How to Live Caption Voice & Video on the iPad

Yoda Caption Meme

We record a lot of videos these days, whether to send to our friends, or post online.  Teachers create videos to support learning in the classroom. We can make sure that everyone can access these videos, whether it be someone who is deaf, has a hearing impairment, or an auditory processing disorder.  Many of us benefit when videos are captioned. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) calls for multiple means of access for learning, and captioning can be a part of this.

If anyone has tried captioning on YouTube, you will notice that it still leaves something to be desired.  So, how can we post accurately captioned videos online, or caption a guest speaker on the fly?

You guessed it, there is an app for that.  In fact, there are several that do a pretty good job.

Image of Ava app icon

If you simply need to caption a conversation, but don’t need video, you can try AVA.  This app is meant to enable people with hearing impairment to participate in conversations.  In fact, by sharing a QR code, you can create a group and have everyone’s voices captioned live in separate streams on the same screen.  This does require that everyone involved have the app on their device. The good thing is that AVA is cross platform and not just on Apple devices.  Ava provides a certain number of minutes free, but requires a subscription for extended use.

Some thoughts about using AVA:  it will not replace the use of an interpreter.  It should not be assumed that someone who is fluent in ASL has the same type of fluency in written English.  They are two separate languages. However, it has the potential to make social situations, such as dinner at a restaurant with hearing friends, more accessible for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.  

How about video?  (I’m looking at you, vloggers).  If you are using an iPad to record your video, why not make it accessible for those who benefit from captioning.  Why not do this from the get go, instead of leaving your audience in the hands of less than perfect algorithms?

Image of Clips app icon.

I have found two apps that allow you to choose where your text appears on the screen, what font is used, and whether to use a banner in the background. The first of these is Clips.  Clips is an iOS only app that allows you to caption, as well as add filters and cartoons. I wrote about this in the Virtual App Smackdown a while back. You click on the speech bubble and then select the where you want the titles to appear.  

If you want to present information, but don’t want your own face in the video, you can use a series of posters as the background of your recording.  Take a screenshot of your captions, and you’ve created a customized poster.

Image of poster from Clips app with caption

The other app is Clipomatic.  This app doesn’t come with posters and stickers, but allows you to choose a filter and the location of your captions.  It is also available on the Android operating system. Another difference is that you can place the text at the top of the screen.  This may be helpful if you are signing, or doing something else with your hands that needs to be visible to the viewer.

Image of Clipomatic app icon

Both of these video apps are free. Both allow you to reverse the camera so you can film what you are looking at (but still see the captions scroll across the screen). Both allow you to post your videos, store them on the cloud, or save them to your camera roll.

Image of Kathryn captioning video with the Clips app

Who else can benefit from captions?  Those who speak English as a second language, those with attention deficits, and those who just happen to watch your video in a noisy environment.  My guess is that Apple will add this feature to the iPad camera in a future iOS update.

Where this has not worked for me is with videos I have recorded using screen capture in iOS 11 (I have several I need to redo).  Screen capture has the ability to record two audio feeds, one from the device itself, and one from an external mike.  I have not been able to import these videos to other apps while maintaining both audio channels. Mea culpa. I may have to resort to Youtube, or redo these videos using Clips or clipomatic on a separate device.  I have some work to do!

You can borrow iPads with these apps from the AT Lending Library.  If you have found other solutions for fast and easy captioning, we would love to hear about them!  Leave us a comment with your ideas.  

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Kathryn Helland

Kathryn is a certified speech-language pathologist and works with children and adults with complex communication needs. She has been with the TechOWL team since 2015 and is currently working on her doctorate. She would like to examine how to best support AAC users in higher education.

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