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Videos & Captioning

Common Issues About Captioning

Instructional media used in our district is required by law to be captioned. This guide has some answers to common issues about captioning:

  • ‚ÄčI have an uncaptioned commercial video
  • I have an uncaptioned video that I made
  • About the DECT grant

See also the Google doc from the San Diego City College DSPS office: Captioning FAQs and Resources 

I have an UNCAPTIONED commercial video!

Here are some tips to deal with uncaptioned commercial videos (DVD) that you want to use for instruction:

1. Get Permission to Caption

Adding captions to an existing commercial video requires getting permission beforehand from the copyright holder-- for some videos it may take some legwork to figure out who really owns the copyright. The owner might not be the same as the distributor of the video. Once you've figured out who has the right to give you permission to caption, it might just be a matter of sending an email or letter to secure written permission.  Here are some tips:

 When you contact the copyright holder, ask them for permission in writing to do the following:

If your goal is to stream the (captioned) video via Canvas you would ask to change the DVD to streaming video that will be accessed via Canvas. That entails:

  • Changing the format of the video from DVD to streaming video
  • Captioning the streaming video
  • Posting the captioned streaming video's link on Canvas (this would be password-protected and available only to class members).

Note: If the video is already in streaming format, you would ask to add a caption file to the stream and post a link on Canvas.

If your goal is to use a (captioned) DVD for your classes, you would ask to add captions to the DVD. That entails:

  • Extracting the video from the DVD to insert the captions
  • Recreating the DVD with captions.

2. Get Captions

Once you have permissions in hand, it's a matter of creating a transcript and/or adding captions to the video. You can do this a number of ways:

  • Caption it yourself (with free software)
    • YouTube, Amara or Camtasia Relay (see the SDCCD Online Learning Pathways Get Real web page)  Note that SDCCD Online is willing to help with any training and equipment you might need to do this.
    • 3CMedia Solutions or Dotsub (see the Cuyamaca College Library libguide)
  • Pay for it (somehow) to be sent to a captioning vendor. Our District has used Teleperformance RapidText (formerly Aegis RapidText) and Automatic Synch Technology.
  • See District information about captioning and the DECT grant here

I have an UNCAPTIONED video that I made

You've made your own video for a class -- Bravo! Here are some options for captioning it:

  • Caption it yourself (with free software)
    • YouTube, Amara or Camtasia Relay  (see the SDCCD Online Learning Pathways Get Real web page).  Note that SDCCD Online is willing to help with any training and equipment you might need to do this.
    • 3CMedia Solutions or Dotsub (see the Cuyamaca College Library libguide)
  • Apply for DECT grant funding
    • The DECT grant may be able to assist you in paying to get your videos captioned. Check to see if your videos are eligible. Be aware that there are restrictions to the grant, and there is paperwork and time involved for turnaround. 
  • Pay for a captioning vendor. Our District has used Teleperformance RapidText (formerly Aegis RapidText) and Automatic Synch Technology.

[The SDCC Library would happily accept a captioned copy of your video.]

DECT Grant (SDCCD info)

The DECT (Distance Education Captioning & Transcription) grant is intended to assist captioning media for distance-education related use. See District information about captioning and the DECT grant here:

Note: The DECT grant does not cover newly-purchased commercial videos, because by law they were supposed to have been captioned prior to purchase. More information is on the DECT web site.

Legal Stuff: Captioning

"I don't have any deaf students in my class, so why must I use captioned videos?"  Instructional media used in our district is required to be captioned. It's not just a good idea, it's the law. And here is some more legal stuff:

Captioning Restrictions For the Library

Videos in the library media collection are required to be captioned.

New additions to the collection must be captioned prior to their being added, whether by purchase, donation to the library, transfer to the library from another department, or other means.

Due to staffing limitations, SDCC librarians do not handle any aspect of uncaptioned videos, including obtaining copyright permissions, sending out items for captioning, or managing DECT grant paperwork. 

Always Check for Captions!

DVD: Remember to check for captions when previewing a video for instructional use. Although the Library's media collection is required to have only captioned materials, sometimes non-compliant items slip through. 

Streaming Video: Be aware that YouTube videos use automatic captioning that may not accurately convey the meaning of the audio. Try previewing those videos with the sound off and see if they make any sense before assigning them to your students. 

Fixing Captions

So you've got a video and a caption file, but unfortunately the caption file is not in a format accepted by your hosting service. Or maybe your captions are playing out of synch or not playing at all. What to do?

If the caption file is in the wrong format (it's is in .cap and you need it in .srt, for example):

Use a free conversion program like this one: Here is a short video on how to do this:

If the captions are playing at the wrong time or not at all: 

Open the converted file in Notepad or TextEditor. Check the timestamps. Make sure the timing of the speaking parts synchs up with the beginning of the video. Some videos will start with silence or audio other than a voice before the first speaking part, so make sure the speaking part starts at the right timestamp. See example side-by-side screenshots below, which shows one file converted incorrectly (1) vs its fixed version (2). The first file started the speaking part in the very first section and at the wrong timestamp. The fixed file shows the silence at the beginning when the video itself actually played chirping crickets during that period and the speaking part started in section two. 

compare .srt files as text files

To tweak the timing you can use a software package like SubtitlesSynch from the Microsoft Store (for Windows) or your can pull the video and the .srt into Camtasia (or other video editor) to move the caption file on the timeline so it is synched to start at the correct moment. You may have to delete some of the extra time in the timeline prior the alignment point to get the captions and speaking parts to play together correctly. Then save the caption file again with the correct timing (Camtasia will let you export just the caption file as a new .srt file). Finally, upload your original video and your new .srt file to your host. Test the uploaded video to ensure your host platform plays the captions correctly.  


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