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Audio captioning - practical questions

Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 16:04:24 -0500
Message-Id: <sc6be01b.057@HQF2.eeoc.gov>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
First the background, then the questions:

EEOC this week released a series of public service announcements that we hope will be broadcast over the next few weeks (assuming stations can squeeze them in among the paid-for advertising). The PSAs tie in with the Olympics, featuring a U.S. speedskater, a teenage skier training for the 2006 Paralympics, and the head of the U.S Olympic Committee.

The PSAs, of course, were placed on our web site. Each of the four PSAs is available in English and Spanish, each available with and without text captioning. Not having access to a decent streaming media server, I went with three versions of each, to be selected by the user depending on their connection speed. The videos are encoded as RealVideo clips, captioning is done with SMIL.

Considering a very short time frame, limited resources, and the fact that I've never worked with SMIL before, I think I did a decent job. What I don't have, however, is audio captioning.

So here's the first question:

How important is audio captioning for something like this? The video portion contains scenes of the two athletes in training, some close-ups, and head shots of the Olympic Committee CEO. They're visually appealing, but don't convey any real information. It's all eye-candy, while all of the "substance" of the PSAs is included in the audio, and the text captioning. Audio captioning is, if possible, desirable, but is it necessary?

Necessary, in this case, does not mean complying with 508, it means doing the right thing.  I'm of the opinion that Section 508 is a watered-down version of what it should have been, and I'm perfectly happy to exceed that standard whenever appropriate.

The second question:

Assuming the answer to the first is "yes," how is this best accomplished? The technical side is easy - I can record a second audio track and use SMIL to sync it up with the main video stream. The problem is, I have short videos with lots of quick edits and scene changes, and a primary audio track that already contains music and voiceovers. There's not much room for additional description. How much information should be included? Is it OK to "pre-load" it with description at the beginning, before the video starts? What other methods are there of including audio captioning in an already crowded audio track? Any ideas or pointers to resources would be appreciated.

The videos as they exist now are available at: http://www.eeoc.gov/psa/index.html 
Please take a look (or listen) and let me know what you think. A reasonably recent version of RealPlayer is required.
Received on Thursday, 14 February 2002 16:04:43 UTC

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