By Carolyn Stern
Assistant Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives
While Zoom is probably the most popular videoconferencing platform, currently it does not provide automatic captioning of live Zoom meetings. Anecdotally, testing of an integrated automatic captioning feature is underway, but a release date is not known at this point. Until it is made available, here are some options for captioning your Zoom sessions.
3 Ways to Caption a Zoom Meeting
#1. Hire a Remote Live Captioner
The first approach for captioning a video conference in Zoom is to hire a remote CART reporter to provide captions displayed within the Zoom platform. The remote captioner can stream the translated text through a dedicated caption URL generated by the Zoom system. The drawback is the window within the Zoom platform for displaying captions is small, showing only one or two lines of text at a time.
Another approach is to have the paid CART provider stream the captions to a web browser separate from the Zoom platform. The captioner provides a link to a StreamText or 1CapApp feed that displays the transcribed text in real time. Then, either open the link on the same screen as the Zoom call and resize both windows to fit or open the captioning browser on a second device such as a second computer monitor, laptop, tablet or smartphone. For example, you could watch the Zoom meeting on your desktop and view the captions in a browser on your tablet. Many people, including myself, prefer this option because it allows the user to see several lines of text at once, scroll through it and review, if needed. The other benefit is the user can save the transcript afterwards for later review.
#2. Use a Web-Based Speech-Recognition Tool
Another way to provide captioning of your Zoom meetings is to use an automatic speech recognition tool that’s web-based. Web Captioner and Otter.ai, two web-based services that I recommend, can each be used in conjunction with Zoom. A note about each:
- Web Captioner does not charge for its service and does request a donation after each use.
- Otter.ai offers 600 free minutes a month. Once that is used up, the fee is $9.99 for up to 6,000 minutes a month.
Here’s how to set this up. Open the Zoom meeting invite and in a separate browser open the web-based tool, Web Captioner or Otter.ai. Then, re-size both the Zoom browser and captioning tool’s browser so that both windows can fit on one screen. Be sure to turn on your computer speakers. Alternatively, you can also open up the captioning tool on a separate monitor or screen device and place it close to the speakers. To adjust the font size and color for Web Captioner, go to settings on the web page. For Otter, adjust the font size by pressing the Ctrl and + or – keys at the same time to make the font bigger or smaller.
The image above shows me (top center) using Web Captioner to caption in real-time a Zoom meeting with my team at CHC. The screenshot also demonstrates how the screen is split. The Zoom browser is re-sized and placed at the top half of the screen and the Web Captioner browser is re-sized to fit on the bottom half of the screen.
#3. Use a Speech Recognition App on Your Smartphone
The third option is to use a speech recognition smartphone app positioned next to the speakers of another device such as a desktop, laptop or tablet. For example, set up the Zoom meeting for viewing on a desktop computer and place the smartphone with the captioning app activated next to the speakers. The best apps for this are either Otter.ai for iPhone or Live Transcribe for Android phones. One last tip: If you’re using an iPhone, turn off auto-lock in the phone’s settings to keep the screen open. Remember to turn on auto-lock when done.
The image (upper right) demonstrates a Zoom meeting on a computer monitor and a smartphone propped next to a computer speaker displaying captions in real-time (shown is a Google Pixel 3 phone with Live Transcribe activated and placed next to a computer speaker).
Pinning the Speaker for Better Viewing in Zoom
Finally, an important tip in Zoom is to “pin” a participant. This enables you to prominently feature the person speaking on the center of your screen, which will allow for better speechreading and picking up on facial cues. To “pin,” click on the three dots on the upper right hand corner and select the pinning option. Ask the speakers to pause to give you time to “pin” because it takes a few seconds to find the screen of the person you need to “pin” and set it up.
Two other platforms you might want to explore that provide automatic captions and are easy to use are Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.
Now, if only I can figure out how to prevent my school-age children from crashing my Zoom calls! No matter how many snacks, ample warnings and iPad sessions I provide to distract them, it doesn’t seem to work. Let me know your tips, if you have any.
More Videoconferencing Tips for Zoom and Other Platforms
This post is just one in a series from CHC to help you Hear and Connect better through communication strategies and technology solutions that you can use at home. Click below to check out these related posts:
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If you’re not currently a CHC client, but need assistance, we’re happy to help. Also consider reaching out to your hearing aid manufacturer’s help line which is also readily available to aid as well.