VITAC Behind the Scenes: MLS Project Coordinator Dana Kerkentzes

Behind The Scenes with Dana Kerkentzes

We’ve decided to bring back our popular Behind the Scenes blog series. Last Summer, we left off with Multi-Language Specialist and Spanish Supervisor Chris Hyde. VITAC’s Multi-Language Subtitling team are experts at translation and the creation of subtitles in over 50 languages for niche customers.

Our highly skilled Multi-Language team includes EML (English Master Lists) Experts, translators, QC experts, and reviewers.

We start our series back up with Multi-Language Services (MLS) Project Coordinator Dana Kerkentzes. Dana took a few minutes out of her busy day to shed some light on her VITAC experience in our MLS department.

Q: You’re a valuable member of our MLS team. Walk us through a typical day for you in the office.

Dana: My day starts normally, by reading through emails to get caught up on all our ongoing projects. But from there it can go in any direction! Some days my main focus may be getting a new project out to all our translators, reviewing the translated files, transcribing/timing new EML (English Master List) files, the list goes on! All while keeping up with requests from other departments!

There’s always a lot to work on and to keep me busy!

Q: What are your favorite parts about working in MLS?

Dana: I love that I’m always learning here! Not only do I learn about the many different languages we work with (Did you know that there is a Nigerian language called Igbo? Or that Arabic is read right to left, instead of left to right?), but I also learn a lot just by working on the many different documentaries and other projects we get in from clients.

Q: What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?

Dana: I used to be the type of person who could keep a calendar in her head, but that’s not possible with this job. I’d definitely it’s been a challenge to find ways to keep myself organized, but one I’d say I’m beginning to master, so I’m able to stay on top of our varying project deadlines.

Q: What do you like most about working at VITAC?

Dana: Well, let me first say that I started at VITAC as a Production Coordinator in the Realtime department, then moved to MLS a few years later. I love that I still feel like a part of the Realtime crew (Once a coord, always a coord, right!?), but that I’ve also been welcomed into the MLS family. So I guess what I like most is that I am able to work for a company where I can look forward to coming to work and being surrounded by good, happy people. Not everywhere is like that, and we’re lucky to have that here.

Q: What do you do in your spare time not spent at VITAC?

Dana: When I’m not at VITAC, I can usually be found in the saddle. I have a 7-year-old Quarter Horse mare named Pretzel that I board at a nearby stable. We spend many hours together with friends out on the trails or competing locally in western events at small open shows.

By Brittany Bender

 

FCC To Possibly Extend Audio Description Rules

FCC Releases Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Expanding Audio Description Rules

FCC_AudioDescription

Have you heard the buzz about audio description?

Audio description offers blind and low-vision audiences the opportunity to enjoy television or film programming. It is a narrative description of onscreen actions, visual cues such as characters and
costumes, and text appearing in graphics or the video. The track can be found on a secondary audio channel available on most television sets, accessible through the television’s menu.

Our last blog post focused on a settlement in which Netflix agreed to describe its popular streaming content and DVD rentals.

More big changes could soon be coming  to the world of audio description, or as it is often referred to, video description.

Currently, The FCC requires audio description on some television programming as mandated by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Networks and programmers are required to describe and pass through description of at least 50 hours of described prime-time or children’s programming each quarter.

ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and the top five nonbroadcast networks need to comply with the requirement in the top 25 markets (ranked by Nielsen based on their total number of television households).

The FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on April 1, 2016 that would expand the requirements for audio description in the following ways:

  • An increase in the requirement of audio description from 50 hours per quarter to 87.5 hours per quarter by the broadcast station or Mutlichannel Video Programming Distributor (MVPD).
  • An increase in the number of included networks required to audio describe from the four broadcast and five nonbroadcast networks to five broadcast and 10 nonbroadcast networks.
  • A no-backsliding rule, which ensures that once a network is classified  as an “included network” required to provide description, it will remain an “included network” even if it falls out of the top five broadcast or top 10 network rankings.
  • Removal of the current “threshold requirement” that nonbroadcast networks reach 50 % of MVPD households in order to be included in the description requirements.
  • A requirement that included networks provide dedicated customer service contacts who can answer questions and concerns about audio description.
  • A requirement that petitions for exemptions from the description requirements, or objections to those petitions, be filed with the FCC electronically.

The expansion of the audio description requirements would have a positive effect on the millions of people who rely on this service for the enjoyment of television.

Kathryn M. Zodrow in her comment to the FCC said, “Having video description now is very beneficial for me as a totally blind person because now I don’t have to rely on someone else that’s sighted explain to me what is happening on the screen.”

“…I want to point out that the population using the audio description service, the blind and visually impaired, and autistic and dyslexic populations among others, are consumers too,” said Bonnie J. Barlow in her statement to the commission.

In his remarks to the Commission, Micah Grossman stated, “…every outlet available should be made as accessible is possible so that the audience this service is intended for actually can experience and enjoy it. Further they should be able to enjoy their favorite programs with the freedom and availability that sighted users now take for granted.”

Stay tuned to our website and blog for updates as more develops in the commission making the NPRM an official ruling.

VITAC is proud to offer audio description services to both networks and producers.  Contact us for more information on how to make your programming accessible for all.

By Brittany Bender

Netflix to Offer Audio Description On Popular Titles

Netflix Will Offer Audio Description on Streaming and Rental Titles, Implement Screen-Reading Software for Website and App

Netflix Audio Description

Blind and low-vision Netflix consumers will now have better access to its popular programming. In a settlement reached last month, Netflix has now agreed to produce audio description for a lot of its content.

Audio description is a feature that can be turned on or off that provides plot-pertinent spoken representation of on-screen actions and scenery. It is also commonly referred to as video description, and is professionally scripted, voiced, and seamlessly engineered and mixed into the program’s audio track.

Netflix has agreed to describe its content as part of a settlement with the American Council of the Blind, The Massachusetts Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) and a blind individual, Robert Baran. They were represented in the case by Disability Rights Advocates.

Not only will the settlement cover audio description of the video content in the streaming service, but it also applies to the DVDs and Blu-Rays in Netflix’s rental library.

The agreement also extends to Netflix’s website and mobile applications, which will soon have screen-reading software for blind and low-vision users.

VITAC applauds Netflix for this step towards accessibility for all users. We urge other online video programmers to consider audio description. For more information and an audio description sample, visit our audio description page on our website.

By Brittany Bender

Remembering Prince: Captioning his Lyrics

How Prince once Saved VITAC’s Captioning of his Songs

Prince VITAC caption lyrics

People all over the world this week are sharing stories and memories honoring the life of musician, Prince.

With a career spanning almost four decades, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and seven Grammy awards, his music touched millions. After reading so many wonderful accounts from celebrities, and personal friends, coworkers, and family of mine, I feel compelled to share my own Prince anecdote:

It was March 1, 2013. I was a realtime production coordinator here at VITAC at the time. One of my duties on that particular evening was being in charge of script preparation for one of my absolute favorite programs, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Before every show taping, the production assistants from Late Night would send us the rundown for the program, sometimes even scripts for the pre-written segments, and lyrics for the musical guests’ performances. This would get sent to the realtime captioner to prepare for the show, and assist in perfecting the file afterwards for the 12:35 AM airing. Preparation material like this is now part of the FCC’s Caption Quality Best Practices, but wasn’t mandatory at the time. Late Night and a few other shows were dedicated to caption accuracy ahead of the Report and Order.

The show’s guests that night were Mariah Carey, and the hilarious Billy Eichner. The musical guest was Prince.  A big show! Prince was going to be performing two of his new songs that were previously unreleased.

When I reviewed the preparation materials, the song’s lyrics were missing. At the time, I didn’t think it was too big a deal. We would be recording the show, and could at least transcribe the lyrics if we had to.

Prince’s performance didn’t happen until a little later, after the taping. I can’t recall if we missed it for our recording, but I do know that the songs in the rundown were completely unavailable on the Internet. The songs had never before been released, anywhere. Prince had been very secretive about his new music to this point, and their debut was going to be on the show, and was even unavailable to those at Late Night. Our team was in a panic.

After some emails and phone calls, we received the lyrics. From what I can remember, it was Prince himself who was consulted and approved; once he found out they were for the closed captions!

With all of the Prince tributes that have happened this week, including this past weekend’s SNL, we’re glad that we receive musical lyrics ahead of time to ensure that everyone can enjoy them.

By Brittany Bender

VITAC Team Represented at NAB

Four VITAC Team Members Travel to Las Vegas for 2016 NAB Show

VITAC at NAB

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? Not when it comes to the 2016 NAB Show! Four of our VITAC team members are representing us, networking, and taking in all they can at the 2016 National Association of Broadcasters show this week.

NAB Show is the world’s largest electronic media gathering that features exhibits and sessions that cover everything from the creation of content to its delivery across any and all platforms. Over 100,000 professional from 166 countries attend each year and represent just about every facet of the media industry: Broadcast, Digital Media, Film, Entertainment, Telecom, Post-Production, Academia, Houses of Worship, Advertising, Military, Government, Retail, Security, Sports, Live Events, Online Video, IT, Virtual and Augmented Reality.

Chief Technology Officer Dwight Wagner, Engineering Manager Chuck Wall, Chief Business Development Officer Doug Karlovits, and Senior VP of Sales Darryn Cleary have arrived safely and are currently learning about all of the new trends and technologies within the media industry to bring new ideas, customers, and solutions back to VITAC. They’ll have the opportunity to visit over 1,700 exhibits!

Join us in wishing safe travels to our team, and be sure to stay tuned to our Facebook and LinkedIn this week for updates and photos of the show!

By Brittany Bender

Caption Screenshots: Fact or Faked?

Closed Captioning Snips Are Usually Edited

fake_cc

While funny closed captioning screenshots give many people a good chuckle while scrolling through their Twitter feed, it’s important to realize that some, or even most, of these photos are in fact, fake.

How do we know?

It’s standard practice here at VITAC to not imply or interject any sort of opinion into our captions. It’s our job to present information verbatim in offline captioning, and as verbatim as possible with realtime captioning.

For example:

Closed Captioning: Unintelligible yelling pic is fake

This photo made its Internet rounds shortly after a Republican Primary debate. There were even articles about with headlines such as “Closed Captioner Fed Up”.

“We’re very careful not to ever kind of insert our judgment or any of our opinion, so if we have to put up a parenthetical, it would be something like ‘overlapping speakers’ or maybe ‘inaudible.’  We’d never write ‘unintelligible.’  We just wouldn’t do that,” said our very own Manager of Realtime Captioner Training, Amy Bowlen on WNYC’s The Takeaway.

And while captioning does have to get rather creative and descriptive for sound effects and music, it’s not our job to provide commentary.

Here’s another photo that is making its rounds on social media from a program that aired in the UK:

talking bollocks

A captioner’s job is to write what is being said. This photo was most likely edited with the text added in.

So next time you see an online article pointing out the “most hilarious” closed captioning moments, realize that at VITAC, our captioners may have had to get imaginative with their descriptions of sound, or in the case of realtime captioning, point out that speakers were overlapping or inaudible, but never insert their own judgments or beliefs into programming.

By Brittany Bender

Snapchat Introduces Closed Captioning Feature

Snapchat Debuts Closed Captioning Feature on ‘Discover’ Content

Snapchat Closed Captions Discover Content

A few weeks ago, we reported on Facebook’s step in the right direction with closed captioning. The social networking giant announced that video ads would now have closed captioning on video that automatically start playing when users scroll on their mobile devices. Facebook generates the captions automatically, and the advertisers have the option to edit the captions before the video is published. While we’d like to see this sort of feature for all Facebook video, another social networking app is making content more accessible as well.

Last week, Snapchat announced that its “Discover” video content now has a closed captioning feature. “Discover” content features videos from major media producers like CNN, Buzzfeed, Mashable, Cosmopolitan, Comedy Central, and MTV. Unlike Facebook, Snapchat’s captions must be uploaded manually by the content producers, and ensures greater caption accuracy.  Users are also able to turn captions on or off, regardless of whether or not they’re playing the videos with sound.

Mashable has already begun using the closed captioning feature:

Snapchat_CC Arrow   Snap_CC

While sound disruption in public is likely a main reason for the feature, they’re also bringing much-needed accessibility to the videos to 50 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans.

No plans have been announced to bring the closed captioning feature to regular users of the app, but would be a great addition.

While closed captioning is not required for the videos, we here at VITAC urge all of Snapchat’s “Discover” content producers to do so.

By Brittany Bender

 

VITAC Celebrates 30 Years

VITAC Celebreates 30 Years

The year was 1986: Louisville had just defeated Duke for the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship, the Nintendo Entertainment System was released, “We Are The World,” was the song of the year, and film classics such as Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Top Gun, and Labyrinth hit theaters.

And…VITAC was founded to provide closed captioning as CaptionAmerica to one local news client in Pittsburgh!

As we celebrate our 30th birthday, we reflect on our change and growth. A lot has changed, including our name! We changed it to VITAC in 1993 to stand for Vital Access, referring to access to media services for everyone.

While we still and always will, provide realtime and offline captioning services in English, we also provide realtime captioning in Spanish, and Portuguese, and now produce captions and subtitles in over 45 different languages.  We can’t forget to mention our encoding and audio description services, either!

With the addition of all of these media accessibility services came the addition of thousands of customers—9,919 to be exact! We’re 81 new customers away from celebrating our 10,000th customer over 30 years.

With as many customers as we’ve had over the years, it’s no surprise that we caption 300,000 realtime hours a year, and our offline department works on close to 60,000 projects per year.

We went from a very small staff in 1986 to today employing 330 people at our Canonsburg Headquarters, and remotely all over the country!

Here’s to 30 amazing years, and many, many more to come!

By Brittany Bender

Realtime Captioning Hours Continue to Grow

VITAC realtime captioning primaries, March MadnessUsually football season is the busiest time of the year for our realtime department here at VITAC. And while this past season was our busiest to date, things have not slowed down!

In addition to our 6,000 hours of realtime captioning we perform every week, on Tuesday of last week, we covered lots of extra realtime hours of election results, as the 2016 Primaries took place in Illinois, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Missouri.

The very next day, our caption coverage across TBS, TNT, and TruTV of March Madness began, totaling in 109 extra hours of realtime captioning for the second half of the week. Not only did we caption all of those extra hours, but our schedulers and sports supervisors worked tirelessly to make sure all of those hours were covered. Our production team also spent tons of extra time determining the best position for the captions, making sure we are in compliance with FCC caption quality guidelines for placement.

And while the number of teams battling for the NCAA Championship have been cut in half, the realtime hours only continue to grow!

There are still primaries and debates in this busy Presidential election year leading up to the general election in November. And let’s not forget, Major League Baseball season starts April 3rd, and the NHL playoffs are scheduled to begin April 13th, which only add to our realtime hours!

Because of all these extra hours that will only continue to grow, we’re hiring realtime production coordinators and realtime captioners! Visit our careers page for a list of current open positions, and how to apply.

By Brittany Bender

Amy Bowlen Q&A Recap for Aspiring Captioners

Amy Bowlen Q&A

On Thursday March 10th, we held our first #AskAmy on Twitter, where aspiring realtime captioners had the opportunity to ask our Manager of Realtime Captioner Training Amy Bowlen about the world of captioning and VITAC employment. Thank you to all who participated. For those who weren’t able to log on for the live session, we’ve compiled the highlights below:

Captioning Speed:

Q: What is VITAC’s minimum captioning speed requirement?

A: You must be able to write at least 225 WPM. It can get up to speeds of 300 WPM sometimes.

Briefs:

Q: Would you say you brief a lot? Any suggestions for us speedbuilders?

A: We use briefs for frequently used broadcast terms. For example, for politics, briefs for Republican, Democrat, candidate, president, etc.

Captioning Mechanics:

Q: Do you come back for inflected endings (-ed, -ing, etc.) or do you incorporate them in the same stroke?

A: Coming back ensures better translation, but for frequently used words, you might attach.

Q: I practice to World News, but I get frustrated w/ drops & untranslates. Should I focus on speed-building or dictionary building?

A: They go hand-in-hand. You may find some archived videos on CSPAN’s website that are more attainable.

Q: What important skill would you recommend that judicial reporters focus on when transitioning into captioning?

A: Start putting proper nouns/people’s names in your main dictionary. That will reveal whether or not you have boundary errors.

Q: When you fall behind, is it usually better to trail until you can’t remember, or should you omit words/paraphrase to catch up?

A: It’s better to omit words that wouldn’t affect readability or intent of the speaker.

Caption Dictionairies:

Q: Does VITAC do an analysis of my dictionary? Am I required to make changes to my writing style if I have clean translations?

A: We only require changes if there are theory and translation issues.

Q: Does VITAC help realtime captioners with dictionary building?

A: Not specifically. But there are dictionary-building programs that can be purchased. Dictionary Jumpstart is a great tool.

Equipment and Software:

Q: How does an encoder work and where do I get one?

A: If you’re a captioner, you don’t need to own an encoder. The client owns the encoder. Very, very expensive, and not needed!

Q: Do you recommend a specific steno machine?

A: Not a specific one, but a newer model for technology and ergonomic benefits.

Q: What software does VITAC use? Am I required to switch software?

A: We use Catalyst/BCS. We require all captioners to switch because we provide the software and hardware.

Bootcamps:

Q: Can I do an evaluation first, and then attend a bootcamp?

A: Bootcamps are not a part of VITAC employment. Anyone can attend. Look for one near you! You can submit an evaluation file any time!

Q: When and where are the bootcamps?

A: Check here: https://www.starkstate.edu/captioning-seminars/

VITAC Captioning:

Q: What types of captioning do companies such as VITAC cover? For example, radio, stadium, etc.? Or strictly television?

A: We don’t do stadium or radio captioning, but we caption plenty of sports on television! We do some city council captioning as well. And much more… Visit our customers page!

General VITAC Employment:

Q: What are the average amount of hours a day for new captioner?

A: Minimal is 22 hours per week on-air. The average is about 25-35 per week. Some captioners work 5 days a week, some work every day. It’s up to them.

Q: When will training occur?

A: VITAC only trains people who have passed the skill evaluation and been offered a position. We suggest attending a bootcamp first!

Q: Once VITAC accepts me, where does training occur? How long is training?

A: Employees are scheduled to come to our headquarters in Canonsburg, PA for one week and the rest of training is conducted remotely.

Q:  Do NCRA certifications affect salary range?

A: No. We don’t require NCRA certifications. We have our own skill evaluation process.

Q: Are VITAC captioners remote or in-house?

A: Either/or! The majority of our captioners work remotely from their home offices all over the United States.

Q: As an employee, can I take work from other companies if I need extra work beyond what VITAC has available?

A: VITAC captioners work under an exclusive employee agreement which precludes them from working for other companies.

Again, we thank all who participated in #AskAmy. For more great information on captioning, follow Amy on Twitter: @VITAC_Amy. Be sure to catch Amy at the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association Convention April 1-3rd! If you’re interested in a realtime captioning career with VITAC, please send any questions, resumes, and cover letters to Amy.Bowlen@vitac.com.