MAGpie is a tool used to improve the accessibility of audio and video presentations, by adding captions to video and audio files, and audio descriptions to video files.


MAGpie splash page

This is done be creating additional files that are displayed in parallel with the original audio or video file. MAGpie can create the markup necessary to organise these parallel presentations in two markup languages: SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) or SAMI (Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange).

SMIL is a World Wide Web Consortium markup language for authoring accessible multimedia presentations that integrate streaming audio and video with images, text, or any other media type. SMIL is commonly used for delivering captioned text and/or audio description, synchronized with an accompanying video file. Current versions of the Quicktime Player and the RealMedia Player, as well as some other applications, support SMIL, although there are slight differences in the SMIL files used in RealMedia and Quicktime presentations.

SAMI is similar to SMIL, but was developed by Microsoft and is supported by Microsoft products.

Captions and audio descriptions may be developed for QuickTime, RealPlayer, or Windows Media Player. QuickTime and Real make use of W3Cs SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) standard, while WindowsMedia Player uses SAMI (Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange).

A good (but now quite old) example of what can be done is located at (opens in a new window).

For streaming media/SMIL authoring tutorials and articles go to (opens in a new window).

Creating SMIL and SAMI

SMIL and SAMI presentations may be "hand coded", that is, developed using a simple text-editor, but tools like Magpie, from the National Center on Accessible Media (, can help automate the process and can produce SMIL and SAMI output suitable for captioning and audio description projects. Please note that both SMIL and SAMI can do much more than just display captions and audio descriptions, but this is the aspect of the markup languages that MAGpie is restricted to.

More complex SMIL presentations can be developed using commercially available software. Hiawatha Island Software has an excellent range of accessibility tools, including Hi-Caption.

See for a quick introduction to creating SMIL captioning and for a more detailed reference.

Finding out more about the Media Access Generator

The MAGpie home page is This page contains links to the required files, descriptions of the installation process and help on using MAGpie.

About this tutorial

The following pages will guide you through using MAGpie to create captions and audio descriptions for a video file. This tutorial is based on a presentation at the 2004 OZeWAI conference, and refers to video, text and audio files that were included in a directory called assets. These files are not available for download in the online version of this tutorial.

System Requirements for MAGpie:

  • Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, NT, or XP or Macintosh OSX.
  • If using MAGpie to caption or describe RealMedia files, RealPlayer 7 or newer is required.
  • 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
  • 32-40 MB free space on hard disk for installation of MAGpie, QuickTime Player (required), Java Runtime Edition (required), and GriNS player (optional, Windows only). Currently there is no Java interface to the RealPlayer engine available for Mac OSX. The GRiNS player application is required if you wish to caption or describe media types supported by RealPlayer.
  • Microphone (for audio description recording).

Installing MAGpie

Visit and download and install the various applications that are used for MAGpie. The applications must be installed in the specified order:

  • Download and install the Java Runtime Edition (JRE)
  • Download and install QuickTime
  • Download and install the Oratrix GRiNS Player for MAGpie (PC only)
  • Download and install MAGpie

Once the software is installed you are ready to start a captioning project.