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Captioning Web-Exclusive Shows

Posted on: 9/29/2015 12:04:09 PM under News 


If it airs on television, it must have captions. But what about all those original series from Over The Top (OTT = content delivered via the internet without involvement of a service operator) services like Netflix and Amazon?

For now, the FCC only has purview over programming that airs on TV. Technically, that includes broadcasters and programming/channels distributed by a Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (MVPD = cable and satellite companies). The FCC can require captions on TV and captions online for any program or clip of programming that aired on TV, but as of right now, they can't require that web-exclusive video be captioned.

That could change in the future, as the FCC is considering if and how to address OTT entities like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, but a ruling is not expected any time soon. The following link is the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking where they discuss this issue:

Fortunately, most major OTT providers are captioning everything. Netflix was sued by the National Association for the Deaf under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and as a result, must caption everything. iTunes requires everything delivered to them, whether it aired on TV or not, be captioned. Hulu and Amazon have similar rules.

While web-exclusive videos are not yet required to be captioned, most of the larger OTT providers are captioning and/or working to caption all of their content. We urge everyone to caption web-exclusive videos for accessibility.



Whining About Auto Captions

Posted on: 9/22/2015 10:22:41 AM under News 

We're going to "Whine About" auto captions.

For the past 20 weeks, Buzzfeed Matt's "Whine About It" series has been seemingly everywhere on Facebook. The premise: Matt Bellassai drinks a bottle of wine at his desk and complains about anything and everything. He's brought us such gems as "Things People Do in Public that they Should Do in Private," and his most recent post, "Types of Coworkers that are the Absolute Worst," which we're sure has been shared amongst employees at businesses from coast to coast.

Almost 900,000 people "like" Matt's Facebook page. His last video was shared over 70,000 times. Unfortunately, people who rely on captions are missing out. His Facebook videos are not captioned, and those on YouTube are "auto-captioned," meaning voice recognition software is used to "guess" what is being said. The results would be funny if it wasn't so sad:

What he said: "Hi, everyone, my name is Matt Bellassai."

What the YouTube captions said: "everyone, my name is Matt Ellis Island."

What he said: That's not vintage..."

What the YouTube captions said: "that's not been touched."

Captioning videos on Facebook and YouTube is easy. For YouTube videos, just create a transcript and upload it with the video -- YouTube's timing is much better than their transcription! Facebook requires an SRT file, which can be downloaded from YouTube or created from scratch.

Join us in asking @MattBellassai to caption his videos so they can be enjoyed by all.



VITAC Behind the Scenes: Realtime Production Coordinator Nick Caldwell

Posted on: 9/15/2015 10:49:27 AM under News 


                     Realtime Production Coordinator Nick Caldwell hard at work, testing with a client

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 Offline Traffic Coordinator Tara Nalepa

Today, we switch gears to Realtime Production Coordinator Nick Caldwell. Our production coordination staff consists of more than 40 hardworking, multi-tasking captioning experts. They're responsible for captioner setup including testing with individual captioners and networks, script preparation, and troubleshooting for over 220,000 hours of live programming each year. Nick was able to take a short break from his daily schedule to answer a few questions so we could get a feel for what his day-to-day is like at VITAC.

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

Nick: I suppose a typical work day consists of either "prepping" (making sure a caption file is verbatim with the program audio and in VITAC style) or "capchecking" (editing, proofreading, and finalizing the caption file for live broadcast) one of the three late night talk shows on the NBC network; those shows being "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," "Late Night with Seth Meyers," or "Last Call with Carson Daly." We set up/test/verify captions on many networks ranging from The Weather Channel to many different sports networks, and everything in between. We take calls from many clients and captioners with questions about connections, caption placement, etc.

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

Nick: My favorite part about working in Realtime is knowing that I'm providing a service for people.

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

Nick: The most challenging part of my job is being able to stay on my toes with answers or solutions to any problems that may occur.

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

Nick: What I like most about working at VITAC is the fact that it's something different as far as a job. It's not something that everyone knows about. I've always been one that likes to have jobs that would be considered different. I've worked as a lifeguard, a funeral home attendant, and a telemarketer. I like something "different."

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

Nick: I enjoy just kicking back with friends outside of work. I like being around people. As far as specific activities, I enjoy karaoke, swimming, video games, and sports.



VITAC Behind the Scenes: Offline Traffic Coordinator Tara Nalepa

Posted on: 9/8/2015 11:58:28 AM 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 Supervisor Adam Davies.

Today, we shine our spotlight on Offline Traffic Coordinator Tara Nalepa. Our offline traffic department is responsible for the coordination and delivery of hundreds of hours of offline and prerecorded projects a week. Tara is one of our fearless leaders in Traffic, and she is revered by many of our clients. She was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

Q: You are a valuable member of our Offline Traffic team. Walk us though a typical day for you in the office.

Tara: A typical day for me is, I come in, check email. I would check our traffic scheduler program to see what is going on for the day, and if there is anything missing. For example: videos for captioning, digital scripts, etc. I work with clients to get their shows captioned, make work orders, add jobs to the scheduling program. Right now, I am also training new members of our traffic team, so that is something new for me.

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

Tara: My favorite part about working in Traffic is that I just really like the clients we have. I like the interaction between myself and clients. I am very much a people-person at heart and enjoy customer service. I also enjoy seeing what projects we are going to caption next.

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

Tara: Some of the challenging parts of my job are quick deadlines, and making sure I am able to do whatever I can to make the client happy and meet their turnaround, and trying to keep track of hundreds of hours of work that we have scheduled and make sure we have everything we need. Also, as I mentioned before, I'm training new staff members, and that can be a challenge, but I always welcome a challenge.

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

Tara: What I like most about working at VITAC is the amazing customers. After 11 years of working here, I've gotten to work with some really nice clients, who I know really well. I really also enjoy working with the staff here. VITAC has some really awesome people working for them.

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

Tara: I spend time with my family. I have a four-year-old nephew and a nine-month-old niece. I like to spend time with friends and watch Steelers games.



Football Captions: Brought to You by VITAC Teamwork

Posted on: 9/1/2015 12:59:14 PM under News 

The start of September marks the beginning of a lot of things: preparation for the cooler autumn months, back to school, and of course football season! At VITAC, it's the most exciting, and busy time of the year.

Our realtime captioners, production coordinators, and supervisors are gearing up, putting together rosters, stats, and spelling confirmation lists of the thousands of players in the NCAA and NFL. The schedulers and sports supervisors are working tirelessly to ensure a captioner is available for each and every game, and making sure we have the lists of proper network connections.

Starting this week, weekends in the realtime department will be in overdrive, as we caption 43 college football games from Thursday through Sunday, and up to 13 NFL games every Sunday from now until February.

Coordinator setups get a tad trickier; adding and testing multiple IP and encoder connections for the captioners, and monitoring start and finish times of each game. If one game runs long, the scheduled following game could start, but using a different connection than originally planned. Once that first game ends, the coordinator must switch the on-air captioner to the original scheduled connection! This all happens while performing their other regularly scheduled coordinator duties, and the transition must occur seamlessly.

The captioners must keep captioning their games, sometimes writing hours past their scheduled times when overtime happens. Post game wrap-ups and pre-game coverage oftentimes get preempted, and they must be on alert at all times, monitoring their audio lines.

Even though it's tons of hard work, there's almost an electric feeling among VITAC employees in the realtime department during these weekends in the cooler months. The football teams surely aren't the only ones demonstrating teamwork! Captioners, coordinators, supervisors, and schedulers all pull together to produce the highest quality captions, and flawless transition between games with no caption loss.



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.


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