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40th Anniversary of the Captioned News

Posted on: 12/3/2013 5:50:03 PM under News 

 

Forty years ago today, on December 3, 1973, The Captioned ABC Evening News first aired at 11:00pm on PBS, becoming the first regularly scheduled, captioned TV program. The show was a rebroadcast of The ABC Evening News, which aired at 6:00pm the same day, captioned for the benefit of the deaf and hard-of-hearing population.

Unlike the news today, the original Captioned ABC Evening News was not captioned using live stenocaptioners, but recorded from the 6:00pm broadcast and captioned at a furious pace by a team of five people: the first listened to an audio recording of the program and made notes about the timing of news reports and commercial breaks. The second person began transcribing the beginning of the broadcast as soon as the first commercial break began. After a short time, a third and fourth team member began reviewing the initial captions and captioning the first commercial breaks, respectively; the fifth person was responsible for checking captions for readability, ensuring that they were true to the meaning of the broadcast and written to no higher than a sixth-grade reading level. Finally, the team assembled and reviewed the entire file, establishing caption placement and determining appropriate display speed. In only five hours, the captioned news broadcast had to be ready for air.

The captions and the broadcast itself were geared much more heavily toward a deaf audience than programming today. Captioners edited program audio to eliminate passive verbs, substitute easier-to-pronounce synonyms for long words, and restate idioms that may be confusing to a deaf audience. The production team replaced the six minutes of advertising in the half-hour show with miscellaneous programming such as a "deaf events" segment and a "deaf history" bit. Less than a year after the first broadcast, 56 stations nationwide had adopted The Captioned ABC Evening News. Soon, however, technology caught up, and by the early '80s, with the development of realtime captioning for news broadcasts, The Captioned ABC Evening News was all but obsolete.

The formerly painstaking captioning process has since been streamlined and automated. News shows are now captioned live by skilled stenocaptioners "writing" up to 240 words per minute. For offline content, computer software determines what caption display time is sufficient and automatically checks spelling.  Verbatim captioning has long since replaced the practice of simplifying complex language in the broadcast, and today, edits between program audio and caption files are reserved mostly for speech stutters and unusually fast audio.

For a technology that is just now over the hill, we've come a long way!

by Carlin Twedt

 


 
 

VITAC Captions Municipal Events

Posted on: 11/26/2013 12:44:50 PM under News 

 

VITAC is the nation's leading provider of accessible media services, and captions some of the most-watched content on TV and the web. However, broadcast TV is by no means the extent of VITAC's accessible media contributions. In fact, one area of VITAC's growth may not involve broadcast media at all.

A growing contingent of municipal and government groups, including city councils, county councils, and other community groups, are beginning to realize the advantages of closed captioning. Many are turning to VITAC to make their council meetings accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and VITAC is more than able to accept the challenge. Our Realtime and Offline Departments already provide various captioning and transcription services across the country for both major metropolitan areas and smaller government entities. These captions -- whether they are for city council meetings or special town-hall events -- can be delivered over a television broadcast, or simply displayed in the room in which the meeting occurs. The availability of smart phones and tablets has increased the value of municipal meeting captioning, as each entity can opt for web captions, which can be streamed to any mobile device.

The advantages of captioning council meetings extend beyond the accessibility advantages made available to the deaf and hard-of-hearing population. Just like a courtroom, a realtime transcript of a meeting provides an instantaneous record of what someone said and when, allowing the meeting participants to go back to the official record as necessary. This transcript can be used for archival purposes and indexing, allowing interested parties to look up quotable moments and talking points with just a simple word processer.

For more information about having a municipal meeting captioned, call (724) 514-4077 or email CSS@vitac.com.

 


 
 

VITAC to Caption Project Bundle-Up Telethon

Posted on: 11/22/2013 5:15:28 PM under News 

 

This holiday season, VITAC will be donating its realtime captioning services for the annual Project Bundle-Up telethon.

Project Bundle-Up is a joint effort between the Salvation Army and WTAE channel 4 Pittsburgh that raises money each year for disadvantaged children to stock up on warm winter gear. By hosting events such as an online auction, a New Year's Day polar bear plunge, and an annual telethon, Project Bundle-Up raises funds for its shopping days, where the program's beneficiaries get to pick out new cold-weather clothes -- with the help of some very cool TV and sports celebrities! It has been in operation since 1986 -- the same year that VITAC was founded -- and benefits 7,500 children annually.

VITAC is proud to be a part of Project Bundle-Up and encourages everyone to check their listings in December, when the telethon will air (air date TBD). In addition to Project Bundle-Up, VITAC will be sharing gifts with patrons of the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services during their holiday celebration, and holding a holiday art competition for students at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

Stay tuned for more holiday updates!

 


 
 

Captions for Your Phone

Posted on: 11/19/2013 2:28:38 PM under News 

 

As an alternative to caption relay services for the deaf and hard of hearing, there is a telephone that will automatically caption the incoming dialogue on your land line. Amplified captioned telephones have a monitor that transcribes the dialogue from the other end of the connection in a high-contrast, large-print screen. If the user is not there to pick up, some models of the phone will even record a message in text!

The service is free, though it requires an internet connection. The phone itself costs less than $100. Unlike a video relay service, the monitor does not display video of a live person using sign language to communicate, but displays only text. Yet like video relay, captioned telephone service does have a delay, so it helps if the user identifies the fact that they are using the service. Captions are input by voice recognition software, but checked manually by a real person to ensure an accurate transcription.

One great advantage that captioned telephones share with captioned TV is the ability to archive content. Unlike a traditional phone conversation, a captioned telephone will save a transcript of the conversation for future reference, just as a caption file of a meeting or live event can be archived and searched for future re-use. Very useful!

 


 
 

VITAC Provides Audio Description for Halloween Classic

Posted on: 10/29/2013 10:34:11 AM under News 

 

VITAC, in conjunction with the American Council of the Blind's Audio Description Project, announced today the release of 1922 Halloween classic "Nosferatu" with audio description. The project is meant to celebrate both the federally mandated accessibility service for blind and low-vision audiences -- audio description -- and the Halloween season. The film is available with audio description and captioning on VITAC's website and YouTube page, and will be broadcast as a described audio track on ACBRadio at 9:00 pm EDT on Halloween at http://www.acbradio.org/live.

"Nosferatu," about a Dracula-like character who spreads terror and pestilence through the protagonist's hometown before his lust for blood destroys him, is the fourth installment of VITAC and the ACB's series of audio described Halloween programs.

"We're excited to present an accessible version of what Roger Ebert called 'One of the greatest of all silent films,'" said Heather York, VP Marketing for VITAC. "As with all programming, we feel that 'Nosferatu' should be accessible to everyone, and we encourage sighted people to watch and enjoy the movie alongside their blind or low-vision friends."

Sometimes known as "video description" or "descriptive video service," audio description is a voiceover track mixed with a program's primary audio, in which a narrator describes significant on-screen images and events. The FCC requires 4 hours of audio description per week on top-25-market affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, as well as on the top 5 cable networks -- Disney, Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT, and USA.

To describe "Nosferatu," VITAC partnered with Audio Description Associates, an accessible media group that provides audio description for a broad array of television and live performance events (theater, opera, and dance), as well as museum exhibits, meetings, tours, circuses, parades, and sporting events.

"Providing audio description for 'Nosferatu' was a pleasure," says Dr. Joel Snyder, President of Audio Description Associates, who described the video and directs ACB's Audio Description Project. "It challenged me to make an intricate plot accessible without the aid of dialogue, and allowed me to bring the movie to life for an audience that lacks access to the visual image, whether blind or just in the next room."

Previous films in the series include 2012's Popeye episode "Fright to the Finish," 2011's cult favorite "Carnival of Souls," and 2010's zombie classic "Night of the Living Dead." However, unlike previous years, "Nosferatu" is a silent film, lending greater significance of the audio description to blind and low-vision viewers.

 


 
 

The VITAC Blog Halloween Special

Posted on: 10/24/2013 4:59:35 PM under News 

 

Halloween is less than a week away, which means it's totally not weird to wear your costume to work up until then, right?

Maybe not. But that's not to say VITAC isn't in the spirit. In fact, we're more excited than ever, with two big Halloween updates to get everyone pumped for Halloween '13.

VITAC Captioners on the Silver Screen

Offline Captioners Eric Chapman and Todd Osleger's horror film Kultur Shock!  premiered at the Oaks Theater in Pittsburgh last Sunday. The film is an 85-minute thriller about strangers who find themselves locked in a room together with a strange puppet-phone known only as "Uncle Sam." The showing drew a healthy audience of about 50, despite competing with a local football rivalry matchup, and had audiences discussing plot points long after the end of the film. Crowd reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and several attendees declared their interest in seeing it again!

Future dates are yet to be determined, but Eric has made clear his intention to have an interactive showing, that includes a whodunit ballot cast from the audience 10 minutes before the ending. For info on future showings, stay tuned to VITAC's Twitter page, or maybe even your local newspaper. The premiere got a nice write-up in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette!

Audio-Described Horror Film Debut

In other movie news: VITAC's annual Halloween tradition of captioning and audio-describing a Halloween classic continues when we roll out our surprise feature early next week on YouTube and the VITAC website. Critical to this endeavor was Audio Description Associates, whose president, Joel Snyder, Ph.D. recently received a doctorate in audiovisual translation. The movie this year is silent, which makes the audio description element that much more critical to blind and low-vision viewers.

If you didn't figure out what the movie will be from last week's clues, here are a few more:

-It was released in 1922.

-Its director was 6'11" tall.

-The actor who played the monster has a last name that translates to "fright" in German, his native language.

You can also listen to this silent film on Halloween at 9pm EST at http://acbradio.org/live.

Have a great Halloween!

 


 
 

Captioning: the SEO Advantage

Posted on: 10/18/2013 11:26:43 AM under Blog 

 

For all the internet gurus out there trying to leverage a higher website ranking in Google/Yahoo!/Bing search results, there is a little-known resource for improving your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Adding a closed captioning file to your video is a proven means of broadening your video's reach and upping your visibility in a web search.

We all know that Google and every other search engine have secret algorithms for choosing what content is most relevant to a user's search, secret so that it cannot be gamed by a whole slew of website owners looking to claim the "I'm Feeling Lucky" entry (the first one) in a search. The algorithm crawls the source code of webpages, looking for keywords used in certain combinations and frequencies, and ranks the sites, so that the most in-demand, informative, and significant entry floats to the top of the list. Great news for anyone who has a website full of text.

But video is becoming a major player in the internet world, and search engine crawls can't access the spoken words in them. You could post a video of yourself reading War and Peace cover to cover, and it would be no more useful to your SEO than if you had stared blankly at the camera for the same amount of time. A workaround: captions! Captions do for Google, Yahoo!, and Bing what they do for 50 million deaf and hard-of hearing Americans -- translate audio to text. This allows search engines to crawl the spoken words in a video, as well as the text on a website.

Chances are you've spent some time and money on your video. Adding captions will make these videos searchable and optimized for searches.

To get a quote, check out our Caption YouTube page and "Tongue Twisters" video.

 


 
 

UK Watchdog Group to Monitor Caption Quality

Posted on: 10/16/2013 2:28:38 PM under News 

 

The UK watchdog group Ofcom has announced a new bid to monitor the quality of closed captions on British TV. The private group bills itself as a "communications regulator" and is an authority for communications-related topics in the UK, including broadcast TV, the web, mobile and fixed telephones, and even the post.

The campaign will not involve direct evaluation of the captions by Ofcom, but will instead require broadcasters to measure and report on the quality of their captions every six months for two years. Ofcom will then examine and publish the results of these reports. Criteria for quality captions include numbers of errors, type of errors, speed, and latency ("lag" between audio and caption display), and will be evaluated for both realtime and offline captioning. Ofcom is also asking broadcasters to report technical difficulties in their captioning.

Currently there are no penalties or incentives in place beside the publication of a positive or negative report. The announcement comes in response to complaints about poor captioning -- referred to as "subtitling" -- by some of Britain's 1 million deaf and hard-of-hearing population. The campaign will begin in 2014.

 


 
 

VITAC to Provide Audio Description for Halloween Flick

Posted on: 10/11/2013 11:22:06 AM under News 

 

In celebration of Halloween, VITAC will be providing audio description for a classic horror movie this fall. The aim of this project is to revive a long-lost horror flick for the Halloween season and bring awareness to an important, federally mandated service: audio description.

Audio description, sometimes called "video description," is a service for blind and low-vision audiences in which a professional voice actor narrates a carefully scripted account of important on-screen events, so that the content is accessible to all people. You can access the audio description on select shows by pressing the SAP button on your remote, or by selecting SAP in your satellite menu (the audio description track may be accessible by selecting "Spanish" in some cases).

The audio-described flick is a modern tradition at VITAC. Last year, we described an episode of Popeye, and in 2011, the 1963 cult classic, Carnival of Souls. In 2010, we described George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, as well. We can't say what we'll be describing this year, but we will give you some cryptic hints about the featured audio described film:

  • It is a silent movie
  • It was filmed in Germany
  • All copies of this movie were ordered by a court to be destroyed -- it is a miracle it survived!

Tune in soon for the big reveal!

 


 
 

Masters of Sex: Captioned by VITAC

Posted on: 10/9/2013 10:42:01 AM under News 

 

Call it "the VITAC bump" -- in the past month VITAC has added another hit TV show to its list of captioning customers. This time it is Masters of Sex, a Showtime drama about William Masters and Virginia Johnson researching human sexuality in the late '50s. The show premiered September 29 to an even 1 million viewers and has garnered high praise from critics, including a 85/100 score from Metacritic.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Masters of Sex "makes it clear...that it's not in the titillation game," though the pilot, they admit, has plenty of nudity and whatnot. The show carries an MA rating for reasons you might expect, and follows a long-standing tradition of popular yet not-so-family-friendly programming finding a home off of basic cable (Showtime is classified as "premium cable" and requires a subscription, or else is included in some cable and satellite packages).

VITAC is no stranger to captioning highly rated, off-basic-cable content. We provided captions for another Showtime staple, Weeds, which came to an end this year after eight seasons. Popular web programming also proudly bears VITAC's credit caption, including Weeds' creator Jenji Kohan's newest venture, Orange is the New Black, on Netflix, as well as the Shakespearean-inspired political drama House of Cards, also a Netflix original.

Masters airs Sundays at 10, and the full-length premiere is available on the Showtime website.

 


 
 
 
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