Playoffs Spotlight: Captioning the NFL

Referee, NFL, Realtime Captioning

In the spirit of playoff season, this week we talked with Realtime Captioner Steph Libby about her experiences writing for NFL games. While the schedulers, coordinators, and supervisors may be breathing a sigh of relief from having fewer games to manage per week. Captioners like Steph are still keeping pace with the jam-packed programming. Here’s a peek into her world:


What have you worked on for the NFL?

I captioned 3 preseason games and 30 regular season games.  Some were more entertaining than others.  I saw two ties, and that was weird. Most of the games went long.


That’s a lot of football! What is your favorite part of NFL work?

For the most part, they stay on-topic, and seeing how different fans celebrate is interesting.  I also like that most people have a team or player that they follow, and staying abreast of what’s happening lends to conversations and/or debates with friends.


What is most difficult?

When we see the line up of the players and the players say their name and what school they played for is challenging. They, often, do not enunciate well and it can be difficult to decipher what they are saying, since the audio comes before any graphic to give a clue. The players also can have nicknames for themselves or their schools, and you can’t always prepare for those instances.

Also, the pre/post player/coach interviews.  They are often very excited or rushed and talk very fast.

Crowd noise can sometimes be a factor in not being able to hear what’s being said. Along those same lines, there’s sometimes background music or sound effects that the network adds that can cover up what’s being said.


Do you follow the sport? What team do you root for?

Sort of.  After 19 years, it’s difficult to have patience to sit through a game when not captioning. I prefer to scan the scores or catch highlights.  I root for the Saints or any team that plays the Steelers, just to annoy my husband. 😉


What are the top five things people should know about captioning the NFL?

  1. Reviewing player rosters before each game is so important – players can come off of IR, and you might need to review different spellings of similar sounding names, like DeShawn/DeSean/DeShone.
  2. Look at facts about the venue and host city.  There can be mention of places inside the stadium or town, like eateries or shops or sights, during the broadcast.
  3. Know your history regarding announcers/broadcast crew.  Often, there is talk referencing what they did in the past as a player, coach, hall of fame inductee, et cetera.
  4. Get the names of the referee crew.  They are referenced often and there might be a special interest story involving any of them.
  5. Know the notable history between the two teams.  There’s so many blogs and stories that are out there leading up to game day, if the two teams have a history, you better believe they will talk about the crazy play that happened 13 years ago.  Knowing the names of those players/coaches involved in any historic play/game/rivalry also important to making a good broadcast.

So there you have it! Research, preparation, and lightning-speed reflexes are paramount in not only playing, but captioning football games. Congratulations to everyone who’s made it this far, and best of luck in the coming weeks! We’ll be there with you, no matter the team you’re rooting for.




Steph Libby captions
national news and sporting events
from her home in Longmont, CO.
When not captioning, she’s either
skiing or jumping out of airplanes.



5 Things You Don’t Know About Television Until You Caption It

1.  You will forever rate how difficult a show would be to caption.

The Kitchen, captioning, prerecordedFive excitable celebrity chefs talking in unison and switching places on screen? Bring it on.

2.  Your inner monologue will begin speaking in captions and sound effects.

dog barks, sunset, closed captions

Offline captioner DJ Shoemaker says, “I will never hear a phone ring without thinking [ Cellphone rings ].”
If you’ve ever waited tables, you’ll never see a restaurant the same way; after writing captions,
the world gets captioned.

3.  Sports commentators speak for literally every second of the game, and sound strikingly alike one another.FOX Sports Commentators

A lot of the commentary tends to fade into the background as you enjoy a game with friends. It becomes white noise, like the crowd. Start captioning and you’ll notice the sheer volume of facts, statistics, and history hidden within each game.

4.  You will flinch every time you or anyone else uses filler words.

Alaskan Bush People, stuttering, accents, closed captionsUnscripted speakers have a knack for run-on sentences, stuttering, changing their train of thought and, like, you know, um… After captioning, your self-editing and public speaking skills will be on point. Sometimes they even make up their own language.

5.  Judge Judith Scheindlin is the sassiest lady there is.

Judge Judy, Judith Scheindlin, Sassy, Shh, Shush, Closed Captions

FCC, mobile, IP-delivered Captions, FCC regulations and closed captions

The New Year Brings New Captioning Regulations


The new year has brought a couple new accessibility regulations, with a third coming to pass this July. The most recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate is the January 1, 2017 benchmark for captioning IP-delivered montage clips. Next, live and near-live clips need captions starting July 1, 2017. Finally, last December brought new requirements for televisions and set-top boxes with regard to access and ease of use for the visually and aurally impaired. Let’s see what these steps mean.


Montage Clips: January 1, 2017

This newest rollout of IP-delivered video captioning mandates requires captions on all montage clips. This may not sound like much, as the “montage” is usually associated with condensing long spans of time in film, which rarely has much dialogue. In reality, the FCC is referring to any previously-aired clip which has been spliced into a new collection – think of sports highlight reels or “Best Of” countdowns. Now every “Top 10” video file which includes content previously aired on TV must be captioned for the web.

After last year’s “direct lift” clips mandate, VITAC initiated a quick-turnaround solution for our biggest clients, allowing clients to drop video into a folder based on turnaround, and automatically receive caption files back in as little as four hours.


Live and Near-Live Clips: July 1, 2017

In six short months, live and near-live clips of programming that aired with captions on TV will be required to be captioned online. Distributers will have a 12-hour turnaround timeframe to associate live programming with captions on the web. The turnaround period for near-live clips is 8 hours. This relates to clips of news, sporting events, and late-night talk shows, among others.

VITAC is already offering 4-8 hour turnaround for thousands of sports clips per month, and is poised to increase our capacity in July, when our sports customers will need captions for clips captioned in our realtime department.


In Case You Missed It — Device Accessibility: December 20, 2016

As detailed in the public notice on “Accessibility Requirements for Television and Set-Top Box Controls, Menus, and Program Guides”, any device that is designed to play back videos manufactured on or after today must be compliant with established FCC accessibility requirements. This means most television-related devices must be “accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, if achievable,” and “must include a simple and easy-to-use way for activating [closed captioning] functions,” when possible. The mandate divides the media-consumption devices into two categories as follows:

  1. Hardware designed to receive/play video programming whether over the Internet or not, such as televisions, personal computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices with pre-installed video players or video apps
  2. Hardware designed to access programming services, such as cable set-top boxes.

The language comprehensively details the idea that if a device plays, or aids in the playing of video media, it needs to be accessible. There are caveats for “relatively small…service operators” and “display-only monitors and video projectors,” stating their compliance is not required until 2018 and 2021, respectively.

The notice also outlines the complaint process, advising on contacting the manufacturer, then the FCC if not satisfied with the manufacturer’s response. This is in line with the FCC’s caption-complaint recommendations, which gives responsibility first to programmers and networks before contacting the FCC.


With every new accessibility mandate, media grows more and more inclusive. These recent rollouts and those upcoming are all part of creating a landscape of content to be enjoyed by all.

Spreading Holiday Joy at HDS

by Kayla Reese, Production Coordinator


For 21 years, VITAC has participated in an Angel Gift program with the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  HDS clients are deaf, hard of hearing, and often special needs, and many look forward to the holiday party and gift exchange every year. Executive Assistant Terri Holman oversees the program every year and sends out a list of clients’ names and suggestions for their gifts a few weeks before the party. VITAC employees choose recipients and add them to their shopping list, often choosing the same recipient year after year.   Realtime supervisor Jonathan Van Sickle has participated in the program every year since he’s worked here and says he always looks forward to it.   This was my first year to buy gifts and attend the party, and it was truly a rewarding experience.

When party day finally came around on December 15th, Terri, Payroll and Benefits Administrator Jennifer Lodovico, Senior Offline Captioner James Elkins, and I piled the presents into Jen’s trunk, crammed some more in the back seat, and held a few more in our laps for our drive to HDS. We had a taste of what Santa’s packed sleigh would feel like.

Clients greeted us with warm hugs and handshakes. The room was decorated with Christmas lights, paper snowflakes, and other handmade decor. After introductions, we played charades while lunch was prepared.  Some of the group even signed “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” for us and performed a dance to “Jingle Bell Rock.”

We definitely learned a whole new appreciation for American Sign Language. (Fun fact: ASL has a lot of French influences.) The VITAC crew picked up on “thank you” and “you’re welcome” but when there wasn’t an interpreter present, a smile and a thumbs up was commonly understood.

HDS Hearing Deaf Services VITAC Angel Gift PRogramAfter lunch, we handed out presents. From Steelers gear to coloring books, blankets to DVDs, everybody was excited to receive their gifts. Jeannie and Alecia, who live together, were excited to latch hook later that night. Richard changed into his Denver Broncos socks immediately and Darrell had everybody smell his new cologne. The Angel Gift program was definitely a success.

Thank you to all employees who donated to such a fantastic event! You brought some big smiles to some of the most deserving people this holiday season.    HDS is VITAC’s chosen charity this Christmas, and will also be receiving a donation from the company.

VITAC and WPSD Celebrate 26th Annual Holiday Art Contest

WPSD Vitac Holiday Art Contest Winners
WPSD student finalists with Project Manager Crystal Hopkins, Director of Client Sales and Services
Debbie Hammond, and Marketing Specialist Johnathan Moore, respectively.


This year marks the 26th anniversary of VITAC and the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf‘s (@WPSD_LionPride) annual holiday tradition. Every year, students from the school submit artistic interpretations of a holiday theme and send them to our team here at VITAC headquarters, where the art is displayed for several days and employees vote for their favorites.

We choose multiple finalists and a grand prize winner, and recognize each with a certificate and cash prize during a presentation at the school’s December assembly. This year’s theme was “Elf”. The pep rally was wonderful, and we’re all very thankful for being invited year after year. See more photos of the event at WPSD’s Facebook.

We’re proud to announce our grand prize winner, Laura Cottrell! Laura received a certificate, a cash prize, and holiday cards featuring her artwork to send to her family and friends. Congratulations! Her art along with the finalists below:


WPSD VITAC Holiday Art Contest

Grand winner: Laura Cottrell, age 10

Jade_15Jade, age 15


Isabella, age 7


Morkos, age 12


Noah, age 12


Amy, age 10


Destiny, age 12


Fauntaye, age 17

Trenton_18Trenton, age 18

Naturally, Santa Knows ASL

With deliveries all over the globe, Santa might be the world’s foremost polyglot, and his multilingual fluency does not leave out American Sign Language. At his post at Regency Mall in Racine, Wisconsin, Santa ensures that all children are able to deliver him their list. “I want every child to have a very special experience sitting here with me. Some of the children who can’t hear — I can sign to them as well,” Santa said.Santa Paws Event Regency Square ASL Accessibility Holidays

There’s even a mailbox for more shy children who still wish to communicate. Santa explains, “I like to get lists, and if you can’t spell the word, draw me a picture,” as he spoke to the local FOX affiliate for a few moments. Santa understands that all children deserve to be included in the holiday tradition in ways they find most comfortable.

Seeing Santa provide inclusive experiences for children certainly strikes a cord, as he surprised parents in the U.K. by signing to their daughter last year in a video which quickly went viral and is making the Internet rounds again this year.

The Center for Hearing and Communication reports hearing loss in 5 out of every 1,000 newborns and 15% of children between the ages of 6-19, so for the near 3 million children in the United States with measurable hearing loss, an authentically multilingual Santa is that much more magical.

You don’t have to be Santa to promote an inclusive holiday season. A previous post of ours will get you started spreading holiday cheer in ASL with songs and holiday greetings.

FCC Delays Ruling on Audio Description Expansion

The FCC most likely won’t act upon any rulings Post-Election

FCC Building
FCC Delays Audio Description Expansion, along with several other high-profile regulations

Many blind and individuals with low-vision are frustrated after an item regarding audio description expansion (referred to as video description by the FCC) was deleted from the FCC’s November 17th open meeting agenda.

Audio description is a verbal representation of visual information in a television program or movie and provides accessibility to millions of Americans.

Currently, the FCC requires the top four broadcast networks’ local affiliates (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) in the top 60 broadcast markets to describe 50 hours per quarter of prime time and/or children’s television programming.

Further, the top five non-broadcast networks according to Nielsen ratings (Disney Channel, History, TBS, TNT and USA) must also describe 50 hours per quarter of prime time and/or children’s television programming.

The FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on April 1, 2016 that would expand the requirements for audio description, particularly increasing in the requirement of audio description from 50 hours per quarter to 87.5 hours per quarter.

The measure would have also increased the number of included networks required to audio describe from the four broadcast and five non-broadcast networks to five broadcast and 10 non-broadcast networks.

The agenda item was pulled from the open meeting due to the current political climate, in which Commissioners of the FCC are urged not to act upon any regulations before January’s Presidential Inauguration.  This is reportedly common practice, regardless of political party, as Commissioners under President Bush’s administration were urged to do the same before the Inauguration of President Obama in January 2009.

Usually, measures that are considered “complex, partisan, or otherwise controversial,” are tabled, so many are optimistic that the seemingly non-partisan issue of increasing accessibility still has a chance of happening at either the FCC’s next open meeting on December 15th, or beyond.

VITAC proudly offers audio description services for consumers who are blind and low-sighted, and was also disappointed to learn of the delay of audio description expansion. We are also still hopeful and excited at the possibility of this new regulation and will stay atop of any new development.

By Brittany Bender

Happy Thanksgiving from VITAC!

Happy Thanksgiving From VITAC

It’s the time of year to reflect and be thankful for all of the good things in life, and here at VITAC, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Not only are we thankful for some wonderful clients such as NBC, Discovery, CNN, CSPAN3, Scripps Networks (Food Network, Travel Channel), and many more, we’re grateful for the bonds and relationships we’ve formed with them over the years.

We also can’t thank our employees enough. They work tirelessly to ensure there are quality captions on live and prerecorded programming. Because broadcast television is a 24/7/365 industry, a lot of our employees work overnights, weekends and holidays. The deserve the utmost appreciation and recognition.

So this Thanksgiving, if you’re tuning into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC or maybe watching a Thanksgiving special on the Food Network, turn the captions on, and know that the company who made those captions is filled with gratitude.



Captioning Awareness Week Bringing Accessibility to U.K. Stage and Culture Events


This week, Stagetext is celebrating their second Captioning Awareness Week. From November 14th-19th, theatre and culture events around the U.K will be captioned for the 11 million deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens. Throughout the week, Stagetext is shining a spotlight on providing live captions for plays. There are also many museum and culture events with live-captioned tours broadcast onto handheld tablets for audience members.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory London Musical Captioned #CAPaware16

There are 14 events happening this week, 8 of which are located in London, at locations such as Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre, and the Wellcome Collection. Some programming includes Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Drury Lane, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the New Victoria Theatre, Wind in the Willows at the Mayflower Theatre, and many more.


On social media, Stagetext is spreading the world through #CAPaware16, which is collecting images of stage troops showing their support for inclusive art. The event has garnered so much attention that the Stagetext website was overwhelmed Monday by visitors seeking information, but has since managed the increased traffic. Here is a list of events happening this week.

On the hurdles of accessibility in theatre, Stagetext chief executive Melanie Sharpe said, “Because there are special equipment that you need, you mainly have a dialogue with Stagetext first, so even though the will is there and the awareness is there, [theatre companies] need support in how they’re actually going to do it.” Watch the rest of the interview from London Live here.

Stay tuned for updates on #CapAware16 events happening throughout the week.



How VITAC is Surviving Election Night 2016

VITAC Captioning Live Election Results

Election 2016

Our post last week focused on appreciating all of the hard work of our Realtime Department for tonight’s election results.

We decided to ask how they were planning on making it through the night. The answers we received were a mix of humor and reassurance that our technology and staff is dedicated to ensuring quality captions for tonight’s televised election results:

“I’m going to survive tonight by drinking a lot of hazelnut coffee,” said Production Coordinator Lisa Raines.

“In all seriousness, we are ready for election cut-ins. We’re setting up our back-to-back units and are ready,” added Lisa.

VITAC’s proprietary back-to-back units allow for seamless switching of captioners mid-program.

“We have about 13 production coordinators working from now until 4:00 AM and some of them will begin to monitor captions starting at 8:00 PM,” Manager of Realtime Production Coordinators Mark Paluso stated.

One of our Realtime Captioners shared the hashtag, #PleaseSpeakSlowly in preparation for the voting outcomes to roll in, as our captioners are prepared to write at speeds of up to 300 words per minute!

“A local restaurant is offering Buy One Get One soup if you show them your ‘I voted’ sticker,” said Client Sales and Services Amanda Kahl, as the energy will certainly be needed!

So as the results come in to tell us who the next POTUS will be, our Realtime department is working overtime and overdrive!