Video podcast maker adds subtitles to attract deaf subscribers

I recently had an email from Don McAllister who runs an online video podcast called ScreenCastsOnline. Don makes weekly video tutorials about Apple products, and he’s just started adding subtitles to them. It’s pretty rare to hear about online videos having subtitles added to them so I’m giving Don a plug to encourage more people to do the same.

Don makes his living producing a 30 minute video tutorial each week demonstrating and explaining how people can use and get the most out of their Mac computers, iPads and iPhones. His subscribers get the new weekly show pushed to them automatically each week via iTunes.

Don wrote a post about including subtitles here:

To see how it looks, here’s an example page:

I asked Don a few questions about his work.

 What are your video podcasts about, and how long have you been making them?

I’ve been creating the videos since 2005, initially as a hobby but I was one of the first podcasters to go full time back in 2006, and I’ve been creating the weekly tutorials ever since then. As well as creating the weekly videos, I also appear on a number of very popular US and UK Mac podcasts and have carved out a bit of a position as a Mac pundit. I’m also fortunate enough to travel over to the US a couple of times a year as a speaker or participant in a number of Mac conferences. I also do the occasional Mac based cruise (!) as a speaker and have cruised round the Med, China, South Korea, Japan and just this year South America and the Falklands. We’re off to Australia next year.

Who are the podcasts aimed at?

Basically anyone who uses an Apple Mac or is considering switching the the Apple Mac. I also cover some iPhone and iPad related topics and I’m planning on increasing these in the near future. They are aimed at a wide skill range, from complete newbies to experienced Mac users. The Apple ecosystem is changing so rapidly everybody can keep up to date with the latest developments and the latest and greatest hardware and software. I cover Apple software, including the operating system as well as their flagship software such as iLife, iWork, Aperture, etc. I also cover the best in the ever increasing library of third party software too.

What made you start subtitling your videos?

It just seems a natural progression of the service. I hope the subtitles will help viewers with hearing difficulties but also they will help non-native english speaking viewers too. ScreenCastsOnline is distributed throughout the globe and I have viewers all over the world!  They may form the basis for multi language subtitles in the future, but for now, I’m sticking with just the English subtitles.

How do you add the subtitles?

It’s a manual process.

* Firstly I send the audio of the video off to get transcribed.
* The service I use can process the audio and return the text transcript within 24 hours.
* Once I have the text transcript, I do some checking and summarising on the text file.
* Then I load it into an application (MovieCaptioner) that allows you to insert the timecode into the text file whilst you are watching the video. It also allows you to correct or move the text around to bets fit in with the speech.
* Once the timecode in embedded, I export the captions in a standard subtitle format file.
* This then gets embedded into the video file and it’s ready for distribution.
There’s lots of checking during the process too!

So it’s fairly labour intensive but my wife works with me in the business so she will be taking over most of the subtitle production moving forward.

Would you like to get a few more deaf subscribers?

Well I can’t deny that it would be nice! My efforts aren’t completely altruistic and yes, it would be great to get more members, but I have to say, it does feel good to know that a large part of the community can now access a weekly video tutorial to help them get the most out of their Mac, iPad or iPhone. After all, Apple have got a great record on accessibility and have made great strides in making their devices accessible. This is just my little contribution!

What’s next for you?

I’ve just created a new App on the Mac App Store – SCOtutor for Lion. It’s a two hour 17 minute long video tutorial with subtitles in multiple languages.

More details here:http://www.screencastsonline/mas

Don’s offering any deafies who might be interested a 50% discount off the initial joining fee, making it $28.50 (£18.03 plus VAT for UK). You can sign up at this page: At the end of the sign up process, just use the coupon code SUBSPECIAL50. If you do sign up, let me know how you get on.


  1. Captioning is an easy job to do and doesn’t require great skills for your own videos. Time the access campaigns concentrated on…. BSL surely ? or at least considered the demands of the sign user. I’ve yet to see an concerted effort by sign users or anyone else to make videos accessible that way. All you need is an pair of ears for the rest basically. There are already a number of people (In America at least), who caption videos free…. There you go MM putting a word in the sign user !!

    1. I nearly fell down right there, MM!

      It may seem easy but captioning can also be very time consuming – so it takes time and effort from video producers to add them to their films and clips. This is also harder for people who work on their own, as Don does, and aren’t backed by a big company or business.

      I agree BSL’s an area we need to look at as well, but it’s amazing how much online video isn’t subtitled and I for one think people who decide to make the effort, as Don has, should be applauded!

  2. There is NO demand to make videos sign accessible, I wonder why that is ? same for TV, no real interest in BSL access at all. All deaf ask for it, no one follows through, perhaps they know its a lost cause, what is current output less than 5% isn’t it ? The prime issue is really an non-888 option, when they can sign access videos/TV with an ‘remove option, then they might start. Ye may mock olde MM but he actually DID produce an video of his own complete with MM signing corner of screen in cod BSL and with captioning 3 years ago. I stopped, because BSL people criticised my signing, their loss I think, as I never did it again. Some people you cannot help sadly.

  3. The next issue is… they haven’t any interpreters to do the job…. The deaf haven’t any on the street as it is, where they will find enough to access TV is an huge question mark. They talk about VRS, but the issue is the same there, there has been an 17% reduction in newly qualified BSL terps the last 18 months. Back to avatar signing ? It would have taken off earlier had deaf people not objected to avatars…. Not only are deaf NOT campaigning for signed access, but not campaigning for the staff to make it viable… One without the other is pointless. I feel sorry for the BBC they get it in the neck all the time over captions, yet 98% of satellite TV has none at all, perhaps deaf need to back off a bit and redirect their ire where their access is still nil… and, access like charity begins at home too…. we expect of others and nothing of ourselves….. I could suggest using the xbox technology there seems an exciting avenue there with motion tracking for deaf to make a real start.. (Or I could go back to ear trumpets and air raid sirens)… 🙂

  4. I’m sure that he is bound to see an increase n popularity of his videos with the subtitles included, as he has just outreached his business to a whole another market and community.

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