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Captioning's Night on the Red Carpet

Posted on: 1/21/2013 6:24:51 PM under Blog 

 

Today may be Blue Monday, the day popularly estimated to be the saddest of the year, but what better occasion to look ahead to the most magical time of year for every TV-viewer -- award season! The drama! The heartbreak! The montages! The month of the year when hundreds of our most talented actors, actresses, and sound-mixing geeks get all dolled up and take home shiny paperweights. (That goes for you, too, Coach ______ Harbaugh).  

And why should the closed captioning industry miss out on the fun? Flash back to 1980 and this guy, Jim Jesperson, posing here with his very own Emmy.

No, it isn't for best moustache in leading role. It's for inventing the process we now know and love -- closed captioning. Along with NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) engineers George Kamas and Dick Davis, the physicist received his Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development in 1980. Other winners in his Emmy class were  Stuart Margolin from "The Rockford Files" and Johnny Carson, who received the Governor's Award. Respectable company, indeed!

When he was not busy inventing groundbreaking technologies, the late Jesperson enjoyed writing poetry and beekeeping. He was a Colorado native, and the award still resides in Boulder, Colorado, in the NIST office lobby. One VITAC blog enthusiast paid homage last week, obtaining this exclusive photo:

So, cheer up, folks. If a group scientists can win a glamorous award like this one, just think of what you can do.

 

 

 

 


 
 

Accessibility and the Web

Posted on: 1/10/2013 9:35:23 PM under Blog 

 

The 2012 agreement by Netflix to caption all of its streaming material by 2014 was a victory for internet accessibility, but it is certainly not the end of the struggle. As websites like Amazon and eBay slowly replace the storefront as consumers' preferred source for clothes, electronics, and other goods, questions remain of how friendly the web is for the deaf community.


Most recently, a Missouri woman, Melissa Earll, was featured on cnn.com regarding her inability to sell products on eBay because she is deaf. Earll claims she was unable to sell a collection of comic books and baseball cards on the site because setting up such an account requires users to field a phone call with password information. A text message or voice-to-text alternative to this phone call is not offered by eBay.


Earll sued on the grounds that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires eBay to provide alternatives to clients who are deaf, but she lost the case. As CNN reports, "Websites that represent brick-and-mortar stores need to comply, courts have ruled, while Web-only businesses do not." Since the web came into existance around the same time that the ADA was signed in 1990, websites are laregly exempt from current accessibility laws.


In a Kansas City news report, Earll stated that "If Netflix can be held acceptable and be told that they have to make new releases available through Closed Captioning...then eBay should surely be held accountable to the same standards." New legislation is clearly in order, but so is the business world's respect for the consumer with hearing impairment.

 


 
 

Learning English Through Captions, Honey Boo Boo-Style

Posted on: 1/7/2013 8:12:00 PM under Blog 

 

Forget the word-a-day calendar your sister bought you this holiday season. If your New Year's resolution is to build your vocabulary, look no further than "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" on TLC. Not only do 6-year-old Alana Thompson, of "Toddlers & Tiaras" fame, and her family introduce us to the native dialect of McIntyre, Georgia, they give us one of their own, and do so with style. Never heard of "sketti," the combination of butter, noodles and ketchup? Then you have never tasted cuisine! Think Elvis is the king of rock 'n' roll? He's not. Elvis is the tiny man who helps Santa. That's not to mention go-go juice, door nuts, or the breakfast of champions (cheeseballs).

But how to understand the words Alana and her clan come up with if they don't exist in any known dictionary? With the captions, of course! Portions of the show are subtitled by Discovery, which owns TLC, but much of it is not, and it is VITAC captioning picking up the slack. How else would you learn how to spell Thompson-family gems like "beautimous" (beautiful), "redneckognize" (to recognize the redneck qualities of someone or something), or, most importantly, "vajiggle jaggle," which the show website defines as "body girth that jiggles"? A list of "Honey Boo Boo"-isms can be found on the show's website...or at the bottom of your screen with the help of the "CC" button on your remote! When you're done, you can take the What'd Mama June Say?! quiz.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Star Alana Thompson

Merriam-Webster they are not, but that's no reason not to tune in for holiday specials in January and February and see what they come up with next. So avoid the forklift foot, conduct yourself etiquettely, and learn a word or two from the Boo Boo family in 2013. Unless you are an exchange student trying to learn English, in which case you might do better with "Sesame Street."

 


 
 

Carol Epperley

Posted on: 12/18/2012 12:42:30 PM under Employee Spotlights » Current 

 

Realtime Captioner
Est. 2007
Leesburg, VA

Where were you born?
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. We lived near the Cleveland Zoo and they had a pool there. After work my Dad took us swimming there. They since have taken out the pool and installed a rain forest. I try to get back to Ohio at least once a year to see my aunts, cousins and former co-workers and friends.

What was it like were you grew up?
Cleveland is a big city with small town heart, and, yes, everyone has heard about the jokes. But I liked it. We walked everywhere; to school, to the zoo, to the local corner store. What we couldn't walk to there was always a bus you could catch either to downtown Cleveland or out to the suburbs. My first court reporting job was in downtown Cleveland.

If you had a super power, what would it be? Why?
I would be able to twitch my nose like Elizabeth Montgomery on "Bewitched" and get everything done in a second. Wow, maybe my captioning could be 100% accurate with a twitch of the nose!

What makes you laugh?
Almost anything. I can laugh at jokes sent to me in email or commercials on TV to stupid things the news reports on. My husband has more than once heard a good belly laugh coming from my office while I'm writing.

What do you like most about working at VITAC?
Several things. I like the flexibility of the schedule. It seems I can do a lot more with my day and still get some work in. Also the other captioners are great. Everything from those lists on what's on the weekends on MSNBC to the word lists that the captioners send out. And the help that is given almost instantaneously when you put out a question. And last but not least the schedulers whose job I would not want in 100 years. And those guys who call me at 3:45 a.m. in the morning wanting to test for a show. They never sound sleepy!

To learn more about Carol's interests, visit:

www.ancestry.com

www.facebook.com

www.coasttocoastam.com

 


 
 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on: 11/21/2012 1:41:04 PM under Blog 

 

2012 was a BIG year for VITAC. The year was punctuated by the CCS transition, an influx of talented new members to the VITAC team, and a handful of FCC Closed Captioning Mandates. We covered a number of momentous and high-profile events -- from the Summer Olympics to Election Coverage, sporting events to Superstorm Sandy, award shows to a slew of VOD programming -- and added new clients, services and solutions on top of it all.

The hard work and dedication of our 311-member team is the backbone to VITAC's success and makes us the leader in the closed captioning industry. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, our Management Team would like to share the things they for which they are grateful.

Darryn Cleary, SVP, Sales
I'm thankful for a healthy family, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, clients who are appreciative of all the hard work and attention to detail that we put into their programming day in and day out, and being part of the best captioning company in the world, hands down.

Deborah Schuster, SVP, Market Development
On the heels of Hurricane Sandy, I am most thankful to have the basics in life which we so often take for granted -- a home, electricity, food and transportation. I'm also thankful for my new VITAC friends and colleagues, and for the opportunities ahead for me and others in the company. Happy holidays, everyone.

Danielle Bellows, Assistant Manager, Realtime Scheduling
I am thankful for all of the times that the captioners put aside their own plans, and family obligations to help out and write another show. I am grateful for all of the long hours that the schedulers put in to keep things going. I am also thankful for all of the hard work that the coordinators do and all of the times that their schedules get re-arranged so that we can get just one more show covered. Thanks to everyone!!

Amy Bowlen, Manager, Realtime Captioner Training
I'm always thankful to our dedicated VITAC staff, but particularly during this busy season.

Mark Panichella, Director, Human Resources
I am thankful to work in an organization where employees care so much for one another. Before and after Superstorm Sandy, I received many inquiries and offers of support for the employees who were in the path of the storm. We often take for granted the person sitting next us, even more so the person 1000 miles away. Despite being stretched across 38 states, it was nice to see VITAC employees come together in a time of need.

Maggie McDermott, VP, Sales
To everyone in Traffic, CSS, Offline and MLS - thank you for doing such a great job on captioning and subtitling projects for Netflix over the past year. Your extraordinary efforts and passion are why customers consistently choose VITAC over the competition and recommend us to their colleagues and friends.

Debbie Hammond, Manager, Client Services
This Thanksgiving, I'm giving thanks for so many things... I have the most wonderful family and friends a person could ever hope for. I am so proud of the professional accomplishments we've all achieved together in the past year, and I am grateful every day for the brilliant people with whom I get to work and with whom I can learn. I am especially thankful for the dedicated and hard-working staff of the Traffic and Client Sales and Services teams, many of whom have graciously volunteered to work on upcoming holidays or help provide coverage for others in the group. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Pete Muck, Director of Financial Operations & Planning
I am thankful for having the privilege of working with a great group of people in our finance department that understand and appreciate the meaning of teamwork. I could not ask for a better staff!

Bob Beyer, General Manager
I am thankful that I work with people who care so deeply about providing the best quality captioning to viewers who would otherwise be denied full access to the information and entertainment that unites us as a culture.

Heather York, VP, Marketing
I am thankful that I'm part of a growing company that makes a difference in the lives of over 50 million people every day. I'm grateful to customers and viewers who appreciate quality, customer service and the effort we put into every job. But most of all I value the VITAC family, friends and colleagues who I've learned from and grown with for over 20 years -- they work with a passion that despite the stress, deadlines and strains, keeps them (and me) smiling year after year.

Yelena Makarczyk, VP, MLS
I'm thankful to hundreds of MLS spiders who weave the canvas of translation every day, 24/7, often on 20-hr shifts, translating up to 13,000 words in a day, through the blizzards of Norway and Finland or in sunny India and California, of course. I'm thankful to so many filmmakers who find a home in our approach to detail and quality, and when they call to thank us for their film marching on to greater journeys because of us, there can be no better reward. I thank my wonderful team, with their problem-solving skills, magical abilities, positive creative energy, and passion. It's the little things that I'm thankful for this holiday season, the fact that we are a team, sailing on to unique destinations together. Yet, on a grand scheme of things, if one were to dive deeply into the world of International localization, one would notice the infinite number of stars, where no star is alike and is constantly evolving.

Thank you, my stars!

 


 
 

Popeye in 'Fright to the Finish': Halloween Special 2012

Posted on: 10/25/2012 10:16:42 AM under Our Videos 

 

Happy Halloween from your friends at VITAC!

For this year's third-annual Halloween video, we decided to go with a classic story of good versus evil, love conquering all obstacles, and, most imporantly, the power of outrageous sound effects. We're proud to present "Fright to the Finish," a six-minute classic Popeye cartoon -- with closed captions and audio description, of course!

Here at VITAC, we believe every video should be accessible; whether it's 30 seconds or 3 hours. And this Halloween-themed Popeye cartoon is no exception.

"Fright to the Finish" showcases both captioning via IP and audio description, two services in high demand this year. Sine the audio description mandares hit in July, VITAC has seen requests for the service quadruple, with new customers including broadcast networks, producers, and government agencies.

Here, the audio description is provided by our friends at Audio Description Associates, LLC while the closed captions come from the heard of our Offline Department.

Sit back, grab a can of spinach, and enjoy this Halloween classic.

If you're looking for just a closed captioned version, we've got that, too. Visit our Halloween Video playlist on YouTube for a full list of captioned and audio described specials. To date we also have "Night of the Living Dead" and "Carnival of Souls."

 


 
 

Larry Worcester

Posted on: 10/22/2012 12:44:59 PM under Employee Spotlights » Archive 

 

Realtime Supervisor
Est. 2005
Canonsburg, PA

Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in the small village of Barnesville, Ohio. I was there last weekend for the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival. Winner... 1,500 lbs.

Were you involved in sports, music, drama or other extra-curricular activities?
I played French horn in a local (Wheeling, WV) youth orchestra.

What is your fondest high school memory?
Traveling to Australia and playing with the symphony in the Sydney Opera House.

Where is your favorite place in the world?
Pittsburgh, PA. I love my city. If I had a different favorite place in the world, I would live there.

What do you do to decompress?
I enjoy various means of escapism -- books, schlock movies, video games, weird music. I
also relax by playing with my children, lounging with my wife, consuming adult
beverages and wandering the forest.

What makes you laugh?
Absurdity, "The Trailer Park Boys", and Kurt Vonnegut.

If you could have lunch with anyone in history (living or dead), who would it be?
Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs and Ernest Hemingway.

What do you like most about working at VITAC?
I like when we are in peak season and extremely busy. We're all running around the production area, phones are ringing incessantly, and we don't miss a minute of air.

To learn more about Larry's interests, visit:

www.gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogle.com/windex.html

 


 
 

VEE Awards: 3rd Quarter 2012

Posted on: 10/17/2012 11:59:40 AM under VEE Award Winners 

 

Let us introduce you to third quarter winners of the VITAC Employee Excellence Awards!

Marie Hoffman - Marketing Program Specialist
Marie was nominated by her colleagues in the sales department for her outstanding marketing analysis, creativity and overwhelmingly positive attitude. She was recognized for her ability to "step up to the challenge and bring her own sense of responsibility" to a multitude of projects, including VITAC's website, customer satisfaction survey, bi-weekly employee newsletter and quarterly sales analysis.

Maggie McDermott - VP, Sales, West Coast
Maggie was nominated for going out of her way to integrate a group of experienced captioners into VITAC's LA office. Maggie recommended a plan of action and then helped see it through, from delivering "we're moving!" signs to preparing welcome kits for the new team. Her creativity "keeps things exciting" and helped smooth the first days of the transition.

Tracy Ukura - Remote Realtime Captioner
Tracy was nominated for going above and beyond the already demanding realtime captioner responsibility, organizing caption files into folders so they may be easily accessed by on-air captioners. She researches network schedules in advance and identifies repeats and pieces together corresponding caption files. Using these files on air, helps our captioners "provide even better captions for the viewers."

 


 
 

How Are Realtime Captions Generated?

Posted on: 10/11/2012 2:34:27 PM under Blog 

 

The process used to deliver realtime captions begins at the fingertips of a court reporter with specialized skills fine-tuned especially for this particular application. These court reporters are called realtime captioners.

Unlike a transcriptionist, who manually types each letter of a word on a standard computer keyboard, a realtime captioner is using a steno machine, which is designed in a fashion quite different from that of a standard keyboard. The standard computer keyboard consists of 26 letter keys, all of which can be shifted for capital letters, keys to type 31 marks of punctuation and/or symbols, 10 keys to type digits, as well as a variety of function keys. The steno machine consists of 22 keys and a number bar. Obviously, with only 22 keys, the operators of these machines are doing something different than a typist and something that's a little mysterious to the general public.

Understanding how the steno machine operates and how realtime captioners work will remove some of that mystery. Clearly, with only 22 keys, all 26 letters of the alphabet are not available on the steno keyboard, although some letters are there twice. No marks of punctuation or symbols are available, either, and no shift key for capitalizing letters. In fact, the keys themselves are unmarked.

The keyboard was designed so the operator can press more than one key at a time. Each key, or combination of keys, represents a sound, and all of the keys pressed within a single stroke represent one syllable of a word. Operators of steno machines learn a writing theory based on phonetics. Realtime captioners do not actually type or spell words on their steno machine. They write words phonetically based on the sounds that they hear, one syllable at a time. So, generally, if a word has one syllable, the captioner can write that word with one stroke of the keyboard. If a word contains multiple syllables, the steno outline will consist of multiple strokes of the keyboard. The ability to write in syllables, as opposed to typing individual letter strokes, is what enables captioners to write at speeds of 225 words per minute and above.

Each captioner writes words based on the way they interpret the sounds they hear. So two people trained together in the same classroom won't necessarily use matching steno outlines for the same word. To increase their speed, captioners also develop their own brief forms, or shortcuts, for multi-syllabic words or phrases that are used repeatedly in their particular specialty of work, individualizing even further the way they write.

Since all captioners do not write every word exactly the same way, each one of them develops dictionaries geared specifically to their personal writing style. These dictionaries are computerized and are used in conjunction with specialized software to electronically record and translate the steno strokes into English words. For a word to translate correctly, the captioner first must enter the strokes for that word into a dictionary.

Using their skills, their dictionaries and the software, captioners produce highly accurate captions, but within those captions will be some errors. They do everything possible to minimize the number of errors. They do research and dictionary building in preparation for each event or program, and they do follow-up afterward to review any errors that did occur in an effort to prevent that type of error in the future.

Although it's likely there will be some errors, they should be minimal.

Stay tuned for more posts about our production processes!

 


 
 

Captioning Mandates for Prerecorded IP-delivered Programs Take Effect

Posted on: 10/4/2012 9:31:03 AM under Technical » CC for IP-delivered Programming 

 

Effective this week, prerecorded content that airs on TV with captions must be captioned when delivered via Internet Protocol (IP).

A result of the Twenty-First Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), the rule applies to unedited prerecorded content that originally airs on television with captions after September 30, 2012.


A number of our clients already comply with the new rule. Here are just a few:

Most of online video players are now equipped with a CC button. Simply click the button to turn on the captions. You'll find examples of this feature on YouTube, Hulu, and Discovery Channel's website. This is also how you'll access captioned videos on Android phones.

In order to see captioned videos on Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV), you may need to change settings on the device itself. For iPads and iPhones, choose Settings | Videos | Closed Captioning ON.

Note that many IP-delivered programs include advertisements before and during the show. These commercials are often not captioned. We hope this will change in the future.

Visit our Captioning for IP Resources page for more information.

 


 
 
 
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