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VITAC: Proud Participant of the 21st Biennial TDI Conference

Posted on: 8/25/2015 11:11:32 AM under News 


VITAC was thrilled to be a part of TDI's 21st Biennial Conference in Baltimore, MD last week.

The event was kicked off by FCC Tom Wheeler's announcement of a new open-source video platform, which will assist the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind communities to communicate with federal agencies and businesses using American Sign Language (ASL).

Friday afternoon included an FCC discussion about IP captioning, caption quality and caption exemptions, featuring Deputy Chief Karen Peltz Strauss, Deputy Chief Eliot Greenwald, Disability Rights Office, Attorney Advisor Suzy Rosen Singleton, Disability Rights Office, and Attorney Advisor Rosaline Crafwford, Disability Rights Office, all of the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau. This was followed by a session about caption quality, featuring our own VP of Marketing, Heather York. The group discussed a number of subjects, including the expanded Electronic Newsroom Technique (ENT) requirements, the increase in offline captioning since the quality report and order was released, and improvements to realtime captioning. Lise Hamlin of the Hearing Loss Association of America noted that her constituency has seen improvement in some areas, and is looking forward to more.

Saturday's events included a technology and youth forum, and a panel discussion by Director of Accessible Media at Yahoo!, Larry Goldberg and Ken Harrenstein, Engineer at Google on furnishing closed captions for their online video-on-demand content.

VITAC joins members of the conference in congratulating the small FCC Disability Rights Office and TDI in their efforts to improve caption quality, and looks forward to continued success in the future!



VITAC's Offline Department: Spelling Confirmation Specialists

Posted on: 8/18/2015 11:47:26 AM under News 

Our offline department captions over 57,000 prerecorded programs per year for countless networks, independent producers, and web series. With so many different proper names, terms, and places, our offline captioners have their plates full with keeping track of it all.

For example, we've received several inquiries from the dedicated fan base of the long-running series, Supernatural. VITAC has captioned the show since its first episode, and it's hard to believe season 11 is airing this Fall! One of the characters' names on the show is Castiel. The issue arises when other characters call him by his nickname. Is it spelled "Cas," or "Cass"? While there are entire websites dedicated to this issue, how do we know it's spelled "Cass," and to caption it that way?

The answer is our VITAC treatment sheets! For every program, no matter how short, long, or how big or small the client, each show gets its own personal spelling confirmation sheet.

When a program is captioned for the first time, the captioner assigned to the show builds the treatment sheet, confirming every unique name, place, and term. The sheet is then utilized throughout the life of the series to guarantee consistency.

This may require some extensive research by the offline captioners. However, because not every bit of information for some of these shows is listed on the web, it's ideal when our customers send us lists of proper names, places and unique terms, or even entire scripts of the program. In this case, that's how we're sure of how we spell Castiel's nickname on Supernatural!

Sending along this type of preparation material is also a part of the FCC Caption Quality Best Practices for Video Programmers, as they are to... "To the extent available, provide captioning vendors with advance access to preparation materials such as show scripts, lists of proper names (people and places), and song lyrics used in the program, as well as to any dress rehearsal or rundown that is available and relevant." This also applies for realtime captioning.

VITAC is committed to providing quality captions. Our offline department goes the extra mile to make sure captions are accurate and that everyone has the same viewing experience, whether they're watching the programs with captions or not.



Captioning Complications, Causes, and Correction

Posted on: 8/11/2015 10:17:57 AM under News 


Millions of Americans utilize closed captions every day. In addition to providing equal access to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, they're used in public establishments such as airports, restaurants, bars, and gyms.

Realtime captions are created by skilled steno captioners on live events, such as the news, or sporting events.

According to the FCC Caption Quality Best Practices, any prerecorded programming must have prerecorded captions, and these captions are created well in advance of the program's first broadcast on television.

VITAC complies with all FCC Caption Quality Best Practices for accuracy, synchronicity, completeness, and placement.

But what should you do if you see errors in your closed captioning hindering your experience and understanding of the program?

If you're seeing no captions (and you know you've turned them on), garbled captions (strange characters and misspellings), delayed captions, or captions dropping off in the middle of sentences, this could very well be a transmission error. Another type and most common transmission-related error is called a paired error. This occurs when two letters or characters are dropped out in repeated intervals.

During some programs, errors aren't as severe and it's still easy to figure out the context:




But with others, it's nearly impossible:




A great example of this was in the recent GOP Presidential debate, where to most of the country, the captions appeared error-free, as they were written. However, wherever the author of this article was watching, they appeared with pairing and transmission problems: technical errors, not mistakes of the captioner, on who the mistakes were erroneously blamed.

If one of these issues is occurring, contact your Video Programming Distributor(VPD) - cable provider, broadcaster, or satellite provider immediately, as it is their responsibility to ensure that captions pass through correctly. Their captioning contact will be located somewhere on your cable bill or listed online here.

For any non-immediate closed captioning issue, you may also file a written complaint with your VPD, or directly with the FCC.

While full-length IP-delivered content must be captioned if it aired on television, content on Subscription Video-On-Demand services such as Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Hulu are not yet required by the FCC to include closed captions. However, Netflix and iTunes content must be captioned in order to be on that SVOD's library.

If you're experiencing any problems with captioning on this type of programming, please email and we'll be glad to assist you!

We are also happy to help with or point you in the right direction to solve any other caption troubles! Click here for the basic info you'll need to provide us.



VITAC: Reformatting Captions for your Binge Watching Pleasure

Posted on: 8/4/2015 12:24:15 PM under News 

Binge watching seems to be the way to enjoy a series these days, with video-on-demand content streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

For a monthly fee, you have seasons upon seasons of television shows at your fingertips, whether they're that service's original series, or it aired on network or cable television previously.

It's a new era, with programs finally working around your schedule. If you're just now getting around to watching a series, you may not realize that the closed captions may have had to go through some changes from the way they were originally broadcast, way before you press "play".

When a content provider agrees to a deal with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or any other Subscription Video-On-Demand service to furnish so many hours of their content to that library, most of that content needs to be captioned. The original caption files may need to be reformatted for a number of reasons including:

  • The shows were originally captioned in roll-up style (most SVODs require pop-on style).
  • The content provider can't find the original matching caption file (this happens when shows get edited through the years).
  • The video needs to be edited before being delivered to an SVOD service, meaning the captions won't sync up.
VITAC can help caption libraries for SVODs. We have experience reformatting libraries for quick delivery for everything from shows like "The Waltons" to Red Bull. Contact us today for more details.




VITAC Behind the Scenes: Realtime Supervisor Adam Davies

Posted on: 7/27/2015 5:01:00 PM under News 

   What goes on at VITAC behind the scenes? We've started a series focusing on the people that keep the captions on the screen and the business up and running! Our last post focused on Multilanguage Specialist and Spanish Supervisor Chris Hyde.

We pick up this week with Realtime Supervisor Adam Davies. VITAC captions over 250,000 hours of live programming each year, and Adam is one of the hard-working individuals responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and setups of over 150 realtime captioners and 40 realtime production coordinators. Adam answered a few questions to give us some understanding of his challenging position.

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

Adam: I kick off the day by going over the daily captioner and coordinator schedule. I make sure that there is a coordinator scheduled for every setup, that we have all of the proper connection information for the night, and that we have any show prep that we might need. I answer a variety of phone calls which range from RCs (Realtime Captioners) confirming that their shows are done, to clients requesting last-minute adds to the night's schedule and literally everything in between. I help coordinators and RCs with any questions they may have and perform some of our trickier setups. Of course, I don't have to do any of this alone. I work with some great people.

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

Adam: I like that I have a job where I get to move around. Yes, I spend some time behind a desk, but I'm also running around to our tech center and hardware units just doing setups. I also like that every day is different. I know what to expect to some degree, but we're always working on different shows and getting new clients.

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

Adam: Working in Online (Realtime), what we do is live. That show or event is going on with or without captions, and since it's our job to see that it has captions, we've got to work fast to troubleshoot issues.

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

Adam: I'm going to sound cliche here, but only because it's 100% true. I really like the people I work with. They are funny, helpful, and keep me sane in what sometimes can be a hectic environment.

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

Adam: When I am not at VITAC, I enjoy spending time with my 3-year-old son, Tyler. He's pretty cool. I am renovating an old house which I hope to move into soon. I also play bass guitar in a punk rock band.



Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the ADA

Posted on: 7/17/2015 1:05:16 PM under News 


July 26, 2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the first comprehensive civil rights legislation addressing and granting basic accessibility needs of people with disabilities. It includes sections prohibiting employment discrimination, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.

While most of these seem like a basic right, today we take the time to celebrate the men and women who worked so hard to bring these issues to the forefront for decades.

Without the ADA, public places wouldn't have curb cuts for wheelchair accessibility. Now because of it, so many other individuals benefit from them, such as people pushing carts and strollers.

The same holds true with captions. While the ADA didn't specifically address captioning for television, the law, "helped bring to light the pressing need for telecommunications equality," according to Karen Peltz Strauss in her book, A New Civil Right: Telecommunications Equality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Americans. Millions of Americans now benefit from closed captioning in addition to those who rely on it, including children learning to read, people learning English as their second language, and anyone trying to watch television in a noisy bar or gym.

July also marks the 10th anniversary of the FCC's review of closed captioning rules, instigated by Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI) Petition for Rulemaking the previous year. These led to the FCC's Closed Captioning Quality Report and Order, much of which went into effect this year.

Celebrations of the Americans with Disabilities Act are happening all week long. See a complete list of Americans with Disabilities commemorations here and how you can participate.



VITAC Behind the Scenes: Multilanguage Specialist Chris Hyde

Posted on: 7/8/2015 2:40:37 PM under News 

What goes on at VITAC behind the scenes? We've started a series focusing on the people that keep the captions on the screen and the business up and running! Our last post focused on Realtime Schedule Administrator Kelly Zrimsek.

This week, we continue with Multilanguage Specialist and Spanish Supervisor Chris Hyde. VITAC provides over 800 hours of prerecorded Spanish captioning and subtitling for customers like Discovery en Espanol, Home Depot, and shows like "The Voice," every year.

Our team is comprised of in-house Spanish translators and captioners, augmented by translators all over the world. In addition to working with Spanish, Chris also oversees the coordination of translation, transcription, and subtitling of over 45 different languages. Chris took a few minutes out of her busy day to shed some light on her VITAC experience in our Multilanguage Services (MLS) department.

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

Chris: A typical day for me, as Spanish Supervisor, is coming in, checking my email, going through our scheduler and figuring out what stays in-house and what goes to translators, assigning in-house staff and translators, and settling in to QC or full-prep any captioning or subtitling projects we have in the works. I field questions from the team throughout the day and also coordinate with other departments for English files and training.

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

Chris: I really like the problem-solving aspect of scheduling assignments, and I absolutely love working with Spanish.

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

Chris: Sometimes, said problem solving is quite challenging, as last-minute projects will come in when the team is full-up, so a lot of juggling is then required.

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

Chris: I am a language nerd, so I love working with language in any aspect. In MLS, I get to touch on a nice sampling of languages in addition to just English and Spanish.

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

Chris: In my spare time, I like to try all of the restaurants and festivals in the (Pittsburgh) area. And I enjoy cycling and walking to balance all of the restaurants and festivals!



New iTunes Requirement: Content Must Have CC

Posted on: 7/1/2015 5:30:27 PM under News 

   Do you produce video content for distribution in the iTunes store? If so, there is a new requirement for any and all content: Videos must include closed captioning and/or subtitles.

The rule is in effect now and applies in the following ways:

  • Any television show episode in English must have closed captioning whether it aired on United States television or not.
  • Movies in English must have either closed captions, encoded subtitles, or both.
  • Movies or TV shows without English audio must have English subtitles.
  • Promotional and bonus material delivered to iTunes and live after June 30, 2015 must have closed captioning.
  • iTunes extras must have closed captioning or encoded subtitles.

This new stipulation took effect June 30, 2015, and as of July 1, iTunes began removing any content not compliant with their new regulations.

VITAC offers a quick turnaround solution for short form videos and can help make yours iTunes ready!

We also offer encoding and translation services in addition to our prerecorded captioning solutions.

Contact us for more details!



A Taste of VITAC Summer

Posted on: 6/26/2015 9:22:46 AM under News 

   You're invited to VITAC's Summer barbecue! Well, maybe not physically, but you can make some of our team members' favorite Summer dishes for your own get-together.

VITAC's internal employee newsletter, ViTalk, held a Summer BBQ/Picnic recipe contest this past month. We asked all employees across all departments to send in their best recipe for this time of year for the grill, or for a dish that they'd bring to a potluck picnic.

Our offline department captions tons of cooking shows, and it seems that some of our team members could actually star in some of them! We received many entries, so we compiled a few of them together to create the ultimate VITAC Summer meal:


PIMM's Cup 


  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) Pimm's No. 1
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ginger beer or ginger ale
  • 1 cucumber slice
  • 1 sprig fresh mint (5-6 leaves)


  1. Fill highball glass with ice.
  2. Add Pimm's, then top with ginger beer.
  3. Garnish with cucumber slice and mint sprig.
Appetizers/Side Dishes:

Joe's Zesty Corn Salad submitted by Multi-Language Specialist Chris Hyde:


  • 8 ears fresh corn
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil fresh corn in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Remove and then plunge into cold water to stop cooking. Cut kernels off cobs.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well.
  3. Chill thoroughly. Before serving, garnish with cilantro sprigs.
Cold Thai Noodle Salad submitted by Realtime Captioner Patty Nelson:


  • 1 lb. of spaghetti
  • Dressing: 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce (siracha)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Extras: 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • Optional: snow peas, bean sprouts, Napa cabbage


  1. Cook noodles al dente. Strain and rinse under cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together noodles, vegetables and 2/3 of the dressing.
  3. Chill at least 2 hours. Before serving, pour extra dressing over noodles and top with sesame seeds, cilantro and green onion.

Main Dishes:

"Lost" Burgers submitted by Multi-Language Services Manager Dan Garbark:


  • burger pattys and buns
  • pineapple slices
  • chipped ham (lunchmeat)
  • provolone cheese slices
  • barbecue sauce


  1. Grill burgers to preference
  2. When burgers are just about finished, top with pineapple, then the ham and provolone.
  3. Place in bun and top with barbecue sauce.

Blackberry Brandy Salmon submitted by Realtime Captioner Carol Epperley:


  • salmon filets
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons blackberry brandy
  • 2 tablespoons of butter


  1. Place each salmon filet in aluminum foil.
  2. Add brown sugar, blackberry brandy and butter.
  3. Fold aluminum foil and place on grill.
  4. Grill for about 20 minutes until flaky.


Red, White and Blue Cookies submitted by Offline Captioner Sarah McPartland:


  • 1 box of red velvet cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • white chocolate chips
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Blue food coloring


  1. Melt butter, soften cream cheese and blend together. Then add egg.
  2. Blend cake mix and vanilla extract and add to butter and cream cheese mixture. Fold in white chocolate chips.
  3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls.
  4. Bake a dozen at 325 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.
  5. When cooled, add blue food coloring to cream cheese frosting and top cookie with thin layer.

2013 Cuyahoga County Fair First Prize Pink Lemonade Pie submitted by Realtime Captioner Jane Proud:


  • 1 Pillsbury Pet-Ritz frozen pie crust
  • 1 8 ounce tub whipped topping, reserving some for decoration
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • powdered pink lemonade mix
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 egg yolk
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • red food coloring


  1. Bake Pet-Ritz pie crust as per directions on package.
  2. Combine whipped topping and sour cream. Stir in powdered pink lemonade to taste (about 1/3 cup or 1/2 cup). Spoon mixture into baked pie crust, spread smooth and refrigerate.
  3. Stir together sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Add in a little of the water and stir to form a paste. Slowly stir in remaining water.
  4. Whisk in egg yolk and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in fruit juice. Stir in 1 drop of red food color.
  6. While mixture is still warm, gently pour it over the top of the pie, letting it spread to the edges. Refrigerate 1-2 hours and pipe whipped topping around edges or place a spoonful in the center for decoration.


A Horse of a Different Spelling

Posted on: 6/11/2015 2:03:44 PM under News 



When American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 last week, he made history in more ways than one. In addition to becoming the most famous horse in the world, he also changed the closed captioning of one particular word forever: "Pharaoh."

It was a popular news story when it first broke: how American Pharoah's owners misspelled "Pharaoh," on some official paperwork. There was an internet contest held to name the horse, and allegedly, the winning entrant was the one that spelled the name incorrectly. There's some controversy surrounding the mistake, but regardless, the horse will forever be known as American Pharoah.

Since the horse has most likely reached Secretariat's fame level, he will be referred to in the media for years to come. Our realtime captioners now must be extra careful when they phonetically write "Pharaoh," (ancient Egyptian ruler, SNL cast member) or "Pharoah" (prize-winning horse) on their steno machines!

The combo will be added to every captioner's list of homonyms requiring different keystroke combinations: hear/here, they're/there/their, and Smith/Smyth. (There are a lot of NHL players with both names!) This will probably be a staple of sports captioning dictionaries for a very long time.

Our offline department is also affected by the spelling error! Any treatment sheet they create for programs referring to horse racing must always include American Pharoah.

Not only was the incorrect spelling trending on social media, but it was certainly "trending" here at VITAC as well! One seemingly tiny mistake has made a pretty big impact, at least when it comes to captioning!


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