Subtitle Other’s Videos with Amara

by Dr. Luanne Fose - The Tweed Geek on January 12, 2015

amaraHave you ever found a perfect video online to use in your course that was created by someone else and then realized that the video isn’t captioned? Or perhaps the video has captions available via the automatic captioning feature of YouTube, but the captions end up being ridiculously incorrect? Posting an uncaptioned video in your PolyLearn course puts you and the university at risk since it is in violation of Section 508 federal mandates regarding video accessibility of course materials. If the video is owned by someone else, what is one to do?

The answer: Use Amara (formerly known as Universal Subtitles) to caption the video yourself; then provide the URL to your students from the Amara website instead of pointing to the original YouTube or Vimeo file. Amara is FREE and amazingly easy to use. In fact, I prefer it to captioning directly in YouTube.

Here’s how you do it:

1) Go to the Amara website and click on Sign In / Sign Up in the top right corner.

2) Sign up for an Amara account through your Google, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID, TED, or Udacity account OR if you prefer, you can make a separate Amara account. (I prefer to just click the Google button on the Sign Up page and enter Amara through my Google account in order to have one less password to remember).

3) Click on the Subtitle Video link at the top of the Amara home web page. (Note: If you wish to just try the software out without creating an account, you can, but you won’t be able to save your captioning work afterwards.)

4) Open another browser window or tab and navigate to the video you wish to caption. Copy the URL of that video to your computer’s clipboard with Ctrl-C (Windows) or Command-C (Mac). (Note: You can use videos from YouTube, Vimeo, or any online MP4, WebM, FLV, OGG, or MP3 that is compatible with HTML5 browsers).

5) Paste the URL of the desired video into the provided URL textbox at the top of the Subtitle a Video Amara web page and click on the Begin> button.

6) Amara will open a new window in your browser and display the video you pasted into the provided URL textbox. To get started, click on the link labeled Add a new language.

7) Amara will ask you what language you wish to subtitle the video in. (In most cases, English would be your choice.) Hit the Continue button.

8) You will notice a small window where the video is located on the page. Hit the Tab key on your computer keyboard to begin playing the video.

9) While the video is playing, type what you hear in the textboxes provided below the video. (Typing Step video tutorial – 41 secs).

10) Manually sync what you typed with the video. (Syncing Step video tutorial – 29 secs).

11) Review your work and complete the process (i.e., save it to your account). (Review Step video tutorial – 43 secs).

12) That’s all there is to it! When you are finished captioning the video in Amara, you have a link to the video and this is the link that you would provide to your students within PolyLearn. You can always go into your Amara account settings at any time if you need to retrieve the URL to your captioned video again.

If you wish, Amara also allows you to translate a video that has already been captioned into another language. This process is done by showing you the text for the video’s original language on the left side of the Amara editor and allowing you to type the new language to the right of that.

Beyond its benefits as a captioning tool, Amara is also a community that encourages people to caption video for others. If a video becomes especially popular and you place a request on Amara, someone may volunteer to caption it for you. Check out how to invite collaboration here. Or you might utilize a Cal Poly student assistant to help you out.

Take a few minutes and give Amara a try. It’s a lot easier than the time it took to explain it step-by-step in this article.   Drats! Amara is just one more reason that you won’t have an excuse for not captioning your course videos… except lack of time, of course.

~ Luanne Fose (The Tweed Geek)

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