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Adding Closed Captioning to your Vegas Pro project

If not the first NLE to offer a complete closed captioning workflow, Vegas™ Pro is certainly among the innovators here. Though we introduced our closed captioning tools several versions ago, Vegas Pro still shines in the area of closed captioning tools. With these tools you can create both CEA-608 and CEA-708 format closed captioning for your video projects. In this article, we'll take a look at how all of this works in Vegas Pro 12.

You can create your closed captions within Vegas Pro, or you can import them into your project from a document that holds all of the relevant closed captioning information for your video clip. Vegas Pro 12 supports several different types of closed caption files that have been created in other software including Scenarist Closed Captioning (SCC) files, Real Player Captioning (RT) files, SubRip Subtitles (SRT) files, Windows Media Player Captioning (SMI) files, Transcript or Quick Time Captioning (TXT) files, CPC MacCaption (MCC) files, and finally, DVD Architect Subtitle (SUB) files.

To import a subtitle file, select File | Import | Closed Captioning. In the Import Closed Captioning dialog box, navigate to closed captioning file you want to import and click Open. Vegas Pro imports the file and adds project command markers to your project that hold the closed captioning information. Figure 1 shows my project after I've imported an SCC file. We'll talk much more about using project command markers in a few minutes.

Figure 1: Click for a larger view

Figure 1: Imported closed captioning information appears on your timeline as command markers.

In this case, the file I added to my project does not contain embedded closed caption information. But Vegas Pro can read closed captions that have been embedded in certain file types. For example, if you're working with footage from an XDCAM deck that has recorded closed captioning from HD SDI baseband signals to disc in HD or HD422 formats, Vegas Pro recognizes the closed captions when you add the footage to your timeline—or if you open the media in the Trimmer window—and adds them to your project automatically.

In this case though, since Vegas Pro doesn't know whether you actually want to show the captions or not, the captioning appears inside the event as orange media markers as you see in Figure 2. At this point, you could split, delete, trim, move, and do anything else to this event just as you would any other—with the closed captions embedded like this, you don't need to worry about them while you're editing.

Figure 2: Click for a larger view

Figure 2: The closed captions are included as event markers since they're embedded into the file I added to my timeline.

When you've finished your edits, select all of the video events in your project that contain closed captioning. Choose Tools | Scripting | Promote Media Closed Captioning. This free script comes installed with Vegas Pro and it creates the project command markers that hold the closed captioning information and correspond to the media markers in each selected event.

In order to view your captions when you play your project, click the Overlays drop-down arrow in the Video Preview window and choose the type of closed captions you want to preview from the list. In this case (and probably most cases), you want to view CC1 captions, so choose Closed Captioning CC1 (Primary) from the list. This turns the CC1 overlay on (we'll talk about CC1 markers in a few moments). Play your project again. Now you can read the closed captions as you preview the video.

Once you have the closed captioning command markers on your timeline, you can move and delete existing markers and you can also edit their content. In fact, you can even create new ones if you need to add closed captioning that you don't already have.

If you have a caption that isn't timed very well with the video, drag the command marker for that caption and reposition it so that it matches your video more effectively. One important note here though: Closed captions use a low-bandwidth data stream. If you place your markers too close to the beginning of your video or too close to one another—or in some cases, if you use large amounts of text—the appearance of the actual captions may be delayed from your marker locations.

If you've made a mistake in a caption and it doesn't match the actual video dialog, you can edit it. To do so, right-click the marker and choose Edit from the menu. This opens the Command Properties dialog box as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Click for a larger view

Figure 3: You can edit your closed caption markers in the Command Properties dialog box.

The Command drop-down list shows that this is a 608CC1 command. CC1 is typically used for the primary language that you want to use for your captions. Click the drop-down arrow. Not all of the options here are related to closed captioning, but you can choose to create 608CC1 through 608CC4 closed captions. 608CC3 is typically used for a secondary language and the other two are rarely used. Leave this set to 608CC1.

You cannot edit the Parameter field which shows you the text contents of the closed caption. However, the Comment field shows the closed caption text and also includes markup codes that provide formatting information for the closed caption system. You can edit the text, the markup codes, or both. Select all of the current text in the Comment field and type the proper text in its place.

Each row of captions must be 32 characters long or less. If you enter more than 32 characters, Vegas Pro automatically inserts a line break and starts a new row. But you can force your own line breaks if you want to. To do so, type [BR] into your text where you want the break to occur. This forces the start of a new row before the text that follows the BR command.

Next, you can enter characters such as musical notes if you want to let the viewer know that music is playing and so forth. To do this, click the Windows Start button and type Character Map into the Start Search field. You can copy any of the characters in the Windows Character Map window and paste them into the command marker Comment field and they'll show up in your closed captions.

Vegas Pro also supports a large variety of other closed caption markup tags. The application help file contains a complete table of the markup codes you can use, so if you really want to get detailed, you can. However, if you simply want to change the text of your caption, type what you want it to say into the Comment field without worrying about the markup code. Vegas Pro will add default markup codes for you.

The value in the Position field determines the placement of your cursor in the timeline. You can type a new value here if you want to change the location of the marker.

When you're done making your changes, click OK. Preview your project and the caption updates to reflect the changes you made.

As I mentioned, you can also create captions completely from scratch. Click the timeline at the location where you want the new caption to start. This places the project cursor at that point. Choose Insert | Command. In the Command dialog box, select 608CC1 from the Command drop-down list. In the Comment field, type your caption and click OK. You now have a new closed caption marker in your project. Play the project to see the results.

As I mentioned earlier, before you promote the media markers into closed caption project command markers, you don't need to worry about the markers when you make your video edits. But once you've promoted your markers, if you move the video they go along with, you could disrupt your caption timing. There are several ways to address that problem. You could simply drag your markers into the right position. You can drag them one at a time, or as a group if you have several that need to moved.

If you added the captioning markers by promoting them from embedded event markers as we discussed earlier, you'll notice that the orange media markers are still embedded into the event you moved. In this case, you could delete all the caption markers and start over. To do this, right-click a blank space within the command marker bar and choose Delete All from the menu. Now, select the events that have embedded markers and choose Tools |Scripting | Promote Media Closed Captioning just as you did earlier. This reestablishes the markers in the proper positions.

Another way to reposition your markers after you've moved their corresponding audio events involves the Edit Details window. To open it, choose View | Edit Details. In the Edit Details window, select  Commands from the first of the two Show drop-down lists. Now all of your command markers are listed in the window as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Click for a larger view

Figure 4: The Edit Details list shows all of your captioning markers and you can edit them here.

As an aside, you can modify each of the fields in this window (with the exception of the Parameters field), so that's another way you can quickly edit the contents of each closed caption. This can be particularly helpful when you're customizing your closed captions using the code reference we talked about earlier since you can expand the width of the Edit Details window and more effectively see the entire line of code and text in the Comment field as you edit it.

So, you could make note of the proper location of the markers you need to move and modify their Position fields to make them work properly. However, that could be a time-intensive task if you have lots of markers to move, so another technique is to drop the markers on the fly as you watch your project.

To do this, go back to the Edit Details window and select the row for the first marker that you want to move. Now, click in the timeline to both give it focus and place your cursor where you want to start playing. Play the project and listen to the speaker. When he gets to the line that matches the subtitle you selected a moment ago, type Ctrl + K on your keyboard. This moves the selected marker to the location of your play cursor and selects the next marker in the Edit Details list. When you get to the line that corresponds to the next marker (which is now selected), type Ctrl + K again. Continue on through your project and repeat this technique until all of your markers are in the right places.

You can use this same technique to quickly create and place new subtitles. Say, for instance, that you've added more to this video interview and need to subtitle what you've added. We've already seen how to create new captions with the project command markers one by one, but there's a quicker way to create multiple captions.

Open a text editing application like Notepad.  It can be very helpful to use an application that has a spell checker built in so you can catch any careless spelling mistakes before they end up in your Vegas Pro project. In the text document, type each caption on its own line as in Figure 5. Save your work as a simple TXT file.

Figure 5: Click for a larger view

Figure 5: Type you captions onto separate lines of a text document for importing into Vegas Pro.

Back in Vegas Pro, select File | Import | Closed Captioning. In the Import Closed Captioning dialog box, select Transcript or Quick Time Captioning from the Files of type drop-down list. Select the TXT file you just created and click Open. This creates a project command marker that corresponds with each line of text in the TXT file and places these new markers into your project.

In the Edit Details window, select the first row that contains the new markers. Click in the timeline to give it focus and place your curser. Play the project and when you get to the location you want to drop the selected marker, type Ctrl + K as you did a few moments ago. Repeat that command until you've placed all of the new caption markers where you want them.

Finally, once you've completed your captioning work and you're ready to deliver your project complete with closed captions, you can export your closed captions in a number of different ways. First, you can embed the captions into some file types. Choose File | Render As. Set the save location, name the file, and choose the file type and template. If you're rendering to XDCAM HD MXF, XDCAM HD422 MXF, or MainConcept MPEG-2, select the Save project markers in media file checkbox. Click Save. Vegas Pro embeds the closed captioning inside the resulting video file. Vegas Pro will also automatically embed line 21 captions into any 486-line NTSC SD format even without embedding the markers.

The software also creates a separate SCC file with the same name, so you now have a video file with embedded closed captioning information as well as a corresponding SCC file. In fact, if you render to some other type of file into which it's not possible to embed closed captioning information, Vegas Pro still creates the SCC file for you and gives it the same name as that you specified for the rendered file. This way you can send the SCC file along with your rendered file so that the closed captioning can be synced with the file later on in the process.

Finally, you can also export your closed captions in a number of different formats for use in various players and situations. Choose Tools | Scripting to access the several different Export Closed Captioning scripts that now come included with Vegas Pro. For instance, if you want to export your closed captions for use as subtitle files in DVD Architect, select Export Closed Captioning for DVD Architect from the menu, make the appropriate decisions in the Save Closed Caption as DVD architect Subtitles dialog box, and click Save. This creates an SUB file which you can then import into your DVD Architect project and use as subtitles. Or, if you want to provide closed captioning for the version of this video that you'll post to YouTube, select Export Closed Captioning for You Tube from the menu.

The support featured in Vegas Pro for closed captioning is surprisingly robust for a built-in feature of an NLE. Dedicated closed captioning packages and systems can cost much more than Vegas Pro and obviously don't give you all the other features of Vegas Pro. In other words, if you need to add closed captioning to your videos, then you need not look any further than Vegas Pro!

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