VITAC Offline Captions Halloween Wars

VITAC Gets into the Halloween Spirit Captioning  Sweet Carving and Baking Competition Special

Halloween Wars_Captions

Candy, and pumpkins, and cake, oh my!

No, we’re not talking about our office Halloween party… we’re talking about captioning one of our favorite spooky, seasonal TV programs, Halloween Wars on the Food Network!

Since 2011, five teams of three comprised of an award-winning cake artist, sugar artist/candy maker, and critically-acclaimed pumpkin carving artist compete each Fall for the grand prize of $50,000. The show is a take on the network’s year-round programs, Cupcake Wars and Cake Wars. 

Each week, the aptly-named squads (Screams, The Underbakers, Sugar Psychos, etc.) must create a “small scare” themed display containing the cake, sugar, and pumpkin. The winning team gets a small advantage in the main event where all troupes must fight head-to-head to create the biggest, scariest, most detailed Halloween display, while creating a themed “tasting element” for the judges(some guest judges have been the likes of horror legends and icons such as Rob Zombie, Tom Savini, and Elvira).

Halloween Wars_Display

One of the most frightening aspects of the show for the contestants: the challenges are timed!

“Working on them isn’t any different from a typical cooking competition show, though I find it pretty difficult to believe the up-tempo tension of it when the teams are ‘rushing’ to make their cakes in three or so hours,” said DJ, one of our offline captioners.

And while it may not be dissimilar to a lot of the other shows involving cooking and baking competitions, our captioners do have to add some bewitching flair when captioning Halloween Wars.

A recent sound effect in the show was captioned as, [ Pumpkin thuds ], while the musical introduction to the show is captioned as [ Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” plays ]

Our offline captioners look forward to working to working on seasonal programming that start this time of year.

“I do like working on them because I feel like they get me into the spirit of the holidays…” said Steve, another one of our offline captioners.

Offline Captioner Sarah said that these shows also get her in the “holiday spirit”.

Tune into the Food Network Sunday, October 30th at 9:00 PM EST for the bone-chilling Halloween Wars grand finale and make sure the captions are on!

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.


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

VITAC Prepares to Caption the 2016 Olympic Games

Rio Summer Olympics Open This Friday–VITAC is Ready.

Olympic Mascots in the Stadium

Days before the opening ceremonies, hundreds of thousands of individuals work tirelessly to ensure that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is fully equipped and prepared for the start of the of the Summer Olympic Games.  They must make certain that the city is ready for the influx of record number visitors, and provide a safe, secure infrastructure for international athletes and spectators alike.

Back here in the States at VITAC Headquarters in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, nearly every department is heavily involved in preparation for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.  Starting this Friday, August, 5th, we will begin a two-week surge in captioning, nearly doubling our daily volume as we caption the Olympics  across at least seven different NBC Universal-owned networks,  five live Multi-Distribution System feeds and multiple web channels.

Manager of Realtime Production Coordinators, Mark Paluso says his team has been working nonstop to ensure equipment and captioners are ready for anything that might happen.

“Together with our engineering department, we’re testing primary, backup, and redundancy scenarios,” he said.   “This includes intensive testing of Headquarters and Realtime Captioners’ IP connections, phone lines and audio lines.”  One event may require a captioner to be connected to up as many as eight encoders, and our engineering and coordination teams must ensure those connections are fluid and working.

Production coordinators are also responsible for working with NBC to create preparation material that captioners will use to improve accuracy while writing on fly, including:

  • Song lyrics and scripts for the opening and closing ceremonies
  • Lists upon lists of athletes – not just those participating, but those who won or lost in the past: i.e., anything that may be referenced on air.
  • Medal Counts – several times day the production coordinators will update our “medal count spreadsheet,” which details country, athlete, and team awards. The medal counts are blasted to Olympic captioners several times a day.Aerial view of the Rio Olympic Park

Once the games begin, the production coordinators work with our scheduling team to ensure captioners are set up for scheduled events and tested with NBC in advance of air.

Our systems and engineering team is creating a caption monitoring station where all of the Olympic video feeds’ captions will be monitored to ensure captions are on air even when the captioner cannot see the feed.  We’ve also revised our technical discrepancy reporting procedures so that any technical issues are immediately directed to our technical support team for resolution.

And let’s not forget the realtime captioners, who will be on air non-stop, doing their best to ensure that those viewers who rely upon captioning see the most accurate captions possible.   “Captioners are using the NBC Olympics website and volumes of prep material provided by NBC to update their dictionaries,” said Realtime Captioner Trainer Karla Ray.  She points out that though captioners may have a schedule indicating that one sport will air in a given time slot, they must be prepared to caption all sports, as one never knows what may air.

Captioners not on the air for the Olympics will be working overtime to cover our regularly scheduled programming.

The entire Olympics preparation effort is being led by Chief Business Development Officer, Doug Karlovits and Chief Operations Officer, Chuck Karlovits.   Veterans of Olympic captioning, they say this summer’s event, with its extensive web and Spanish captioning feeds, is the biggest yet.   “We couldn’t do this were it not for our dedicated team of caption experts and captioners,” says Chuck. “I am grateful every day for the extraordinary efforts our team makes to ensure delivery of accurate captions– especially now to Olympic viewers the world over.”

Be sure to tune in with the captions on at 7:00 PM EST this Friday, August 5th, for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and check back here on our blog next week for an update of our golden Olympic captioning coverage.

Logo for Rio Olympics 2016

Discovery Shark Week 2016: Captions by VITAC

VITAC Captions Discovery Shark Week

VITAC Captioning Shark Week_2016

Adrenaline, frantic swimming, fins, jaws, and… captions? That’s right, it’s officially the best week of the year: Shark Week 2016 on the Discovery Channel, and it’s captioned from start to finished by VITAC!

Shark week kicked off on Sunday with original programming, Tiger Beach, The Return of Monster Mako, and Isle of Jaws, which chronicled the discovery of a concentration of only male sharks off of an uncharted island. The sharks had completely disappeared from the group of Neptune Islands in Australia. Could this finding have had something to do with it?

Last night’s programming got a little more terrifying with shows such as Shallow Water Invasion, and Jaws of the Deep. Sharks Among Us, the third program shownshowcased a system developed by Dr. Craig O’Connell for humans and sharks to live in harmony.

Be sure to tune back in tonight at 9/8c for Wrath of a Great White Serial Killer and Air Jaws: Night Stalker immediately following at 10/9c. And be sure not to miss Shark After Dark at 11/10c where film writer, director and producer Eli Roth and guests discuss highlights of Shark Week after each night’s programming.

Be certain not to miss a word of any spine-tingling, thrilling moment… turn the closed captions on!

For the rest of Discovery’s Shark Week program schedule, visit their official Shark Week 2016 TV Schedule.

By Brittany Bender

VITAC Captioning March Madness on truTV, TBS and TNT

                Get your brackets ready and hope your team doesn’t get upset! VITAC is captioning the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament on truTV, TBS and TNT!

The tournament kicked off with our captions on truTV on St. Patrick’s Day when Hampton defeated Manhattan and Ole Miss advanced over BYU. Coverage continued Wednesday night when Dayton knocked off Boise State to move into the tournament and Robert Morris beat North Florida to advance for a game against number 1 seed,  Duke. 

The round of 64 tips off this afternoon. You can catch our realtime captions starting at 12:40 PM on truTV when Iowa State takes on UAB, 1:40 PM when Baylor plays Georgia State on TBS, and at 2:10 PM when Texas Southern will try to upset the number 2 seed, Arizona on TNT.

Our realtime department is busy “warming up” for the tournament. Our realtime steno captioners are vigorously preparing and researching each team’s roster, stats, and practicing writing names of the various announcers. If they’re scheduled to caption a game, they’re ready for anything to happen!

The sports supervisors and realtime coordinators are getting pumped up for their setups of each game: Testing with each captioner 20 minutes before the start of the pre-game, ensuring all of the correct connections to each network and the web, and being ready to troubleshoot at a moment’s notice! They also have to keep track of the game clock. A lot of these games run longer than scheduled and are supposed to be immediately followed with another match-up!

And let’s not forget about our realtime schedulers who are responsible for assigning a captioner to each and every game! They’re true team players!

If you’re watching any of the 24 March Madness games on truTV, TBS or TNT in this first week of the tournament, turn on the captions while keeping up with your bracket and hoping it doesn’t get busted early!

By Brittany Bender

ASL in The Voice: Contestant Treeva Gibson

VITAC is thrilled to be captioning The Voice once again. This season is extra special, because we feel particularly close to one of the contestants.


16-year-old Treeva Gibson giving her coaching decision on “The Voice”.


16-year-old Treeva Gibson is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), as both of her parents are deaf. Her mother is a teacher at the Maryland School for the Deaf and her father is a teacher at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, of which VITAC is a proud supporter. Our Director of Pre-recorded Operations Dina Smith, also fluent in ASL, verified that the ASL in some of the segments matched onscreen subtitles.

Newly-returned judge Christina Aguilera (also a connection – she is from Pittsburgh)  was blown away by Treeva’s rendition of Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful.” Christina said that she was “captivated” by her performance. Blake Shelton was surprised when he learned that Treeva didn’t have many musical influence since both her parents are deaf. “I feel like I just heard something that I’ve never heard before,” said Shelton. Treeva spoke and signed her choice of Christina to be her coach during her “Voice” experience.

There’s so much wonderful talent already this season, so there’s no doubt the competition will be fierce! Check out the full first episode with captions here and make sure to tune in on Monday at 8:00 PM on NBC as the blind auditions continue!


VITAC Captions Academy Originals

While your favorite actors, directors and musicians are preparing their wardrobe and acceptance speeches for Sunday’s Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been preparing a weekly video web series,
Academy Originals, for almost a year. The series began in May of 2014, and VITAC has been providing the captions for the program since the beginning!

The Academy Originals series takes a documentary-style look into the art, science and creative process of filmmaking in short 2-5 minute videos. There are a few recurring topics such as “Let’s go to the Movies,” in which an actor views any film of their choice in the academy’s extensive archive and analyzes it afterwards. Other themes of the series include “Creative Spark,” in which viewers receive a glimpse inside the minds of the artists in front of and behind the camera, and “Day in the Life,” that chronicles the behind-the-scenes processes with industry professionals.

Before you tune in to the biggest awards show of the year this Sunday, take some time to enjoy a few of these informative and entertaining video segments. Learn some history, trivia and experiences of what went into making some of the best films of all time. New episodes are available every Monday and can be seen here or on the Academy Originals YouTube channel. To turn on the English captions, click the “CC” icon at the bottom right of the video screen.

VITAC Captioning Super Bowl XLIX

Who’s going to win the big game this Sunday? VITAC will once again be captioning as that long-awaited question is answered!

Super Bowl XLIX will air on NBC this Sunday, February 1st. Pre-game coverage will begin at 12 PM EST. 

Kick-Off commences at 6:30 PM and we’re captioning the action live in English and Spanish! 
We captioned the New England Patriots’ loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.
The Patriots will make their eighth Super Bowl appearance to try to steal some spotlight from defending champs, the Seattle Seahawks. 

VITAC Captioning Sunday’s Golden Globes

Roll out the red carpet, call the fashion police and turn the captions on! VITAC is captioning this Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards live on NBC. Coverage begins with the pre-show at 7:00 PM hosted by Carson Daly and Matt Lauer. Their “Today Show” co-stars Natalie Morales and Savannah Guthrie will also interview the stars as they take the famed walk down the carpet. The ceremony follows at 8:00 PM and will be hosted by the dynamic duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the third consecutive year.

Our team of production coordinators is vigorously helping the scheduled captioner prepare documents of names of actors, movies, television shows and song lyrics for the show. Realtime captioner Adrian Jonas is no stranger to writing ceremonies such as the Golden Globes. “The most challenging part of writing an awards show is the research that is done ahead of time compiling a list of all the nominees, movie titles, characters and songs and having them at your fingertips so you can write them in order for them to translate correctly,” said Adrian. Prepping for the pre-show can be just as challenging. “You have to know the difference between Louis Vuitton and Louboutin since they sound very similar.”


On the big night, one of our star coordinators will set up the fabulous realtime captioner with all the proper connections. They’ll then perform a test with NBC to ensure captions at the start of the show. The captioner will be ready for anything, with names of nominees like David Oyelowo and Uzo Aduba already in their captioning dictionaries to avoid misspelling them.


Will VITAC-captioned “Orange is the New Black” win for best comedy or musical series? Can James Spader take home the Globe for best actor in VITAC-captioned and favorite “The Blacklist”? How will Amy and Tina top themselves as hosts for the final time? As they say in show business, “there’s nothing like live TV,” and we’ll be there to caption it all as it happens!


The Golden Globe award was born in 1943 when a few writers formed the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) and decided that it would annually honor achievements in filmmaking. The first ceremony was held in 1944. Today, the HFPA consists of about 90 members from all over the world that view and critique international television and film. Golden Globe statues are presented to the top actors, directors, musicians and composers.
By Brittany Bender

Spread Holiday Cheer in American Sign Language

VITAC’s getting into the holiday spirit and we invite you to do the same, with help from the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP)! Learn how to sign holiday greetings this year with these videos:

-Sign each of the major holidays along with this video from the Canadian Hearing Society. The video includes at least one holiday for each month, beginning and ending with New Year’s — Day in January and Eve in December – along with brief explanations of the signs.-Learn the signs of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa in these videos by Everyday ASL. From “dreidel,” and “menorah,” to “Happy Kwanzaa,” and “fruit,” learn along with the instructor in preparation for these holiday celebrations.-“Since we’ve no place to go,” sign along to Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! with Sign Language Specialists as the beloved Dean Martin song plays along.-Learn more signs of Christmas with Mitch and Danielle as they act out holiday activities, including eating cookies, spotting Santa and his reindeer and placing presents under the tree. Sign “Santa Claus,” “snow man,” “stocking,” and many more!

VITAC is a proud partner and approved caption vendor of the DCMP, and while most of their materials require a membership to view, these and many more ASL tutorials are available for free on their site.


By Brittany Bender