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Collection: Video and Captioning

purple arrow (1137 bytes) NCIP Profile: The Captioning Process

NCIP Staff, 1994

How Do Students Caption?

Creating a captioned video involves watching a videotape, writing text to match, then combining the text and video. The process sometimes begins with a videotape developed and produced by a group of students and their teacher.

Whatever the videotape being captioned, students use a VCR to play, pause, and search the tape while they compose corresponding text using a word processor. The text may be a direct transcript of the audio, a translation from one language to another like American Sign Language to English, or a general description.

At the beginning of the writing process, students often discuss the content of the video with classmates or a teacher. After they enter text using a word processor, they print out their work and make revisions as many times as necessary.

When students are satisfied with their text, they combine it with the video -- a process that can be manual or automated. The text and video are routed through a piece of equipment called a character generator and recorded using a second VCR.

What Equipment and Software Are Needed?

black and white photo of computer hooked up to VCR (4192 bytes)When students caption videotapes,
they use a VCR (right) to stop and start tapes,
and a word processor (left) to compose corresponding text.


A basic captioning workstation consists of a personal computer, two VCRs (one for playback and one for record), and a character generator that allows text to be superimposed onto video. A computer monitor, a video monitor, and a printer are also needed. Some systems require a time-code reader.

When evaluating a potential captioning system, keep in mind whether the word processing software suits the needs of your students and whether the system has the ability to create and read time code (though this function may be unnecessary for your purposes).

Staff at WGBH -- the first organization to caption television and a leader in the field -- can answer questions about captioning options for schools and provide the names of hardware and software suppliers.


Geoff Freed
CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media
125 Western Avenue
Boston, Mass. 02134
Voice and TTY: (617) 492-9258

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More information about the captioning process is available in the NCIP Library: Instructional Uses of Video & Captioning Collection.


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.