Making conference videos more accessible

Published 2016-01-21 category: tutorials

If conference videos are made more accessible, they can be shared with a wider audience. This is a great way to add value! Most Fronteers 2015 videos are now available with captions and transcripts. In this post I will explain why we did it, how we got our transcripts made and what happened next.

At Fronteers, we have had our videos transcribed in the past 2011, 2012, but it was quite a time-consuming process and we’ve not always been able to find volunteers for it. In recent years, the process has improved a bit, so this year I thought it would be good to have them made again.

What and why

To make a video more accessible, WebAim recommends having both captions and transcripts.

A caption is like a subtitle, but in the same language as the video. It contains whatever is said in the video, and other sounds, such as laughter, applause and description of any music that is played.

A transcript is a textual alternative for audio and video. On the Fronteers site, we use the content of the caption file and display it underneath the video.

Captions and transcripts can benefit:

Amara via Vimeo

For our transcripts this year, we have been making use of a service called Amara. It is integrated into Vimeo, which makes the process of ordering very convenient (we host our videos there).

We used Amara’s paid service, but, at the time of writing, they also give users access to their editor on Vimeo, so that they can DIY the transcripts. Or you can access the same tool on and subtitle videos hosted anywhere (many formats supported). Both are free, but cost more time per transcript.

Amara is bigger than just their Vimeo integration: they are a project of a not-for-profit organisation that aims to ‘build a more open, collaborative world’. In this post I will focus on how to do it with the version built-in to Vimeo.

The process

The Amara service can be used from within Vimeo. The way it works is that, as the uploader, you go to your videos’ settings and under “Purchase Amara professional services”, you click “Purchase”. You then select the language that you require, choose a price tier and enter payment details.

You can also add a comma separated list of technical terms, to make sure the transcript reflects their spelling correctly. As an experiment, I decided to leave this field empty.

Amara purchase button Purchase button on Vimeo

After submitting a video for transcription, each one took 3-6 working days to show up. The week after I had ordered them, they kept slowly coming in, giving me the time to check each one (see below). The quality was surprisingly good, with only very few minor corrections needed. This was despite not supplying a list of technical terms.

When we were happy with the transcript, we also uploaded the video to our own website, where we included:

(Example: Digital governance by Lisa Welchman)

In the front-end outputted by our CMS, Krijn built something nifty to make it so that when you click a sentence in the transcript, the video skips to that part of the talk. Check out the example above to see it in action, it is very cool!

If you want to do something similar, it is good to know that the caption that shows up in Vimeo can be downloaded as a WebVTT file. This is ‘just’ a text file with time stamps and sentences, so it can be opened and updated in a text editor of choice.


In our case, we paid for our transcripts. The results were very good, and almost ready to go live. Just before that, I have gone through a few steps manually for each transcript:

!/_images/vimeo-amara-.jpg(Amara interface on Vimeo)! Amara’s handy interface to check and adjust your captions

Some notes

So, that’s it. I hope this helps conference organisers in deciding whether and how to transcribe their conference videos. If you have experience with other services or workflows, please do leave a comment below.

Edit 26/01/2018: unfortunately, it is no longer possible to do the above through Vimeo.

Comments, likes & shares (6)

AlmeroSteyn and Adrián Bolonio #StayAtHome liked this

kang wrote on 26 January 2018:
Nice write-up from @hdv regarding the challenges of supporting pw managers auto-complete functionality in login forms…
kang wrote on 26 January 2018:
Nice write-up from @hdv regarding the challenges of supporting pw managers auto-complete functionality in login forms…
AlmeroSteyn wrote on 26 January 2018:
It was actually easier than I thought.
AlmeroSteyn wrote on 26 January 2018:
Well for clarity not the transcripts yet.