VITAC New Website

The New VITAC.com Features

The all-new VITAC.com is live, and we’re excited to let our visitors know about some of its features.

  • Responsive: One of the first aspects to notice is that the new vitac.com is responsive, for easy viewing across all PCs, MACs, and mobile devices. We want all visitors to have an enjoyable experience, regardless of how and where they’re viewing.
  • Easily Updateable: This new website allows us to update the site easily, and frequently, and we plan on it! Keep and eye out for the latest news about closed captions, media accessibility, and VITAC in general.
  • A Search Function: You now have the ability to search our entire site using Google Site Search.
  • Interactive FAQs: We’ve created two interactive FAQ pages—One for our current and potential customers, and one for our caption viewers.
  • Regulations Section: There are many rules and regulations when it comes to closed captioning and accessibility. We’ve compiled the highlights here.
  • Blog Page: We’ll still be adding a new blog post each week, but our frequent visitors will notice our new blog page loads very quickly, new categories, tags, and a “blog search” function that will only search our blog archive, rather than the entire site.

We invite you to click around and experience all of our new features, and hope that you’ll bookmark us for all of your closed captioning needs and news!

VITAC Announces New Ownership

VITAC Announces New Ownership

The Gores Group to invest in the nation’s largest provider of accessible media

Canonsburg, PA:  VITAC Corporation, the country’s largest provider of closed captioning and accessible media solutions to clients in the media and entertainment, education, corporate and government sectors, today announced that the company is transitioning to a new owner, The Gores Group.  The Gores Group is a leading, Los Angeles-based investment firm.

VITAC has built a strong reputation for quality captions, dedicated service, unparalleled reliability and customized client solutions.  The company, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary next month, offers  FCC-compliant live and prerecorded captioning in English and Spanish, video description, and digital media services, and will caption a record 300,000 hours of live and pre-recorded television and online content in 2016.

“We look forward to our partnership with The Gores Group,” said Pat Prozzi, VITAC’s President and CEO, “The resources they provide ensure that our focus on our customers’ needs can continue unabated as we grow and provide service to an ever-changing marketplace.”

Chris Crowell, Managing Director for The Gores Group, added, “VITAC’s reputation for providing quality captioning services is unmatched in its industry.  We look forward to working with Pat and her talented team to ensure that VITAC continues to offer its customers best-in-class services.”

About The Gores Group, LLC

The Gores Group, founded in 1987 by Alec Gores, is a global investment firm focused on acquiring controlling interests in mature and growing businesses which can benefit from the firm’s operating experience and flexible capital base. The firm combines the operational expertise and detailed due diligence capabilities of a strategic buyer with the seasoned M&A team of a traditional financial buyer. Over its 25+ year history, The Gores Group has become a leading investor having demonstrated a reliable track record of creating value in its portfolio companies alongside management. Headquartered in Los Angeles, The Gores Group maintains offices in Boulder, CO, and London. For more information, please visit www.gores.com.

About VITAC Corporation

VITAC Corporation is the nation’s largest provider of closed captioning and other accessible media services. VITAC provides live and prerecorded captioning solutions in English and Spanish, video description and digital media services for broadcast networks, cable TV, online video, and teleconferences worldwide. Among the company’s largest clients are NBC Universal, Discovery Networks, BBC America, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Bros. Television, and the Federal Government.  VITAC was founded in 1986, is headquartered in Canonsburg, PA.  Its leaders hold long tenure in the accessible media industry, and the company  currently employs over 325 people.

 

So You Want to Be a VITAC Realtime Captioner…

Calling all realtime captioners! We’re hiring RCs! What should you know before you apply? Are you qualified?

VITAC hires highly skilled steno and voice court reporters specialized in captioning live television.

voice writing

Manager of Realtime Captioner Training Amy Bowlen, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CBC answered some of our most frequently asked questions for those thinking about a captioning career with VITAC:

Q: I want to work for VITAC as a realtime captioner. What can I do to improve my chances?

A: Just as you must have excellent skills and be well-versed in court procedures when applying for an official court reporting position, and just as you must know the art of freelance deposition reporting before applying to a firm, so too must you know the business of captioning.

Q: What does that mean?

A: Above all, you must be able to write and speak television. The initial round of the application process for a remote position is submitting first-run files from TV programs. In reviewing these files, we look for near-perfect translation, because that’s your job as a captioner: to provide near-perfect translation of TV programming.

RCs2Q: What speed does a captioner using steno need?

A: No less than graduation speed of 200-225 wpm. The syllabic density of captioning material will be far more difficult to handle than normal judicial material. Captioning is a highly specialized segment of the reporting field and demands the best of skills: speed, accuracy, and broad knowledge in all television-related areas.

Q: Can a student really be hired as a captioner directly out of court reporting school?

A: Yes, but in most cases, graduates have applied for in-house positions, where we can watch more closely and provide intensive, technically sophisticated training.

Q: Do I need to attend the VITAC Captioning Boot Camp or other training?

A: While a captioning boot camp is not absolutely necessary, a record of attendance is a plus when you apply for a captioning job. It can help demonstrate that you understand dictionary development and management, the technical side of captioning, research methodologies, and other essentials. It gives you an edge in your effort to stand out among other candidates.

Q: Can I come to VITAC for training?

A: Unfortunately, no, unless we’ve hired you to work for us.

Q: What will you look for in the sample files that I send?

A: Near-perfect verbatim translation. A tall order, we know, but that’s the job for which you’re applying. We’ll read your files word-for-word to evaluate accuracy, theory compatibility, content, comprehension, dictionary development, ability to fingerspell, and other keys to professionalism.

Word-for-word reading is the standard process for every aspiring or new captioner. It is the only way to truly perfect your translation – reading every word, deciphering and diagnosing each error, resolving theory issues to avoid the same or similar errors in the future. Every error has a root cause, whether it is a fingering error, an untranslate, an unknown word, a key adjustment problem or a theory issue. You need to analyze each error and resolve its cause to prevent it or similar errors down the road.

Q: How do I know if I’m ready to send in a sample file?

A: A good indicator of when you’re ready is an average of no more than three errors per page, including punctuation. When completing a word-for-word review of your file, count the errors. Also, how do your captions stand up to the captions you see on television? If your error count is low and your captions are as good or nearly as good as what you are seeing on air, then you’re ready to submit the file.

Q: Once I’ve qualified through file submissions, what’s the next step for in-house or remote employment?

A: We will set up a phone or in-person interview – depending on your location – during which we will together attempt to find out if this job is for you and if you are the person for the job. We will discuss job requirements, work schedules, income, what VITAC expects of you, and what you expect from us.

If you are hired for an in-house position, we will talk about relocation issues and a start date. If you are hired for a remote position, we will bring you to our Pittsburgh headquarters for approximately one week of training that will include instruction on the software and hardware, your communication with the office on and off the air, your connection to our internal network, and other company policies and procedures. You will meet with our human-resources team to go over your compensation and benefits package, and get to know the people with whom you will be interacting once you get back home and begin your new captioning job.

Q: Equipment and software – does VITAC supply them?

A: VITAC provides its employees with all necessary equipment and software.

Think you’re ready to join our Realtime team? Send an email to rcinfo@vitac.com with any inquiries!

All-Caps Captioning

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We promise we’re not shouting at you!

All live captioning, such as that you see for news and sports, must be captioned in all capital letters in order to retain the speed at which realtime captioners are required to caption. Often we get the complaint from viewers that because our realtime captions are in all caps that we’re yelling at them.

This is not the case! It is our expert opinion that writing captions in sentence case would sacrifice caption accuracy and synchronicity. Consider the following:

Captioning is done phonetically. Our realtime captioners listen to what is being said on their audio lines and write what they hear, verbatim. There are many words in the English language that sound identical, but when the first letter of the word is capitalized, mean two completely different things. The captioner will have to choose between which version of a word to write, the capitalized version or un-capitalized version. While the audio lines the captioners listen to are slightly ahead of the broadcast audio, in the time it takes to decide which form of the word to write, captions inevitably will fall behind, delaying caption synchronicity.

Accuracy of the captions will also be affected, as the delay will cause the captioner to fall behind, unintentionally omitting words, phrases, and sentences.

Some examples:

  • Names that are also common words. Captioners have a dedicated keystroke for “MARK“. If they had to write in sentence case, they’d have to decide which to use – Mark (name), Marc (name), or mark (mark on the wall). “Mark and Marc made their mark on the company,” would take some serious concentration!
  • Captioners will have to decide whether to use capitalized or un-capitalized versions of “street,” “boulevard,” or “drive. Example: The speaker says, “I walked down the street,” versus “I walked down Magnolia Street.”

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There are many other words that would be affected as well, such as the above, “CITY.” What if the speaker were referring to Kansas City? In sentence case, that would require extra time for the captioner to mentally process which keystroke to use.
Please note that VITAC and does caption prerecorded programming in mixed case at the request of the client, as this type of captioning is not done at 300 words per minute! We’re dedicated to caption quality, and one of the best ways to ensure this when it comes to realtime captioning is to keep it all uppercase.
By Brittany Bender

 

Single Excerpt Clips Must Have Captions

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To many, January 1st means the start of a new year, and new beginnings. To us in the captioning world, it’s the beginning of the newest CVAA rule: all single excerpt clips from prerecorded programming when delivered via IP now must be captioned if they aired on television.

Previously, the rule only applied to full-length programming that was broadcast on television, and subsequently published online.

What exactly is a single excerpt clip? A single excerpt clip is any portion of a longer piece of programming from broadcast television, whether it’s from a show, sporting event, or news broadcast. These are also commonly referred to as “direct lift clips,” or “straight lift clips”.

This is just the introduction of three big changes coming to the world of clip captioning. On January 1, 2017, all montage clips from programs that aired on television will need to be captioned when published online. Montage clips are any combination of single excerpt clips from the same program, a series, or multiple programs. For example, a “best of,” or highlight reel could be considered a montage.

And beginning July 1, 2017, the rule will extend to all live and near-live programming clips. Near-live programming will have to have captions when delivered via IP within eight hours, and clips from live programming will need to have captions when published to the web within 12 hours.

The rule is already in effect, and many video programmers are choosing to caption all video on their websites to stay ahead of the game, and to make everything accessible. VITAC is ready with a solution to ensure your single excerpt clips online are CVAA compliant. Contact us today.

By Brittany Bender

May the Captions Be With You

Grossing $248 million domestically in just its opening weekend alone, more and more fans will continue to flock to movie theaters for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the Star Wars movie franchise.

Star Wars fans come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and cultures. However, the film is unfortunately not accessible for all in some places.

At a local theater in San Antonio, Texas, they do not provide closed captioning or subtitling accommodations for the deaf and hard of hearing communities. They do provide a listening device, but it is only helpful for those with mild hearing loss.

The issue was brought to light the day before the release of the film by Miss San Antonio Emma Rudkin, who is deaf. The theater responded with a statement claiming that they would be showing The Force Awakens with open captions, however, it would only be that one showing.Rudkin expressed her disappointment in an interview with KSAT with only being able to see the film at a certain time and location, and does not want to feel “singled out or discriminated against.”

Cinemark theaters list movie titles that have closed captions and/or audio description listed on their website, but state, “Not all titles are available at all locations. Titles available for a limited time only. Check the Cinemark theatre web page, call the theatre, or visit the theatre box office for a full list of films playing at the theatre.”

AMC theaters offer a special device called the CaptiView, which allows moviegoers the flexibility to view movies at any showing with captions (provided the film comes to them with captions). Here are the directions from AMC’s website: “Simply secure it in your cupholder, then adjust the flexible arm of the device to your viewing angle. Once your movie begins, the CaptiView will present all dialogue in text on the screen.”

While this option could be expensive for smaller, locally owned theaters, it does provide access for all moviegoers at any given time.

As for the theater in San Antonio, they’re looking into more captioning options suitable for their community, as should all movie theaters to make enjoyment of film accessible for all.

By Brittany Bender

The Gift of Music

Before she lost her hearing completely, music and dance were a huge part of Sharon Serbin’s life. For many years, she was a choreographer, director, and dancer for the Israeli dance troupe for the Pittsburgh Folk Festival, and also performed for a Latin American/Spanish dance group.

She also used to dance almost every night with friends for fun; square dancing, swing, folk, jazz, and just going out to dance with friends.

While Sharon grew up hard of hearing, she went completely deaf at age 18. She continued to dance, though she had to perform barefoot to feel the vibrations of the music in the floor. However, as sound systems became more technologically advanced and started to become computerized, she could no longer feel the vibrations necessary, so dancing became less and less of a hobby.

However, just recently, she attended a party at her friend and co-worker’s house, and the party’s music was being played on a wireless Bluetooth Harmon Kardon speaker. Sharon decided she’d go up to it and see if she could feel the vibrations. She could, and they were very strong! She was able to hold the speaker against herself, and this allowed her to dance along with the music!

Her co-workers were so touched by watching her dance with “tremendous joy,” that they all pitched in, and gave her a Harmon Kardon speaker of her very own as a Hanukkah gift.

Sharon and one of the HDS clients, Alecia, dancing with the new speaker, just moments after it was presented to her.

“This speaker is amazing. It gave me back music. All the songs that still play in my mind (pre-deaf music from 1979 and before), I can now pull up on Pandora or YouTube and play them, feeling them with the speaker, singing along with the lyrics… and dancing my heart out,” Sharon testified of the speaker and the experience.

It is Sharon’s hope that more people can be given “music back” using these types of speakers.

Sharon Serbin works at the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services in Pittsburgh as a Life Skills Program Coordinator. She’s grateful to her co-workers David Cummings, Amy Deluce, and friend Robbie Ali that gave her the gift of music this holiday season.

By Brittany Bender

VITAC and WPSD 25th Annual Art Contest Winners

This year marks the 25th anniversary of VITAC and the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf‘s 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 “Furry Holiday.” The hand-drawn and painted art sure gave everyone at VITAC warm and fuzzy holiday feelings!

We’re happy to announce this year’s winners below. 

*Update 12/17: We had a wonderful time at WPSD’s holiday assembly! We’re proud to announce our grand prize winner, Samantha Gibbs! Samantha received a certificate, a cash prize, and holiday cards featuring her artwork to send to her family and friends. Congratulations! 

Grand Winner: Samantha, Age 17

Luel, Age 9
Olivia, Age 12
Dani, Age 13
Amber, Age 14
Tori, Age 15
Nick, Age 19

Portland Turns the Captions On

Your favorite sports team is in the running for a playoff spot, so you go to your favorite bar and grill to catch the game. You order some appetizers, and settle in to root the players to victory.

There’s only one problem: There’s no commentary. At least there’s no evidence of it, as you wouldn’t be able to hear over the noises of the bar, and there aren’t any closed captions.

How are you going to know about any penalties? Or how about backgrounds of some of the players? Sure, you can still see the game, but you don’t get the entire intended experience.

That’s an issue that no longer exists in Portland, Oregon.

Starting December 18th, all televisions in public places must have the closed captions turned on thanks to an advocacy group, Portland: Turn the Captions on Now.

While accessibility and enjoyment for everyone was a clear goal, one of the main concerns was with the transmission of emergency information. Carol Studenmund, Portland: Turn the Captions on Now member, former OCRA President and President of LNS captioning said, “…when emergency coverage goes on the air, the captions need to be visible so everyone can understand what is being said. The bottom line of this effort was to make sure all citizens in Portland have access to important information during times of emergency.”

Studenmund, along with Communication Specialist at Hearing, Speech, and Deafness Center in Seattle Jim House first talked about starting this initiative in May 2014. With the help of the rest of the Turn the Captions on Now group, advocates Steven Brown and David Viers, they brought the initiative to the County Commissioner in 2014. The City Council voted 5-0 November 18th, 2015 to pass the ordinance, requiring all businesses in Portland to turn their captions on their televisions and to leave them on. Businesses that don’t comply could face up to $500 per day in fines.

VITAC congratulates the City of Portland, and it is our hope that many other cities and municipalities will soon follow suit to grant accessibility for all.

By Brittany Bender

Closed Captions: Up in the Air?

Nyle DiMarco made headlines when he became a contestant on the reality competition series, America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 22. Not only is he in the minority, being a male competitor, but he is also the first and only deaf cast member. Since his rise to fame, he’s become an advocate for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, even producing his own American Sign Language videos on his social media accounts to teach beginners.

Last week, DiMarco flew American Airlines and tweeted out his frustration with the lack of accessibility during an in-flight movie:

dimarco tweet

Erroneously, American Airlines had this response:

AA tweet

Captions and subtitles are responsive to screen size, similar to the way text on websites are responsive to mobile devices.

Here’s a photo taken demonstrating how captions look on large television screens:

And here’s a screenshot demonstrating how captions appear on the small screen of an iPhone:

In no case would the captions or subtitles cover entire monitors.

American Airlines has since apologized for the initial response and stated they’re looking into the issue further. Unfortunately, the availability of captions and/or subtitling of in-flight entertainment is not yet mandated, but is certainly a civil rights and accessibility issue.

Senator Tom Harkin (D,IA) introduced legislation in 2013 that would require, “domestic and foreign air carriers to ensure that all visually displayed entertainment programming available to flight passengers is accessible to individuals with disabilities, including by making available open captioning (openly displaying text on a shared video monitor), closed captioning (displaying text through an individual video monitor), and video description (audio-narrated descriptions through individual or shared monitors) for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired, as the case may be.”

Over 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans rely on closed captioning and subtitles for the understanding and enjoyment of television and movies. With the attention Nyle DiMarco has brought to this issue, along with thousands of other tweets from other advocates and supporters, this legislation may be revisited soon. We’ll be following this closely, so stay tuned for updates.

By Brittany Bender