The Case for Alternate Audio Tracks in ScreenFlow
The MPEG-4 format supports what are called Alternate Audio Tracks. Audience members get to choose which of several audio tracks they will hear as the video plays. Most commonly, these are used to support multiple languages but there are other applications of this capability such as versions designed to assist the visually or hearing impaired, overdubbed commentary, age-specific or role-specific narration and so on.
Currently, ScreenFlow exports mix down all audio inputs and write that to a single audio track. Thus, one audio track must fit all. Not a very inclusive approach.
What's it like to be able to choose the audio track that will accompany the video that you are watching? The video at the top of this post is a 2010 screencast I did that offers a demonstration using QuickTime Player X as the playback environment. Too bad I couldn't place the video in context below this paragraph where it would be more easily understood.
It should now be readily apparent that Alternate Audio Tracks enable a much wider reach than a single one-size-fits-all audio track. These tracks can be labeled by language so that playback systems can present the audience with clear choices.
ScreenFlow support for alternate audio tracks would be a Boone to many as long as the UI doesn't get too complex. That UI should appear on command to those who beckon it and be invisible to those who don't. Ditto for multiple captions/subtitles.
Here's an aside to this discussion that may have general interest. The screencast used here shows how QuickTime Player handles alternate audio tracks and multiple subtitle tracks. It's on YouTube so is subject to their interpretation of copyright rules, including fair use.
As it turned out, Warner Bros. (WB) tagged my YouTube screencast as containing (their) copyrighted material because I used several clips totaling 33 seconds of a two hour movie they hold the rights to. The upshot of all this is that WB now has YouTube permission to monetize my screencast.
Of course, one can contest this outcome using one of several defenses, including fair use. Because I am convinced that my re-mix of these excerpts constitutes fair use, I appealed this labeling even though it is unlikely that it will generate much income for WB and that is certainly no skin off my nose in any case.
The problem is that YouTube asks the rights holder (Warner Bros.) to judge the validity of the fair use claim by a video producer. So, guess what? I received a reply from YouTube in less than an hour stating, "After reviewing your dispute, Warner Bros. Entertainment has decided that their copyright claim is still valid."
Given the speed of this response, I seriously doubt that anyone from Warner Brothers even glanced at my screencast. I would not be surprised to learn that the response from WB was automated.
To be fair, YouTube does select a few fair use videos to "protect" from overreaching copyright claims but they also go to some lengths to explain:
... we can’t offer a legal defense to everyone, we’ll remain vigilant about takedown notices impacting all creators. You may have seen press coverage of some cases where we’ve asked rights owners to reconsider takedowns or reinstated fair use videos
For those interested in the proper determination of fair use, the Center for Media and Social Impact is an excellent source for best practices in several professional areas (journalism, media studies, etc.). Other sources to consult include: