March madness, basketball, captioning, dunking view from under net

Beware the Ides Madness of March

It’s that time of year, and we’re in the thick of it here at VITAC, making sure we’re keeping you up to date with captions, even if your bracket is a thing of the past as Wisconsin bested Villanova and as Duke was taken out by South Carolina. As the remaining teams are warming up for the round of 8, our realtime captioners are making sure they’ve got accurate dictionaries prepped full of every roster and statistic you might hear (or see). About the work, Chief Operations Officer and General Manager, Chuck Karlovits, said, “The Canonsburg office is captioning all of the March Madness coverage on broadcast television for TBS, TNT, and TruTV, and a second separate feed of those same games plus the games on Turner’s iStream web platform with a different set of captioners. That is a total Madness of 60 games this week and 269 total hours.”

Mad enough for you?

 

 

Why Your Company Should be Captioning its Video Content

meetings, webinars, conferences, closed captions

In the digital age, content is king. YouTube alone generates 72 hours of new video every minute, and captioned video should be the first weapon in the corporate arsenal to cut through the noise and reach your audience. Captioned videos allow web crawlers to index the transcripts, thereby boosting SEO and ranking content higher in search results.

Anyone within the company using video to communicate—be it through webinars, conference calls, all-hands meetings, town halls, or external marketing efforts—can benefit from all closed captions offer. Amplifying engagement through captioned content is the cornerstone of giving employees every tool at a company’s disposal for success. The same goes for external marketing materials, be they televised or through the many online platforms. Captioned video holds a viewer’s attention longer. In a recent study, Facebook found that “captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12%.” Facebook is also a platform prone to public, muted use, and without closed captions, videos posted become virtually meaningless.

Autocaptions don’t work, especially for the complex, terminology-dense content corporations work with. VITAC has solutions ready to enhance all your corporate video content, so be sure to check out our processes for webinar captioning, conference captioning, and global-reach subtitling today.

by Johnathan Moore ©

Vice Media: Find Your Tribe, Tell Your Story, and I’ll Caption It.

Vice Media, Viceland, Vice logo, closed captioning

by Sarah McPartland, Senior Offline Captioner ©

 

The road to becoming an Offline Captioner is somewhat like going back to school. You spend roughly four to six weeks perfecting your writing skills, add math into the mix at some point, then become a pro once you’ve researched and verified some obscure name no one’s ever heard of.

You provide the hearing experience.

You aid ESL speakers in their quest to learn another language.

You now work in Closed Captioning for VITAC.

When asked what it’s like to work in closed captioning, I always give the same response.

”I’m learning every day. It’s always something new.”

Now, with that said, we all have our preferences for how we’d like to spend our days. I personally found my love of soap operas while working here, but I know many that would never prep another soap opera if they were given the option. It’s all about personal preference.

For the first few months, I was assigned a lot of cooking shows and specials on traveling. That’s what I liked to work on during training, so I looked forward to it once in production. Then something happened.

Summer was ending. Fall was right around the corner.

A new channel with thought-provoking subject matter was emerging.

I wouldn’t work on a cooking show again for another year.

Temperatures will drop. Snow will fall. With a cup of coffee and a night on the couch, you will find your new favorite show, and that show might be on VICELAND.

I remember the first day I had a VICELAND assignment in my queue. I had been on the floor for about six weeks when I decided to work my first Saturday. I had just finished five hours of captioning a popular dating show that shall not be named. I looked at my assignment queue and saw a new client—VICE Media.Thomas Morton, VICE, VICELAND, closed captions

Every time I receive a new client to caption, I do a little research to see exactly what they’re about. Are they a public access channel that focuses on bringing art to the masses? Is it their mission to bring their viewers the best in all things drag racing? Are they competing in prime time to be the most-watched channel on Thursday night? With VICE, the search was simple but almost endless. They were bringing their viewers shows not before seen on television with subject matter that was interesting yet unexpected. They pushed the envelope at every turn.

Thomas Morton was my first ambassador into the VICE community. He was cool and calm, asking the questions that many wouldn’t dare to regarding topics that you would hesitate discussing with your parents. My jaw remained on the floor for the two hours I worked on the pilot for his program “Balls Deep”, the tagline for which is “To find out what humanity’s deal is, Thomas Morton hangs out with different groups of people and gives their lives a try.” There was no way this was going on television.

It did.

Three weeks later, I was assigned to transcribe “Huang’s World,” a program about various cultures, their food, and how it relates to their take on politics, music, leisure, and overall way of life. It arose from the creative mind of the man who brought you “Fresh Off the Boat” –Eddie Huang. He’s an attorney, restaurateur, and writer with two books under his belt and restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles, embracing his heritage and extending his narrative to his viewers, readers, and customers. He will school you in hip-hop, enjoys playing basketball, and will talk your ear off about his brothers and his parents and his upbringing in Orlando, Florida.

Huang's world, Eddie Huang, VICE, closed captionsHe was very similar to Thomas Morton, but he was in your face. No holds barred.

You knew how he felt about anything and everything.

He posed questions that made me rewind for a second listen.

I let my jaw remain on the floor with each passing program; it wasn’t worth it to continue to pick it back up. VICELAND is left almost completely uncensored, giving its audience an experience unlike any other with almost raw footage, adding a level of authenticity matched by no other network. The conversation might seem risque, but no more so than a Friday night after a long week with friends. Their hosts are real people asking real questions in a society that would expect them to keep it to themselves. Remember what I said about Thomas Morton and Rich Homie Huang–No. Holds. Barred. And they’re not alone. With every show and every host, they give you the full experience which leaves viewers hooked and coming back for more.

Many that watch VICELAND for the first time realize that it is no ordinary channel. They break away from the social norms of Thursday night prime time and take a chance by running the stories that many wouldn’t dare to cover, let alone think about. Co-President of VICELAND Spike Jonze describes the overall mission of VICELAND best:

“It feels like most channels are just a collection of shows. We wanted VICELAND to be different, to feel like everything on there has a reason to exist and a strong point of view. Our mission with the channel is not that different from what our mission is as a company: It’s us trying to understand the world we live in by producing pieces about things we’re curious about, or confused about…”

VICELAND takes you on a journey into the deep unknown of the world, exposing aspects of life seen by very few while also touching on current issues that we all have opinions on with a fresh spin.

Whether it be the rights of women in third-world countries, the benefits of medical marijuana for school-aged children with life-threatening illnesses, or the precise focus given to finding the perfect dumpling abroad while popping bottles of champagne as the sun sets on another day in Australia, VICELAND covers it all, and they do it with grace.

Constantly taking risks, their ability to get the conversation started is commendable. I learn something new every time I work on their programming, am always laughing, and leave with knowledge of the world outside of my own experience. After all, isn’t that what I should want as a millennial? An experience unlike any other? VICELAND provides that in spades.

As we grow older, we meet people that help us realize that a lot of the ridiculous questions we pose in our head are not that ridiculous.  We find our tribe. We meet people that feel the way we feel, hurt the way we hurt, laugh at what we find humorous, and question what we question. They light the fire within us that they’ve been carrying all along.

VICELAND makes you realize you’re not alone. There are people out there just like you who are looking for a place to belong, a medium to host their voice, and a group to welcome them and say “We’ve been waiting for you.”

 

 

 

Sarah McPartland, captioning, closed captions

 

Sarah McPartland is a writer and traveler who has been captioning at VITAC for two years. When not creating accessible videos and readying them for broadcast, she can be found directing and stage managing in the Pittsburgh theatre community or collecting another stamp for her passport, always in search of a new story to tell.

How VITAC is Surviving Election Night 2016

VITAC Captioning Live Election Results

Election 2016

by Johnathan Moore ©

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!

 

Live Election Captioning Coverage

Presidential Election Season Adds Hundreds of Hours to Realtime Department Schedule

VITAC Live Captions 2016 Election

Not only is it the VITAC realtime department’s busy Fall season, captioning many hours of NFL and college football and NHL hockey across various networks, but another type of season added hundreds of hours of live captioning coverage to our already jam-packed schedule.

Presidential election season only comes around every four years, and with every press conference, debate, and breaking news alert, there has to be live captions to go along with them.

Our realtime department continues to work incredibly hard to ensure that the millions of Americans who rely on closed captions have access to all of the election-related televised programming.

VITAC realtime captioners must stay on top of the issues, learning the latest buzz words and topics concerning the race. They have to add proper names, places, and terms to their captioning dictionaries to ensure accuracy.

In addition to keeping their captioning dictionaries up-to-date, when they are captioning cable news programs or debates, they must decipher fast and overlapping speakers. They also have the added challenge of writing parentheticals such as [ SPEAKING IN SPANISH ] when Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine switches from speaking English to Spanish to his audiences.

Realtime production coordinators are ready at the phones 24/7 and prepared within minutes notice to set up a captioner(s) if one or multiple networks call us for breaking election news. There may also be a need to set up a Spanish captioner or two, and our coordinators are always up to the task.

Realtime Production Coordinators will Monitor Captions on Election Night
Realtime Production Coordinators will Monitor Captions on Election Night

And while the election will soon be over, the number of hours that we’ll caption will come to a head on November 8th.

“There are 150 additional hours of Election coverage currently on the Schedule and that is just for English on at least 30 networks,” said VITAC Chief Operations Officer Chuck Karlovits.

While election results are rolling in next Tuesday, turn the captions on!

For more information on realtime captioning, visit our live captioning services page.

By Brittany Bender

 

 

VITAC’s Realtime Captioners and Coordinators: Golden

As the Olympics Wind Down, We Thank our Realtime Department

Our last post focused on VITAC’s preparation for captioning the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, nearly doubling our daily volume across at least seven different NBC Universal-owned networks, five live Multi-Distribution System feeds, and multiple web channels. The games come to an end this Sunday, and wrap up with the Closing Ceremony. This week, we just want to take some time to show our appreciation for our Realtime staff for helping make these Olympic games accessible for over 50 million Americans who rely on closed captions.

2016_Summer_Olympics_logo.svg

Opening Up

It all began Friday night, August 5th with our captioning coverage of the Opening Ceremony and the Parade of Nations. The Opening Ceremony was a tribute to the creation and discovery of the Olympics host country, Brazil and featured native performers, stunning projections, and acrobatic choreography from the minds of those at Cirque du Soleil. The second part of the ceremony gave a unique view and focus to the environment and climate change.

VITAC was fully prepared and captioned the show beautifully! All of the song lyrics and some of the show’s dialog was in Brazil’s national language, Portuguese, which we cannot translate live into English captions, so music notes and [ SPEAKING IN PORTUGUESE ] were common throughout the program.  NBC’s commentary was of course in English, but there were a few Portuguese words that they mentioned, including “caipirinha,” Brazil’s national cocktail, flawlessly captioned and spelled correctly!

A Little Help from Our Friends

With all of these Portuguese words being used in the English commentary throughout the Olympic games, one of our captioner’s relatives assisted in an out-of-the-box way.

VITAC Realtime captioner Jessica Bewsee’s daughter, Melody Chapin, is a Fullbright scholar, fluent in Portuguese and offered to record herself saying some of the names of venues, athletes, and commonly-used Portuguese words.

Our realtime captioners “write” what they hear phonetically on their steno pads. There are words that we know how to pronounce in English by the way they are spelled, but are completely different in Portuguese.

For example, one of the four main zones that the Olympics will take place in is pronounced BA-HA. In actuality, it is spelled, Barra. If a captioner was going off of a roster for preparation, Barra looks like it would be pronounced BEAR-UH or BAR-UH, and they could likely miss the connection during broadcast. Conversely, if a commentator makes reference to Barra during the Olympics, there’s a chance that a captioner could have written it as Baja if they hadn’t prepared! Melody pronounces it BA-HA in the video, and this text to audio link fills in the final gaps for our captioners.

“This is the main challenge of live captioning… Receiving a roster for a game or a list of venues can be almost worthless because what we see is nothing like it is pronounced,” affirms VITAC Realtime Captioner Suzanne Hagen.

Bling Count

In addition to ensuring our captioners are ready, prepped, testing connections, and monitoring caption feeds, our Realtime production coordinators go even a little further past the finish line and assist with preparation material. Every hour or so, they are responsible for updating the “Medal sheet”.  After events have concluded and medals have been awarded, the coordinators record the name of each athlete and whether they won gold, silver, or bronze. They then send the updated sheets to the Olympic captioners, so they are prepared if the NBC commentators mention Ukranian Track and Field star Bohdan Bondarenko, in case he medals in the men’s high jump this evening.

Wrapping Up

Our coordinators and captioners are just as busy preparing for the closing ceremony as they were preparing for the opening ceremony, all while performing their regularly scheduled duties, and their Olympic work.

A heartfelt thank you to all who have made this event a huge success so far. We appreciate your hard work, dedication, and overtime hours!

While the closing ceremony will air at 7:00 PM Sunday night, stay tuned to NBC and its affiliates for the rest of every “golden” moment this week. Check out NBC’s Olympics site for the full television schedule, and be sure to take a page out of comedian Leslie Jones’s book and turn the captions on!

By Brittany Bender

Bilingualism on Live Television: a Captioner’s Perspective

VITAC Captions Speeches That Transition Between English and Spanish at the DNC

Karla Otriz speaks Spanish at DNC

As most of us are already well aware thanks to TV, social media, and the dinner table, the election season for most Americans is one of interest, excitement, hope, and sometimes frustration. For a closed captioning company, it is no different, except there is the added pressure of overlapping speakers in debates, political commentators vying for their three second talking point, and most recently, rapid transition between languages in national speeches.

This year’s Democratic National Convention brings an interesting challenge for those behind the steno machines. The democratic candidate for Vice President, Tim Kaine, is fluent in Spanish and has made multiple speeches thus far flipping between that and his first language, English.  In addition, on the first night of the DNC on Monday, multiple speakers also spoke Spanish and English in their addresses. They transitioned between one and the other seamlessly without much warning of transition. Some of the times, the speaker spoke in Spanish and translated their phrases into English as well. Other times, the Spanish was standalone, and there was no accompanying translation.

For the folks here at VITAC and those across the captioning industry that are responsible for accurate coverage of these events, the bilingualism presents a unique challenge. A caption industry veteran, Carol Studenmund, took to social media to address this very subject:

Facebook Post from Carol Studenmund

We reached out for comment and approval, and she said, “I was surprised by how many people thought someone would just peer over my shoulder and whisper in my ear and translate whatever was being said or ask “’why don’t we just have Spanish translators type it in?'”

A stenocaptioner is either trained in English or Spanish.   Even if one knows both theories, it is not possible to switch on the fly to another language during events that are captioned liveWe went to the source and asked some of our own realtime experts how they would handle the situation. Our realtime trainer, Karla Ray, confirmed Carol’s guess in her post and said that this issue had recently come up in reference to the current political events! She said they have told their captioners that “when Senator Tim Kaine starts speaking Spanish, use [Speaking Spanish ] when switching from English to Spanish in the same sentence or middle of speeches.” The approach allows for a captioner to quickly address what is being said and maintain accuracy during the event.

Tim Kaine speaking Spanish at nomination event

This is not the first time the National Convention stage has been an outlet for bilingualism. This article from NPR written during the 2012 convention highlights both party’s use of the two languages to accommodate the constantly shifting cultural landscape in America.

As the convention continues, and the campaign trail heats up in light of the approaching Election Day in November, it will be interesting to watch how the use of these two languages plays a role in both parties. We know that we, as well as our captioners, will be watching with interest, a smidge of anxiousness, and hyper-focused attention. Wish us all luck!

 

By: Tori Trimm

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

All-Caps Captioning

uppercaseCC2

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.”

allcapscaptions2

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 can 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

 

Our Captions Are Spoiler-Free

While examples will be discussed, no spoilers here! Don’t worry! In today’s internet age, it’s almost impossible to avoid spoilers of your favorite television series. If you missed an episode, you had better stay off social media until you’re caught up, unless you want one of your friends to ruin the ending, or to give away an important plot point you’d been waiting for weeks to be resolved.

Even if you watch every single episode as it airs on television, there are still hundreds of thousands of people who dedicate themselves to finding spoilers to share with those who want to know ahead of time. There are entire blog sites and tumblr pages that are filled with the most popular shows’ endings, and loose ends, so you don’t even have to watch the show!

One place viewers shouldn’t have to worry about spoilers is the closed captions.

One of the most popular shows on television today is undoubtedly AMC’s The Walking Dead. Based on Robert Kirkman’s black and white comic book series, the television show has taken its fans on quite the emotional roller coaster ride over the past five years.

A few weeks ago, two characters on the show remained unaccounted for in Season 6, Episode 4, “Here’s Not Here.” A few closed caption viewers alleged via Twitter that a person’s off-screen voice was identified and gave away that one of those characters were in fact, alive. We decided to further investigate this claim…

Screenshot of the show’s captions, edited to avoid spoiling it for those who aren’t caught up! 

While the character was identified in the closed captioning, was it indeed a spoiler? It depends.

In AMC.com’s show recap of the episode, the person is identified. That means that the voice should have been recognizable to the hearing community, so it was identified in the closed captions to give everyone the same viewing experience.

Just two episodes later, caption viewers alleged a weak voice on a walkie-talkie at the end of “Always Accountable,” was identified as the voice of the other aforementioned unaccounted-for character in the closed captions, and therefore proved that person was indeed, alive. There were again, tweets stating this and even blog posts. We decided to also investigate this claim:

This character was not identified as the character in the closed captions! Any screenshots of the character’s name were manufactured, and claims are false. The person was simply identified as “Man on walkie.” The voice was not to be recognizable, so no actual spoiler here!

Offline captioners must be careful of these types of speaker identification when working on series such as this. It could greatly offend a fan of a show if anything’s given away that shouldn’t be.

At VITAC, our offline department is extremely cautious about this. We make sure we don’t take away from anyone’s experience!

Supervisor of Offline Training Brendan McLaughlin gave us some great examples of times VITAC was cautious not to give away any caption spoilers:

  • “In an episode of Ben 10… Ben’s grandfather, we normally ID’d Ben’s grandfather as Max. At the beginning of one episode, however, the grandfather entered a diner wearing a large hat and a high-collared trench coat which covered his face. He spoke a couple of sentences, and rather than using the ‘Max” ID, we chose to rely only on the double carets… (>>). Once he revealed who he was, we went back to the standard Max ID for the rest of the episode.
  • “In United States of Tara, Tara suffered from dissassociative identity disorder. For that series, we established a guideline that if Tara transitioned into a character that we already knew, we’d give her a descriptor with the character’s name, such as [ As Buck ], but if the audience had never met the character, we would use a more generic descriptor until Tara identified the character for us…”

Even in reality cooking shows, our captioners are careful not to spoil the winners before they’re announced.

Even though it’d only be considered a spoiler for a few seconds, we might caption something like, “The winner is Chef…” And only after the dramatic pause, caption their name.

“It’s important to caption the ellipses and not put the name directly after to build the suspense of who they are going to say,” says Senior Offline Captioner Kiley Gold.

So the next time you’re viewing a VITAC-captioned series on television, or maybe even binge-watching it, you can be assured that you can enjoy those captions spoiler-free.

By Brittany Bender