Training and education
The mandate of this activity is “best practices in online captioning.” While there are certainly practices in captioning, we take no stand on what might be “best.” We simply lack reliable data. Some issues online captioning faces include:
- Homemade captions
- Nearly everyone doing online captioning today is self-taught.
- Training and education
- Captioners who wish to learn more and to improve their craft are faced with a complete lack of credible options.
- We know of no training programs for captioning outside of individual captioning houses. We’re also unaware of any training programs that focus on online captioning.
- Captioning houses
- Few existing caption service providers can even work with files destined for online delivery (using player-native closed-caption formats like SMIL and SAMI). Even a client who wishes to pay for the creation of online captions has very few choices available.
- English dominance
- The overwhelming majority of captioned online video we encountered was available in English only, with rare Spanish or German captioning. (We speak strictly of captioning, not subtitling.) Speakers of other languages have very few materials even to watch and learn from.
- Even if training and education were available, there is no certification process for captioners so trained. Anyone can claim to be an expert captioner.
- We are aware of no surveys whatsoever of viewer preferences in online captioning.
- Technical impediments
- The technologies used to create online captions are generally so onerous, complex, and error-prone that the already-difficult captioning process becomes more so.
- The result is a reduction in quantity and quality of captioning purely due to technical constraints.
- As documented elsewhere in this activity, authoring tools (caption-editing software) and user agents (players) are probably inaccessible to many people with disabilities. Even the typographic appearance of captions can be inaccessible to low-vision viewers.
At present, online captioning may simply be so rare, difficult, unlocalized, and inaccessible that it is too early to produce a definitive catalogue of “best practices.” We need to solve the problems listed above, and produce a much larger corpus of online captioned video, in order to make solid recommendations for best practices in online captioning.