Microsoft working to improve captioning for online videos

Watching online videos is now common but there's still room for improvement in terms of their presentation. One of the biggest challenges is offering captioning features for people who are hearing impaired or who simply want to read what's being spoken on screen.

In a new post on Microsoft's Internet Explorer blog, the company has announced that it joined an effort earlier this year to improve captioning in online videos. The efforts center on the Simple Delivery Profile for Closed Captions (SDP-US) profile specification, which is based on the Timed Text Markup Language (TTML) that's been in use by video captioning creators for sometime.

In collaboration with companies such as Adobe, NBCUniversal, Apple, and Netflix, Microsoft has added the SDP-US profile to the HTML5 element. This will allow for captions to be placed on an online video anywhere on the screen, along with colored and italic captions. The words can even be wrapped around in different colors.

Microsoft states:

Developers will be able to add captioning to an HTML5 video by providing a caption file that contains a styled text representation of the video dialog or actions and by using the element to render and display the contents of that file.

Microsoft is currently taking feedback from video creators about their thoughts and opinions on the new SDP-US profile.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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So it's a standard for subtitle formatting, where the subtitles can be referenced to as usual with the HTML5 track element?

Sounds good if that's the case. I was worried they were about to ignore HTML5, but this sounds more like an extension of "plain" subtitles. While these subtitles probably won't be all too common, there are of course some niche uses where they'd be nice to have.

Hopefully, HTML 5.1 will explicitly define this profile as a new standard for subtitle formatting. It could certainly use some profile to at least bring basic formatting like italics, for off-screen speech.