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Tear Down That Wall! -- VITAC's Rapid Growth Has HQ Bursting at the Seams

Posted on: 9/5/2013 3:02:12 PM under News 


An important part of being the nation's leading provider of realtime and offline captioning, subtitling, translation, transcription and audio description is maintaining growth in a highly competitive market. This means that improvements, upgrades, alterations and adjustments are sometimes necessary.

Most recently, VITAC has been restructuring its headquarters -- both physically and operationally -- to allow for more breathing room for some of our most rapidly growing departments, including Multilanguage Services, which translated/captioned/subtitled over 85 hours of recorded material in August alone. Departments are restructuring, growing, and expanding across the board, and the topography of our headquarters reflects it.

This (above) was the scene two Fridays ago when VITAC had some very small offices removed in favor of more space for our proprietary B2B systems. The B2Bs stand for "back-to-back," and allow us to switch Captioners during long broadcasts completely seamlessly. The system allows two advantages: first, six-hour special reports can be captioned in intervals by a different, fresh-minded Captioner, and second, that these transitions will happen without the viewer knowing. That means no gaps, no drops, and no pauses. More of these systems means more opportunity to use a technique that is almost entirely unique to VITAC. The new B2Bs will occupy this place in the sun...which now looks like this (right). What an exciting time to be a VITACian!



Busiest Day Ever! VITAC Realtime Breaks Records

Posted on: 8/30/2013 4:15:20 PM under News 


Tomorrow, August 31, 2013, VITAC is scheduled to set a new record for Realtime captioning in a single day. Due to the onset of college football season, the U.S. Open tournament, and the final stretch for Major League Baseball -- in addition to all of our regular programming -- VITAC will be adding over 200 hours to its Realtime agenda.

The total amount of captioning work includes:

-Over 127 hours of college football

-62 hours of U.S. Open Tennis

-340 total hours of sports*

-705 hours of scheduled captioning for the day.

To accommodate the sports onslaught, it will a hectic day for our team of three sports coordinators, as well as 103 of our Realtime Captioners who will also take on this massive workload. Otherwise, the Realtime Department will operate almost as normal, according to Manager of Realtime Coordinators Mark Paluso. The Department is designed to handle high-volume, short-notice orders, so days like this are not too great a departure from the ordinary!

This is just the kickoff, folks. The NFL regular season starts soon, and before you know it, NBA and NHL. Look for VITAC captions on your favorite sports networks all season long!

*Includes pre-/post-game shows, excludes poker.



VITAC Captions YouTube! (Say THAT 10 Times Fast)

Posted on: 8/23/2013 2:41:02 PM under News 


Did you know that VITAC captions YouTube? We do. Getting a YouTube video captioned is a good idea for anyone who wishes to make their content accessible, searchable and clear. Here's how:

Accessible: Captions connect over 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans to your video.

Searchable: Did you know your captions can be searched through Google and other search engines? What better way to make your weekly YouTube address available to the web-surfing nation?

Clear: Captions put definitive text to your hard-to-understand audio. VITAC's Captioners are trained to deal with poor-quality audio, and are determined to get it right.

So, let's banish those automatic YouTube captions and do it right. Visit our Caption YouTube page or call 800-278-4822 for a rate quote.



Kultur Shock! the Movie: Set for Release in Fall 2013!

Posted on: 8/19/2013 11:34:41 AM under Blog 


It's been a bit of a marathon, but I'm happy -- and relieved -- to announce the completion of post-production on the independent feature film Kultur Shock!, written and produced by Offline Captioner Eric Paul Chapman (me) and directed by fellow Offline Captioner Todd Osleger. I also appear in the film as Blue, along with local actors Maureen O'Malley, Terry McNavage, David Hundertmark, and Jerry Pietrala. Kultur Shock! is a locked-room mystery inspired by Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone and the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest about the individual's struggle to overcome indoctrination. Please check out the new-and-improved trailer.

The script was written in early 2011, and the film was shot in late 2011 and early 2012 just outside of Pittsburgh. The Hollywood Theater in Dormont was kind enough to let us do a test screening there a couple weeks ago, where we discovered some sound-mix issues that are being addressed. Now we're trying to find a theater crazy enough to screen it for an audience! Unfortunately, the Hollywood is booked for September, so we are exploring other options. We hope to have an official announcement in time for the next blog.

Needless to say, if we had known it would take over two years to complete we might have had second thoughts, but we're all proud of the film and hope it will appeal to anyone who likes a good mystery or are curious to see a locally made movie.


by Eric Chapman



How Do Caption Descriptions Help Tell a Story?

Posted on: 8/16/2013 2:45:51 PM under News 


The most fundamental purpose of captioning is to provide a visual experience that as closely as possible mimics the auditory experience of the program. Critical to this process, especially for musically oriented shows like Glee, are sound effects, especially pertaining to styles and tones of music. For instance, poor captioning may include the description [ JAZZ ]. What kind of jazz? A Louis Armstrong solo? A funeral dirge? A better caption would be [ UPBEAT JAZZ MUSIC PLAYING ], which contains the important information as to the tone of the scene. 

Also important: what are we listening to? A sound effect such as [ ROCK ] falls a little short. A rock falling from a cliff? A pebble shaken in a tin can? This probably refers to rock music, but who knows? Clear caption descriptions can mean a lot -- one deaf viewer even admitted feeling a caption such as [ TENSE MUSIC ] to be patronizing. "Tense" tells the viewer what to feel, whereas something like [ FAST-TEMPO ROCK PLAYS ] gives the viewer the same feeling, without the heavy-handed editorial. The most imporatnt elements of good music sound effects are a description of what kind of music, and the tone of it -- upbeat, low-key, heavy. Yet the captioner should never be too visible, and begin waxing poetic, rather than reporting on the sounds objectively.

Two viewers spent a year recording the music sound effects that appeared in their captions, across every network and caption provider, and shared them with a local news reporter, which we'll now share with you. See which you think are effective and which are ineffective:

[ ROCK ]


[ JAZZ ]















And the lightning round...






How Do I Fix a Problem With My Captions?

Posted on: 8/14/2013 11:08:38 AM under Blog 


Are your captions acting up? We want to help! Email with your issue, and we'll do our best to help you fix the problem ASAP!

First, we need a couple answers to get to the bottom of your problem.

  1. A detailed description of what you are seeing, and if possible, a description
  2. The network, program, and air time of the program with the captioning issue
  3. Does the issue occur on every network or only one/a handful?
  4. Your cable provider
  5. Your location (ZIP code and where you are watching, i.e. at home or in a restaurant)

Alternatively, your cable provider is required by law to keep a hotline just for captioning issues. This number is located somewhere on your cable bill.

We look forward to assisting you!



Movin' on Down: VITAC is Expanding!

Posted on: 8/9/2013 2:16:53 PM under News 


Office SpaceCall it "Movin' on Down" -- in an unprecedented maneuver, the Systems and Engineering Department in our Canonsburg, PA, headquarters has relocated from the second floor to the ground floor, carting computer hardware, blueprints, and manuals into our newly-acquired office space beside Finance and Accounting. Did they leave because we, the second floor employees, fiddle with our clicky pens all day and roll our squeaky chairs back and forth? Or is it due to the three Tims' (of Systems and Engineering fame) crippling fear of heights they encountered, working 20 whole feet above ground level? Perhaps they just wanted to be within viewing distance of their darlings, the 15 satellites that make up our dish farm and can pick up any channel in the world.first-floor kitchen

None of these are accurate. The exodus from the second floor is the result of VITAC bursting at the seams with new and existing work, and the understanding that we are only going to grow more! The move will be especially beneficial to our Multilanguage Services Department, where MLS Captioners John Podgursky and Patty Andres-Sanmartin previously had a time-share on their captioning equipment, in a small office also occupied by MLS Coordinator Dan Garbark. MLS Pittsburgh will be moving into the old systems offices, leaving a little more elbow room for all, and even more room for future expansion!

Editor's note: we haven't totally ruled out the possibility that Systems and Engineering just wanted to be closer to their satellite dishes.



VITAC Volunteers: Habitat Build Day 2013

Posted on: 8/6/2013 2:01:42 PM under News 


VITAC Habitat buildProviding accessible media for the deaf  and hard of hearing may be VITAC's bread and butter, but that's not the only way our 330+ employees are helping the community. Last Saturday, a crew of 15 VITAC employees, friends, and relatives convened in McKeesport, PA, for VITAC's first annual Habitat for Humanity corporate build.

Despite traffic delays and detours, volunteers from nearly every department turned out bright and early on Saturday morning, ready to work hard and talk shop with their coworkers from across the aisle or across the state. Superstars/Realtime Captioners Jen Murray and Julie Layton came the furthest, braving five hours on the highways from eastern Pennsylvania to the Pittsburgh area for the build, but even the locals had to push through bad weather and road closures to make it to the cozy build site across the street from McKeesport High School.

The house, a charming three-bedroom with a basement and two baths, was the Julie and Jensame one sponsored by Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen as part of the team's promotion of local charitable causes. While the future hall-of-famer was not there, VITAC volunteers got to paint, garden, and laquer under the same roof as the center fielder.

Volunteers started the day by prepping the bedrooms for painting -- brown for the master, red for the play room, and for the teenage daughter's room -- hot pink, obviously! The highlight of the morning was when the future homeowners themselves showed up to help, though they had long ago completed the volunteer hours that Habitat requires of homeowners-to-be. They were all very appreciative of VITAC's help and just about outworked all of us over the course of the day!

Everyone contributed heroically to the 4-5 hour task of renovation (still in progress), and the project took on a life of its own. Though the agenda included only painting and drywall installation, the volunteers gravitated towards their areas of expertise, and by the end of the day, VITAC had checked the following off its bucket list: weeding, lacquering, removing doors, scraping decals from windows, stripping paint from the back porch, mastering the shrinking-garden-hose technology, and leaving behind a cozy, comfortable home.

The day went quickly, and when it came time to close up shop, Damon Ealy said what others surely thought: "When can I come back and finish the job?" We got a lot done, met some of our out-of-town coworkers, and really just had a blast! From everyone at VITAC, thanks to everyone who helped make this wonderful team build possible. Tune in next year for part two...

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit that offers subsidized housing and renovation for low-income families. The organization relies on corporate sponsorship, donations of money or materials, and the sweat equity of volunteers to make this happen. To volunteer with Habitat locally, click here. To check out more pictures, visit our Facebook page.



[ "JAWS" THEME PLAYS ] -- Shark Week 2013!

Posted on: 8/2/2013 11:35:44 AM under News 


You knew it was coming...






It was here last year...

Shark Week 2013

...but then it disappeared...

Discovery Shark Week

...into the ocean deep...

2013 Discovery Channel Week of Sharks

But you knew it would be back...

Great White Shark Week

...circling... finish what it started...

2013 Discovery Sharks 2013...

Shark Week on Discovery starting August 4th at 9pm

So strap on your novelty shark fin and take to the nearest ocean, lake, or swimming pool, but be sure to get home in time to park your tail fin in front of the Discovery Channel this Sunday at 9pm EST, with the VITAC captions on. Shark Week is upon us!



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.


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