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The Gift of Art: VITAC and WPSD Team up for Annual Holiday Contest

Posted on: 12/15/2014 11:16:22 AM under News 

In 2014 we celebrate 24 years of a wonderful holiday tradition with the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Each year, students from the school submit artistic interpretations of a suggested theme, and send them to VITAC headquarters, where the art is displayed and employees vote for their favorite. We choose multiple finalists and a grand prize winner, and recognize each with a certificate and cash prize during a presentation at the school's December assembly. This year's theme was "Holidays Unwrapped." We're happy to announce this year's winners!


This year's grand winner is Destiny Tanner, age 14. Art and math are her favorite school subjects and she plans to attend Gallaudet University to further her education after she graduates from WPSD. Congratulations, Destiny!


Congratulations to our other six finalists and to all of the WPSD holiday art participants!










Caption Quality Best Practices: Preparation Material

Posted on: 12/11/2014 12:05:04 PM under News 


In preparation for the new FCC Caption Quality Requirements effective January 15, 2015, we're starting a series to discuss the new requirements, and how they specifically affect captioner quality. We start today with 79.1(k)(1)(ii)(A) of the video programmer best practices, Preparation Materials.

What the rule says:The video programmers must... "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."

What the rule means: Realtime Captioners listen to the program at the same time as the viewer and "write" what he or she hears on a steno machine, similar to those used by court reporters in courtrooms. The captioner's individual pre-loaded dictionary translates their keystrokes into captions. Preparation materials, or "prep" helps the captioner ensure that their dictionary includes the words that will be spoken.

How the rule helps improve caption quality:

-Scripts: Scripts include anything written in advance of a live program, including prompter text, introductions to guests and pre-packaged news stories.The captioners use scripts to identify any difficult-to-write terms or names that may be mentioned. If provided far enough in advance, our team of production coordinators converts the scripts to a file which can be sent as captions by the captioner.

-Lists: Lists include proper names, places and unique terms that may arise in a live program - for example, a list of nominees up for a particular award. Captioners add names like Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and Oscar Nominee Quvenzhane Wallis to their pre-loaded dictionaries with corresponding keystroke translation and write them correctly when spoken.

-Song Lyrics: Lyrics to many songs are often hard to comprehend by fans, let alone those charged with transcribing every word as sung, and adding music notes. When a programmer sends lyrics to us, we prepare the lyrics in advance for the captioner, who then "sends" accurate lyrics, complete with the music notes, one line at a time.

-Dress Rehearsals: Programs such as "Saturday Night Live" allow VITAC access to their dress rehearsal. The captioner listens in and, with the help of our coordinators, prepares an advanced file for the show. Not only is it a rehearsal for the cast of the show, but also for the captioner responsible for the live broadcast at 11:35.

-Rundowns: A rundown details the order of a show, including subjects, packages, interviewees, et cetera. Captioners use rundowns to prepare for each segment in advance.

We know that preparation material cannot be sent in advance of every production, and so does the FCC. Because there is no way to prepare for any sort of breaking news, the agency included "to the extent available" language. In most cases though, video programmers should send along this type of material. It will only improve caption quality.

By Brittany Bender



Emirates Offers Audio Description for In-flight Programming

Posted on: 10/24/2014 2:43:22 PM under News 


Emirates is now offering audio-described programming on its flights. The Dubai based airline is the first to offer the service, which benefits blind and low-vision viewers. Films that will be offered with audio description include 16 Disney productions, including Frozen, Toy Story 3, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

"Making entertainment accessible to our diverse customers is important to us" said Emirates' VP Corporate Communications Patrick Brannelly. "It was our motivation to introduce movies that can be enjoyed by customers with visual difficulties."

Emirates was one of the first airlines to introduce closed captioning for its in-flight entertainment. Though captioning has been mandated for broadcast TV networks for over two decades, most airlines do not offer it as an option for their in-flight content. Audio description is mandated for select networks, for at least 200 hours of programming per year.

Emirates has won the SKYTRAX World Airlines award for "Best Inflight Entertainment" for 10 consecutive years.



Campaign Captioning is Affordable, Fast and Necessary

Posted on: 10/17/2014 2:24:08 PM under News 


Closed captioning is a fast, affordable solution for making TV commercials, or "spots," accessible to over 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans. The gubernatorial candidates in Maryland now know this as well as anyone.

On Thursday, October 9th, in Baltimore, the hopefuls for the highest Maryland office participated in a forum hosted by the National Federation for the Blind that focused on disability rights issues. The moderator asked each of the candidates -- who appeared separately at the forum -- why they had chosen not to add closed captioning to their televised political ads.

Lt. Governor and Democratic hopeful Anthony G. Brown cited cost as a factor and answered, according to The Washington Post, that "the resources available to my campaign aren't nearly the resources available in state government." Republican Boyd Rutherford, standing in for Larry Hogan, argued that he was not directly involved in the process of creating ads, but stated that cost was not likely a factor in the decision. The Libertarian candidate, Shawn Quinn, said that he would have included captions if he could have afforded television ads.

Brown, who has a substantial lead in the race with less than three weeks before election day, has benefited from high-profile endorsements from former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. He had raised over $11 million for his campaign as of May. By contrast, closed captioning for a single TV spot costs $75.

VITAC captions thousands of TV spots per year, many of which are prepared and turned around in the same day. Captions, which are mandated on all full-length broadcast programs, bring an advertiser's message to millions of Americans -- and voters.

To inquire about captioning TV spots, please call (724) 514-4077.

by Carlin Twedt



What Puts VITAC Above Fansubbing and Other Amateur Captioning Solutions?

Posted on: 10/1/2014 1:20:31 PM under News 


With the rise of so-called "fansubbing," or fans of a particular movie or television show creating their own captions and subtitles, it is important to stress the amount of talent and professionalism required to produce quality accessible media. Though it may be possible for any amateur to produce words on a video, the difference between the right word and the almost right word, as Mark Twain said, is "the difference between lighting and a lightning bug." VITAC has been perfecting its captioning and subtitling processes for over 28 years and is proud to boast the best captions and subtitles available.

Just a few of the many points that make VITAC's professional captioning and subtitling the only logical solution:

Highly Skilled Personnel: All Offline Captioners have degrees in English, Journalism, or a related field, and must pass a comprehensive grammar test before hire.

Qualified Translation: VITAC works with contractors in over 50 countries around the world who provide not only word-for-word translation but consistency from one show episode to the next and attention to the "color" of the work. 

Verification: All proper names and uncommon terms in offline programs, including names of cities and characters, must be researched and verified for accuracy. The correct spelling of the word and the reliable source where the spelling could be found must be listed on a Verification Sheet, which remains on file in case of discrepancies.

Caption Breaks/Line Breaks: When "breaking" captions, or separating dialogue into separate lines, VITAC makes sure to keep compound names on the same lines and to start new lines with prepositional phrases ("with the President," "before disaster strikes").

Fast Turnaround: Our standard turnaround for caption and subtitle files of up to an hour in duration is 3-4 business days.

To learn more about VITAC's top-quality services, please visit our services page.



VITAC Announces New Director of Multilanguage Services

Posted on: 9/26/2014 4:33:15 PM under News 


VITAC is pleased to announce that effective September 29, 2014, Bob Beyer will be the new Director of Multilanguage Services (MLS). Bob joined VITAC in 1990 and helped grow our Offline Department, opening the Washington, D.C. office in 1992. In subsequent years he became the leader of our Los Angeles Offline Captioner group.

In his new role, Bob will be leading a department responsible for marrying the expertise of six employees, in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, with hundreds of independent contractor translators in over 50 countries around the world. His leadership and knowledge of the prerecorded captioning and subtitling industry will be an invaluable contribution to our MLS team.

Director of Prerecorded Operations Dina Smith will also transition into a new role, taking over responsibility for 100% of VITAC's offline captioning operations. Dina joined VITAC in 1990, and what was then a two-person Offline Department now consists of 74 Captioners in seven states. She has led through FCC mandates for TV captions, the transition to digital and HD distribution, explosive cable expansion, and now web captioning.

From everyone at VITAC, we wish Bob and Dina the best of luck in their new roles!



New Contact Info For Los Angeles Office

Posted on: 9/19/2014 3:17:46 PM under News 


VITAC's LA office underwent an important upgrade this week, aimed at improving customer service and streamlining communications within VITAC. The improvement involved an overhaul of the phone systems to allow Vice President, West Coast Sales Maggie McDermott and SVP, Market Development Deborah Schuster to be reached directly, without having to contact an operator. Their new contact information is as follows:

Maggie McDermott Deborah Schuster
Vice President, West Coast Sales SVP, Market Development
(818) 286-3542 (818) 286-3541

The main number, (818) 755-0410, still connects to LA reception. As always, you can reach members of our Client Sales and Services team at (724) 514-4077 or



September Giveaway Bonanza!

Posted on: 9/5/2014 12:25:33 PM under News 


September is one of VITAC's busiest months, with college and pro football adding an enormous volume of work to both our Realtime and Offline Departments. As Realtime Captioners work nearly every weekend, the Production Coordinators take on overtime to support them, and the Offline Captioners work extra hours to accommodate short turnarounds, we decided to create the first-ever September Giveaway Bonanza!

Every weekday in September, the production staff will be eligible to win gift cards, mystery bags, and even a 32" flat-screen TV! One winner is chosen from the pool of Realtime Captioners each day, as well as one winner from the Production Coordinator/Schedulers/Supervisors/Offline Captioners/MLS/CSS groups of employees.

Sales and Marketing Project Manager Crystal Hopkins, who came up with the idea, also administers the project. "We wanted to do something new and fun for employees to show our appreciation for all their hard work," said Crystal. "Who doesn't like a chance to be a winner?!" The response thus far has been overwhelmingly positive...and we haven't even given away the flat screen yet!



New FCC Best Practices, Summarized by VITAC

Posted on: 8/21/2014 4:57:31 PM under News 


In January, the FCC released a Report and Order documenting a new set of closed captioning best practices, which will go into effect January 15, 2015. The Report and Order, a comprehensive, 150-page document, details the new requirements but also mentions the state of new technology in the industry and discusses the contributions of the players in the best practices rulings (including VITAC), among other significant details.

We at VITAC took upon ourselves the challenge of consolidating the FCC Report and Order for the sake of understanding, at a glance, the pieces and parts of the ruling that would most directly affect our customers. The linked document is a one-page summary of the FCC's ruling, divided into three sections: responsibilities of video programmers, responsibilities of captioning vendors/Captioners, and critical definitions for understanding the new rulings.

To discuss compliance certification and the new mandates, please email



DOJ Considers Requiring Captions at the Movies

Posted on: 8/8/2014 4:36:16 PM under News 


DOJOn July 25th, the Department of Justice proposed a new rule requiring captioning and audio description in movie theaters with digital screens. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, signed by Attorney General Eric Holder, would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990.

Under the new rule, theaters would be required to provide a headset or device to any patron upon request, through which the viewer could see the movie captions, hear the descriptive audio, or both. The captions would only be visible, and the descriptions audible, to those who request the headset or device. The motion also asks for comments on whether a four-year grace period for theaters with analog screens was appropriate.

The proposed rulemaking went into the federal register on August 1, and asks for a six month transition period for digital theaters, after which they would be expected to comply with the new regulations. "This proposed rule will allow all Americans, including those with disabilities, to fully participate in the moviegoing experience," Holder said.

Click here to learn about one unique solution for displaying captioning and audio description at the movies.


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