Closed Captions in Final Cut Pro 7

I have the exceedingly fantastic experience of trying to get Closed Captions into the show that I do 26 sundays of the year, and I must say, “WHAT THE HELL?!?” is usually what I’m thinking as I deal with this. In fact, it’s been nearly TWO YEARS since I started this endeavor, and I’m almost at the point where it’s solved. And so, I’m sharing this how-to with you.

First off, you need to know the tools involved:

  • Final Cut Studio. You’ll actually need Final Cut Pro 7 and DVD Studio Pro.
  • Apple’s DVD Player which is part of the standard apps included with Snow Leopard, so you should have it.
  • Synchrimedia’s MovCaptioner – and just go buy a few copies of it now. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty amazing.
  • A MiniDV deck. I have the Sony DSR-45 for this, and it works, but there’s a catch I’ll cover later.

For those of you impatient and familiar with those tools, here’s the basic pattern of producing the show with captions:

  • Film show.
  • Edit down segments for audio export
  • Export audio for transcriptionist
  • Email audio to transcriptionist
  • Finish editing show for visuals and timing
  • Export QuickTime of show timeline to desktop
  • Open MovCaptioner and Import movie for caption timing
  • Import text from transcriptionist into MovCaptioner
  • Add timecode to each line of caption text (sit thru show, click mouse a lot)
  • Export Scenarist file from MovCaptioner (.scc file)
  • Open DVD Studio Pro
  • Add QuickTime of show to a track
  • Create a play button on main menu
  • Link play button to track with QuickTime of show
  • Add Closed Caption file to the “Other” panel of the Track’s info panel
  • Build the project (not Build & Burn, just build)*
  • Open successful build in DVD Player (File -> Open DVD Media)
  • Make sure View Captions is on, and you should see them.
  • Back to Final Cut, choose control-m (Print to Video)
  • Fill in all standard information, adding the captions using the “Insert Closed Captioning data from file” button
  • Watch the show for the 4th time.

*Here’s the thing. You will get errors on the captions from the MovCaptioner .scc file. There’s not a time I haven’t, and it’s a pain. I’m presuming that MovCaptioner will continue it’s amazing pace and keep getting better and better, and someday will have this licked, but for now, c’est la vie. I have yet to not have them, it’s a pain, but DVD Studio Pro tells you which line has a problem, which is why you need to use it at all. Did I not mention this? Oh yeah, if the captions have an error in them, Final Cut Pro won’t try to use them, and it FAILS SILENTLY. Because that’s helpful.

Back to MovCaptioner, find the line with the problem, adjust some timecode as it’s usually that two captions were too close in time, and when you see 00:24:22;99 followed by 00:24:23;06 you know to change the second one to 00:24:24;06 and re-export, give it a new name, so Show08-2.scc, and then back in DVD Studio Pro, change the CC file attached to the track to the new one.

Fun Fact: – DVD Studio Pro will not update it’s cache for the CC file unless you’ve changed the name of the file. Replacing the .scc file with a new one of the same name will cause DVD Studio Pro to give you the same error over and over again. Hence, I name my .scc files as Show09-1.scc, Show09-2.scc … Show09-117.scc and so one. Actually, it’s been really pretty good to me, and I’ve never gone above seven revisions of the .scc file, but your mileage will vary.

The show I do each Sunday is the local college’s coaches show. Since the local college is Carroll College, and their football team just won it’s 11th straight Frontier Conference Championship, we actually have really good ratings. It’s amazing how deep the viewership is for this show. Having Closed Captions is mandated, although we could easily qualify for an exemption. I don’t want us to be exempt, I want us to be captioned. It really shouldn’t be this hard.

I’ve haven’t got the time right now to expand this post, so I’m going to take the steps outlined above and repost each as a quick post on how we do what we do. Realize that we shoot at 11 am on Sunday, and I’m done with everything – edits, captions, titles, printing to video, everything – by 6 pm on that same day. I’ll be showing you how in the next few posts. Stay tuned!