How to Preserve Closed Captions When Removing Commercial Breaks from Videos

TV broadcast video is usually mastered to include segment breaks of five or ten seconds of black to accommodate commercials, but these breaks are unnecessary for Internet video. Content creators must edit these commercial breaks out, but this simple change can result in the TV captioning data going out of sync or being deleted altogether.  

Rather than starting the captioning process from scratch, content creators can simply remove the commercial breaks to prepare the video for Internet distribution. This article will cover the basic information you need to know for preserving closed captions when removing commercial breaks from videos. 

What outlets of video distribution require removing commercial breaks?

Many distribution outlets such as iTunes, Hulu, Comcast VOD, Netflix and Best Buy distribute TV shows commercial-free. Of course, the original shows contain commercial breaks. Therefore, a different edit of the TV show must be packaged for delivery. Because broadcast TV usually includes about ten seconds of black for commercial breaks, those breaks must be edited out regardless of the distribution outlet. Essentially, if the content goes from TV broadcast to web distribution, it is likely that commercial breaks will need to be removed. 

Does my video editing system take care of the captioning?

Video editing systems can accept caption data, but they do not automatically edit the captions as the video is edited. Captions typically exist as entire phrases, so making them shorter or cutting them will not work since the result may not match the spoken dialogue. It is important to have an external software tool that can help with the captioning process.

How does editing video for the web affect my captioning workflow?

If the captioning workflow involves delivering tape masters, it will also involve exporting web caption files such as SAMI, XML, WebVTT, and embedded H.264 file formats. The captioning software will need access to both the TV caption video file and the edited web video file for quality control and verification as well. 

Where can I get the caption data?

Caption data exists in a variety of video formats. It can be captured from a tape master or extracted from a video file on a server. Sometimes it can also be found in archival file formats such as .cap and .scc files. 

Can I edit the caption files automatically?

You can purchase software that will help you edit captions automatically. Advanced closed captioning software uses edit decision lists (EDL) from video editing systems such as Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro 7. The EDL document contains all the necessary data to determine how to edit the closed caption data, as specified by the video editing system. Several high-end digital video delivery workflows use this technique because of its effectiveness. The video editor simply makes the necessary edits for delivery to video distribution outlets and exports the EDL for the captioning system. Then, a command-line script can automatically call the captioning software to edit the caption data file and export the corresponding web caption file for online distribution. 

With the right closed captioning software, removing commercial breaks from videos shouldn’t be a problem. Simply choose software that can preserve closed captions as the video is edited, and your content will be ready to be distributed on a new platform.