The following blog was written by one of our clients, Simon Roberts, from Rock Church San Diego.
Since the Rock Church San Diego launched Closed Captioning at the 10am livestream recently, I've had several inquiries into how we went about adding this essential feature.
I figured the best way to answer this is simply write about it. So, in what is hopefully the first of many posts regarding church technology projects, let's begin.
According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services: Approximately 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss. Source: Deaf Statistics for USA
That's a number that can't be ignored. If we're preaching the Gospel through new mediums including online live streaming, we must reach these people. Granted, those statistics represent the entire spectrum of hearing loss from mild to severe. Nevertheless, we see Closed Captioning and subtitles everywhere these days: YouTube (while there automatic captioning leaves a lot to be desired) supports captioning, TED Talks, Hulu, Netflix, and news outlets to name a few.
Briefly, there is a difference between Closed Captions and Subtitles. Closed Captions are embedded text data in the video signal source, Subtitles on the other hand are a separate entity, usually layered on top of the video signal.
I simplify it like this:
There's a reason for this uptake in providing captions, not only is it the right thing to do, but the FCC has legal mandates. I am NOT a lawyer, nor do I profess to be, but a quick google for "FCC closed captioning web" will return a lot a helpful information. You may be subject to regulation, you may not. I cannot and will not answer that question (seek qualified legal counsel). Now you've got my disclaimer, let's move on...
The Rock Church uses HDSDI video distribution along with AES audio.
There have been some upgrades since that last blog post. We now use Digital Rapids StreamZ encoders (StreamZHD & StreamZ Live), we are also partnered directly with Akamai, no longer going through the channel partner network. This has afforded us great opportunity and has made life much easier in setup and upgrades. We can now lean directly on Akamai's technical support team, and they are fantastic! I have had direct communication with their product manager for the AMP (Akamai Media Player - their flash player is used by NASA, Fox News and now Rock Church San Diego).
Anyway, back to the story at hand....
My colleague and I visited NAB in Las Vegas a few months ago to investigate several technologies, including Closed Captioning hardware and workflow. We came away pretty confident that this would be a fairly easy and relatively cheap win for our congregation and viewers in general. Here's the flow:
That's it. Seriously, that's it. For under $10k for the hardware you can be up and running with this. Let's break down the signal flow at little more:
The on-going costs run under $150 per service. This is the cost of contracting a live person to do the actual captioning, which when you think about it is pretty good. Someone is sitting there in the US with context regarding your organization and mission (the nice thing about AberCap is they work with Faith Based organizations a lot and get our goal!).They are listening to the whole sermon and keeping up with the speaker(s) writing back every word, in real-time... It's impressive!
So, now we have delivered live Closed Captioning for the livestream audience. What about on-demand? I hear you ask. Here's the nice thing regarding this workflow, AberCap record a transcript of every word spoken during the record. That means you not only get live CC, but a recorded transcript of the message (perhaps for your Pastor's notes, website etc.).
Now they can take that transcript and turn it into a format useful for on-demand.
AberCap now take that transcript and a proxy file (the recorded sermon, perhaps edited to remove Altar Call/Worship etc. for licensing) and they turn it into a subtitle file. We have them generate a SRT file and a VTT file.
The SRT file format is what YouTube uses. Once our messages are uploaded, we disable the automatic subtitle track and upload the edited SRT file.
Right now, we are not using the VTT file, however, this file format is the preferred format for Apple HLS on-demand and we want to have it on hand for when we start using that format for playback.
We could also take this transcript/subtitle file and ask our volunteers to help translate it into various foreign languages. Then we would have true global reach with the message...
The Rock Church Livestream's all 5 services on Sundays. 8am, 10am (CC), 12pm, 5pm, & 7pm Pacific Time. Check it out here.
Simon Roberts is passionate about deploying technology to support the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world. Born in Birmingham, England he developed an early interest in computer science and took first place in the Intel Computer Challenge at the University of Birmingham at age 14.
Simon went on to work internationally creating networks, managing security, and building data-centers for a global business center company and NGO. Simon is now a Technical Project Manager in San Diego where he works to build technology platforms and systems for the Church.
Simon enjoys wood-working, relaxing with his family and keeping current with the latest industry trends. Simon and his wife, Cassandra, live in San Diego with their son.