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Video & Other Multimedia Standards

To be considered compliant with various accessibility laws, video and other multimedia require that fully equivalent content also be provided in a text version. This content explains how the California Department of Education ensures compliance.

This document is one of the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Web standards documents. Be sure to determine which of CDE’s Web standards apply to any specific Web product that has been or will be developed by or for the CDE.

This document functions as a companion to the other CDE Web standards documents. In particular, this document is corollary to the CDE Web Accessibility Standards. Any specific issue or question related to video or multimedia that is not specifically addressed in this document, is governed by the CDE Web Accessibility Standards.

This standards document does not apply to live webinars, but it does apply to recorded webinars posted to the Web. Recorded webinars are videos and follow these standards.

It is CDE’s intent that this standards document be fully inclusive of CDE’s other Web standards (including the Web Accessibility Standards). The purpose of this document is to document CDE’s additional requirements for video and multimedia.

Background on Video & Multimedia Accessibility

Ensuring that all video and other multimedia are fully accessible remains among the most resource-intensive activities related to Web accessibility.

To be considered compliant with various accessibility laws, video and other multimedia require that fully equivalent content also be provided in a text version. The text version must ensure that those individuals who cannot see video or hear audio (or those who cannot do either) have all of the information that is contained in the video or multimedia item.

Despite recent advances, creating text equivalents should be planned-out and budgeted to consume 50% or more of all resources toward producing any single video or multimedia item. Therefore, the requirement to make video and other multimedia fully accessible must be considered when a decision is made to work with video or other multimedia formats.

The Standards

Copyright

Video or other multimedia content that is created by or for CDE must not contain any material that belongs to a copyright holder unless express permission has been granted to use the material.

Background music is the most common type of material that is overlooked. Also, consider any art work or clip art that is used for still images or still video frames. Images or logos in the background of video may be protected by copyright as well. A portion of a song, a television program, or a movie that is simply part of the background is likely protected under copyright too.

Be sure to either get express permission for the use of any materials protected under copyright or do not use them. When copyright video or audio has been accidentally included, blur images and/or dub-over sounds that might be subject to copyright protection.

It is not CDE’s responsibility to determine the copyright status of materials used in video or other multimedia when they are created for CDE by contractors or other entities. Whenever there is doubt, CDE will consider that materials do have copyright protection and may require proof that express permission has been granted.

Text Equivalents for Video

A text equivalent is always required for each video or audio item.

There are two primary types of text equivalents and sub-types of each as well:

  1. Captions appear on or adjacent to video.

    1. Open captions are “burned” or permanently affixed to the video.

    2. Closed captions are associated with the video and are usually placed over the video, but they can be turned on or off. Closed captions can often be adjusted by end-users to change the text size, font, color, or placement on the screen to make them easier to use.

  2. Transcripts of video or audio.

    1. A simple transcript simply includes all of the audible content from the video or audio. It must also include:
      • Title of the video
      • Production date and location (if known)
      • Description of the setting
      • Names of each speaker (if known) and indications for when each is speaking
      • Notations when there is non-verbal audible content such as music, applause, or laughter.
      • Production credits.

    2. A collated transcript starts with a simple transcript and then combines (collates) captions with text descriptions of visual information (setting where the video takes place, descriptions of the actions, body language, graphics, and scene changes). Collated transcripts always include:
      • Any text that is presented visually
      • Description of charts and graphics in any presentation
      • Description of actions or physical movement in the video that convey information or meaning
Unless previous approval is granted, the following text equivalents are required.

For video:

  • Closed captions

For audio:

  • A simple text transcript posted adjacent to any links to the audio item.

In certain cases and when approved by the CDE Web Services Unit in advance, it may be acceptable to use open captions instead of closed captions and/or to choose between using captions or a collated text transcript. For example:

  • When a live webinar or video is open-captioned, it is acceptable to use the open-captioned version for the recorded video.
  • When a video has only one or two speakers giving a presentation, a collated text transcript can sometimes be used instead of captions.

Closed captions and transcripts must be accurate representations of the video or audio content. That means that closed captions and transcripts must match any audio (including the audio track of a video) with nearly 100% accuracy.

Until automatically generated captions and transcripts (e.g., YouTube Automatic Captions) attain near 100% accuracy, they cannot be accepted as sufficient final products for the closed captioning or transcript requirements in these standards. However, automatically generated captions can be used to generate a draft caption or transcript file that can be edited to ensure its accuracy.

When video is shot or intended to be consumed in a non-English language, the text equivalent requirements in this document must be created in the same language that is used in the video or audio item. Working with audio translations adds an extra layer of complexity to being compliant with these standards and further advance planning will be required. For example, if the audio track of an English-language video is replaced with a Spanish audio track, the captions and text transcript for the Spanish video would be required to be done in Spanish. If professional translators were hired to translate text content, they may need to be supplied with both the basic transcript (for the caption file) and with the complete collated text transcript so it can also be translated.

One advanced planning task that can benefit almost any video or other multimedia project is to create a script before recording begins. There are many benefits to creating a script prior to shooting video or recording audio. Even when some portions of the video or audio may be unscripted, there are benefits to scripting as much as possible. Not only is it usually easier to create text equivalents for scripted videos, they are often simply better productions due to the advanced planning that is inherent when scripts are prepared in advance.

Video and Audio Quality Requirements

Whenever possible, video and audio should be recorded in a high quality format. The reason for this is because it is always possible to compress the video or audio to a lower quality, but it is difficult to impossible to improve the video or audio quality after it has been recorded.

Video Development

CDE requests 1080p HD video (1920 x 1080 pixels), at 24fps or higher frame rate, and with a 16:9 aspect ratio unless a different specification (resolution, frame rate, and aspect ratio) is specifically authorized for a particular project or purpose.

When HD video is recorded at these high quality levels, consideration must be given for how the video will be transferred to the CDE.

Whenever HD video cannot be supplied per the standard above, the highest quality video that is possible must be offered for CDE’s consideration and approval.

Video is requested in either MP4 or WMV windows file formats. If video files are saved on a non-windows operating system (e.g., MAC or Linux), be sure to use file names and extensions that can be opened by Windows. For example, avoid spaces, symbols, and punctuation in file names.

Audio

CDE requests audio or the audio portion of videos to be recorded with quality sound capturing devices at a sampling rate of 48 kHz.

Audio should be encoded into .mp3 format at 320 kbit/s using MPEG-1 Audio Layer III. If audio files are saved on a non-windows operating system (e.g., MAC or Linux), be sure to use file names and extensions that can be opened by Windows. For example, avoid spaces, symbols, and punctuation in file names.

Where to Post Video or Audio Files

Key points:

  • If videos or other multimedia are created by or for CDE and whether by CDE staff or CDE’s contractors or affiliates, these standards apply without regard to where the video or other multimedia is posted to the Web.

  • Also, if video or other multimedia is already posted to the Web by non-CDE entities, they should not be reposted. Instead, link to the existing locations. If the video or other multimedia were created by or for CDE or if they are integral to the work of CDE, they must adhere to these standards. The only exception is when a link to a video or other multimedia is deemed to be a non-integral resource and advance permission is sought and received by the CDE Web Services Unit.

Unless otherwise agreed to, video files must be uploaded to an approved CDE YouTube account. In most cases, the approved YouTube account will be the main YouTube account for the California Department of Education External link opens in new window or tab.. Posting of video files along with their required caption files and transcripts is handled by those who are approved to post to the YouTube account. For CDE’s main YouTube account, this is the CDE staff in the Web Services Unit, who can be contacted at tsdweb@cde.ca.gov. The content of the audio files must have been approved per CDE’s Department of Education Administrative Manual Section 3900.

Unless otherwise agreed to, audio files will be posted by staff in the CDE Web Services Unit to the most appropriate location. Posting of audio files along with their required transcripts is coordinated by the CDE Web Services Unit. Requests for posting audio files should be sent to tsdweb@cde.ca.gov. The content of the audio files must have been approved per CDE’s Department of Education Administrative Manual Section 3900.

When requested, consideration will be given to posting video and/or audio content on other websites. For example, instead of using CDE’s YouTube accounts for posting, CDE can post video to its own websites for either streaming or downloading or websites with related content can be used for posting if they are being used as a result of a CDE contract. Anytime video is posted anywhere other than the main CDE YouTube account or audio is posted anywhere other than the main CDE website or the CDE YouTube account:

  • The alternate posting location is included in an approved contract statement of work and/or prior specific approval from the Web Services Unit has been obtained.

  • All of the other provisions of this document have been adhered to.

How to Deliver Video or Audio Files to CDE

Video and audio files can be quite large; this is especially true of video files. Consideration should be given to how these files will be prepared and delivered to CDE when CDE will be uploading them to one of its YouTube accounts or to its main website.

CDE can download videos online if they are made available or the files can be sent to CDE on DVD, USB Memory Stick, or if there are many files, on an external hard drive.

Delivery to CDE must be calculated in terms of time, media cost, and delivery cost. CDE may not be able to return media that is used to deliver video and audio.

Development

Existing non-CDE YouTube accounts or newly created non-approved CDE YouTube accounts can and should be used to store videos during production. This practice leverages YouTube as a place to store and share in-development videos before they are finalized and it leverages the auto-captioning that YouTube provides that can be a starting point for creating closed captions.

However, when existing non-CDE YouTube accounts or newly created non-approved CDE YouTube accounts are used for development the following must be strictly adhered to:

  • Videos uploaded to these accounts must be marked as “private” in YouTube.
  • Videos will be transferred to one of CDE’s approved YouTube accounts or to another approved location for the video.
  • Videos must be deleted from the accounts used for development once the videos have been posted to an approved location.

Thumbnail Images

A thumbnail image from the video is often displayed in the background of the player. For example, this is true for YouTube videos. Whenever possible, add an image that has the title of the video, text with attribution to CDE, and/or CDE graphics/seal. If this is not possible, do choose the most representative thumbnail from the video.

Questions:   Web Services Unit | tsdweb@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Friday, March 25, 2022
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