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.


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.


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:

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 our account for Realtime Captioners on Twitter: @VITAC_RC. 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 HR Director, Mark Panichella at

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