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VITAC Kennywood Day, Hoorah!

Posted on: 8/1/2013 11:18:49 AM under Blog 

 

In the course of human events, it becomes necessary, about once a year, for any employee of the captioning industry to throw down their steno machine, to disengage from their keyboard or telephone, to detach the retinas from the image of VITAC's proprietary VNL captioning software, in favor of sun, relaxation and good times.

Once a year, VITAC's staff does just this at historic Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, PA, for a dMarissa Grubb and friend Meganay of rides, carnival food, and fun. Though it was difficult to abandon the beloved halls of VITAC headquarters, the calling of Kennywood proved even more powerful than the desire to provide the highest quality realtime and offline captioning in the industry (not to mention subtitling), and over 150 employees and their loved ones made the journey to the park, famous for its wooden roller coasters.

Founded five-score-and-fifteen years ago (aka 115 years ago, in 1898), Kennywood Park boasts rides such as the Racer, a nationally registered historic landmark, which features two trains leaving simultaneously, intertwining on the track and seemingly eMark Panichella and Steph Witter catching raysnding on the opposite track from where they began! The more modern of the rides include the Phantom's Revenge, a reincarnation of the Steel Phantom, which travels 82 miles per hour and overlooks the defunct steel mills on the Monongahela River. The most recent addition is the Black Widow, a spinning/swinging ride that is truly a thrill.

The day began with soft drinks and a buffet of grilled goods, at historic pavilion 3, (see image, top), which historians have never definitively proven was not built by George Washington himself (Colonel Washington, as he was then known, fought at the Battle of the Monongahela, which occurred on Kennywood's current site). Around 3, the picnic disOffline Captioners Marissa and Justin contemplate the Phantom's Revengebursed like so many Continental soldiers  after ambushing the Tories, and VITAC's finest took to the rides -- the Thunderbolt rocked us, the Jack Rabbit double-dipped us, and the Raging Rapids soaked us. All the while, the historic carousel played its calliope, and Noah's Ark whistled in the mist.

There were theatrical performances, and even a laser light show in the evening, featuring good ol' Americana music (regrettably, no fife quartet serenaded guests with "Yankee Doodle"). When the Kennywood staff ushered guests out of the park at 10:30, VITAC's employees left refreshed and ready for another uninterrupted year of captioning excellence.

 


 
 

Tick, Tock -- IP-Captioning Deadline Nears

Posted on: 7/26/2013 3:09:10 PM under Blog 

 

CVAA deadlineAs July comes to a close, we are reminded of the ever-approaching deadlines of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). The bill, which President Obama signed into law on October 8, 2010, ensures that our increasingly web-based media viewing culture is accessible to all people.

Here's a review of the key dates that have already passed, and the ones yet to come:

September 30, 2012: Prerecorded programming that has not been edited for the internet must have captions on the web if the program aired on TV with captions. This means that the content owner can simply use the original caption file for their web content, possibly requiring transcoding, but not re-captioning of the program.

March 30, 2013: All new programming that aired on TV and was later published in its entirety to the web, has to have captions on the web. This means that live programming, when published to a website in its entirety, must be captioned.

September 30, 2013: Prerecorded programming that has been substantially edited for the internet must be captioned if it is shown on broadcast TV on or after this date.

March 30, 2014: The confusing one -- content that resides in an online archive or library without captions must be captioned within a certain timeframe after it airs on TV, regardless of whether or not it was edited. The earlier dates apply to programming that airs on TV and is later placed on the web. This date applies to programming that already resides on the web and THEN airs on TV.

So, say the "Leave it to Beaver" pilot already exists on Netflix, but has not aired on TV recently. As soon as it airs on TV after March 30, 2014, the clock will be ticking for the content owners to caption the episode online. The amount of time they have depends on when the pilot airs on TV, but will be no more than 45 days.

Many customers have archived programming currently posted online, uncapotioned. It's not yet required to be captioned, but will be if it airs on TV in 2014. Rather than trying to keep track of when content airs on TV, they are choosing to caption their entire archive in advance of the upcoming mandate.

 


 
 

Joshua Hanna

Posted on: 7/22/2013 4:35:19 PM under Employee Spotlights » Current 

 

Production Coordinator

Est. 2010

Canonsburg, PA

Josh Hanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was it like where you grew up?
I grew up in suburbia (Washington, PA). My neighbor and I used to ride bikes and listen to Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson. If you've ever watched the movie "Now and Then" it was pretty much like that.

What is your fondest High School memory?
My fondest memories would be just having my senior English class with my favorite teacher, Mrs. Hennen. She passed away a couple of years ago. She was an amazing lady. I will always remember her teaching me about literature and acting, and giving me confidence in my abilities.

Where is your favorite place in the world? Why?
Not to get too sentimental, but my Nana's house. There are a lot of memories of growing up there. But in close second would be Duck Doughnuts in the Outer Banks, NC. You can get doughnuts with bacon on them aka heaven.

If you could have lunch with anyone in history (living or dead), who would it be?
Oprah, because I might get something at the end of it, like my own personal dolphin. But I would most like to have lunch with the great Mel Brooks. His movies really taught me what comedy was, and how to laugh off the bad things in life and how to make a joke out of it.

Who is the most famous person you ever met?
I have never met anyone famous. But that's okay, because I feel like if I did I would really geek out and embarrass myself. Also, I like to think that I'm famous, and I have mirror, so that works.

What do you like most about working at VITAC?
Most definitely my co-workers. When working an early shift or some extra hours, it is helpful to have people that I can turn and share a joke with. For sure, some amazing people work in Online.

To learn more about Josh's interests, visit:

www.reddit.com

www.ew.com

www.tumblr.com

 


 
 

Now Available -- Low MPEG-2 Encoding Rates for New Customers

Posted on: 7/19/2013 10:17:10 AM under News 

 

VITAC is now offering new customers low rates for encoding to MPEG-2 from any and all video formats -- including MPEG-2! That is, you send us any HD, SD, or VBI "line 21" deliverable without captions, and we'll return a captioned, 508-compliant MPEG-2 file to you.

Here's how it works:

1. MPEG-2 to MPEG-2 encoding--

Upload your program to our secure FTP server. Our highly qualified Offline and MLS teams caption the program, review its quality, then send the file to our Media Encoding Suite specialists, who will encode the caption file to the MPEG-2. We send the verbatim-captioned, 508-compliant file to you through our FTP server. Your viewers will be pleased, and you'll have more room left in your budget.

The encoding process takes only as long as your program's TRT, and a flat encoding rate of just $50 per file now applies for new customers! Standard Offline turnaround time is three days for up to three hours of video. Flat rate does not include caption prep.

2. Other format to MPEG-2 encoding--

Deliver any video format to VITAC via mail or FTP server. We create a verbatim 100% accurate caption file. Our Media Encoding specialists transcode your deliverable from any format to MPEG-2, then encode the caption file. We return the MPEG-2 to you via FTP server, and you, the new client, pay less.

Any process involving transcoding takes longer than simple encoding, but varies, depending on the deliverable. Standard Offline turnaround is three business days for up to three hours of material. A flat encoding rate of just $50 per file now applies for new customers! Rates for transcoding (changing file formats) vary, depending on the deliverable. Flat rate does not include caption prep.

To inquire about turnaround times, call Client Sales & Services at (724) 514-4077. Standard Offline turnaround is three business days for up to three hours of material.

So get that stack of uncaptioned DVD's in the mail, and upload those digital deliverables to our encrypted FTP server on the double! Some clients for whom we've provided encoding to MPEG-2 over the years:

  • Comcast Federal Newsmakers
  • KUBE
  • Cinetic Media
  • Sagemont Church
  • Unity of Houston Church

Join the list today by calling Client Sales & Services, or start by taking a tour of our Media Encoding Suite.

 


 
 

VITAC Partner Wins Prestigious Award for Audio Description

Posted on: 7/18/2013 11:49:56 AM under News 

 

American Council of the Blind LogoIn addition to providing over 57,000 hours of offline and 220,000 hours of realtime captioning every year, VITAC offers a little known -- yet federally mandated -- service called audio description. Also known as "video description," audio description involves a narrator describing significant on-screen action in a given program so that low-vision and blind audiences can enjoy the same content as seeing viewers. Think of it as closed captions for the blind, rather than the Deaf and hard of hearing.

VITAC works hand-in-hand with one of the best audio description producers in the country -- Audio Eyes, LLC -- to produce premium description for some of the most popular content on TV! (Which shows, you ask? Check 'em out here.) Just announced -- the American Council of the Blind's Audio Description Project has awarded Audio Eyes' President, Rick Boggs, a 2013 Achievement in Audio Description Award. More specifically, a Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description! Congrats, Rick!

Rick has spent his career recording sound and music, advocating accessible media, and leading/founding companies that do both of those things! His contributions have not gone unnoticed -- mandates for video description on about four hours of programming a week for the top 25 broadcast TV markets have been in effect for a year. To learn more about audio description and Audio Eyes, LLC, please visit their website.

 


 
 

VITAC's UPS System -- Never Letting You Down!

Posted on: 7/12/2013 2:42:30 PM under News 

 

Storm clod over VITAC headquartersThe storm system that pummeled the Rust Belt and Midwest Wednesday, floating cars and flooding paths and roadways, could have spelled disaster for VITAC's hilltop headquarters and command center. With power outages throughout the region, not to mention closures of major tunnels and thoroughfares, VITAC's extensive electrical and communication equipment could have easily been at the mercy of the tempest -- not to mention our 15-dish satellite farm, capable of receiving any broadcast television channel on earth. Even Google, perhaps coincidentally, experienced outages on that Wednesday morning, much to the ire of internet users and YouTube viewers in West Virginia, North Carolina, Nebraska and Georgia.

As the VITAC motto goes, "Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night..." -- well, that's what it should be maybe! Regardless, the VITAC headquarters, home to our fortress of MLS, Offline and Realtime talent and equipment, held up like a champion despite torrents of rain, wind, lightning, and generally Old-Testament weather conditions. The lights flickered, the windows rattled, but never did the power go out...or even come close! (Photo: Ominous rain cloud over our Canonsburg, PA, headquarters on Wednesday.)

One of the heroes of this story is VITAC's new UPS system, which stands for "Uninterruptible Power Supply." The new 50,000-watt UPS is "the most state of the art system on the market," according to Tim Taylor, VP Engineering and Facility Operations, who has 30 years experience in the captioning industry. It allows VITAC to operate for up to 30 minutes in the event of a total power loss, until the diesel generator kicks in (this usually only takes about five minutes). The power never did go out at HQ, a testament to the reliability that is characteristic of VITAC.

 


 
 

Caption Sponsorship -- the Newest Frontier in Advertising

Posted on: 7/8/2013 12:34:57 PM under News 

 

Caption sponsorship is an innovative and affordable way to get your message to the millions of Americans who watch captions on TV every day. Select a program for sponsorship, and your message will appear in the captions right before or right after a commercial break once every hour. Research shows that caption viewers pay attention to and develop brand loyalty to companies that sponsor captioning.

Hint: Sponsorship is especially good for sporting events that are watched in high-noise environments, like sports bars and restaurants, often with the captions on! Perfect for the ongoing and upcoming sports seasons!

Who watches the captions?

  • 36 million deaf or hard-of-hearing Americans who rely on captions
  • 40 million people who belong to health clubs
  • 7.6 million people learning English as a second language who use captions to improve their vocabulary
  • Millions watching captioned TV in sports bars, airports, and other venues
  • Service members -- Hearing loss is the most prevalent injury among recent veterans; 150,000 new cases reported by the VA in 2011.

Consider how many people you could reach through caption sponsorship, and at a fraction of the cost of a regular broadcast TV ad! Prices range from $900-$1200 per broadcast.

 


 
 

From Lip to Sync: How YouTube is Captioned

Posted on: 7/2/2013 12:45:30 PM under Technical 

 

Any loyal YouTuber knows that the site is the immensely dynamic, shuffling videos in and out of availability on a constant basis according to owners' rights, and users' demands. Its own statistic estimates that 100 hours of content are uploaded every minute to the page by users worldwide; Likewise, content that is copyrighted or obscene is removed within hours. In such a rapidly changing environment, what does the video sharing site do to make so much media accessible?

  1. Automatic captions -- To ensure that the massive volume of content that is uploaded every minute has some degree of captioning, Google, YouTube's owner, has made admirable advancements in its speech-recognition software. The technology is built to recognize the speaker's language and provide accurate caption text based on what the speaker is saying. In theory, this should allow every video to be captioned, without so much as a push of a button from the video owners. However the technology is a work in progress and suffers from noticable, regular glitches -- the automatic captions are often ridiculed by uninformed internet users for their extreme, naughty, ironic, or just plain funny goofs. Granted, speech-recognition has been in development for years, and like Siri of iPhone fame and my dog Marvin, it is designed for loyalty to one voice only. A tall order for the vast multitude of languages, dialects, and accents that exist on this earth, not to mention videos with poor-quality audio!
  2. Auto-syncing -- YouTube users who have a basic transcript of their video file (meaning just text, without timecodes for when each sentence should appear on-screen) can enter the text in the video manager of their account, and YouTube will automatically match the words to the audio. This places the burden of accurate spelling and correct transcription on the video owner, and the timing on YouTube. Division of labor -- I love it! Yet the technology often gets distracted by ambient noise and poor sound quality. I tried this technique with a video of Matisyahu's "One Day" playing at a mall, entering the lyrics in the appropriate field, YouTube eventually gave up on the sync, telling me simply "Track content is not processed." Admittedly, the audio was poor. This technique is perfect for a single speaker, speaking directly into the camera in an indoor environment.
  3. Creation of a timed, accurate caption file -- If one wants a professional, high-quality YouTube video, he or she would do well to have it captioned by a professional, high-quality service. VITAC has extensive experience creating timed, placed, and accurate caption files for YouTube users intent on making their content shine. Not only does it reflect well on the user's video, it improves the SEO for his or her page, making the content more searchable through sites like Google. VITAC can produce caption files for Google in a number of file formats, including SRT, SCC, and CAP. These files can then be easily uploaded to YouTube by the user. These captions come in nearly any format you see on TV, including center-placed pop-on (which is movable by clicking on the captions in the video and dragging them), roll-up, and placed pop-on, where the captions appear next to the speaker. The result is accessible media that matches the quality of the content.

As YouTube continues to improve its captioning software, VITAC is always standing by to accomodate new possibilities and better serve the client. Please visit VITAC's caption YouTube page for information on how to get your YouTube video captioned.

 


 
 

A HUB for Throwback TV and Cult Classics

Posted on: 6/28/2013 1:38:36 PM under Blog 

 

Cartoon-as-adult-comedy is not a new format -- The Simpsons has been doing it successfully for 24 seasons, inspiring spin-offs such as Family Guy, South Park, the now-defunct King of the Hill, and spinoff-of-a-spinoff, The Cleveland Show, focusing on that character from Seth MacFarlane's Fox comedy. Clearly the concept has been influential: in 2001, Cartoon Network, previously a child-targetting channel, introduced Adult Swim, a lineup of cartoon and claymation comedys intended for young men and women (but especially men) looking for edgier cable programming. Bizarro comedys such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a cartoon featuring interactions between Food-opomporphic beings (a milkshake and a bearded french fry container) and humans became wildly popular for their adult edge and cartoonish wackiness.

Discovery's HUB network, launched in 2010 in cooperation with game-maker Hasbro, has provided cable viewers with the latest unique spinoff of the theme. The network is a blend of cult comedy, nostalgia, and cornball humor that blurs the line between kids programming and content for an older demographic. Shows such as My Little Pony are clearly written for young audiences, but have since caught the interest of a few unexpected groups, including frat boys (see Urban Dictionary entry). Live action content, such as The Aquabats Super Show, which follows a troupe of dimwitted heroes/bandmates in bad moustaches, is fun for kids because it is ridiculous, and relatable to any guy-in-a-middleaged-garageband. (The Aquabats are also a band in real life, singing legit rock songs that are marginally funny.) And who can foget the hour-long '90s Man of Steel dramedy, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures?

But the best part of HUB's lineup is the nostalgia factor. Classics such as Animaniacs, which tirelessly drops '90s pop-culture references to Bill Clinton* and the Lakers, is zany and fun for the kids, and harkens back to the early internet age, when now-adults were still using computers primarily to play Oregon Trail. Likewise, Batman: The Animated Series, which aired from 1992-1995, has a base of now-25-30-year-olds who watched it as children, and can now possibly watch it with their children. R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour, drops the name of the serial children's horror writer popular in the '90s, a clear call-out to nostalgics from that era. In rebooting retro TV, HUB has found harmony in catering as much to the kid as to the kid at heart.

Missing from HUB's lineup -- the gross-out factor. Where South Park relies on gore and poop-jokes for much of its humor, and even the relatively tame Simpsons refers frequently to beer and drug humor, the HUB remains admirably wholesome, using tongue-in-cheek humor and cuture-savvy themes to stir up entertainment. Even Dan Vs., a show about a 20-something malcontent and his various beefs, possibly HUB's most blatantly adult-oriented show, rarely descends into gutter humor. It is heart that makes HUB shows what they are, and what makes them irreplacable even in the copy-and-paste market of adult-targeted cartoons. Best of all, VITAC's Offline Department captions them all!

*It is a proven fact that in Canada, the Animaniacs theme song substitutes "And Bill Clinton plays the sax" with "We pay lots of sales tax." So culturally aware! 

 


 
 

Hearing Loss Association's 28th Annual Convention

Posted on: 6/26/2013 4:40:29 PM under News 

 

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the four day, Hearing Loss Association's 28th Annual Convention and Trade Show, held in the City of Roses, Portland Oregon! The event is a combination of celebration, state-of-affairs discussion panel, gadget and technology show space, and even an awards show. The event will take place at the Oregon Convention Center -- the brochure features welcome messages from notables such as Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Perhaps one of the coolest aspects of the program is the rich array of workshops from themes such as "Traveling the Globe with Hearing Loss and Cochlear Implants" and "Hearing Loss and
Intimacy: Is it a Help or a Hindrance?" All seem very stimulating! The best way to get a feel for the entire program is to check out the schedule, linked below.

The convention promises to be a good time, and while it is natuarally dedicated to the Deaf and hard of hearing folks out there, all are welcome to come along and witness the festivites.

If you live in Portland, check it out. If not, take a look at the full program here.

 


 
 
 
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