Posted in Summer 2016

A Reflection and Step-by-Step Process of Using Open-Source Software to Closed Caption Video

In the past week, at the 2016 Digital Media and Composition Institute at The Ohio State University, we were each tasked with creating a Concept in 60 video. This video must explore a concept of literacy, composing, or multimodality and must be exactly 60 seconds—no more, no less—including the title screen and credits.

Because I have done the “Concept in 60” project in the past at my home institution (University of Louisville), I wanted to challenge myself with my DMAC 2016 approach by creating three specific rhetorical constraints for myself. The first was to use original (video clips I shot, sound I recorded) material as much as possible; the second was to focus on the audio track more than the visual since I had never done so in the past; and the third was to include a closed captioning track on the Mp4 file version of my video—and to do this all using FREE software.

While the first two goals were attained by my recording my own sound files, shooting my own video to go with it, and editing my files in iMovie and Audacity on my Mac—the final product contains all original material with the exception of the creative-commons-licensed music track underlaying my ambient noise and voice tracks and a short clip of the OSU library used with permission from the Institute.

The third goal, however, presented a great challenge. While it might seem as simple as uploading my MP4 file to YouTube, using YouTube’s closed captioning tool, and downloading the Mp4 file off of YouTube, unfortunately the captioning track does not get “burned onto” the video file and therefore does not download with the MP4 off YouTube. In other words, these are OPEN captions, not CLOSED captions. However, you CAN download just the .srt captioning track file (as visualized below) and use other software to attach it back to the MP4 file.

After a few hours of tinkering during our final studio time Thursday, and with the excellent help and brain power of our fearless associate director of DMAC, Erin Kathleen Bahl, I found a way to attain success in my closed captioning goal.

Here, I will recap the winning steps, but first I want to note that the “failure” moments are omitted for the sake of clarity here, not because they weren’t productive in some form – with digital projects, I’ve learned it’s important to take risks and play, that failure is part of the learning process. In this case, we were not successful using VLC or solely YouTube to create the closed captioned version of my Concept in 60, but through lots of googling, playing, failing, more googling, and more playing and failing, we learned some strategies for achieving the captioning goal as well as some new-to-us software.

To begin, I uploaded my video to YouTube and created a closed captioning track. The captioning tool is located under the EDIT drop down menu that you want to close caption in the video manager section of your YouTube account as pictured below.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.45.48 PM
This image is a screen capture of the YouTube video-editing interface. It shows the EDIT drop-down menu, which cascades downward from a point just to the right of a thumbnail of the video I’m about to edit. On the drop-down menu, the item “Subtitles & CC” is selected.

From here, you can add subtitles and time them with your video. (For a detailed step-by-step of this process, see this YouTube help page.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.46.01 PM
This image is a screen capture of YouTube’s subtitle- and closed-captioning-editing and management interface. It shows the video I’m editing on the left with the “Add new subtitles or CC” option selected.
Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.46.27 PM
This image is a screen capture of YouTube’s transcription and timing editing interface for captioning videos. On the left is the video I am editing around the 8-second mark; on the right the transcription line for that second is selected and reads “All I could think about is the crane.”

After publishing these captions, export the .srt caption track file from YouTube’s caption tool. While exporting the mp4 file would ideally do the trick, I learned (from failing a few times and reading some sites on the issue) the caption track is not burned into the mp4 and therefore does not carry with it outside of YouTube.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.47.17 PM
This image is a screen capture of YouTube’s “view published subtitles and CC: English” interface. On the left is the video post-caption editing; on the right side, the transcription track is visible. On the “Actions” drop-down menu, the “.srt” option is selected.

From here, the next step involves a different software called HandBrake, an open-source video transcoder. Begin by clicking “File,” and selecting the “Open Source” option. Then, navigate to the uncaptioned video file.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. The “File” drop-down menu is open with “Open Source” selected.

In the “Destination” section, click “Browse” and select where to save the final video.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. A red circle is drawn on the “Browse” option to indicate its selection.

Select the “Subtitles” tab.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. A red circle in the center of the image indicates that “Subtitles” is selected.

Under “Track,” select “Add External SRT” and navigate to the saved subtitle file.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. The drop-down menu “Track” is open with a red circle indicating that “Add External SRT…” is selected.

Select the “Burned In” option to insure that captions get “burned” into the MP4 file.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. A red circle in the center of the screen indicates that the “Burned In” option is enabled.

Finally, under “File,” select “Start Encoding.”

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. The “File” drop-down menu is open with a red arrow indicating that “Start Encoding” should be selected.

And that’s it. The video file should now be closed captioned.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 11.33.12 AM
This image is a screen capture of the video edited in this example with the caption “I walked around campus” at the bottom.

This process illuminated the lack of closed captioning tools in production software. As exemplified here, I needed to use three different applications (iMovie, YouTube, and HandBrake) in order to create a close-captioned video file I could have locally rather than in a web video space like YouTube. As we continue to design software for editing video, closed-captioning tools should be an intuitive part of editing software. Because while it’s never too late to think about captioning and accessibility, we should move toward making it an integral part of the overall design process.

Posted in Summer 2016

Making is Wonderful, Rhetorical, Critical

Picture taken by me at The Ohio State University.

After the many months of excitement leading up to it, the first day of the 2016 Digital Media and Composition Institute AKA DMAC did not disappoint. Though today has been a long, packed day of meeting many new (fantastic) people, learning some tools, software, tips, tricks, making a “Soundtrack in 60” project, and celebrating the day’s successes, I continue to feel energized to do more and look forward to the continued challenges and growth to come from this institute.

Some of my key highlights and takeaways from today:

  • Learning about and wearing interactive color communication badges to show differing levels of interaction comfort (brilliant!) for the duration of the institute (definitely going to be using this concept in other future planning)
  • “DMAC runs like a train in Switzerland” – And they mean it! I am so impressed by how on top of things the graduate student staff and leaders (Scott DeWitt and Cindy Selfe) are about staying on time, task, and breaking down and assisting with tools and software.
  • Focus on PEOPLE first, before technology.
  • We’re a maker culture. It’s a wonderful thing to make things, but also rhetorical and critical.
  • A few vocabulary words:
    • Provenance: the history of how something came to be.
    • Tone v. Mood possible working definitions -> Tone = how we communicate (author); Mood = how we’re feeling (interpretation)
    • Tone = composer’s attitude toward audience vs. Mood = composer’s attitude toward subject matter
  • “Everything we think about as a disability is an ability.”
  • “One of the affordances of print is that you can process it at your own speed”
  • “Save here, save there, save now, save later”— Scott DeWitt on the importance of saving your work (spot on!)
  • That experiencing and understanding frustration is important for our pedagogy and development – these are feelings students will likely experience when we assign them multimodal projects, so it’s important to always do/make before we teach
  • Mad Mex:
    • a great Mexican restaurant with excellent service
    • killer margarita and food specials (all you can eat burritos for $6 anyone?)
    • worth going to if you are ever in Columbus, Ohio
  • Also thankful for the one-on-one time at Mad Mex with Cindy Selfe who gave me fantastic feedback on some of my research ideas and future goals in the field ❤ among other great conversation.

Today we were tasked with learning how to use audio/video recording devices and capturing some sound, which we then learned how to edit using Audacity (open-source sound-editing software). The assignment asks us to edit, revise with music and a narration to produce a 60-second (no more, no less!) audio track surrounding literacy, composing, or multimodality.

We were asked to do our sound recording over lunch, so I explored a bit of OSU’s (massive) campus. I was enamored by all of the sounds of birds amplified through my headphones via the sound recorder and tried to capture those sounds as much as possible, but became quickly frustrated by the seemingly immediate interruptions by construction, airplanes, and (loud) gusts of wind. I chose to focus my soundtrack in 60 surrounding those issues as my argument.

I am proud of what I accomplished today, despite some frustrations getting files to transfer from the audio recording device onto my laptop and then cutting and putting working with 21 different audio files (instead of recording two, two-minute clips, I chose to do several shorter clips for variety) to produce a 60-second soundtrack, I feel successful and have learned A LOT that I will continue to integrate in my own work and pedagogy. To celebrate further, I want to share the audio file I made (this is the latest draft):

The first day of DMAC has been so enriching and fruitful. I can’t wait to continue exploring and see where this journey takes me next.

Posted in Summer 2016

On Year One: Reflections & What’s Next

Me, after finishing the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon.

Last weekend, I successfully ran the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon—a whopping 13.1 miles in the rain. Before the start of 2016, I had never completed a 5k (3.1 mile) distance, much less considered myself any kind of runner. Yet, there I was crossing the finish line in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

“I did it,” I have found myself saying when people comment on my half marathon efforts. Because, for me, it wasn’t about making a certain time or place, it was about finishing, about proving to myself that I could.

I wanted to quit a handful of times. I remember driving home after a group long-run day (I think it was just 5-6 miles) crying until my throat hurt. Like the first year of the PhD program, preparing to run a half-marathon was in no way easy, and it was the regular supportive, encouraging words of family, my fiancé, and friends that ultimately helped me continue on with training and finish the half-marathon.

Perseverance is the key word I would use to describe this last year, the first year of my PhD program, but also almost a year of being engaged and becoming more independent as an adult. During this academic year, I’ve been challenged and grown in several ways. I am proud of myself for sticking to my goals and being able to look back on Year One with so much positivity. I’m also thankful for the many friends in my department who I am regularly energized and inspired by, leaving me with zero regrets in my program decision.

Surrounded by beauty. Photo taken by me in Indianapolis, IN.

As I enter into my summer plans, I am most excited about traveling and exploring new and old places. From going to the Digital Media and Composition Institute (DMAC) in Columbus, Ohio this month, to co-teaching the UofL Digital Media Academy (DMA), to visiting India for the first time in about 13-14 years and reuniting with dozens of relatives, and going to the DH 2016 conference in Kraków, Poland, this summer is set up to be… exhausting, but more awesome than anything else.

I’m also excited to continue planning and organizing my upcoming December wedding. In all the stress and chaos of this past year, my partner continued to love and support me in ways that do nothing but strengthen both our relationship and my certainty in marrying him.

And with all of this said, I am excited to keep growing. I hope to share my experiences through writing, which I have learned helps me reflect and flourish in additional ways.