Captioning without having to send tapes back and forth sounds enticing, but you are probably wondering how NLE (tapeless) captioning works and if it is the captioning solution for you. The first question you need to ask yourself, is, “Am I editing in standard definition?” If your answer is “yes” then this article was written for you. For NLEdirect HD captioning info read this. Standard definition has 480 lines of video and 6 extra lines of data, totaling 486 lines. The closed captioning data is placed on the data line 0, 1, or 2.
The next question you ask is, “Do I have a video card or break-out box that came with my editing system’s software?” If your answer is “no,” you must buy a video card or break-out box through a third party vendor. The cost can be anywhere from $1000-$3000 depending on the manufacturer. For example, Matrox MXO2 costs $1500 and AJA Kona 3 costs $3000. The video card is to be attached to your computer and functions as encoder. When you output to tape, your NLE system maps the closed caption information from row 0, 1, or 2 encodes it to to your tape. For example, all Avid editing systems come with cards, but Final Cut Pro does not include a card with its software. If you are using firewire to output to tape, you cannot do NLE (tapeless) captioning. Why? Because the 6 lines of data get stripped, removing the caption data. The editing software package that you use is usually not the issue, but rather the hardware path used to get the video off your system and onto the tape. Some hardware boards/break-out boxes will ignore the caption data. You can call your captioning company for a test file to see if your break-out box supports NLE (tapeless) captioning.
If you want to do NLE (tapeless) captioning you must ensure that you have the tape deck(s) that your station(s) require. If not, you may want your captioning company to record a different tape format than your original master. If you don’t have the needed tape deck and you still want to do NLE (tapeless) captioning, your only option is to buy a tape deck.
If you are editing in standard definition, you have a break-out box or video card, and you have the appropriate tape deck, you can consider yourself a candidate for SD NLE (tapeless) captioning, captioning directly onto your editing system. The NLE (tapeless) captioning process begins by posting a compressed video of your entire program from start to finish to your captioning company’s FTP site. After they complete the captioning process, they will e-mail you a caption file, which is normally a compressed black QuickTime or AVI video that is either a picture-in-picture effect (alpha channel overlay) or crop effect (you must crop the video). They can match the codec you are using so you do not have to re-render your project. You then take this video and lay it on another video track in your project. You must ensure the captions match the video by doing a 3 point check while viewing the captions as the video is played out of your editing system. From here, you output your entire project–with captions included–to tape! Captions are created because two of the video’s lines are merged with your video program material. When you output to tape, your NLE system maps the closed caption information to your tape. There you have it–no shipping tapes, fast turnaround time, and a first generation quality closed captioned master!