Improvements in anatomy knowledge when utilizing a novel cyclical “Observe-Reflect-Draw-Edit-Repeat” learning process. Anat Sci Educ, 10: 7-22. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.1616

Ben Awadh, A., Clark, J., Clowry, G. and Keenan, I.D. (2021), Multimodal Three-Dimensional Visualization Enhances Novice Learner Interpretation of Basic Cross-Sectional Anatomy. Anat Sci Educ. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.2045

Branson TM, Shapiro L, Venter RG. Observation of Patients’ 3D Printed Anatomical Features and 3D Visualisation Technologies Improve Spatial Awareness for Surgical Planning and in-Theatre Performance. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021;1334:23-37. Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34476743/

Reid, S., Shapiro, L. and Louw, G. (2019), How Haptics and Drawing Enhance the Learning of Anatomy. Anat Sci Educ, 12: 164-172. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.1807

Shapiro, L., Bell, K., Dhas, K., Branson, T., Louw, G. and Keenan, I.D. (2020), Focused Multisensory Anatomy Observation and Drawing for Enhancing Social Learning and Three-Dimensional Spatial Understanding. Anat Sci Educ, 13: 488-503. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.1929

ReCap – Adding an Audio file to a Video

Resulting from a few queries from FMS staff, we have added some information to the FMS TEL Community detailing how to add audio to a video using ReCap.

Staff had recorded footage of processes or experiments in laboratories which they wished to add a narration over afterwards. There was existing audio or noise on the video which they did not want to include. Rather than go through the process of removing the unwanted audio, ReCap/Panopto ignores the audio if the video is uploaded as a Secondary file. Audio can only be uploaded as a Primary file.

You may want to record your audio narration first using your mobile phone or software such as Audacity on a computer with a microphone. A common format would be mp3. Then upload your audio narration as your primary file and your video as a secondary file. Any audio in your video file is ignored and the new audio you recorded will be played instead.

See the full guide ‘Adding an Audio file to a Video‘ on the FMS TEL Community course in Canvas.

Animation: What I can offer, the journey, and previous examples

One of the services I offer as part of the FMS TEL team is the creation of bespoke 2D animations. These are most commonly used as small parts of a bigger project, but they can also be stand-alone projects themselves.

Types of animation and choosing the right tool for the job
Depending on the nature of the animation required, and also the context in which it will be used, there are three different types of animation that we can produce.

These are:

  • Video based animation
  • HTML5 (web based) animation
  • Animated GIFs

When looking at the source material I will first plan the animation in my head, and will usually know right away which type of animation will be most appropriate for the job. For example, if there are any user interactions to be included then an HTML5 animation would allow for that, but if there is the need for some organic shapes then that would suit a video based animation better.

Planning and Storyboarding
When visualising an animation, I plan the animation as a whole from the start, rather than tackling it scene-by-scene as this gives a more natural and entertaining feel to the end result.

Once I’m happy that I have a good understanding of the content I will then create a series of illustrations as a storyboard and send this as a PDF for review.

Storyboarding example

I then discuss with the subject specialist which techniques will work best for the application, and raise any concerns. I can then start the animation process.

Creating the animation
Getting things right at the concept and storyboard stage is critical and can save a lot of time, compared to how much of a time investment it can be if you have to re-do a large part of the animation.

However, understanding that I may not get the content perfect in the first draft every time, I structure my files in a way that changes can be made with minimal disruption to the rest of the timeline. This is achieved by both layering up the source Illustrator files and also separating the key points of the main composition timeline into separate sub-compositions. That way I can work on a small section without knocking everything else out of sync.

Obviously, every project is different but by focusing on the movements involved, the flow between the scenes and the basic animation principles I begin the sequence (as you may have guessed) from the start and work on each stage in sequence. This is important because elements will often carry through from one scene to another so duplication can be avoided.

I use Adobe After Effects to create video-based animation and animated GIFs, and Adobe Illustrator to create any graphic and illustration assets needed for the animation.  After Effects is an extremely powerful timeline-based tool that can make almost anything possible – think of it as being a kind of Photoshop for video!

If there is to be audio narration or a musical soundtrack on the video, then I arrange for that to be recorded early on in the development rather than being added at the end, as the content and movements should be timed to fit with events in the audio.

Most of the development time actually lies in creating the assets for the storyboard (which are later used in the animation), so when it actually comes to the animating stage things tend to move along pretty quickly.

I usually render out (export) the animation after every new section is complete and upload it our Vimeo account for approval and to check that I’m on the right track before moving on to the next one.

The review process

Vimeo Review platform

The Vimeo Review platform we use lets the users add time-stamped comments directly onto the video and sends me a notification email immediately thus providing a good communication channel for each specific issue.

When the first draft of an animation is complete, a shareable, password-protected link to the video can be sent out for a wider review to gather comments and feedback. From there we can address any comments and fine-tune the animation for further revisions, which will in turn be sent out for review.

While there is no standard for this, normally after a first (alpha) release and review, changes are made if required and a second (beta) release is then sent for review, with any further required changes reflected in a final (gold) release.

The finished product
The final render from After Effects will be a simple video file, usually in the .H264 codec (MP4) that can either be hosted on our Vimeo account and an embed code supplied, or, depending on file size restrictions, this could be uploaded directly to your target system. It can also be supplied as a file to be included in a PowerPoint presentation or other teaching material. The type of output required is discussed before we start the project to make sure we are taking the best approach.

Past examples
I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects during my time at the university, including multiple MOOCs, marketing materials, and work on modules across both FMS and Engineering courses. The showreel below includes just a small sample of the projects I have been involved in.

FMS TEL Animation Showreel

Can we help you with your project?

If you have a project that you would like to see come to life in an animation, or a smaller component of your teaching materials that could benefit from some animated content, then please get in touch via FMSTEL Enquiries. I would be very happy to discuss options with you to see what we can do to help.

Editing with VLC Media Player

As we have had a couple of enquiries via FMS Enquiries about audio and video, we have added some information to the FMS Community on how to edit using VLC Media Player. VLC media Player is a free application which allows you to play and convert videos. You can save in many different formats.

You may be looking to add new audio to an existing video, or remove audio before commencing adding a new narration. For example a demonstration of a practical session in a laboratory, or a tour around a building. You can also extract audio only from a video.

See the guide on how to do this here: https://ncl.instructure.com/courses/30988/pages/editing-with-vlc-media-player

Technology in your pocket

We have had a few enquiries via FMS Enquiries about getting tasks done without specialist equipment we would normally have on hand in our offices.

We have recently added some information to the FMS Community on how to use mobile devices to produce learning materials. A kind of Do It Yourself guide for producing materials from home or on location.

Create video, audio, images, presentations, conduct meetings, and communicate with students and staff. Set students tasks to do on their own devices. Check it out here: https://ncl.instructure.com/courses/30988/pages/technology-in-your-pocket.

Your device may not have all the features identified, but it may give you some ideas.