Captioning for Amazon Video Direct (using Adobe Premiere)

I have previously written about Amazon Video Direct (AVD). It’s an awesome opportunity for indie filmmakers to get your content in front of a large potential audience, and it pays better than Youtube. For stand alone or episodic content, it’s a great outlet.

One thing might slow you down as you start to publish your videos on Amazon: Captioning.

Amazon Video requires that all content be captioned before they will publish it. Period. That can be a bit scary. A few years ago I paid about $2500 to a captioning/delivery house to caption and deliver 10 episodes (22:30 each) to a TV network. Now, they captioned the shows in both 708 and 608 captions, and delivered the files in HD to the network and gave me copies of the .scc 608 files so I could use them later. But still, $250 per episode. I’m making indie films with budgets less than that.

Luckily, Amazon suggests a few online captioning services which are much less expensive. One, Rev.com, offers captioning for $1 per minute and delivers in various formats. They can provide captions that are AVD compliant. They even have a free caption converter, should you need one. That means my 22:30 shows would cost about $23 for captioning for AVD.

Still, $23 is money you may not want to spend. What if you want to make your own? You can, but Amazon is very finicky about their files. I will share what I have learned. I have 1 season (10 episodes) of a show and 2 short films available right now, with 1 more short film in review. (Now published)

Adobe Premiere has the ability to create and export closed caption files. But getting a caption file that AVD likes is not simple. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Create a 608 Caption file. Premiere will do 708 files, but Amazon does not seem to like these 708 files. I have only had success with 608 files exported from Adobe for Amazon. Premiere can even import existing .scc files, allowing you to edit them.

Export .scc or .srt. When exporting your video file for upload, export a sidecar caption file as either an .scc or .srt. If you have content that is 29.97 use the .scc format, otherwise use the .srt. AVD says they will take an .stl file, which Premiere will export. But I’ve not had any luck using that format.

If you’re lucky, that’s all you need to do. Just upload and publish.

For my last short film I was not lucky. I was exporting a 23.976 fps file using .srt, and I could not get AVD to accept it. It was exactly like a previously accepted caption file for a previous short film. What was the problem? After trying multiple files over multiple days, I was frustrated. I turned up this post in the Adobe Community Forums. Scrolling through I found 2 solid things to try.

1. The timecode of your captions cannot overlap the same frame.

In Premiere you can see where one caption ends and another begins. Here’s a screen shot from premiere of my latest short film:

If the 1st caption you see ends at 00:00:20:08 and the next captions starts at 00:00:20:08, AVD has a problem with that file. So you need to go through all your captions and make sure none of them overlap.

2. Remove extra content.

During the exchange in the post in the Adobe Forum “Joshb88988268” says, “open the .SRT file with notepad and do a search for this: or the word font color. Delete any that pop up.”

As a mac user I found a free program called Brackets and was able to open the .srt file. Sure enough there were 2 lines with the tag and some extra info about “font color”. I deleted those lines and hit save. My captions in the code editor looked like this:

No extra tags or words. Just number of caption, timecode, and caption content. Brackets should also be able to open a .scc file.

So far that seems to have worked. At this point I have to ask myself, if I’m uploading a 4 minute short film, is it worth spending $4 to bypass all this effort? It might be. But since I have the captions done, I would like to be able to use them.

[Update: while I was typing this post, Amazon has begun approving my video. Looks like the latest captions with these changes worked.]

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Creating Our Own Reality on the Internet

IMG_6055Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 ESV

I saw the headline in this picture posted on Facebook. Since it wasn’t your normal clickbait title, I followed the link. In that article, which was on a super-uber-ultra-conservative-just-short-of-KJV-Only-kind-of-vibe website, I was shocked by the comments of the pastor of Hillsong NYC and one of the people in the picture, who seemed to be on staff as part of the worship team, at least as far as this article portrayed them.

I was deeply troubled. I met some of the Hillsong people from Australia when I lived in Orlando. I know a guy who attends Hillsong NYC. I wondered just how connected the NYC church was to the rest? It just didn’t sit right. Not just because the website was pretty opinionated. But it didn’t fit with my own experience with Hillsong’s people or ministry.

So, I contacted my friend who goes there. He gave me the low down. Yes that couple attended. One of them may have been in some sort of quasi-leadership in the choir as a volunteer, but once the church leadership found out about the two men they approached them privately, and after that conversation the couple left the church.  Apparently the couple went on the show Survivor, and when the audition tapes were released by CBS, church leadership became aware of the situation and went to the couple.

That’s a little different than “Hillsong NYC Church has an “Engaged” Openly Homosexual Couple Leading the Choir” isn’t it?

I did a little digging and found that they were pulling quotes out of different articles from all over the place, from as far back as October 2014. And many of these posts were on conservative news or opinion sites.

I later found an article from the Christian Post from back in October of 2014 where Brian Houston, the pastor of Hillsong, had issued a statement correcting some quotes that were in a New York Times article from the same time period. The NYT quotes were the ones used in this new August of 2015 post. In the statement the pastor released he says (among other things); “”Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage… I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Then I ventured into the comment section because I wanted to let them know what I had found out. Obviously this is an opinion site, not a news site, but the story they had cobbled together for their opinion was factually wrong. The site was making some strong allegations, but had not contacted the church for any statement. Several people in the comments were talking about the inaccuracies of this article.

When I posted my information, the author of the post replied by reposting one of the same quotes from his article. This quote was from January, and said some weird stuff. Things that needed to be addressed by the church. And according to my friend who attends there, it had been addressed. Context and timing matter. They refused to accept that their version of reality was wrong. I intentionally did not include a link to the article because of that fact. You can search the title and find it if you really want to see it. There is at least one more article on the same subject that appears to have gotten all of the content from the original-incorrect post.

So, here’s a very conservative website, quoting from other conservative websites and cherry picking quotes from other publications to create their own version of reality. They are creating a story from information that is more than 6 months old. Any information that differs with this story is either not mentioned, or denied by the authors when mentioned in the comments. I noticed that there was quite a bit of traffic on the post, and there were no less than 11 advertisements running down the side of this little webpage. And from the comments, a lot of people were eating it up. I guess an article on a church that actual does biblical discipline wouldn’t generate the page views they needed for ad revenue?

This is not healthy. No matter what kind of views you have on any ideas, generating content in this kind of echo chamber is bad news. And it’s very common online.

Recently there were a rash of false news stories that Christians shared without bothering to find out if they were true. Remember that one from “NBC(dot)CO” instead of .com? This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. I used to get 2-3 emails a year saying that a famous atheist (who had been dead for years) was suing to get all religious TV off the air. That was actually a lawsuit from decades ago that was filed by someone else. and thrown out of court. But someone had put the hoax together and well-meaning, but flat wrong, Christians kept falling for it.

Please, please, when you read something online, look at the source. Do some research. Do not just accept anything that comes along. It’s way too easy to see a controversial post that feeds into your own views, and fears, and just adopt it, believe, it, share it, and propagate it without doing any critical thinking on your own.

Think about it before you share it.

Update: New statement by Hillsong Senior Pastor Brian Houston about the article mentioned above.

[I updated this post with new information regarding articles in the New York Times and on Christian post, and additional articles on this subject.]