How New FCC Closed Captioning Quality Rules Due March 16th May Affect Your Organization

Note: This webinar was hosted on March 17th and presented by Andrew Sachs, VP Product Management

A lot of unknowns still remain about the FCC closed captioning and quality regulations, but we can certainly talk with greater veracity about how it will affect you and what’s going to happen.

The first thing is a little overview and disclaimer. This is not about legal advice and we’ll advise you to talk to your lawyers. A brief history into the CC regulations in the United States. This webinar is really targeted for providers subject to the FCC so it’s really about providers. Could be cable, satellite, IPTV, video programmers, networks, broadcasters that are resident in the US. Talk a little bit about why you’re seeing this legislation now. Probably amidst all the net neutrality debate going on.

Then we’ll talk specifically about the order that was issued last February. It went through some modifications, some things called FNPRMs, and as many of probably know the rules went into effect yesterday. That the captions are there, the laws are there, but there’s still lots of things that are up to further notice of proposed rule making or FNPRM. You’ll see that acronym a lot. Still a lot of things that are unknown.

We’ll talk briefly about Volicon’s product and solutions. I’m going to give you a little teaser. We’ve got some announcements coming at NAB. I can’t really talk about them here, but we definitely urge you to schedule with our sales team and come see us at NAB, or schedule a sales call afterwards. We’ll do the session of Q&A as Jennifer had alluded to earlier. All right? Without much ado get rolling.

This is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. We’re doing our best job. We talked to a lot of networks, a lot of broadcasters, a lot of VPVs and captioners and we’re trying to help make this as practical as possible, and telling you what we’re also hearing from other operators, but that doesn’t substitute having discussions with your legal team.

A little background of the FCC and CC regulation. The technology started in 1976 and it was back when television was analog. It was during the vertical pointing interval. From that the technology of 608 captioning was invented. Basically modem carriage of some digital information inside that invisible line 21. In 1990 the FCC regulated all large TVs bigger than 13 inches had to have 608 decoders.

In ’97 actually this is the first time the FCC actually started to mandate the content actually be captioned. It was initially some percentage. Now we’re pretty much up to 100%. Although not commercials and there’s lots of exceptions mostly related to fiduciary limitations, monetary ones, economic burdens. When digital TV came along, the 708 standards were born, and that was obviously just carrying forward what was in 608 just a lot more flexible in terms of placement and fonts and other things that you can carry.

Then in 2004 there was actually a petition started to address the CC quality. Having CC there or telling people they had to caption it, but not having it necessarily be the right quality doesn’t necessarily lead to usable CC. There was a study done not too long ago that showed that just a few percent error in the CC resulted in a much, much lower comprehension for the audience. You might think 95% captioning is good, but truth if you were delivered content with 95% captioned correctly you would find it almost useless and turn it off.

They started this effort basically petitioning the FCC to look into it. This went on for quite a while. In the meantime, the CVA law was passed, which was the twenty-first Century Communication Video Accessibility Act. Which basically is one of its provisions said if you broadcast content and you put that content up on the internet, then it also has to be captioned. It actually was the first reach into the internet for captioning.

In 2014 the FCC came that full 10 years since the filing of that petition and actually made the CC quality a law. It was originally supposed to take effect in January, but it got moved to March or just yesterday for becoming in effect. We’ll talk in detail about what that law is and what the best practices are and what things have evolved in the years since it did become law.

In the meantime in December, and this is of interest not directly to the closed captioning yet, but there was an FNPRM issued by the FCC about whether they should regulate straight over the top providers: Netflix, HULU. Actually HULU wouldn’t count because it’s already broadcast content, but content that was never broadcast in the first place. The FCC regulatory arm continues to move beyond the spectrum protecting the spectrum for the consumer.

Finally, what’s really happening now with the CC Quality law is you’re really seeing the FCC finish or begin to finish what was started all the way back in 1976. Captioning as a technology, great, but we actually find that in order to make it useful it has to be of high quality so let’s not only say that you have to caption it, but when you caption it it has to be usable and finish something that was started back in 1976.

 A little Volicon thoughts on why now. Certainly economic pressures as broadcaster continue to get the squeeze. There’s lots of different solutions all the way from transcriptions, very can help you captioners with lots of capabilities all the way to speech to text engines that basically are unusable under all circumstances. As price is pushed down those different technologies are being explored, but they obviously represent different price performance or accuracy and cost trade-offs. As those economic pressures come in some CC quality has come down as a result of that.

Certainly FCC leadership priorities. This came in, there was a change in FCC leadership not long after that this quality issue came back onto the docket. Obviously CC presence only makes sense with the quality so finishing something that was started.

I think probably the most important thing is it’s not just for the hard of hearing. It’s effective audio correction. You didn’t quite understand it. You didn’t hear it. You didn’t want to keep the volume that loud. It allows you to read and keep up with the content. Obviously useful in large venues with no audio, and there was study done by a large OTC operator that found that consumers up to 30% of them were using them when it was available. That’s far, far higher than hard of hearing or deaf community. It tells you that the content and the captioning is getting to be an important part of the quality of experience for the consumer.

What was passed in February of 2014 a little more than a year ago? It’s also known as FCC 14-12 if you want to go Googling it. It’s got a nice long name to it. Four key sections. There were some rules that were immediately effective. I’m sorry. Some rules that were effective that were supposed to be effective in January, but those got moved to yesterday and later at [inaudible 00:18:30]. The Declaratory Ruling, some minor items that were actually effective back in 2014. Clarifying items especially around news captioning and using scripts and going off scripts.

A big section of further notice of proposed rule making, FNPRM basically things they’re considering for rules. Almost say that they started this process with the FNPRM when they started with the quality order, but there’s a lot left in that potentially upcoming rules. Initially we thought that might get clarified over the last year, but I’ll have to say that it really hasn’t been clarified. The process will go forward and we’ll see what happens is the current state of affairs.

Then finally there’s the Final Rules. The actual FCC amendments. I think it’s Title 47 whatever. I have the exact paragraph clause in it later. The actual amendments that happened to the law.

What’s inside of it? This is the most important thing of this law so if you’re going to pay attention anywhere, pay attention to this right here. It’s not only the CC has to be there, but it has to meet these four, and they call them non-technical standards because they’re not really well defined. There’s no objective measurement for them like there is for loudness, and it’ll be a I know it when I see it problem probably resulting from the complaints from viewers. These will be defined by the people that complain.

The four areas will be accuracy. Ensuring that the captions reflect the dialog, sound, music, speakers, the entire lyrics of the song, anything that can really affect how the hard of hearing could perceive the program.

That it’s synchronized. Aligned in time. Able to be read at a certain speed so you’re not presenting captioning 20 seconds later after the scene because obviously someone consuming at that methodology in that way wouldn’t be able to marry the two. A little bit of a leniency here on live captions. We’ll talk more about that later. You’ll see there’s going to be a pressure on ensuring that captions are indeed present, aligned in time with the content.

Completeness. This is one of the no brainers that you not only caption some of a program, but the entire program. Finally placement. The captions aren’t supposed to include other faces, other key graphics, or on screen text. Ensuring the presenting of this information doesn’t then preclude other complete absorption of the content.

This is the four non-technical standards. As I said because they really haven’t been codified objectively I think you’ll see these defined by the series of complaints from consumers. That’s my opinion. That’s not a legal advice, but I think it’s a practical item in lieu of written or objectively approved standards. What you respond to will be the challenge.

The FCC has some leniency in for different types of programming. Obviously prerecorded programming more than 24 hours before broadcast a full adhere. No extra leniency. Live and near live content falls under the same which is basically content that’s less than 24 hours before broadcasting, and probably there’ll always be a greater leniency on it.

There’s a part of the FNPRM that says, “Hey if I take this live or near live content and then I rebroadcast it, what am I responsible for?” That’s not fully been answered. If it’s live or near live and less than 24 hours they’ll be more leniency, and certainly with respect to timing.

Then specifically around the rules that were effective last year the Electronic Newsroom Technique was something that was allowed in many of the smaller markets, but it can result in poor CC quality when you go on live events and off script, and it’s being phased out as a tool. The new law restricts the use of ENT as of July of last year.

Like loudness regulations, the FCC is holding the people who deliver television responsible like they can from a legal perspective being as they’re the ones that regulate the spectrum that’s delivered to the home. That’s broadcast TV stations, satellite cable, satellite, and IPTV operators. Like loudness they can’t actually go directly to the networks of the video programmers. Their regulatory mandate doesn’t necessarily allow it.

They basically rely on this chain of best practices. What they do is they point to the VPDs and they say, “Hey you’re responsible and if you want to get off the hook you need to get a certification from your video programmers, the people feeding you content that they are indeed following their best practices, and then on top of that do some monitoring and keep records of it.” The VPDs generally and it was part of the FNPRM that was resolved back in December.

The VPDs honestly cannot fix a lot of the issues. They’re ultimately responsible for them and they have to ensure compatibilities of set top boxes and different forms of content version, the software, so you can’t absolve them of responsibility, but there’s many of the content items that do need to get resolved by the video programmers. The FCC says, “Hey if you get these certifications from the programmers and you monitor your stuff and you keep records, you’re adhering to best practices and you can’t really be held liable or fined if you will.” Doesn’t mean people can’t complain, it just means that you won’t get fined in this case.

There was part of the FNPRM that was opened up with the original Report and Order back when 14-12 came out. I’m sorry, part of the Report and Order. Then it was revised. A new FNPRM came out in December and what that did was it actually as a result of that it moved the enforcement phase from January to March.

What really happened here was there was ambiguity initially about whether you could hold the distributors actually accountable and that’s when they came up with pushing the video programming distributors to obtain the best practices certificates from the video programmers. That happened. That was a recent change as of December last year. All right.

There are some exemptions. Basically if the channel is less than $3 million in revenue it’s exempt from these rules. There’s one rule they call multicast. You can have a dot one and a dot two channel, and the idea is your dot one could be subject to to the rules because it’s more than $3 million, but if your dot two or dot three or whatever is less than $3 million than you’re not subject to the rules. This is an economic burden clause.

You don’t want to push a cost factor into these low revenue channels going all the way down to hospitality or the houses of worship or whatever. They include this general revenue exemption. It’s per channel, so it’s not if you’re a broadcaster you don’t have to do it for your entire bouquet that you put out or multicast that you put out.

The fines are pretty bad, $8K an hour. How do you actually stay out of that? As I said earlier go to the best practices and we’ll see those in detail on the next slide. This is the page in the pdf, but you can also find it in the law. The law is actually updated now, so Title 47 Part 79. If you like reading the electronic code of federal regulations you can Google that section and pull it up and read it in detail and see exactly what the lawyers are going to be judging everything against. Again, a lot of things aren’t defined so I think what you’ll be judged against is by consumers and the complaint process, but there’s the actual law.

Now anyone in adherence to the best practices will be given time to correct before any enforcement penalties kick in. Even if you do have complaints, following the best practices is your get out of fine free card. If you are following the best practices and you’re still getting complaints then you’re talking about some quarter case, but the reality is I think the best practices will resolve many issues that might come up.

What are the best practices? I’m going to talk about them specific for video programmers. These are the people actually generating the content. We talked about the VPDs, the program distributors, and those can be cable, satellite, or they can be broadcasters, and these aren’t people creating the content they’re more like passing it through. In their case, they need to provide certificates from the video programmers. They need to have certificates from the video programmers, what they’re doing, and they need to keep their own records. Now we’re talking about the people actually putting the channels together if you will, the networks and TV stations in many cases.

The first thing you have to have is you have to have an agreement with your captioning vendor that they will adhere to their best practices. This is some sort of pass the buck so the VPD has to have a certification from a video programmer and the video programmer has to have a certification from the captioning vendor. It’s a way to extend the reach of the regulation, but push despite the fact that the FCC doesn’t have regulatory reach into these organizations, give them the ability to really try and push the thick where it belongs and that is as far up the chain into the captioning vendor as possible.

Specifically these captioning vendor agreements have to have three things in them. They have to have measures of performance that are in there. Basically SLAs. Those SLAs have to have verification being performed against them so they have to be checked periodically. Then there has to be training of the staff on them. All three of those things are part of the best practices for video captioners. I’m sorry, for video programmers you have to have these agreements with the captioning vendors. They have to have the certification, and those agreements have to have those three items in them.

The second area for the video programmers is operational best practices. These are what do you need to do during the process. First and foremost on a lot of stuff that’s captioned ahead obviously prep the material. Give them scripts, names, lyrics, subject matter, any background that will help the captioner do their job better. Lots of times it’s themes or subject matter just so they can get the right captioner or familiarize themselves with the content to be captioned.

Obviously some of this is in regard to live captioning. Quality audio obviously with low leniency if you’re talking about live captioning, but obviously sort of HD audio to help the captioners understanding of the spoken word. Then obviously perform the captioning offline for anything that’s prerecorded less than 24 hours ahead. You have to have your caption vendor agreements. You have to be doing your operational best practices, and then you also have to have your own monitoring.

Specifically they say that you need QC, quality control for offline prerecorded programming to make sure it doesn’t get to your plant with errors in it. You need real time caption monitoring so you can get immediate notification if something’s off. Access to your own programmer and vendor contacts so in case issues do come up that these contacts are well known to everyone and those issues can be resolved quickly.

Then you have to keep a recording log of your captioning issues for a year. I think this is making your own rope so if you don’t do it right they got something to hang you with, but the reality is you need a recording of this stuff for a year. It’ll certainly help in your own operation, and should the FCC ever come in and ask you, you can produce those, that log of the issues.

Those are your best practices for your video programmers. The captioning vendor’s best practices are really out of the scope of this presentation, but they have their own things about the environment that the captioners operating in. If the video programmer adheres to those things then they will not get fined.

All right. The Declaratory Ruling rules are in effect now and that was last year actually. On demand programming is not exempt even if it was never broadcast. Low power TV is not necessarily exempt. You still have the less than $3 million dollar revenue exemption. There’s some more clarification of what’s being impacted.

There’s a lot in this further notice of proposed rule making and there were some clarified in December. A lot of it came around should you actually hold the programmers responsible rather than the programming distributors and the answer really has come back yes. Use the chain of certification to push that responsibility up where it belongs and ultimately all the way into the captioner.

There’s a request for making an objective rules for compliance that those really weren’t addressed. A lot of comments on them, but I think measurement companies like ourselves and some partners will probably come out with some real objective measurements that could be quantified, but there’s some suggestions about spelling, misspellings per X number of words, missing words, but for the most part those are not defined.

 There’s questions about rebroadcasting of rebroadcast content and those are not fully resolved yet. Whether you need to clean up the captioning after it’s been broadcast. Right now I think the answer is no. There’s also ambiguity about the IPTV delivery or internet delivery broadcast content, although that FNPRM that I mentioned in the very beginning in December is we’re opening up that question should the FCC be regulating if you will OTT or IPT video.

Ads still allowed not to have captions although there’s an increasing number of them that do have captions. Still lots of issues around the font, color, size because when you talk about including something you have to have certain assumptions about what’s size the CC is being presented, ultra HD, how big do they have to be. All right.

The final rules are pages 100 to 108 in the pdf document. Part 79 Title 47 if you want to Google it, but most of that stuff is for your lawyers. The items you can read them, but it’s really what the lawyers are going to work off of.

The Observer, or now known as the Media Intelligence Platform, with our compliant monitor applications hase really good features that have been used for years in this space. First is CC review extraction and affidavit creation. The law is out, and one of the challenges you’re going to be faced with is I’ve got a complaint about a program at 11:00 and it wasn’t captioned.

It’s real easy with the Observer. You dial in to the date right that you might be dealing with. In this case I’m just going to stay with what’s being broadcast right now. You can enter the time. Go to that time, and actually review. See it as the consumer would see it.

Then the other thing you can do, and this is a very basic thing that’s been around with the Observer for very long, but I get the feeling it’s going to be used a lot with regard to this is you can actually create a clip and extract it with the closed captioning. Do a mark in, and let’s just say that someone complains about a specific time period. I can then create mark out, and then I can send someone this actual clip.

What I can do is I can burn in a time stamp in the closed captioning. Then what goes on is the content’s extracted from the Observer. The closed captioning is burned in and it’s a file that you can now mail someone. If you get a complaint about that point in time on that channel, you can extract this, burn in the content, and then mail them this file with the closed captioning burned in. Very straight forward with our product a use case from the very beginning and something I think that will be used very frequently given the CC Quality law.

 Second, is our QoE monitoring in absence of CC. We do have a way of monitoring for the presence of this closed captioning track, and sending you a SNMP email or a visual indication that it’s missing. You can put these up on multi-viewers and have them visible so you can have them for visual monitoring. You can have them for QoE, SNMP or email monitoring so that you can be notified when QoE goes absent, and then quickly address those problems.

Then the final thing that the Observer does is 24×7 record. If you’re challenged what you want to do is … I’ll kill this one right here. Let’s say that you’re doing your reviews. This is part of your best practices, and you’re told, “Okay, I want you to go in at 10:00 each day and look to see if it’s there.” You dial in at 10:00 you do your spot check. Right or 11:00. Let’s go to 11:00 yesterday and now we can check and I can be listening to the content, checking the captioning, doing a spot check.

Not only can I be alerted if it’s missing, but I can also go back and do those performance spot checks that are mandated as part of the best practices. Really giving you three tools to help you with that today. We have some more coming, and I can’t really talk to you too much about it. I definitely urge you to come to NAB. You’ll see an announcement from us about some extra features in the Observer that will help you with this CC Quality above and beyond what you’ve just seen.

All right. In summary the goal is clear. Closed captioning quality matters. Something that was started in 1976 is really being finished here in 2015 or almost being started to be finished if you will. The Quality rules are in effect now, yesterday to be exact. Get ready to address complaints. I think someone asked me what’s going to change. I think depending on how long they take to work their way through the FCC and develop people pick up and start complaining maybe it’s a couple months til you start seeing complaints.

Remember you need to keep records for a year on any issues. If you deliver television you’re responsible. Make sure you get your best practices certifications from people that do have it, and if you’re a video programmer make sure you follow those best practices. Period monitoring and records are key.

Then look to us for more on the CC Quality solutions. Come see us at NAB. Compliance is our DNA. CC presence and monitoring was one of the very first things that really got Volicon kicked off, and a key part of the broadcasters and network solutions. Look for more announcements here. All right Q&A time.  Jennifer?


Jennifer:          A couple questions rolled in. The first one comes in from George. “You referred to this as a law. Has it been codified by Congress and signed into law or is it actually a FCC rule?”

Andrew:           Your civics class. I wasn’t really paying attention back then. Don’t trust my legal assessment here. This one’s interesting. The FCC was given legal authority to regulate anything delivered over the electromagnetic spectrum, and as part of that they’ve gone into CC and accessibility and the demand for making that electromagnetic spectrum accessible. They’ve said, “Well you need to have closed captioning.” Now they’re saying, “You need to have closed captioning and it’s quality.” This has happened without Congress passing another law.

                        It was a little different than loudness. Loudness was Congress passed this law and then in your civics class when Congress passes something it actually doesn’t do anything. Right? It has to go to the committees. In this case the Federal Communications Committee Commission to actually be turned into something operational that could be enforced. It is in the FCC code of regulations. If you look up Part 79 Title 47 you will find the laws are amended. It’s the law, but it never came through Congress. That was my best imitation of a lawyer yet. Go ahead.

Jennifer:          The next question comes in from Claire. “Does prerecorded closed captioning always have to have 100% adherence? Is there any guideline differences,” excuse me, “between pre and post 1998 content?”

Andrew:           These quality rules are in effect for content broadcast after March 16th of 2015, or on March 16th or later. These quality rules are not in effect for this content that you’re talking about. If you rebroadcast content that was captioned before yesterday you’re okay. There’s going to be this muddy period where you’re going to have problems, but they’re not going to be problems. Remember you can still get complaints. Your real issue could be just responding to complaints. Although if you have records, right, you can prove that it was content that was captioned beforehand.

                        We go to a separate issue which is that there’s going to be more leniency for content that’s near live or live versus prerecorded. It will never be 100%. It will never be regarded to be 100%. If you’ve ever actually tried to examine the captioning for one of those shows where people talk over each other, you realize that you could not possibly meet all the rules. Right? You could not possibly put every word that everybody spoke and still make it intelligible to someone reading it. Right?

                        I think there’s going to be leniency. There are no specific requirements actually listed in the law. I’m going to fall back to it’s going to be defined by the consumer and whether they complain about it or not. Whether you do something about it, it’s going to be your relationship with your consumer. Some of the stuff you just can’t fix, and then obviously there’s a lot of things that can be fixed.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Doug. “As a new station broadcasting a live newscast are we required to certify ourselves as VPDs?”

Andrew:           Not as VPDs. You’re cable company will probably come to you and ask you for a certification. If your channel goes over a cable system, satellite, or IPTV system, they will probably come to you asking for certification. Ultimately, you’re one of the people the FCC has in it’s cross hairs. You actually have spectrum, so the FCC will start with you, but you’ll have to do best practices in two ways.

                        One is you’ll have ensure that you’re a video programmer. Right? In that sense creating a newscast you’re a video programmer, but they won’t ask for a certification, they’ll ask what your best practice is. Your cable company will probably come to you asking for a certification. That’s my understanding of it right now.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Kevin. “Define restricts the use of ENT. Do you mean completely? Is this going to be available for review at a later date?”

Andrew:           I’m not up that much on the ENT stuff. I know it was something you could use in the non-top 30 markets, and I think it’s been taken out. ENT was this technique, electronic newsroom, and what it did was you could take the script of the news program and you could turn that into the captioning. The problem they ran into was as a newscast would go off script, they ENT would not be accurate. There was this exemption that said, “Well you know we need ENT.”

                        I think what they did was they took out that exemption. They said, “You know. Hey you’re producing programming. You have to caption it. You’re subject to these quality rules.” You can use ENT. It’ll just never be accurate. What that means is either your news guys stay on script or you lack caption. It’s practically I think the outcome of that ENT was in for a long time and then it looks like they’re actually trying to push it out. I don’t know that much about it so don’t take my word. Hit up your caption vendor or another news operator in your area to understand how it might impact you.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Michael. “Does any of your software solutions provide the ability for a post production facility to load video clips of various file formats for playback and quality control, or are they mainly for live feed streams?”

Andrew:           Volicon is really about taking the content that they’re broadcast or delivered and evaluating that. We do have some other partner companies that can do that QC function that you saw detailed. If you want to contact us, we’ll give you some companies that will actually take file based content and do file based QC on it specifically for captions.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Jeffrey. “So with the new rules ads do not need to be captioned. Is this correct? I’d understood that …

Andrew:           No. Ads are still not required to be captioned. Apparently hard of hearing and deaf people can be exempt from listening to advertisements, but the rest of us are stuck with it. You know it’s funny because in loudness the only thing that’s actually regulated is the loudness of the ads. In captioning it’s the opposite. The only thing that’s actually regulated is the captioning of the program. The ads are not required to have captions although we’re finding many of them do, especially on network feeds.

Jennifer:          Next questions comes in from Dale. “I thought we were to keep records for two years.”

Andrew:           Contact your legal department. Specifically this closed captioning law says one year. If you keep records for two years you’re in compliance with the one year requirement, but obviously you’ll have other reasons, legal reasons, why you’re VP, video programmer, might be having you keep content for two years rather than one year. This law actually mandates one year.

                        The only reason we bring it up is this is one of the few times that lot’s of times we get questions about how long do I have to keep my content. Well when we do the content we record it, we can actually record it down pretty low. What you’re looking at right here I think is a megabit. That one’s 1.5 megabits. You can keep this very well all the way down to 500 kilobits and very affordably keep it for a year with captioning presence and everything like that. It allows you to manage your storage needs, to not go too overboard, but easily keep the content for a year.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Brandon. “Can you monitor 708 CC IQM? It is an overlay on our set top boxes.”

Andrew:           We do the 608 and 708, so if we take a DTE feed, an [ETSV 00:54:57] feed, we are monitoring the different CCP. This ones a [WHVH 00:55:02]. I don’t know how many were actually defined for this one. Just one. These can be 608 and 708. They can be 708 CT1, two. You define them when you set up the channels and then all of them you can set up. We can have multiple tracks so you can have a 608 and 708 and then another 708 track.

                        We can monitor multiple caption tracks on the same, along with separate audios. Let me bring this up here just a little bit more. Here we have a Spanish and English track. Right? You could have if you had captions on English and captions on Spanish, we could actually monitor both of those. Both the audio and the captioning separately.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from George. “Should programming certificates and monitoring logs be part of a station’s public file?”

Andrew:           I think that’s actually what the law says. Contact your lawyer. Sorry for the caveat. Part of the FNPRM that was done back in December basically said make these certifications widely available. For loudness these are things that people are putting on their websites so that the contact information, the certification that you’re compliant. Actually you can go to some law blogs and they have example certifications documents that show what they should look like. It’s basically a one pager signed by the company made available on the website. Yes, I believe so.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Dale. “If we have a live band playing in our studio during a morning program, do we have to display the lyrics or just note that music is playing?”

Andrew:           That’s a good question. I’m going to defer that to the captioning vendors. The reality is it’s a live band. There’s probably no lyrics to the song ahead of time. The best practices basically say that when you’re doing something that’s prerecorded give them the lyrics when you have it. Right? When you’re doing something that’s live obviously you got some exemptions you might familiarize them. Maybe that you know these songs on the playlist so you can give it to them, but the reality is there’s going to be a lot more leniency during live programming. You can’t guarantee what song they’re going to be playing.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Kevin. “If the cable company asks for a certification how do we get one?”

Andrew:           If the cable company asks for one? If you’re a video programmer you make one. The cable company will ask the video programmer. They’re carrying channels right? Could be broadcasters, could be networks. They’ll go to those channels and ask them for a certification. Those certifications as we’ve talked about earlier should be made publicly available. If that’s not the question you were asking please feel free to email us afterwards or ask another question. Jennifer will ask it as a follow up.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Carol. “We have had commercials come in with scrambled CC on 608, but legible on 708. Is this acceptable since commercials are not required to have captioning? Is it legal?” Whoops someone just asked another question and it bumped down. “Is it legal, acceptable to air it that way?”

Andrew:           Legal, acceptable yes. Will people object to the garbled captions on a commercial? I doubt it. Would you want to catch that just to improve the quality of your product? Probably. Right? I don’t see that captioning of commercials either the presence of caption or the quality on commercials coming up any time soon. I think you’re fine there.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Jim. “For a multi-casters how many separate channels does your product monitor or record?”

Andrew:           As many as you have. What we do is we actually bring in the entire transport stream. As a matter of fact, I think … Let me see if one of these … No I don’t know. Some of these are actually on the same like with this WGVH OTA. I think some of these might actually be off the same ones. What we’ll do is we’ll actually split out every one of the channels into a separate channel in our system. We’ll bring an entire transport stream and then let me look at these. If I look at the bit rate it will tell me what I’m dealing with here. OTA. No, that one’s a good one.

                        We can pull them all in, and as a matter of fact, most of our operators will actually store the transport stream for a certain period of time. Maybe seven days, and then they’ll keep the proxy’s. Right? Maybe the main channel because it’s the only one that’s subject to the legal requirements, right, maybe they’ll keep that one for two years, but then the dot ones and the dot twos and the dot threes, maybe they only keep them for 30 days because they’re not necessarily subject to legal requirements.

                        We can handle them all. I think the most I’ve ever seen, I think I saw six SDs go out over the air broadcast. There’s no real limitation to our product. When you ask to get the product quoted, just give them the number of channels and the durations that they want for each one of them.

Jennifer:          Next question comes in from Tim. “When the Observer burns in the captions on a clip will it identify if the 708 or 608 caption text is included? Will it burn in both in the same clip?”

Andrew:           It only does one at a time. That’s actually a good point. You probably have to name them separately. If they’re different they’ll actually appear differently. That’s a good point. You don’t see it in audio video on the clip. The only way you know it is by what you chose to burn in on the export. Good legal hole. I should add that to the burn in meta data that shows up on the screen. That’s a good question.

Jennifer:          Okay. Next question comes in from Jeffrey. “Are PBS stations exempt from any of the CC rules?”

Andrew:           You know, PBS does a great job. They are the leaders in captioning. Honestly, in caption technology and ensuring their compliance of it. When I look at the $3 million dollar thing I understand that they’re exempt. Right? You know you’d probably have to talk to your PBS lawyers to know for sure. It’s clear in the law that there’s a $3 million dollar exemption so if you don’t sell ads and you don’t have a revenue attached to it I don’t know how you don’t fall underneath that exemption. That to be said, I think PBS has proven to be a real leader in captioning and in the quality of captioning.

Jennifer:          Last question comes in from Carl. “When will the quality metrics be defined more precisely?”

Andrew:           I’ll know it when I see it. I don’t know. Maybe a year. I’m guessing. I think what will happen is they’ll be this period of complaints. There’ll be this survey of the complaints that come in, which ones are actually addressable, which ones are not, can we actually codify this, or are we just going to deal with it on a complaint by complaint basis. My best guess is probably a year from now or a year and a half from now after the complaint process has run the course for the while and they can actually settle in to what’s actually addressable and what’s not. 

Volicon to Show Enhancements to Its Observer Media Intelligence Platform® Multiviewer Solution at 2015 NAB Show

During the 2015 NAB Show, we will showcase new enhancements to the Multiviewer solution for the company’s Observer Media Intelligence Platform®. Uniting multiviewer functionality along with the recording capability of the Volicon Observer platform, the Multiviewer option gives users access to multiple live or recorded programs (audio and video) alongside frame-accurate data on a monitor wall, desktop, laptop, or other display. New features built into the Multiviewer option include configurable layouts; support for various room, screen, and player sizes; and an expanded array of useful widgets including clocks and graphs.

“Even as the number of channels being broadcast continues to grow, and the broadcast signals themselves become more complex, ongoing economic pressures are driving broadcasters to reduce the cost of support, maintenance, and monitoring,” said Gary Learner, chief technology officer at Volicon. “The Multiviewer option for our Observer Media Intelligence Platform makes this possible, giving users a flexible and convenient tool for reviewing and analyzing a variety of signals, along with graphs and other data, on virtually any monitor wall or screen, anywhere, in an optimized window configuration.”

The Multiviewer for Volicon’s Observer Media Intelligence Platform enables users to watch multiple live or recorded programs on a network wall and use the desktop interface to inspect or troubleshoot a suspect stream without delay. The platform captures and stores content from any source and enables users to review that content in real time, from anywhere and at any time, for applications ranging from compliance, quality assurance, and competitive analysis to production and repurposing for multiple platforms and social media outlets. In addition to enabling users to keep their eyes and ears on every channel, the Multiviewer option makes it easy to identify and look past audio and video impairments to examine the integrity of metadata.

The addition of configurable layouts to the Multiviewer option gives users even greater freedom in sizing and positioning video windows, graphs, meters, clocks, and other vital tools in ways that best support their operations. Because the option now supports a variety of room, screen, and player sizes, users can confidently present video, data, and diagnostic windows on a broad range of displays, from the high-density monitor walls in network operations centers or master control rooms to the desktop to meeting rooms and lobbies, depending on the application. Clocks and graphs are among the new widgets that complement the visual information presented via the Multiviewer option.

Archiver Option for Observer Media Intelligence Platform®

 Addressing broadcasters’ need for convenient, cost-effective long-term storage of aired content, the Archiver option reliably makes high-quality versions of aired programming, promos, and advertisements readily available for use cases ranging from ad verification to repurposing.

 “A growing amount of unique content — news and sports highlights, in particular — is being exchanged among owners and provided to consumers via platforms such as OTT services and the Web,” said Gary Learner, chief technology officer at Volicon. “To leverage their own programming successfully within this marketplace, broadcasters need a cost-effective solution that makes it easy to capture and store aired content to highly accessible online storage. As expanding monetization opportunities make content increasingly valuable, reliable long-term storage of aired content also is a must for broadcasters. The new Archiver option for our Observer Media Intelligence Platform meets these demands, continually capturing content for long-term storage and providing the fast access necessary for rapid repurposing for broadcast or streaming.”

The Archiver option for the Observer Media Intelligence Platform gives broadcasters a straightforward and cost-effective solution for bringing aired content into the content creation chain. This new option gives multiple simultaneous users random access to an indexed store of full-resolution, high-bit-rate (long-GOP H.264, 9-15 Mbps) content, as well as low-resolution proxies. Users can quickly locate specific content, searching either by caption content or by date and time. Because they are working with content proxies, they can browse through content without using a powerful workstation and without consuming a great deal of bandwidth. Familiar tools built into the Observer Media Intelligence Platform allow for quick marking and extraction of selected clips.

When years of online storage are required, the Archiver option offers a scalable, high-performance, low-cost alternative to the expensive systems typically implemented for long-term archiving. The inherent redundancy of the system ensures that stored assets will remain secure and available over the long term. Two versions of aired content are captured and compared and used to guarantee that there are no gaps in the stored recording.

Because it features both baseband (SDI) and transport stream (TS) interfaces, and is compatible with any application, the Archiver option can be deployed easily in virtually any broadcast environment.

Volicon Webinar Series – Examining New Solutions for Common Broadcast Challenges

Volicon is hosting four webinars during the months of March and April. Led by Andrew Sachs, vice president of product management at Volicon, each session will offer participants expert insight into solutions for challenges facing broadcasters around the world. Webinar topics will include upcoming closed captioning quality legislation, accelerated workflows for creating promotional clips, and the repurposing of video content for social media. Volicon will provide live demonstrations of the newly refined Observer Media Intelligence Platform® technology the company will unveil at the 2015 NAB Show.

“How New FCC Closed Captioning Quality Rules, Due March 15, May Affect Your Organization” is scheduled for Tuesday, March 17, at 11 a.m. EDT. Topics will include:

  • Legislation and rules governing prerecorded, live, and near-live programming
  • Practical, proven tools to help ensure compliance with the rules
  • Strategies for complying with FCC closed captioning requirements while improving all viewers’ quality of experience.

Attendees can learn more or register at

“Speeding Stories and Promotions to Air: Volicon and WMAR-TV” will be held Tuesday, March 31, at 11 a.m. EDT. Sachs and Alex Shaw, WMAR-TV’s director of creative services, will co-host this presentation. Attendees will learn about a unique approach to repurposing content as Shaw discusses how his creative team is using Volicon technology to develop promo videos for his station’s viewers. The webinar will also touch on:

  • How innovative broadcasters such as WMAR-TV are using Volicon Observer® for content repurposing and promo development
  • The growing use case for providing content anytime, anywhere and the importance of content repurposing
  • How to monetize repurposed content and gain a competitive edge
  • How, through scaled content production, repurposing can extend the life span of existing content and stretch content applicability

Attendees can learn more or register at

“Volicon for Quick Repurposing of Linear Content to Web, Mobile, and Social Media Sites” will take place on Thursday, April 2, at 11 a.m. EDT. During this half-hour webinar, Sachs will discuss the following topics:

  • How to handle a growing array of destinations for your content without burdening staff
  • How to maintain compliance with Web captioning regulations dictated by the CVAA law
  • How to provide staff with an easy-to-use, readily accessible clipping and automation tool that facilitates content distribution to websites, mobile outlets, and social media sites
  • How to leverage existing Observer installations to reduce learning curves, technology footprint, and administration costs

Attendees can learn more or register at

The final webinar, titled Post 2015 NAB Show Webinar: Live Demo of New Functionality,” will take place on Tuesday, April 21, at 11 a.m. EDT. During this one-hour presentation, Sachs will offer a live demonstration of Volicon’s latest enhancements to the company’s Observer Media Intelligence Platform and focus on the company’s series of modular applications available for the platform:

  • Capture — Capture and clip linear or live media from anywhere to produce content quickly and easily.
  • Review — Review on-air content, validate ad placement, and perform competitive analysis.
  • Comply — Record, clip, and export aired broadcast content to meet regulatory or licensing requirements.
  • Monitor — Monitor broadcast quality, report faults, and use full recording to enable instant review of the impact of detected errors.
  • Share — Quickly repurpose content for Web, mobile, and social media platforms.

During this postshow Webinar, Volicon also will provide a complete overview and demo of new functionality, including:

  • The new Archive application for the Observer Media Intelligence Platform
  • The enhanced Multiviewer module for added monitoring convenience
  • New OTT service monitoring capabilities
  • Closed captioning solutions for compliance with the latest regulations

Attendees can learn more or register at

Baltimore’s WMAR ABC2 Boosts Speed and Quality of Promo Creation

Creative Services Team Turns Around Timely Spots for “Good Morning Maryland” 

WMAR-TV, a Scripps-owned ABC affiliate station in Baltimore, Maryland, is using the Observer Media Intelligence Platform® to speed up promo creation for its “Good Morning Maryland” newscasts. Using the Observer® system to capture high-resolution aired content, review video, and extract select clips for editing, the creative services team at WMAR-TV can work quickly and collaboratively to turn around 15-second “popical” spots highlighting key moments from a morning newscast.

“The Observer system has become the cornerstone of our GMM promo-creation workflow,” said Alex Shaw, director of creative services at WMAR-TV. “It’s an invaluable tool for creating quick-turn spots involving events or news clips that have just aired. This turnkey solution helps us deliver finished pieces with the relevancy and speed one would expect from a much larger team, allowing us to promote our news in a way that we never could before.”

The Observer system at WMAR-TV continually records the station’s original MPEG-TS broadcast, so the creative services team always knows that it will have ready desktop access to editable, full-resolution footage needed for “Good Morning Maryland” promos. The process begins with one staff member using the Observer browser-based interface to access a lower-resolution proxy version of the recorded transport stream, employing the GUI’s intuitive control functions to locate and mark key clips for export (in full resolution) into a shared folder. The team’s editor can then instantly view this content and run it through a transcoder for immediate finishing work in Final Cut Pro.

WMAR-TV also uses the Volicon system for proof-of-performance spots and ad verification applications. Because the Observer allows multiple simultaneous users to access recorded material, different departments across the station can take advantage of the system’s store of HD content at any time.

“The Observer system provides users with a valuable, high-resolution pool of aired content and makes this content readily available for review at desktops across a facility or enterprise,” said Andrew Sachs, vice president of product management at Volicon. “This unique and powerful combination of MPEG-TS recording and proxy-based viewing and clipping has long been deployed for engineering, monitoring, and troubleshooting. Now, we’re seeing broadcasters leverage it in an ever-growing variety of applications that support their operational and business goals.”


Automated Captioning and Media Accessibility Compliance Monitoring

An Efficient, Cost-Effective, Scalable Model for Meeting  FCC Requirements for March 

Growth in broadcast channels, OTT services, and foreign distribution outlets has combined with new FCC regulatory requirements governing closed-captioning accuracy, synchronicity, and completeness to create new challenges for video program owners and distributors.

The accessibility of video content has been a growing concern over the past three decades, and the FCC has addressed this issue with ever more comprehensive and specific closed-captioning regulations. Cumulatively, these regulations have the effect of requiring captioning not only on broadcast content, but also on previously broadcast long-form content — and clips excerpted from it — shown online.

New caption-quality standards introduced at the beginning of 2014 specifically target accuracy, synchronicity with the words being spoken, completeness from the beginning to the end of the program, and placement so that the captions occlude or otherwise interfere with important on-screen information. At the same time, the 21st Century Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) that extended accessibility requirements to Internet content also requires broadcast affiliates and cable channels with the top market shares to begin providing video description for at least 50 hours of content per quarter.

While these regulations both increase accessibility and enhance the overall quality of programming, they also present video program owners and distributors with an enormous challenge — that of implementing scalable, cost-effective monitoring of closed-captioning and descriptive video services (DVS).

The FCC’s most recently published closed-captioning rules — and similar closed caption and video description legislation throughout the world — make it important both to pursue best-practices with captioning providers and to deploy internal monitoring and correction procedures to ensure caption quality and compliance. However, given the growing volume of content being created and delivered to a growing number of distribution outlets, conventional methods such as the manual “spot check” have become unsustainable. Because such approaches rely on humans, the associated time and cost grows linearly with the volume of content to be checked — and then multiplies with preparation of content for multiple distribution platforms.

New technologies and strategies for closed-captioning and DVS monitoring provide a valuable new approach to this challenge, enabling video program owners and distributors to ensure that all caption files appear correctly against the right media in the right language at the right time.

Making Compliance Manageable

The monitoring and logging technology long used for compliance in broadcast stations today is being used in conjunction with patented audio search and processing technology to facilitate automated monitoring of the final broadcast output. With this technology, video program owners and distributors can cost-effectively verify that captions and DVS across all of their outputs meet new FCC regulations.

Because digital video logging technology continually captures aired content, along with critical metadata, users can address any queries concerning a specific program simply by dialing back in time and viewing recorded content to determine if closed-captioning was correct. By extracting and exporting a clip with closed-captioning burned in, the user can create an unambiguous visual and aural affidavit of caption placement and timing. This capability supports internal troubleshooting efforts and work with the closed-captioning vendor to prevent future issues, and it also enables a rapid response to any regulatory concerns.

Broadcasters can leverage the as-run log along with this logging and monitoring to perform electronic monitoring of closed-captioning. Alerts via email and SNMP make users aware of possible defects or absences of captioning data in specific programs. The visual log and captured metadata provide both visual and electronic confirmation of compliance (or noncompliance).

The addition of sophisticated audio search and processing technology facilitates analysis of spoken content at unprecedented scale, performance, and accuracy, in turn enabling the automation of file-based closed-captioning, DVS, and spoken-language verification.

For closed-captioning verification, the audio or video file is used along with a sidecar closed-captioning file to identify voice activity within the file to match the caption file with what was actually said. This process confirms whether or not the closed-captioning file is complete and representative of what was spoken — in other words, that it is the correct file — and that it is adequately well-timed. The product of this automated process is a report, complete with time code, which indicates pass/fail grades for captions based on the result of the test parameters. Spoken-language verification goes one step further, scoring the spoken word to validate that the correct language track has been used.

In the case of DVS verification, this processing technology uses the audio or video file for program audio along with the video description track. By comparing the original program audio with the version that has video description inserted, the solution can determine that they are the same, with slight differences (as should be the case), where there are differences, what the nature of those differences is, and if there is in fact voice activity. Through this process, it returns time code segments in which both voice activity and video description are detected, reporting on whether or not it matches the normal program audio, thus validating it and verifying that it aired — if indeed it did.

Finally, this technology enables the realignment of caption files that may have been shifted or delayed as a result of live captioning or frame-rate conversion. It automatically identifies closed-captioning that is out of alignment and dynamically shifts it to match the timing of the spoken words, thereby addressing the FCC’s synchronicity requirement.

A major U.S. network already uses this technology to enable cost-effective closed-captioning monitoring for more than two dozen feeds, as well as to validate that it is meeting its requirements for DVS. Millions of encoded files are analyzed each month in a highly automated process that could require well over a hundred human operators if performed manually.

The combination of its existing logging and monitoring technology with advanced processing technology provides the network with extensive reporting on closed-captioning, DVS, and spoken language, along with rapid access to the source material that’s necessary for compliance. Leveraging the as-run log with this compliance solution, the network can assess the presence or absence of closed-captioning based on time of spoken word; identify language, caption text, and any timing mismatches; determine if closed-captioning ran when it was scheduled; and determine if closed-captioning quality was acceptable.


Closed captioning, video description, and support for multiple languages are growing concerns for broadcasters not only because they are mandated by legislation, but also because they improve the accessibility of content for larger audiences and improve the perceived quality of the overall product. Regulatory requirements are compounded by the growth of demand across a wide range of platforms, creating a multiplier effect that makes automation the only viable choice. Fortunately, the automation of closed-captioning and media accessibility compliance is now possible, offering a significantly more efficient and less expensive approach to meeting key regulatory requirements and enhancing the viewer experience.



Volicon at the 2015 NAB Show

NEW Archiver for the Media Intelligence Platform®

Addressing broadcasters’ need for convenient, cost-effective long-term storage of aired content, Volicon has introduced a new Archiver option for the company’s Observer Media Intelligence Platform®. Providing multiple simultaneous users with random access to an indexed store of full-resolution, high-bit-rate (long-GOP H.264, 9-15 Mbps) content, as well as low-resolution proxies, this option makes programming, promos, and advertisements readily available for use cases ranging from ad verification to repurposing. When years of online storage are required, the Archiver option offers a scalable, high-performance, low-cost alternative to the expensive systems typically implemented for long-term archives. Because it features both baseband (SDI) and transport stream (TS) interfaces and is compatible with any application, the module can be deployed easily in virtually any broadcast environment.

Enhanced Multiviewer for Added Monitoring Convenience
Volicon’s enhanced Multiviewer option for the Media Intelligence Platform® unites the Observer® platform’s recording capability with multiviewer functionality to give users access to multiple live or recorded programs (audio and video), complemented by frame-accurate data, on a monitor wall or other display. In addition to enabling users to keep their eyes and ears on every channel, the option makes it easy to identify and look past audio and video impairments to examine the integrity of metadata. During the 2015 NAB Show, Volicon will demonstrate enhancements including configurable layouts; support for various room, screen, and player sizes; and an array of useful new widgets including clocks and graphs.

Volicon’s OTT offering provides networks, video service providers, and broadcasters with a solution for logging (recording) and monitoring the over-the-top (OTT) A/V services that stream content to computers, tablets, and smartphones. With the same suite of tools already proven for set-top box (STB) and transport stream (TS) monitoring, the solution offers a complete, cost-effective quality monitoring and/or compliance logging solution for multiplatform media delivery. Users can ensure that video-on-demand (VOD) and linear services are available 24/7 at optimal quality, validate service level agreements (SLAs) with content delivery networks (CDNs) using pixel-level verification of cloud delivery and playback, confirm the presence of captioning, and determine that specialized apps are providing optimal quality of experience. In addition to providing a true recording of services, the system facilitates remote streaming and review, as well as in-depth analysis of both unencrypted and encrypted content.

During the 2015 NAB Show, Volicon will demonstrate how its OTT offering ingests content from each point in the OTT pipeline — including all variety of target mobile devices — not only to provide a valuable look at how consumers experience streamed content, but also to supply rich data that speeds isolation and resolution of any quality issues for content viewed on any device.

Capture and Share
The Capture and Share applications for Volicon’s Media Intelligence Platform® help broadcasters capture media from a variety of sources and quickly produce and deliver compelling content to viewers via on-air broadcast, as well as digital and social media platforms. Together, Capture and Share facilitate the capture, extraction, processing, and distribution of content in the appropriate format for virtually any target outlet and device. In a fresh approach to multiplatform content creation and delivery, these applications leverage the Media Intelligence Platform’s unique content-recording capabilities and intuitive user interface to provide a much faster and more cost-effective model than is possible with conventional recording, editing, and packaging solutions.


Volicon and Nexidia Press Conference at the 2015 NAB Show:
On Sunday, April 12, Volicon and Nexidia will hold a joint press conference to discuss advanced solutions for closed-captioning quality compliance, an issue that recent FCC guidelines have brought to the forefront of broadcasters’ concerns. Scheduled for 11 a.m. PST in room N242 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the press conference will highlight the latest enhancements to the two companies’ solution for scalable, cost-effective monitoring of closed-captioning quality.

Volicon Announces Collaboration With Adobe to Accelerate Capture and Editing of Broadcast Content

Integration of Volicon’s Observer® Technology With Adobe Premiere Pro CC Enables Users to Complete Edits Within Minutes Rather Than Hours or Days

Volicon is collaborating with Adobe to enable an exceptionally rapid workflow for capturing aired content and making it instantly available in Adobe® Premiere® Pro CC video editing software. Using Volicon’s Observer Media Intelligence Platform® along with Adobe Premiere Pro CC, broadcasters and other content producers can radically accelerate the repurposing of aired audio and video for rebroadcast, bringing breaking news promos, sports highlights, weather updates, and other timely pieces to air very quickly and simply.

“Networks and stations use the Observer’s full HD encoders to capture and deliver content to air, so it’s no stretch to leverage Observer-recorded broadcasts to support and speed time-sensitive edit workflows for the many broadcasters working with Adobe Premiere Pro CC,” said Andrew Sachs, vice president of product management at Volicon. “The open environment offered by Adobe Premiere Pro CC facilitates a seamless handoff of content from the Observer system, without the need to ‘flip’ files. With this capability, a single editor can access, transfer, and edit content in a fraction of the time often required for repurposing.”

The Observer Media Intelligence Platform, equipped with Volicon’s Capture application, provides an easy-to-use and cost-effective live or linear acquisition solution that works across the diversity of sources: baseband, MPEG-TS, or post-STB. Recording around the clock, the platform can encode live, network contribution, and cable/satellite/IPTV feeds and make them available within seconds to users — without the costs and constraints of user-based licensing — via an intuitive browser-based interface.

Working with the Observer® interface, multiple editors can review content as it is captured, immediately clip high-value footage, and push long GOP H.264-encoded media clips directly to Adobe Premiere Pro CC. Supporting a range of incoming containers and codecs, Adobe Premiere Pro CC accepts this content from the Observer platform without requiring any time-consuming transcoding or repackaging.

“Adobe Premiere Pro CC not only provides broadcasters with powerful video editing tools, but also enables highly efficient workflows built on smooth integration with other best-in-class solutions,” said Simon Williams, director of strategic alliances at Adobe. “Using the combination of the Observer platform with Adobe Premiere Pro CC is so straightforward that users can simply export media from the Volicon system directly into their edit timeline. Editors can focus on the creative aspects of their work while reducing the overall time required to turn around projects.”

Quincy Broadcast Group newsrooms, with more than 12 broadcast stations across the United States, already take advantage of this product pairing to reduce their promo-creation time from days to just minutes. In as little as one second after video airs, even during an ongoing broadcast, users in the promo department can export footage directly into an Adobe Premiere Pro CC timeline to begin editing and adding graphics. There is no need to draw on other station resources to shoot or provide video, perform voiceovers, or add effects. Using only the tools provided by the Observer and Adobe Premiere Pro CC, a single staff member at any given Quincy station can package a promo, ready for air, within 30 minutes.

Overview of Volicon’s Solution for Closed Captioning

Volicon has a long history of monitoring closed-captioning text and today the observer platform is installed in over 90% of the broadcasters providing this capability. The effective monitoring of closed-captioning has become essential because in 2014 the FCC implemented its first quality standards for closed-captioning. Those standards have since been finalized, and they will go into effect in January 2015.

In short, these FCC closed caption quality standards create four subjective standards for closed captions: accuracy in indicating dialog, sounds, music, and speakers; synchronicity, in that captions are aligned in time and appear at a speed that can be read; completeness, meaning the full program duration; and placement so that captions do not occlude faces, key graphics, or important on-screen text.

These standards are important today not only because the FCC has made them law, but also because quality captioning is critical to viewers’ quality of experience (QoE). High-quality closed-captioning makes programming more accessible and consumable for a broad array of viewers. As much as 25 percent of viewers, including the hard of hearing and many others, take advantage of closed-captioning at home, at the gym, in restaurants, and in other venues in which audio is low or nonexistent.

Meeting these new captioning standards will be challenging not only because the bar has been set higher, but also because networks and video programming providers (VPDs) will likely field a much higher volume of complaints about captioning now that the law addresses quality. To handle both of these factors effectively, providers need a way to monitor to improve caption quality and to respond to captioning inquiries quickly and unambiguously without increasing OPEX — the time or human resources dedicated to closed-captioning monitoring. The Volicon Observer system allows users to easily achieve these objectives.

Originally engineered to enable broadcasters to address compliance requests including captioning, Volicon’s Observer technology has evolved into the preeminent compliance solution. The system continually records broadcast content and subsequently enables fast access to suspect segments, which can be clipped and exported with burned-in closed-captioning that serves as unambiguous proof of compliance, or lack thereof.

Equipped with extended capabilities, the Observer Media Intelligence Platform empowers broadcasters not only to monitor aired content and ensure compliance with standards and regulations governing loudness, metadata, decency, and captions, but also to repurpose content — complete with accurate retimed captioning — for the Web, social media platforms, and mobile services. Given the 2010 CVAA online captioning law, this is a critical step in delivering compliant captioned content and, in turn, taking advantage of new revenue-generation opportunities.

For caption-quality spot checks, the Observer’s live multiviewer feature provides media and data — an accurate closed-captioning overlay — to enable periodic at-a-glance review with respect to timing, accuracy, completeness, and correctness. Manual review functions allow users to dial back to the target time and date and check caption quality. The Observer system also can generate a closed-captioning compliance report that provides detail and summary performance data on both programs and channels. By providing alarms when bad captions are identified, the Observer system supports proactive handling of captioning issues.

The flexibility of the system in handling multiple caption tracks and all caption formats (608, 708, SCTE-20), and even post-set-top box, means that users can perform caption checks from origination to STB output. Through a partnership with Nexidia, Volicon also offers an automated solution that brings efficiency to caption-quality compliance in even the largest media facilities.

Compliance is at the heart of the Observer system, and with it, users can stand prepared for Jan. 15, when the FCC standards governing captioning finally come into full effect.


Quincy Drives Higher News Ratings With Observer-Enabled Promo-Creation

By Brady Dreasler, corporate director of television engineering at Quincy Newspapers Inc.

In 2012 we standardized Quincy broadcast stations’ transport stream verification on Volicon Observer video monitoring and logging systems. Given our previous experience with Volicon systems, along with ongoing development of the Observer product line, it was clear that the Observer was a solid choice for around-the-clock recording and monitoring of all off-air content. Over the past couple of years, however, we have found a far more valuable use for these systems: the creation of compelling and timely promotions for our live news and weather programs.

Promotion in the news business is huge because they can demonstrate to viewers a station’s leadership position in providing timely coverage and reporting. After our station’s airs live breaking news about an event such as a weather emergency or fire, it is important that staff there can immediately run a proof-of-performance promo that includes a series of clips from the broadcast.

In the past our stations relied on the promotion manager to assign a staff member to record the broadcast, and then for the staff member to follow through and actually trigger the recording. Unfortunately, this was an unreliable process, and content often went unrecorded, leaving the promotion manager without the material required to create a proof-of-performance promo. Even when content was recorded to tape, it could take days to access the right video, edit it, and complete a promo.

The Observer’s ability to record aired content continually offered us a significantly more effective alternative and one that has dramatically increased the system’s value within our operations. With this Volicon system, we never miss a promo opportunity.

Fourteen of our stations use the Observer to capture the full MPEG transport stream, maintaining 14 days’ worth of high-resolution content on the system for promo creation. Using the Observer’s browser-based interface, a single staff member in the promotions department can quickly and simply identify and extract video from the aired news program. Just one second after video is aired, even during an ongoing broadcast, the user can export footage directly into an Adobe Premiere timeline and begin editing and adding graphics. There is no need to draw on other station resources to shoot or provide video, perform voiceovers, or add effects. Using only the tools provided by the Observer and Premiere systems, a single staff member can package a promo, ready for air, within 30 minutes.

The Observer system has become one of just a few technologies that our stations’ promotion teams consider critical to doing their jobs effectively. Every day, they benefit from the savings in time and effort enabled by this Volicon technology. Equally important is the impact of rapid promo creation on our business.

News viewers pay attention to which station is going to offer the best coverage of breaking news, and they tune in accordingly. When we can show in a timely and engaging way that we cover this news well, it enhances our credibility and helps to drive our ratings higher. Observer systems have aided us in creating several Emmy Awards for our news coverage. As our company acquires additional broadcast stations, we’ll very quickly make the Observer a part of their day-to-day operations, as well.

Published in TVTechnology December 2014