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E-Training 3: Captioning Video with MAGpie

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In our last post we discussed the importance of captioning all video materials that trainers intend to use with newly hired employees. While a number of software solutions make it easy to add captions, some are more costly than others. Today, we’ll take a look at MAGpie, a free and easy-to-use software package for adding captions to video. For those who who need a multi-platform tool or who have budgetary constraints, MAGpie may provide an easy solution.

Media Access Generator (MAGpie) is a free tool developed by the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). The features of MAGpie include:

  • Capable of working with several different media types including RealMedia files (RM), QuickTime movies (MOV), MPEG and AVI.
  • Support for Windows 98/NT/2000/XP and Macintosh OS X (MAGpie 2.0 only).
  • Captioning and audio description playback support in the RealPlayer or the RealOne player.
  • Write, time, and record audio descriptions for digital media.
  • Support for Flash captioning, and collated text transcripts.
  • Spell check.
  • Segmented captioning (captions with karaoke-like effects).

The captioning process consists of only a few processes, repeated many times until the caption is complete. When the software is first started, the user is presented with a number of empty columns. The far left column is the caption number, labeled ‘Row’. This column is used to reference specific captions. The remaining columns are all fairly self-explanatory. They are the start time, end time, speaker and finally, the caption text. The user first loads the video they wish to caption, which will display in a small pop-up window and can be played back at any time. Once this has loaded, the captioning work can begin.

Start time and end time are much more easily determined once all of the captions have been entered. To do this, users have two options. You can either import a properly formatted text file (captions only, with a carriage return after each individual caption), or enter the captions directly. Both methods are made simpler with a preexisting transcript. If no transcript is available, users must slowly go through individual lines of conversation in the video and write down the dialog manually. This should serve as encouragement to retain transcripts when creating video materials, and make sure they are archived appropriately.

After the captions themselves are imported, the user can begin inputting speakers and time codes. This is simplest if done while viewing the video stream itself. Pause the video at the beginning of each line, input the time stamp, then renew play. Pause again at the end of the dialog, input the end time stamp, and voila, the caption will display for the period of time between these two markers. The speaker should usually be obvious, but if the captions describe other audio effects such as background noises, use a short descriptor of the origin in place of a speaker’s name.

This is only a short review of the captioning process using MAGpie. For an in depth tutorial along with exhaustive descriptions of the various other featues and UI elements present in the software, consult the ELA 2007 Accessible Video module.