Live Captioning for Remote Meetings & More

Resource: Live Captioning for Remote Meetings & More

July 17, 2020
Brooke Wayne, Program Lead - Communications at FreshBooks

If you find yourself struggling to keep up in a world of remote meetings, where your new reality is dealing with choppy audio, blurry video, and obstructed views of people’s faces or body language, consider adding live captioning to ease the process. And if you’re Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or someone who relies on closed captioning, benefit from the curb-cut effect and take advantage of speech-to-text and audio-recording apps. 


Even though these speech-to-text apps aren’t perfect, they can help ameliorate your experience and reduce zoom fatigue (also known as concentration fatigue). They can even open up a world where YouTube videos that don’t have automatic captions and podcasts that don’t come with transcripts can be made accessible to you. 


Connect Hear put together a helpful list of apps that provide speech-to-text functionality that you can use for live captioning and automated captioning. One of our favourites on the list is Veed because it's easy to use and you can add closed captions or subtitles (95% accuracy) to your videos in many languages.

Below are two scenarios where you can use speech-to-text apps to help bring live captioning to your next remote meeting or social hangout. A gathering where you can play audio through your computer’s speakers, through your headphones or hearing devices directly. 


Option 1: Through Your Computer’s Speakers

This solution is for whenever you can play the audio from the meeting through your computer’s speakers, in a space where you don’t need to worry about privacy or when you want to share with others (like a family call or a social hangout). 


Tool Required: 

A live transcribing tool of your choice. My preference is Web Captioner - it’s been working well for me over the last three months and offers more functionality like multilingual language support, saving to file, censor words or substitute words to start.


Steps: 

- Open Web Captioner in a new browser tab 

- Resize this tab so that it’s short and compact

- Then drag this tab to the bottom center of your screen

- Click on the Start Captioning button in Web Captioner

- Launch the videoconferencing app of your choice, ensuring it is not full-screen but sits above your Web Captioner tab.

- Ensure your computer’s audio is on and loud as possible - Web Captioner should start picking up audio and transcribing it for you live.






Option 2: Through Your Headphones/ Earbuds

This solution is for whenever you’re working in a shared space (like an office you share with your partner/roommate or coworking space) or when you need to listen privately (like a confidential meeting). This is because when you put headphones on, you’re preventing the live transcribing tool from picking up the sound to transcribe. 


For Deaf and Hard of Hearing folks, they may prefer to use specific headphones or Bluetooth streaming to their hearing devices for improved sound quality. Because of this, it can be a lot harder to find a way to get live transcribing services like Web Captioner working when the audio isn’t playing through your computer’s speakers. 


Heads Up: the below scenario requires the use of two paid apps, and some setup is involved before you can use it in a meeting.


Tools Required:

- A live transcribing tool of your choice (I prefer to use Web Captioner)

- Loopback - A paid app that allows you to create virtual audio devices by combining real physical audio devices + apps together (so you can pipe audio through your headphones and through to your live transcribing tool)

- Audio Hijack - A paid app that allows you to capture audio from your app (like Zoom, FaceTime, YouTube and more) and your real microphone into the virtual audio device created by Loopback

Note: Loopback and Audio Hijack are both paid apps that you can buy together for $130. 


Steps for Meeting/Video Call: 


Loopback

- Open Loopback and Audio Hijack (leave Audio Hijack running in the background for now)

- Click on New Virtual Device


- Then on the device screen, click on the + button next to Sources.

- Select Audio Hijack from the list of Running Apps (or open it if it’s not running already)



- In the Audio Hijack tile, click on > Options.



- Uncheck the box next to Mute when capturing



- Ensure that you toggle both Audio Hijack and Pass-Thru tiles to On. Your Loopback is now set up. 


- Here’s what the completed setup in Loopback should look like:



Audio Hijack

Next, you’ll create a configuration file for the videoconferencing tool of your choice. The steps use Zoom as the app, but you can easily use Chrome (if the videoconferencing app is inside a website or if you wanted to use YouTube) or a different app. 


You can also download the configuration file for Zoom here if you want to import a Session instead of making it on your own (Audio Hijack’s manual shows you how to import a session). Just skip the steps below and jump to the steps for Loopback instead.             


- Go to the Audio Hijack app.

- Click on the New Session button.


- Select Application Audio

- In the Application Audio screen, click on the Application tile.


- Then click on <Select an App>

- Select Zoom (if it’s not running, you may need to browse through the Select Application folder)

- The Application tile will update to reflect the Zoom app.



- Next, right-click over the Recorder tile

- Then click on Delete this Block



- From the right side menu, click and drag Output Device, so it’s in between the Application and Output Device tiles.


- Click on the Output Device tile and in the dropdown under Audio Device, select Loopback Audio.



- Ensure that you set other Output Device to the device of your choice, e.g.,  Headphones




- From the right side menu, click and drag Input Device, so it’s at the top above the Application tile.





- Click on the Output Device tile, and in the dropdown under Audio Device, select Internal Microphone.



- From the right side menu, click and drag Channels, so it’s at the top next to Input Device, and click on the tile to set Mode to Duplicate Left.

- Repeat the prior step until there are two Channels tiles next to the Input Device tile, click on the second Channels tile and set Mode to Kill Left



- Then click and drag two more Channels tiles next to the Application tile

- In the Channels tile next to the Application tile, click and set Mode to Duplicate Right

-Then in the other Channels tile next to it, click and set Mode to Kill Right




-Lastly, rearrange your tiles so that the Output Device row flows to OutPut Device (Headphones) and the Application row flows to Output Device (Loopback Audio) and Output Device (Headphones). You have now set up a Session for Zoom.



If you’d like to make similar configurations for other apps (like Chrome for Youtube and web-based videoconferencing sites): 

- In the Audio Hijack app (where you see the Sessions, Recordings and Schedule tabs), click on the Session you want to copy

- Then in your menu, select Edit

- And click on Duplicate

- The copied Session will appear - you can click to open it and change the Application tile to the app of your choice (Chrome, FaceTime, etc.). 


Steps for Meeting


Before your meeting begins: 

- Open Loopback and leave it running

- Open your computer’s sound settings - for Macs, click on the apple icon

- Then click on System Preferences

- Select Sound

- Click on the Input tab

- Select Loopback Audio and leave it running




- Next, open Audio Hijack.

- Open up the Zoom Session (or the Session of your choice)

- Click on the circular Start button



- Open Web Captioner in a new browser tab 

- Resize this tab so that it’s short and compact

- Then drag this tab to the bottom centre of your screen

- Click on the Start Captioning button in Web Captioner


- Launch the videoconferencing app of your choice, ensuring it is not full-screen but sits above your Web Captioner tab. Web Captioner should start picking up audio and transcribing it for you live.



Note: Once you are done with your meeting, make sure you switch your Mac’s Sound back to Internal Microphone




References: 

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