Universal Subtitles Rolls Out Captioning Tool

The Universal Subtitles project has launched an early test version of its captioning tool in collaboration with Mozilla Labs. The tool, which eventually is supposed to make it possible to collaboratively subtitle every web video, was used to provide closed captions to videos for Mozilla’s Design Challenge.

Users watching the videos can select from up to eight different languages, with subtitles being layered on to the corresponding YouTube video. Switching between different languages doesn’t always seem to work just yet. You can check out an example for this below.

Users can also elect to provide their own subtitles, which leads them to the project’s subtitles editor. This editor makes it possible to add captions by splitting up each clip into eight-second segments and offers the ability to quickly jump back and forth between those segments with keyboard shortcuts. Users can then sync their subtitles with the clip, review it and eventually submit the subtitles to the Universal Subtitles database.

The Universal Subtitles website currently lists a few dozen video submissions, some of which haven’t been subtitled yet. Users can also submit their own videos, but the site’s submission tool is currently restricted to YouTube videos or Ogg Theora video clips like the ones used by Wikipedia. The project wants to eventually extend its reach not just to other video sites, but also to other video players and devices by offering an open format and database, co-founder Nicholas Reville told us in April. Universal Subtitles is run by the Participatory Culture Foundation, which is best known for its Miro video player.

Subtitles have slowly been getting more traction in recent months, with YouTube adding automatic captioning for all of its videos in March. Efforts like these could soon receive a significant boost through a bill that would force any web TV offering to add subtitles to its broadcast content. The Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 passed the House last week and now reached the Senate.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: Connected Consumer Market Overview, Q2 2010 (subscription required)