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"Oh, Liza" Web Series Debuts With Captions

Posted on: 4/16/2014 11:16:51 AM under News 


In step with the emerging trend of web series' producers electing to caption their internet-only content, "Oh, Liza," still in its first season, is now available online with captions.

The series centers on the 25-year-old Liza Fisher after she moves from Manhattan back to the 'burbs...and into her parents' house. But her folks haven't been suffering the empty nest as much as she had thought, and have welcomed the oh-so-popular Brendan as a lodger in Liza's childhood bedroom. The four episodes now available follow her attempts to un-cut the cord in suburbia, which, shockingly, doesn't go so well.

The whole thing is fun and funny, and self-deprecates those Millennials you always read about (and who created the series) -- like this interaction between Liza and her mother in episode 2:

"Mom, I'm 25 on a lawn chair in my parents' backyard in New Jersey."

"Your point?"

"I think it's pretty clear."

One of the memorable moments comes in episode 4 when Liza goes to a house-party-turned-class-reunion, where none of her fellow high school alums (many of them also living with their parents, apparently) can put their finger on what Liza's been up to all these years. Didn't she just get out of jail? Isn't she pregnant? Didn't she die, "like, a few years back"?

But Liza's saga is not nearly so eventful. Mostly her days are filled with normal kid stuff like lounging, envying other people, and hiding her cell in the freezer. You wonder how bad things have to get before Liza does something crazy and, I don't know, applies for a job.

The series is captioned by VITAC and, as mentioned earlier, represents an emerging trend of web series choosing captions to make their content more searchable, accessible, and professional. Though the FCC does not currently mandate captioning for content that airs on the web but not on TV, adding captions allows for better SEO results, opens the potential audience to an additional 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans, and differentiates the series from an amateur project.

The show was recently featured on the captioned web TV blog, a site that promotes web series producers who caption their content.

by Carlin Twedt



VITAC Represents at NAB This Week

Posted on: 4/9/2014 11:20:19 AM under News 


This week, senior members of the VITAC staff are at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas. The conference, which is held once a year, is the largest showing of electronic media of all forms, and boasts 93,000 attendees representing 193 countries each year. This year there will be over 1,550 exhibitors from every corner of the electronic media industries -- the perfect opportunity for VITAC to see in person the newest tech developments in broadcasting. It is also a great opportunity to spread the word about VITAC's newest and most exciting captioning capabilities. The VITAC representatives are Chief Business Development Officer Doug Karlovits, Chief Technology Officer Dwight Wagner, SVP Sales Darryn Cleary, and Engineering Manager Chuck Wall. Please feel free to say hello!

This year, VITAC is providing Spanish captions for Teradek, a manufacturer of groundbreaking devices for wireless video, who are streaming live video in English from the conference. The live-translated and captioned broadcast can be seen here, on the Ustream website.



FCC Releases Order on Caption Quality

Posted on: 3/7/2014 12:29:11 PM under News 


On February 20, 2014, the FCC announced the most dramatic changes to caption standards since the CVAA passed in 2010. The Report and Order, released on February 24th, comes ten years after the issue of caption quality was raised by Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc, and mandates specific practices for program providers, distributors, caption companies and captioners.   VITAC representatives Heather York, VP Marketing, and Amy Bowlen, Manager of Realtime Training, took an active role in collaborating with industry representatives and establishing which proposed modifications were most urgent.

Below are some of the most notable best practices established in this meeting:

-To be accurate, captions must reflect not only the dialogue, but also sounds and music to the fullest extent possible. Accurate captions must also identify the speaker.

-Captions may not cover significant on-screen images, including important graphics and character faces.

-All new on-demand programming must be captioned, whether English, Spanish, or bilingual.

-Offline programming must be programmed offline (as opposed to live or live-to-tape), except in cases of last-minute editorial changes to the program, proprietary considerations of the program's content, or a damaged caption file.

-All new English-Spanish bilingual programming must be captioned. 75% of such captioning that existed before the ruling must be captioned by a date to be determined by the FCC.

Going forward, the FCC also hopes to address captioning requirements for online clips and whether or not to publicly post captioning complaints from consumers. Download the full report and order here.



VITAC Completes Sochi Captioning With Remarkable Success

Posted on: 2/28/2014 11:12:14 AM under News 


Last Sunday, VITAC completed a spectacular two-and-a-half-week feat, captioning the entire Sochi Olympics, both for broadcast on NBC and streaming on the web. The 22nd Winter Games marks the 10th Olympics for which VITAC was chosen to provide captioning, including, most recently, London (2012), Vancouver (2010), Beijing (2008), and Athens (2004). This time, we were the exclusive caption provider, and contributed a grand total of 1,310 hours of live captioning, with a broadcast uptime of an incredible 99.97%. This includes 542 hours of broadcast captioning on networks like NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC, MSNBC, and USA, and 768 hours of captioning on

"Captioning the Olympic Games is one of the most gratifying and demanding tasks we've encountered in our 27 years in business, with thousands of athletes competing in 15 different disciplines," said President Patricia Prozzi in a press release. The Olympic Games pose a unique challenge due not only to the massive volume of hours, but because of the diversity of the participants, all of whose names must be spelled correctly. Captioners spend hours researching event terminology and participant names in order to program the correct spellings into their dictionaries, a tool which allows them to spell long and complex words with just a few keystrokes.

Due to the high-profile nature of much of VITAC's realtime captioning work, it is little surprise that network and cable broadcasters continue to trust VITAC when the world is watching.

by Carlin Twedt



National Court Reporting and Captioning Week

Posted on: 2/18/2014 5:33:07 PM under News 


The week of February 16-22 celebrates the contributions of court reporters and captioners and all the benefits we gain from their hard work. Not only do court reporters provide realtime transcripts of courtroom and legislative proceedings, they also "write" all of the live content (especially sports and news) that we watch on TV today -- including all content for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which are captioned exclusively by VITAC -- a service that benefits over 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans.

The profession of court reporting traces back to one of the philosopher Cicero's slaves, who developed a shorthand method for quickly taking down Cicero's thoughts. Since then, the trade has developed, and now utilizes electronic, 22-key stenography machines, which type syllables instead of single characters, allowing court reporters to write at an average of 250 words per minute (the world record stands at 360 words per minute). However the improved technology does not do all the work. The skill is extremely difficult, and only about 10-15% of court reporting students graduate. Of that 10%, only about 10% are accepted into the closed captioning circuit.

Aside from the daily contributions court reporters and captioners provide, there is a historical benchmark that they currently fulfill, as well. Chapters of the National Court Reporting Association plan to observe the week through volunteer projects, such as the State of Georgia's Veterans History Project Day, in which the group seeks to transcribe veterans' oral history for submission to the Library of Congress.

Click here to find out how you can pursue a career in court reporting or captioning.

by Carlin Twedt



Sochi Roundup: Week One

Posted on: 2/12/2014 3:45:33 PM under News 


The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (captioned exclusively by VITAC) are well underway, and what a spectacle it's been! Here are some highlights and notable moments from the games so far:

-#Sochiproblems: Okay, so the hotels weren't quite ready and the tap water wasn't quite transparent. Nearly 100% of the bathroom doors were operational -- doesn't that count for something? Being an Olympian requires incredible strength, toughness, and focus, and there's no reason to make mountains out of molehills. But Bob Costas just can't catch a break, can he?

-Indian luger: Shiva Keshavan falls off his sled in prelims, but slides at the same speed and manages to roll back on it. Which begs the question, why use sleds at all?

-Opening ceremonies: Wow! What a spectacle.

-Shaun White: The snowboarding pioneer goes home emptyhanded, losing in the snowboard halfpipe to a guy named I-Pod with a trick called the "YOLO." And they say snowboarding is just for kids.

-Canadian mogul skier Alex Bilodeau wins gold for his brother with cerebral palsy. If that's not an Olympic moment, I don't know what is.

-The U.S. takes double gold in the new slopestyle event, as well as sweeping the men's podium. The U.S. is tied for first with Norway in the medal count as of 1pm EST.

-Women's hockey: Canada defeats USA 3-2 in a third-period rally. It is still possible that the two teams will meet again, possibly in the gold-medal round on February 20th. Can't wait!

-Men's hockey -- USA vs. Russia: This airs live tomorrow at 7:30am EST. Set your alarms! You'll never make it to the rebroadcast without hearing who won.

Make sure to check out all the forthcoming Olympic excitement, and remember that VITAC is captioning all content on this year, as well.



Offline Department Adds Standing Workstations

Posted on: 2/4/2014 10:51:21 AM under News 


Standing workstationAs part of VITAC's ongoing dedication to its employees health and wellbeing, VITAC has added two standing work stations to the "floor," the offline captioning area where employees transcribe, time, and place captions for prerecorded programming. The standing work stations allow volunteers to remain on their feet, rather than sitting, promoting better posture and circulation during the workday.

The experiment began just days before the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, for which VITAC is the exclusive caption provider. Like the Olympians' commitment to their sports, VITAC strives to promote active, healthy lives amongst its employees.



WPSD Grad to Sign National Anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII

Posted on: 1/31/2014 1:05:32 PM under News 


Before kickoff this Sunday, be sure to catch one of the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf's graduates, Amber Zion, who will be signing the national anthem, as well as "America the Beautiful."

Signing at the Super Bowl would be a dream gig for anyone, but especially for someone like Amber who uses American Sign Language every day. The Penn Hills native has been deaf since before the age of 3 and relies on ASL to communicate on a daily basis -- but proficiency in ASL alone did not get earn her the coveted spot. Her acting background (she has appeared in a recent commercial, as well as in CSI:NY) has helped her, as well, as a video submission of herself signing led to her call to audition. "Just like there are different touches in singing the song, there are different ways to convey the words and concept of the song through ASL," she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The official announcement that Zion had been selected was made just 10 days ago on January 21st.

The ASL interpretation of this year's national anthem bears special significance because one of the Seattle Seahawks' running backs, Derrick Coleman, is legally deaf. He is the first deaf offensive player in the NFL and has won hearts for his extraordinary work ethic as well as for the adversity he has overcome. The Super Bowl has a history of supporting deaf rights, and in 2008 aired a "silent" ad performed exclusively in ASL. 

Zion graduated from WPSD to go on to Rochester Institute of Technology, where she earned a degree in graphic design. She is "thrilled" to have achieved the honor, and though she has signed the anthem at other NFL games, the Super Bowl has a special significance to her: "There's nothing bigger than the Super Bowl," she said. In preparation, she consulted last year's signing talent (and viral superstar), John Maucere

In other Super Bowl news, VITAC is proud to be captioning the entire event, beginning with pregame coverage on Sunday morning.



NPR Introduces Device for Captioning Emergency Alerts

Posted on: 1/6/2014 11:31:05 AM under News 


NPR Labs has been -- and is still -- developing a new emergency alert system designed to get critical messages to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals even in the event of a catastrophic power outage. Unlike a standard TV or internet emergency warning, the device is powered by individuals' tablets, allowing it to function during a loss of Wifi and municipal power. The device -- a rudimentary box that attaches to the iPad or other tablet -- captions emergency alerts broadcast over the public radio provider and its affiliates.

NPR is currently testing the program in the Gulf region, about which Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo said, "This valuable partnership with Mississippi's local public radio stations promises to expand the reach of our disaster alert systems, and I can think of no better place to conduct this trial than the Gulf Coast." Pending a successful test, the process will be rolled out nationally on stations serviced by the PRSS, or Public Radio Satellite System, which reaches 95% of the country.

The program is the result of a grant from the Deaprtment of Homeland Security and FEMA, and has been in development since early last year.

Photo courtesy of



VITAC's Celebration with WPSD

Posted on: 1/3/2014 11:50:12 AM under News 


Last month, VITAC got to celebrate the holiday season with our long-time friends at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Edgewood. The purpose of the visit was to present the winners of our annual art contest -- now 23 years running -- with their prizes, as well as to see the fantastic production of their holiday play, the theme of which was Christmas in Australia.

Each year for the art contest, WPSD students decorate art according to a theme. This year's theme was holiday stockings. Participants' artwork arrived at VITAC headquarters, where our employees voted for the best works in each of three age categories. Pictured are the nine winners including the eight who received $25 cash and the Grand Winner, who got $50 cash and copies of the printed holiday card with their artwork on the front. All the winners' art works were featured on VITAC's holiday e-card.

The play was a fantastic original production that featured an MC, Santa Claus fielding students' holiday wishes, and many white kangaroos to pull Santa's sleigh, among many other spectacles. The entire production was both spoken and signed, and had the entire audience entertained throughout.

The artwork can be seen in full size on the holiday card. We look forward to continuing the holiday tradition with our WPSD friends next year!


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