VITAC Captioners Brace for Nonstop Royal Wedding Coverage

Behind-the-scenes media prep has an added dimension — list longer than Diana’s train

4/28/2011
More than 125 hours of Royal Wedding coverage on ten different national networks will be captioned on Friday by VITAC, the nation’s largest captioning company. And the advance preparation for captioning parallels the significant preparation undertaken by the networks.

The company’s captioners, schedulers and coordinators began in early April to verify technical plans, create world lists, augment dictionaries, and learn pronunciations, ensuring captioners are prepared to write absolutely anything and everything that might be spoken. From wedding guests names (Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka, Maxima Zorreguieta) to music (“Fantasia in G, Piece d’orgue a 5 BWV 572,” “Prelude on St Columba Op 101 no 6″), to a myriad possible honeymoon destinations (Seychelles? Mustique? Rutundu?), the research list is longer than Diana’s train.
“The large number of guests and keeping their information straight will be challenging, especially if the pronunciations are varied depending on who is speaking,” says veteran captioner Stephanie Witter. “It may also be tough to keep on top of all of the royal titles that will be carried by many of the people making an appearance.” Witter is responsible for four hours of national network coverage Friday morning. She will watch her assigned network and caption what she hears, using her steno machine and lightning fast fingers. Her captions will appear on the network within two seconds of being spoken.

Royal Wedding stories have seeped into every bit of media we covered, from the “Today” show to Telemundo to CNN. The cake, the dress, the guest list — the backlash. Everybody’s got an opinion, and they’ll be spouting it Friday morning. And for every pundit on every network there will be a VITAC team working hard to ensure those words are translated properly into text.
The Royal Wedding differs from the traditionally somber multi-network events VITAC captions. According to Witter, “It’s an event that is totally unique to my professional experience in that it is reported in high spirits, given its celebratory nature.”

Danielle Bellows, Manager of Realtime Captioner Scheduling, says that all of the work hasn’t dampened her spirits. “There is always some fascination with Royalty — the palaces, the jewels, the great vacations. Of course I will watch! Yes! I want to see what she looks like! Can’t wait to see the dress!”

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