Media Accessibility – 508 Compliant Transcript

Word Wizards is continuing our coverage of The United States Access Board’s 508 refresh. These rules and standards set the accessibility compliance requirements for electronic publications procured by the federal government, including web sites, video assets, and mixed media productions. For video assets, the current 508 compliant standard for accessibility requires closed captioning, and audible description for persons with visual disabilities. During the 508 refresh we hope to add a third option to enable more video assets to meet 508 standards without adding undue burden to agencies and applicable vendors. Before we address our alternative we have provided a brief overview of CC and AD requirements for 508.

Accesibility for all!

Closed Captioning

The guidelines for Closed Captioning to achieve 508 compliance are clear and straightforward. All information conveyed in audio format must be provided in the captions. When speakers are off screen or multiple parties are present, clear distinction must be made in the text. The captions must not obscure faces or cover on-screen text. Each caption must appear in sync with the audio of the video, so that persons with auditory disabilities can get the full experience of the media. Closed captions are required for all video material subject to section 508 regulations. Closed Caption Logo

Audible Description

When required, audible descriptive material must be added to video content to convey visual information to non-sighted users. The process involves taking the original media and recording additional audio content to provide access to information for person’s with visual disabilities. For entertainment purposes, the audible description track must be mixed in between pauses in the relevant audio of the video. For more flexible video content, the video can be paused to include longer explanations of visual material. Audible description is not currently required for all video content, but the 508 refresh plans to increase the amount of AD required by law.

Audio Description

508 Accessible Transcript – An Alternative

Word Wizards has developed an alternative to provide media accessibility for both deaf and blind users. We can produce a transcript in accessible PDF format that conveys audible and visual material. All spoken material and relevant sounds are captured in a standard transcript. We then add specific verbal descriptions of the visual content within the text. We then remediate the document for 508 compliance, allowing it to be fully functional with standard screen reading technology. In this final form, a deaf user can read the auditory information, and a blind user can use a screen reader. Thus we satisfy both aspects of compliance for videos, in one self-contained asset.

The New Game in Town

The 508 accessible transcript is a relatively unknown deliverable, but is included in the WCAG 2.0 regulations being used as the framework for the 508 refresh. Word Wizards has submitted public comments that review the merits of “Media Alternative (Prerecorded)”, as it is known in WCAG 2.0. 508 transcripts can be produced for a fraction of the cost of captioning and audio description. Instead of weeks, it can be done in days, cutting production timelines in half, while saving substantial financial resources. While it may never replace closed captions and audible descriptions as the gold standard, it enables agencies and content providers a faster and more affordable way of providing access for media assets.




Getting Started in your Media Career

 

Ready set go

Last night at American Universities School of Communications,  several media professionals gathered with TIVA to give out

some very valuable information about how to get your foot in the media industry whether your a college student or a seasoned professional

looking to switch careers. The panelists included:

 

Jason Villemez, Production Assistant at PBS Newshour

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jason-villemez/10/a27/594

Kristen Edgell, Marketing Assistant at National Geographic

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/kristen-edgell/31/13b/b88

Laura Mateus, Campus Recruiter at Discovery Communications

http://www.zoominfo.com/#!search/profile/person?personId=1770693696&targetid=profile

Julia Beyer, Career Advisor for SOC Students

http://www.american.edu/profiles/staff/juliab.cfm

 

A variety of issues were discussed which included networking, resumes,

social media and linkedin, age and experience, reaching out and internships.

 

 

  • Networking, As Kristen pointed out networking is very much the name of the game. She very smartly made time to talk to every person she worked with, grabbing a cup of coffee and picking their brains. After these meetings she would inquire about other contacts that person might have that would be a good fit for her to talk to and then sought out those individuals. Another point that all the panelists agreed on was the value of a mentor and really getting to know an individual who will work with you and even advocate on your behalf.  Also, its key to stay in touch with those connections you make and to stay on their radar. They might be looking to fill a spot in an afternoon and if you stay fresh on their radar, you may just be getting that call.

 

  • Internships, the panel unanimously agreed that having at least one internship college is a great way to get some real world work skills outside of the classroom. Make sure that you really assert yourself in the role trying to learn as much as possible about the work your doing and present yourself well. Employers and companies respond well to someone who is eager to learn and want additional responsibilities instead of that person who’s just waiting to go. Many internships are now paying but even those that aren’t are still a valuable way for people to focus on their interests by getting to practice them in an adult setting.

 

  • Social Media, Obviously this is a huge facet of the media and business worlds and will only continue to grow. The best social media to present in terms of professionalism is Linkedin. The panelists all agreed that not only is it the preferred way to present yourself to new business contacts, its a great way to scout out potential employers and new relationships as well. A surprising note came from Laura who pointed that just because someone’s young and of the “plugged in” generation, that’s not a guarantee that they themselves are tech savvy or fluent in the art of social media. Twitter and facebook are also good venues to reach out to contacts, just be weary of  what they may see when they look at your profile. It’s smart to put your website and social media links under the header of your resume to show just how connected and tech able you are.

 

  • Resumes, one of the most important topics discussed was resumes and presentation. As Julia reminded everyone,  the basic look for a resume should be a header with your name, address, contact info and any links to your website or social media. This should be followed by education and most recent or appropriate work depending on the job your applying for. After this should come other work experiences and then your skills.  Unless you have more than ten years experience in the field, resume length should be one page. Grammar, punctation and spelling are also key since many people overlook these and will send resumes carelessly riddled with such mistakes. Also don’t put things that aren’t true, if your not familiar with software or a technical skill don’t put it on your resume. You may be questioned about it during your interview and not knowing anything will immediately make you look unprofessional.

 

  • Age and Media as a second career, Jason pointed out that in his position as a production assistant, one of his duties is to review candidates for internships and job openings. While there are the typical college students and recent graduates in that mix, Jason is also seeing lots of people in their late 20’s, 30’s and some who are doctors or lawyers looking to switch careers and that’s not a bad thing. Jason, who himself started in his job at the age of 27, says age is not an issue and what really matters is the desire to work your way up from the bottom. As long as the drive, willingness to learn, punctuality and professionalism are present, than people will notice your hard work and take you very seriously.

 

 

A huge thank you to the School of Communications for hosting this event and to TIVA for holding it.
SOC
TIVA
Further highlights of the event will soon be up on TIVA’s website at http://www.tivadc.org/



News Media – Technology and Election Season News

Last night’s Vice Presidential Debate seemed to leave both parties satisfied. Relax, the purpose of this article is not to argue about who won. I want to take a close look at the technology behind how the big news networks cover these elections. Just think about whats involved when you have 5 HD cameras and 3 microphones streaming live feeds from the debate stage. These extremely high bandwidth data feeds are recorded, encoded, transmitted to space, relayed to TV stations, and streamed for live broadcast over national and local networks ALL IN REAL TIME.

News Floors – Welcome to The Bridge

CNN’s Election Center 2012

CNN's Election Center
The Stage of CNN’s Election Center

It feels like the bridge of The Starship Enterprise, only this show stars Captain Wolf Blitzer and 1st Mate Anderson Cooper. In the photo above, there are countless HD screens, thousands of watts of lighting, a fully functional smart board, or two, and every tool a newscaster could possibly need to convey their message to viewers. Don’t forget, that’s only half of the stage, there is a similar array of technology right out of this camera’s view for a second anchor. Now remember, all of this gear works seamlessly with the feeds coming from the field, and is then broadcast to our TVs.

Fox News Election Center 2012

Fox News Election Center
Fox News Election Center

In an equally brilliant display of news media pizzaz and nationalistic pride, Fox News has set up their own 2012 election nerve center. Plenty of room for visuals, pundits, interviews and anything else that might be shown on Fox News Network. A central stage like this and the one above are critical aspects of the modern news media paradigm. However, its whats going on behind the scenes and off camera that really makes all of this possible.

Mission Control

The Control Room
CNN Media Control Room

Behind every great news-floor, is a broadcast media control room. I think the only thing you could compare it to is NASA mission control or something inside the Pentagon. The engineers in this room control every graphic, video feed, audio signal, and pretty much everything else. They handle countless live feeds from all around the world and are ready to respond to any crisis no matter what no matter when. A highly skilled team of audio / video engineers operate with tactile control over the entire operation, making critical decisions every second, from how fast to scroll the teleprompter, to what camera angle to display.

Simulcast – Your News, Anywhere

CNN on Satellite Radio
CNN on Satellite Radio

National news networks are no longer confined to the cable television medium. Now you can get all your news in real time via satellite radio, website, or even mobile app. I must say its cool to listen to my favorite news show while I am driving down the highway trying to kill the time. Just think about how amazing it is that my phone can receive a signal from space and let me listen in on a live broadcast as if it were there in front of me. Now think about how much pressure those newscasters must be under, one mistake, one slip, or one stupid unintentionally offensive comment and the whole world hates you…

A Geek’s Paradise

Maybe I am just a bit nerdy, but I find it fascinating how all of this comes together so seamlessly. Even more so, it seems that every year these systems get more capable and equally more sophisticated. I have a love for A/V tech in my blood, and if you enjoyed this article you probably do too! Make sure to sign up for our mailing list to receive more articles like this one from us on a regular basis. Be sure to drop us a comment and let us know what you think the coolest media technology is today.




Transcription Tips – Add an Amp to your Audio Setup

Contrary to popular belief, transcription can be a dangerous profession. Once and a while, audio gets out of control; background noise, clipping, clicks, the perils are real, and you can save your ears and a big headache by including a simple and affordable audio amp in your setup.

Amp your audio for more control and clarity!

An Amp on Both Your Houses

By including an audio amp in your setup you can have instant control over your audio. There are many benefits to this type of analog audio control, simply dial in your volume and frequency filter preferences. Here are some common examples when an amp can come in handy.

Quiet Audio

Amps allow you to raise the overall gain of any audio source by a significant amount without the introduction of distortion or digital artifacts. This is a very useful capability either while transcribing or while using a transcription in film making or video production. Often scripts are written using the audio before it has been polished by the sound engineer. If you can hear it, you cant determine if that sound byte fits with the rest of your audio, and you wont know if its fit for the editors razor until its too late.

“Hot” Audio

On the contrary, if the audio has been mixed so loud that its deafening, you have percision control over the volume level and can thus easily find the sweet spot that wont hurt your ears and cause audio fatigue. There is no recovery for damaged hearing, so protect your valuable assets, your ears!

Unstable Levels

Sometimes audio will change rapidly in volume up or down because of poor and inconsiderate recording or mixing. Having a physical dial in front of you can save your life if all of a sudden your volume increases by 24 dB. And it can allow you to continue working if all of a sudden the volume drops by an unreasonable amount.

Control Your Frequency

Vocals usually sit in the mid to high mid frequency ranges, dropping off at the lows and the highs. With a decent amp, you can increase or decrease the volume of independent frequency bands so the audio source your working with comes through clean and the rest of the mix falls to the background. Kill; the lows and highs and save yourself some ear strain.

Plug and Play

You don’t need to run out and buy a 1000 watt professional PA amplifier for this type of application. There are many simple affordable amps out there and the simplicity will keep price down and get you working quickly. Including an amp in your audio setup  is a no brainer, for your ears sake you might want to consider this advice.




10 Things To Consider Before Sending Media For Transcription

Hello out there, Ben here bringing you a quick list of 10 things you should be aware of before sending your audio or video for transcription. Taking time to consider these factors can streamline your workflow, save you time, and conserve your budget . So lets get on with it shall we!

  1. File Format – Understanding what format your media files are encoded in is critical to the transcription process. Not all transcriptionists and transcription software systems are created equal, valuable time, energy, and stress can be saved if you provide a clear picture of what type of files will be coming in. Digital or Analog? Audio or Video? AIFF, WAV, Mp3 or MOV, MXF, WMV. Letting the transcription company know beforehand will help keep everything running smoothly and prevent any surprises.  Common Movie Codecs MOV FLV WMV AVI MPG
  2. File Quality –  Remember to start with the highest quality media possible, transcribers rely on the quality and strength of audio signals to do their job. Bad audio quality = bad transcript and usually a more expensive one. Video quality needs to be good enough so if there is visual material or speaker identification required, it can be interpreted without too much effort. Considering those two points, we recommend the media be compressed small enough that it can be easily transferred over the internet, but with enough quality to preserve the audio and or video’s original continuity. For audio, never go below 44100 16 bit. For video, compress as much as you want as long as the important visual ques can still be easily distinguished, i.e. time code windows or speakers faces needing identification in the transcript.
  3. Audio Levels – Transcription, at least our flavor, generally involves a speed typist, a foot-pedal, and headphones. Nothing is more painful to our dedicated typists than throwing on their headphones, listening to a quiet audio signal for the first 10 seconds, turning their audio output way up, only to be blasted once the person starts talking. Try to keep your gain structure hot enough that they can be heard legibly, but not so hot that they clip. The biggest problem is with consistency, keep your levels around the same volume to prevent killing a transcribers most valuable tool, their ears!Audio Waveform
  4. Time Code Details – Time code comes in many flavors in the audio and video world. Knowing your time code specifications beforehand is critical to the transcription company. If you need digital time code added, knowing and providing accurate starting time code numbers will ensure everything stays in sync with your source media. Let the transcriber know if it is burned into the video window or does it need to be added? Analog time code can be a little more tricky. Usually, it is recorded on to one of the stereo audio channels and requires a special reader to transcribe from. If so make sure you record the time code signal at a high gain and encoded in a “lossless” audio format (AIFF, WAV, ext…).
  5. Total Length of Audio / Video – Letting the transcribers know how much audio / video time they will be transcribing ensures that they can plan effectively around other projects they may currently have. This step can prevent failing to meet deadlines because there was simply to much material and not enough time to complete it.
  6. Audio and Vocal Quality – Some companies like ourselves can transcribe, even repair poorly recorded audio files. However, it is critical to let the transcription company know of any problems in the audio source such as; hiss, pops, clicks, background noise, hum, artifacts, clipping ext… If we know problems are there beforehand we can prevent wasting time trying to identify the problems and get right to fixing them. Audio board with lights.    Furthermore, if there are foreign accents, speech impediments, or any technical language of the speaker(s) letting the transcription company know beforehand can save a bunch of time and effort on everyone’s part.
  7. Expected Turnaround – Knowing when you want your transcripts returned lets people plan for the priority of the work. If you need faster or longer than normal turnaround, consider this beforehand and come up with a decision that fits your needs and budget limitations. Word Wizards can provide same day or 24 hour transcription turnaround, but at a higher cost. Consult with your transcription provider for rates beforehand to make sure there are no financial surprises at the end of the project.
  8. Omissions and Exceptions – Any special requests to omit or leave out material need to be established before transcription begins. Sometimes people like to leave out the questions because it  saves page space and thus saves money. Sometimes off camera chatter should be left out, sometimes it needs to be included. Discussing this with your team before sending it out for transcription will make sure you only pay for what you want and you want what your paying for.
  9. Headers and Labels – If you would like a particular header in your transcript have that ready when the job is sent out. Also if you want labels or identification for individuals make sure to include that in your project details before the work had begun.
  10. Location and Security Preferences –Some jobs require a special level security. What are you comfortable with? Onsite – transcription done either in your facility or the transcription company headquarters. Onshore – transcription never leaves the country (often this is a requirement for sensitive government work.) Offshore – If your o.k. with sending the job overseas just make sure your team understands that it may fall into the wrong hands the farther it makes its way away from protected USA cyberspace. Its Impossible!

Taking stock of all these factors before you start the transcription process will ensure a faster and easier transcription experience for you and the provider. That’s all for now folks, stay tuned for more from your friends here at Word Wizards!




Audio Gear Spotlight: Zoom H4n HD Audio Recorder

I just picked up a Zoom H4n yesterday and I am very impressed with this powerful little gadget. Up to 12 hours of continuous audio recording, 2 XLR / 1/4 inch line ins, and 2 high quality stereo mics offer the perfect solution for any recording situation. Our company often gets asked to record speakers, conferences, panels, and other audio presentations for transcription. Now we can provide high quality recording without needing a sound guy. All you do is set it up, plug it in, point at your source, and press record!

The Zoom H4n HD audio recorder and interface
Did I mention it comes with a nifty case?

High Quality – Low Price

As an audio guy, I know what its like to have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). GAS is embarrassing, instead of buying necessary life related items, I am buying VSTs, hardware, and other audio components no normal human being might need. Fortunately for me, the price of the Zoom H4n is well within my budget. For the quality offered, I have never seen anything that comes close.

2 Setreo mic able to record a 90 degree or 120 degree stereo field.
2 high quality microphones for recording 90 or 120 degree stereo fields.

Professional and Consumer Applications

Yes, this gadget may come in handy for our transcription company for the purpose of recording audio in the live setting, but this little gizmo offers so much more! You can set it to function as an audio interface, capturing live audio and imputing it directly into your computer. Furthermore the 2 high resolution stereo microphones placed in a unique V cross formation allow you to record an accurate stereo field no matter what your position. The next time I go to a good concert I will be sure to have this baby with me  to soak up the good sounds and save them for later.

 




CloudScript: The Future of Transcription Workflow

Word Wizards is proud to present our newest service, CloudScript!

Over 30 years of working in the media transcription industry has provided our team with rare and valuable insight into how and why people need our transcription services. We have noticed an important trend in the past few years, the name of the game these days is speed, convenience, and price. Production teams must to be able to work faster, more efficiently, and at lower operating costs than ever before to survive. Well, we have designed CloudScript to answer the call for a new solution.

Stated simply, CloudScript lets you click on any time code in your transcript and jump to that point in the audio or video file. Using a simple online form you can instantly convert any transcript with time code into a “media-synced” transcript. CloudScript is intended to make your workflow easier while writing, editing, producing or otherwise working with transcripts.

Watch our short video below for a quick demonstration!

Visit the CloudScript Home Page and Sign Up for your free trial Today!

 




Transcription: A Word With Many Meanings

For our first post of 2012, we bring you a short lesson in the language of transcription:

In the English language we have the wonderful tradition of using the words that carry multiple meanings depending on the context. The word “transcription” or “transcribe” is no stranger to the homonym phenomenon. Context is the key and depending on what industry, field, or time period your in, “transcription services” could mean several different things.

Transcription: In biological context

In layman’s lingo, genetics uses the term transcription to describe the process by which cells replicate themselves using DNA and RNA to express different genes.

Transcription in celluar gene activity illustrated by a graphic rendering
Graphic of Cellular Transcription

Genetic transcription is defined as follows by Wikipedia:

Transcription is the process of creating a complementary RNA copy of a sequence of DNA.[1] Both RNA and DNA are nucleic acids, which use base pairs of nucleotides as a complementary language that can be converted back and forth from DNA to RNA by the action of the correct enzymes. During transcription, a DNA sequence is read by RNA polymerase, which produces a complementary, antiparallel RNA strand. As opposed to DNA replication, transcription results in an RNA complement that includes uracil (U) in all instances where thymine (T) would have occurred in a DNA complement…

… Transcription is the first step leading to gene expression. The stretch of DNA transcribed into an RNA molecule is called a transcription unit and encodes at least one gene. If the gene transcribed encodes a protein, the result of transcription is messenger RNA (mRNA), which will then be used to create that protein via the process of translation. Alternatively, the transcribed gene may encode for either ribosomal RNA (rRNA) or transfer RNA (tRNA), other components of the protein-assembly process, or other ribozymes… “

Transcription: In Historical Context

During the early European Renaissance, prior to the invention of the printing press, the “scriptorium” was a place where monks would transcribe copies of texts, (generally religious in nature). Transcribing in this context refers to the process of copying a book word for word and verifying the accuracy of the duplicated work. The “scribes” or transcriptionists would have an individual workspace where they would carefully duplicate the most important texts of the time. To put this in proper context, without transcription, the Renascence would have never been able to take hold and the great ancient works of The Old and The New Testament may have been lost to history.

The official Word Wizards logo, "Old Scribey"
The official Word Wizards logo, "Old Scribey"

Transcription: In the Modern World

The transcription that you are probably concerned with, and we are in the service of providing, has nothing to do with the age of enlightenment, nor the division of cells. Transcription today is all about converting spoken words into digital or physical form. Transcription in the 21st century can be broken down into three main categories:

  1. Transcription of audio / video for production
  2. Legal Transcription
  3. Medical transcription

Each one of these three types of modern transcription has a completely different professional use and method. For example, Medical Transcription is used for long portions of recorded audio, highly technical in nature, coming from a single speaker, and usually transcribed using speech to text technology such as dragon.

Word Wizards specializes in transcription of audio and video for production purposes. To transcribe media of this nature, it is impossible to effectively use speech to text technology, and the use of “time code” is particularly helpful. We often get asked about the various meanings and forms of transcription, so we hope that this article can help clarify the differences between different uses of the word.

The transcriptionists at word wizards working hard
Modern "transcribers"

Hope all is made clear now, if you would like more information about transcription or our other professional services, please don’t hesitate to contact your friends here at Word Wizards!




Understanding Professional Transcription Services

When the Word Wizards go out into the world, we often get asked the question, “what does a transcription company do and why would someone need that?” As always, simple questions require not so simple answers. As defined by Wikipedia, “A transcription service is a business which converts speech (either live or recorded) into a written or electronic text document.” In truth, the function and value a transcription service provides depends on the clients’ specific needs.

For example, a video producer with 12 hours of raw documentary footage will look to us for a much needed time code transcript. Our expert transcriptionists provide a time stamp every 30 seconds that corresponds directly to the footage, as it would appear in the video editing software. This enables a producer or editor to quickly search through their footage and identify and isolate specific portions of their media.

Example of a transcript with Time Code for use by a video producer.
An example of a transcript in MS Word with Time Code for use by a video production company.

Another example, consider a legal expert that has recorded the audio from a 5 hour deposition. In this situation, our clients require transcription services for the production of an accurate text document containing a verbatim account of everything spoken in the session. Thus quality, accuracy, and timeliness is essential to ensure the legal integrity of the transcript.

A cartoon demonstrating the stress of not using a good transcription company.

The world of professional transcription services is always changing and evolving to meet the demands of the current marketplace. Some professionals no longer use a service to provide transcripts preferring instead to implement less than accurate speech to text software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. In the past medical transcription was a highly specialized and highly valued service, now with speech to text, the same service comes off the shelf in a shiny new box.

When Word Wizards began providing transcripts for professional use, we were literally the only game in town. Now we must fight to compete in the global economy, where budget concerns are causing our clients to look overseas for cheaper options, ignoring the lack of quality, accountability, and confidentiality.

A Graphic depicting the global economy in the form of a sphere with flags of each country in 3 D
Welcome to the global economy!

To our great delight, the old saying holds true; you get what you pay for. Furthermore, we wouldn’t be called Wizards if we didn’t have some innovative new ways of adding extra value to our transcription process such as captioning and I.V.L (Interactive Video Logging). Even now we are working on a secret new project that will change the game in the industry, just like we did when we first started adding time code to our transcripts in the early 90s.

A manilla folder with the words top secret in red inside a red box
Shhh!!!

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion with release of our new transcription service, but for now, “The Mogul Project” will remain top secret.




Audio Description: Legally Required Starting November

 

Word Wizards Inc., now offers a complete solution for creating broadcast, internet, or YouTube media with Audio Description for blind and low vision individuals. We are working non-stop to help prepare our clients for the beginning of The 21st Century Accessibility Act’s enforcement in October of 2011. In October, video content providers under the laws of the U.S.A. Federal Government will be required to provide a significant amount video that includes audio descriptive media. At least 50 hours of audio description content will be required by ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and the top five non-broadcast networks. Click the following link for more information regarding our Audio Descriptive Content Solutions.

To see an example of Audio Description in action, click the following link

http://www.longtailvideo.com/support/jw-player/22/making-video-accessible#Accessibilty_Example

Follow this link for an overview of the legislation as it appears on the website of The National Association of the Deaf.

http://www.nad.org/issues/civil-rights/communications-act/21st-century-act