How To Meet Amazon Prime Video’s Standards for Captions and Subtitles
If you’re an independent video creator who wants to distribute your work on a major streaming media platform, Amazon Prime Video is absolutely one of your best bets. Amazon offers a huge and growing subscriber base. You can send your video directly to Prime Video free of charge, and then earn revenues when members buy or rent your video or watch it online.
By the end of 2018, Amazon had garnered 50.23 million video subscribers in the U.S. alone, an increase of more than five million from a year earlier, according to Statista. Amazon’s U.S. base could expand to more than 61 million by 2024, the analyst firm predicts.
What’s more, Amazon Prime Video is now available in hundreds of countries throughout the world. Amazon supports dozens of languages, too, ranging from Afrikaans and Albanian to Uzbek and Vietnamese.
Users are lured to the service by its huge selection of video content, including a star-studded array of Amazon Original content, live TV programs, and an ever-growing library of hit movies and television series from major media production houses.
Getting Distribution on Amazon Prime Video
If you achieve Prime Video distribution, your videos will appear alongside perennial TV series favorites like Cheers and The Honeymooners, popular reality shows, and Academy Award-winning flicks ranging from classic fare such as It’s a Wonderful Life to Amazon’s own Manchester by the Sea, released in 2016.
Prime Video members can choose to watch videos in any of a variety of ways, including Fire TV, Smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and over the web.
In vivid contrast to competitors like Netflix and Hulu, which both state policies of not accepting “unsolicited content,” Amazon takes a very welcoming approach to independent movie makers. You can certainly team up with a distributor to get your continent on to Amazon Prime Video, but this isn’t a virtual necessity.
Amazon is quite public with detailed instructions about how to set up your account and earn royalties, as well as about how to produce closed captions and meet other requirements for content acceptance.
With all that great stuff said, though, publishing on Amazon Prime Video is hardly an easy walk in the park. Amazon’s help files are quite lengthy and complicated.
So before you get started, here’s a quick look at five key facts you should know about Amazon Prime Video, along with four basic steps to take in publishing your content on this Big League video-on-demand platform.
5 Facts You Should Know About Amazon Prime Video
1. Methods of submitting videos to Amazon have changed.
Amazon also suggests sharing your work with other video creators at IMDbPro
2. You can earn royalties from Amazon in five different ways.
For each of your titles, you can choose to earn royalties through any or a combination of five methods. These include minutes streamed by Prime members or a revenue share (on a 50/50 basis) for rentals, purchases, monthly channels, or ad impressions.
Amazon issues royalties through electronic payments about 90 days after the end of the month in which the “revenue event” occurred. Payments are made in the default currency of your bank account’s location, except – for unspecified reasons – Brazil.
3. English closed captions are a ‘must’ for US-produced videos.
For legal reasons surrounding compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all videos submitted to Amazon must include closed captions. Closed captions are timed-text assets that can be turned on or off and include both spoken dialogue as well as atmospherics such as sound effect cues and speaker identification for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Amazon requires you to deliver these captions as a separate file, even if you’re also including subtitles with your video.
If you’re publishing content to Prime Video in the US, closed captions and audio must both be in English. That’s because the listing language of a Prime Video title must match the location’s supported languages. English must also be used as the language of the title metadata.
4. Prime Video does not accept silent movies.
All videos submitted to Amazon must be accompanied by an audio track. Amazon does accept videos, however, with extended silent scenes or where the only sounds are background music or ambient sounds, as long as the captioning meets Amazon-specified requirements.
5. You’ll need to submit digital artwork, too.
Amazon requires you to deliver both key art and background images. Key art is used to represent your video in search results and title detail pages.
Background images should convey the mood of the content, according to Amazon. Amazon accepts both .jpg and .png file formats for graphics.
Four Key Steps for Distributing Your Work
If you’re serious about distributing your video on Amazon Prime Video, you’ll need to peruse and follow all of its copious instructions. Here, though, is a brief glimpse at the four basic steps involved.
Step 1. Set Up an Account with Prime Video Direct.
The account setup process consists of four parts. First, establish an account by either linking your existing Amazon account or creating a new account to be used with Prime Video Direct.
You’re then prompted to create a company profile, provide payment and banking information, and submit tax information.
Step 2: Assemble Your Assets
Assets for delivery to Amazon include a mezzanine file, a captions file, and digital artwork. Optionally, you can include subtitles, as well.
Mezzanine file. The mezzanine file is a compressed video file just about indistinguishable from the full-resolution master exported from your editing program, except smaller in size. Amazon requires you to use Interra Baton software to do quality control on the video files before uploading them.
Additionally, you should select the “constant frame rate” rather than a “variable frame rate.” Video duration and audio duration must be the same. In its help section, Amazon also spells out mezzanine file requirements for codecs and file formats, resolutions, caption frame rates and drop/non-drop values, display aspect ratios, and bit rates.
Captions file. All closed captions used in Amazon Prime Video content must comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards for completeness, accuracy, synchronicity, and placement.
If you’re publishing a video in the US, closed captions and audio must both be in English. That’s because the listing language of a Prime Video title must match the location’s supported languages. English must also be used as the language of the title metadata.
Also for closed captions on Prime Video, Amazon recommends that video story-tellers submit pop-up captions, which are captions that appear one to three lines at a time. If you send roll-up captions instead, Amazon will convert them to pop-on captions.
Additionally, Amazon requires all timecodes in a closed captions file to appear in linear (sequential) order. All timed text assets must start with zero-hour time code (i.e. 00:00:00), to make they will start at the correct time. Before delivering the caption file, check to see that the captions are e in sync by playing the video and viewing timecodes at the beginning, middle, and end.
Extended silent scenes should be captioned with [no audio]. If there is background music, the music should also be captioned. If the music contains lyrics, the lyrics should be captioned verbatim. The lyrics should also be introduced with the name of the artist and the title in brackets. If the music is instrumental, without lyrics, descriptive words should be included in brackets to give a sense of the tempo and mood of the music.
Moreover, all captions files submitted to Amazon must be UTF-8 character encoded, to ensure that subscribers’ devices don’t display unrecognized text characters as unreadable symbols. Amazon provides detailed instructions for configuring various Mac and Windows text editing software to produce UTF-8-compliant plain text files.
Prime Video accepts a number of different caption file formats, including the following: SMPTE-TT (RP-2052) with an .xml file extension; STL (EBU standard) with a .stl file extension; DFXP Full/TTML (Timed Text Markup Language) with a .dfxp file extension; iTT (iTunes Timed Text) files with a .iTT file extension; SCC (Scenarist Closed Caption) with a .scc file extension; SRT (SubRip text file format) with a .srt file extension.
You can create closed captions either manually or with any of a number of free or paid caption software packages. For video producers using the manual method, Amazon offers downloadable sample files in several different formats.
For content producers unfamiliar with the ins and outs of caption files, Amazon recommends working with a third-party service provider. The company lists a sampling of seven providers that can assist with closed captioning, including Rev.
Subtitles. If you’re using subtitles, these can either be burned into the mezzanine file or submitted as a separate file. What are the differences between Prime Video captions and subtitles? Like closed captions, Subtitles are timed-text files. However, subtitles include dialog only, with no atmospherics. Subtitles are typically used for translating dialog into another language. Captions and subtitles also differ in their placement on the screen.
Amazon accepts the following subtitle formats: DFXP Full / TTML (Timed Text Markup Language) with a .dfxp file extension; iTT (iTunes Timed Text) files with a .iTT file extension; and SubRip with a .srt file extension.
In various places in its help files, Amazon explains how subscribers can turn subtitles for Prime Video content on and off on Amazon Fire TVs and Fire Phones, and how they can turn both subtitles and captions on and off on devices such as smart TVs, set-top boxes, and game consoles.
Digital artwork: For key art, submit graphics at both a 16.9 aspect ratio and 1920-by-1080 resolution and a 4:3 aspect ratio and 1600-by-1200 resolution. Your background image should be presented with a 16:9 aspect ratio and 1920-by-1080 resolution.
Step 3: Publish Your Content
Publishing your video involves not just uploading your assets but adding information such as title name, category, title metadata language, synopsis, genre, and details about cast and crew.
After you hit the publish button and deliver your content, Amazon undertakes a publishing process involving encoding, a pre-publish review, and creating a title listing for the Amazon Prime Video Catalog.
Although the pre-publish review typically takes three to four days, Amazon recommends submitting content two to three weeks in advance in case errors crop up that need to be fixed.
Step 4: Track and Promote Your Video
Once your content is published, Amazon starts delivering performance metrics to you in the Amazon Prime Video Direct dashboard. The metrics include minutes streamed, numbers of subscribers, payment history, and projected revenues. These are designed to help you (and Amazon) earn more money by optimizing how you promote your videos. You’ll also find tips about successful video promotion in Amazon Prime Video resource files.
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