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VITAC Captioning New Web Series "Friends in Therapy"

Posted on: 7/25/2014 4:18:44 PM under News 


VITAC is pleased to caption the new and hilarious web series Friends in Therapy, a bro-medy that documents best buds Joe and Daryl's sessions on the couch in friend therapy -- think couples' therapy, but between two bachelors. Aside from the occasional guest star, Joe and Daryl are the only cast members in the 2-3-minute clips, with the viewer taking on the therapist's perspective as the guys discuss cheating at Scrabble, ex-girlfriends, and being wingmen for each other.

The actors, Joe Towne and Daryl Johnson, have mastered the burgeoning art of the short-form web series: the simple setup and emphasis on a solid script and everyday conflicts that any roommate, little brother, or spouse will understand. What makes "FiT" unique is the comfort with which each of them supply tough love, and the good nature with which the other one takes it. They bill the series as "completely raw and unscripted," which I took to be tongue-in-cheek until I hit "play": the two bicker, banter, and finish each other's sentences with such comfort, that it was easy to imagine the show's two seasons being shot in one take, and segmented into episodes like "Extra Bacon" and "Twinsies." When there is a "Bromance" genre, this will be at the top of our list.

Joe and Daryl decided to caption their series because of a deaf viewer's request, but the captions also benefit the series' heavy use of wordplay. In season 1, episode 2 (embedded below), when the guys talk about Joe's supposed drunk-angry-tired Long Island accent, Daryl astutely points out Joe's usage of "I'm 'pologize" in place of "I apologize," a distinction that only high-quality captions such as VITAC's would be able to express. As with other VITAC-captioned web series like Oh, Liza and Pittsburgh Dad, captions improve a series' SEO rankings in a search engine, allowing them to reach wider audiences. To inquire about captioning your web series, please email


by Carlin Twedt



What is TRUE Pop-On Captioning?

Posted on: 7/17/2014 3:25:12 PM under Blog 


Anyone familiar with captioning may be aware of the two main styles of prerecorded captioning: roll-up and pop-on. Yet there are actually many different styles of prerecorded captioning and they don't always go by the same name between caption providers.

The most common labeling mix-up occurs between Multi-Positional Pop-On captioning (also known as Timed-and-Placed Pop-On) and Center-Placed Pop-On captioning. Center-Placed Pop-On captioning displays at the top or bottom of the screen, only in the center (think of center-justified text in a document). The captions indicate a speaker change by labeling the character's name (i.e. "Rachel:"), or by using chevrons (>>) or a single hyphen (-).

This style is called Center-Placed Pop-On. It is different than Multi-Positional Pop-On.

Multi-Positional Pop-On is "placed" as well as timed, and the captions appear below or above the speaker. Unlike Center-Placed Pop-On, Multi-Positional Pop-On captions can appear anywhere on the screen -- think of the screen as a nine-panel tic-tac-toe board, where captions can display in any of the nine segments. Multi-Positional Pop-On captions do not require speaker IDs, since the text appears below or above each speaker. Only when a speaker can be heard speaking off-screen does their dialogue receive a "Rachel:" or "Optimus Prime:" label in the captions.

To recap, Multi-Positional Pop-On style:

-Displays below or above the speaker, anywhere on the screen.

-Indicates who is speaking through placement.

Per new FCC regulations, offline captions must identify speakers to meet best practices. Multi-Positional Pop-On fulfills this best practice through the positioning of the captions.

Are you getting true pop-on caption style? To request a quote for Multi-Positional Pop-On captioning from VITAC, click here.



FCC Issues New Rules for Captioning Web Clips

Posted on: 7/11/2014 3:14:18 PM under News 


Today the FCC voted unanimously to approve new rules regarding captioning for clips of TV shows posted on the web. The rules are an extension of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) signed into law by President Obama in 2010. The FCC approved the following measures unanimously:

-Beginning January 1, 2016, clips taken directly from shows that aired with captions on TV must be captioned on the web.

-Beginning January 1, 2017, clips that include montages of a program or programs that aired on TV must be captioned on the web.

-Beginning July 1, 2016, live and near-live clips of programming that aired with captions on TV will be required to be captioned online. Distributors will have a 12-hour grace period to associate live programming with captions on the web. The grace period for near-live clips to be captioned online is 8 hours.

These requirements do not apply to content that is already in a distributor's library. The announcement also included new proposed rulemaking for future web captioning requirements.

VITAC has comprehensive solutions in place for meeting all of the above requirements.  For a consultation on how to caption clips for prerecorded shows, please call (724) 514-4077. For information on captioning clips taken from live shows, you may call the same number or view our IP-Ready live captioning solutions (PDF).



Audio Description Veteran Publishes Comprehensive AD Book

Posted on: 7/2/2014 3:38:57 PM under News 


Joel Snyder, a pioneer of audio description, recently released a book, called The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description. As the title suggests, the book delves into the history of audio description -- a service by which a skilled audio description team describes critical events and images in a show, play, or other performance -- which Joel himself was integral in developing, as well as the best practices for implementing quality audio description.

As Snyder mentions, audio description serves the 21 million Americans who suffer from low vision or blindness. It is federally mandated for at least four hours of programming per week on major network broadcasters in top-25 markets, as well as the top five cable networks. Captioning, in contrast, is required on all TV broadcasts. "There is simply a lack of awareness of the need and a misunderstanding of the public benefit that could result from reaching out to this population, not to mention the financial benefit that might be gleaned from this untapped market," Snyder explains in The Visual Made Verbal.

The book is 180 pages long and is available for Kindle or in paperback through Amazon books. Joel recently earned his PhD in accessibility - audio description from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Joel is the president of Audio Description Associates, LLC, as well as the Director of the Audio Description project for the American Council of the Blind.

To learn more about audio description, please visit The Audio Description Project page.



What Do Frame Rates Mean in a Digital Age?

Posted on: 6/27/2014 12:08:45 PM under Technical 


Frame rate is the measure of how many frames of a video file display every second, which determines the smoothness of a video's playback. Very old video games had frame rates of 6 frames per second (FPS), and appear choppy compared to modern video games that have frame rates upwards of 125 FPS.

You may have heard about when The Hobbit director Peter Jackson filmed An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug in high frame rate, using 48 frames per second (FPS) instead of the cinema standard of 24. There was considerable outcry caused by doubling the frame rate, and critics of the new technology reported that the film appeared too lifelike and removed them from the traditional viewing experience they expected.

A program's frame rate plays an important role in how a show is captioned, since captions associate with particular frames and must match the program audio. Standard frame rates for traditional TV and movies include the following:

29.97 frames per second (dropframe) -- This standard, used for many TV productions, is essentially 30 frames per second except for once every tenth minute, when two frames are "dropped." Really, the frame count just skips over them and no frames of video are actually lost.

24 FPS -- This is the standard used for most film productions.

25 FPS -- This is the European standard for video.

Digital files have frame rates, just like traditional films and TV programs. Unlike physical film formats, a digital frame rate can be easily manipulated with video editing software. The frame rates for WMV, AVI, and FLV files are generally "unconstrained," which means they can be modified to nearly any frame rate the user desires.

VITAC handles all frame rates and video types. For more information about our offline captioning capabilities, please click here.



Can VITAC Captioners Dial in to Multiple Encoders?

Posted on: 6/20/2014 1:25:40 PM under Blog 


Dialing into multiple encoders is necessary when a program is to air on multiple networks, or an event organizer requests captioning for multiple locations. It ensures a consistent transcript of a program's audio, regardless of where it airs.

Realtime Remote Captioners at VITAC are able to dial directly into two modem connections simultaneously. However, if they connect through VITAC's Canonsburg, PA, headquarters, using VITAC's proprietary B2B systems, they can connect to about 6-8 encoders simultaneously. When using an IP connection, VITAC Captioners are able to connect to up to four different encoders. That means that VITAC is able to provide captions for about as many outlets as a customer needs for a single event! Captioning a live program via IP in addition to a phone-line connection produces a web-ready deliverable for the program, keeping your IP content FCC compliant.



SMPTE-TT: What Is It, and How Does It Work?

Posted on: 6/12/2014 3:39:24 PM under Technical 


SMPTE-TT is an increasingly popular caption file type due to the growing demand for accessible web video. But what is it exactly?

SMPTE-TT is an XML-based caption codec that is popular because of its conformity to W3C standards and superior flexibility to DFXP/TTML profiles. The acronym SMPTE-TT stands for "Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers - Timed Text," which correctly qualifies the codec as a mainstay for professional video engineers.

Why is it so great? It is closely related to DFXP/TTML profiles (the terms "DFXP" and "TTML" are often used interchangeably), which were designed by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). Every profile has different features, such as the #direction feature, which allows left-to-right or right-to-left display of captions, the latter being for languages that are read right-to-left, of course. SMPTE-TT has several additional extensions, however, that were not available in DFXP/TTML, including: #image, #data, and #information. 

1. #image -- This feature allows bitmap images to be displayed, such as subtitles (.png format only).

2. #data -- The data feature allows the player to pass CEA-708 data (the standard for captioning digital TV) through to the video player, as well as CEA-608 data (the line-21 standard for broadcast TV captioning).

3. #information -- This feature tells the player whether to display the caption data with the original look and feel (preserve mode) or to  take advantage of the more advanced display capabilities (enhance mode).

SMPTE-TT allows captions to include some attributes traditionally associated with subtitles, including foreign-alphabet characters and some mathematical symbols. Additionally, DFXP/TTML don't support some of the positioning capabilities of CEA-608 data. The FCC has declared SMPTE-TT a "safe harbor interchange and delivery format" that complies with CVAA regulations.

For more information on delivering your content as SMPTE-TT, please contact

by Carlin Twedt



VITAC Partners with Pittsburgh Dad Web Series

Posted on: 6/6/2014 3:07:39 PM under News 


VITAC is pleased to announce the expansion of its web captioning customer base to include local web series "Pittsburgh Dad." VITAC will be partnering with "Pittsburgh Dad" for the next six months in order to make the popular series accessible to over 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans.

"Pittsburgh Dad" is the invention of Chris Preksta and Curt Wootton that features once-a-week episodes of Dad dealing with everyday situations around Pittsburgh -- wrangling Jeffy, his rambunctious son, during a trip to Ikea, trying to decipher his son Brandon's report card during a parent-teacher conference ("he got an 'N' in spelling?"), and even meeting Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The series pokes fun at "yinzer" (meaning classically Pittsburgh) dads who speak their own version of correct English, Pittsburghese. Captions are especially important to the series because of the often difficult-to-understand vocabulary unique to Western Pennsylvania.

The series began in October 2011 and less than three months later surpassed its 1,000,000th view. They now have 110 published episodes, each of which averages about 50,000 views!

The coolest thing about Pittsburgh Dad is the attention they've garnered without big studio contracts or six-figure budgets -- and the fact that they have decided to caption their wildly popular series. Though the "Pittsburgh Dad" men are able to make the show their full-time jobs because of sponsorships from local brands, it was a ground-up struggle to win over the hearts of Pittsburghers and viewers around the country. By responding to popular request that the program be captioned, "Pittsburgh Dad" has proven to be a leading -- and hilarious -- example for other independent web series producers.

by Carlin Twedt



Throwback Friday -- Your Peek Into VITAC's Past

Posted on: 5/30/2014 4:31:57 PM under Blog 


Any caption viewer with a good memory and a sharp eye knows that VITAC has been providing industry-leading service for 28 years (we are one of the only companies that still proudly puts their name in the captions during show credits). While we prefer to focus on our service today and plan for tomorrow, there is little danger in looking back at our humble roots.

VITAC started out as a two-man operation in 1986 called CaptionAmerica and has grown into the 330-employee outfit it is today, the name of which is a contraction of "VITal ACcess." Back then, our first customer was KDKA-TV Eyewitness News, and we were a realtime-only shop -- our offline department didn't come about until a few years later. We did not have a website, and our marketing materials (from May 1991) still carried our old name. And if you wanted an hour of live captioning back then, it would've cost $990!

More than anything, we at VITAC concern ourselves with more modern caption technologies and how to improve our overall service to the customers.



For Commencement This Spring, Think VITAC

Posted on: 5/22/2014 3:19:56 PM under News 


This month, thousands of new graduates will flood the job market, armed with diplomas of every level, in degrees from Political Science to Puppetry. One thing they will all have in common: a commencement ceremony to mark the transition into the workforce.

While it's possible that the esteemed keynote speaker may be less than proficient at speaking into the microphone or that you may be sitting next to a screaming baby, and while you're bound to hear a couple mispronounced names, there is no reason why a proud family member should miss out on any part of the ceremony whatsoever.

Adding closed captioning to a graduation event ensures that every speech, every name, and lyrics to even the strangest Alma Maters receive their due on the event's display screen or the audience members' personal mobile devices. The process is simple: the assigned Captioner works either on-site -- in the venue or stadium -- or remotely, "writing" up to 250 words per minute and sending the information to the event's encoder, where it displays on the large screen, or to a third-party system that creates a unique URL to the streaming captions. The Captioners receive pertinent information, such as speeches, song lyrics, and graduate names, in advance, so that they can simply hit a button to make each display at the appropriate moment. Since all the names are programmed in advance according to the event program, they display accurately even when the announcer butchers them.

VITAC was proud to caption Point Park University's graduation several Saturdays ago, to an overwhelmingly positive response.

To order captioning for your commencement ceremony, please email or call (724) 514-4077.

by Carlin Twedt


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