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Monica Yeater: Stepping Out to Stop Diabetes

Posted on: 9/20/2013 1:13:03 PM under News 


Unicorns Vomit Rainbows (and Take Selfies)This year, a group of my friends and I decided that we were going to do some 5Ks. We live in three different states and all have full-time jobs, so we weren't able to do as many together as we would have liked. My girlfriend and I (so far) have been assaulted with color (Color Me Rad), army-crawled through mud and conquered a 40-foot inflatable water/foam slide (5K Foam Fest), had cupcakes after 3 K's instead of 5 (the Sweet Sprint), and walked/ran to raise money to fight Pulmonary Fibrosis (Violet Rippy 5K). We decided to do one or two more this year, but other than the Color Run (October 12th!), we weren't sure which others to do. brother, who is diabetic, had some health problems, and I wanted to do something to help. But, you know, I'm a captioner, so my healthcare experience But...I can walk. And run. A little bit. Kind of.

So I discovered the Step Out Walk To Stop Diabetes 5K and decided this would be the next one we would do. Chris, my girlfriend, also has family members who are diabetic, so we both signed up to walk.

Take a look at my fundraising page and read more at Or, even better, join our team and walk with us! Our team name? Unicorns Vomit Rainbows. Weird, right? But there's an explanation. Just click on my page to find out.

Join me in helping fight this disease, whether it be making a donation, joining our team, or just sending positive thoughts our way. It's all greatly appreciated.

by Monica Yeater



VITAC's Men of Court Reporting

Posted on: 9/16/2013 10:06:26 AM under Blog 


Far and away the most popular promotional item at this year's National Court Reporting Association Convention and Expo, held August 8-11, 2013 in Nashville, TN, was a perennial fan-favorite, the Men of Court Reporting calendar. The calendar features a different male court reporter for each month of the year, often in silly or ridiculous poses that include at least one steno machine, and raises money for the NCRA PAC (political action committee), the stated purpose of which is to "develop and nurture legislative relationships that will work in the interest of the association's legislative agenda."

But why the men of court reporting?

Over the years, the gender balance in the court reporting industry has dramatically changed. Through the early 20th century, nearly every court reporter was male, dating back to a slave of Roman philosopher Cicero, Marcus Tullius Tiro, who invented a shorthand system for quickly transcribing Cicero's thoughts. Today, the gender balance has flipped, with the industry consisting of about 90% women. With men making up such a dramatic minority in the field, it is easy to understand why a calendar that brings to light their contribution to court reporting might be such a hot-ticket item.

We sat down with some of the male Realtime Captioners at VITAC (all of VITAC's Realtime Captioners are trained court reporters) to discuss what it's like to be a man in a female-dominated industry.

The first point they agree on is that the gender difference doesn't matter. They recognize the difference in demographics, such as Don Rombach, who describes being one of two guys in his court reporting class and never, in 24 years of captioning, working with more than 3-4 male court reporters. Lance Hannaford had a similar experience, working as 1 of 2 males in a company of no more than 17. Captioner Greg Hall is the one exception -- he learned court reporting as a Marine, where after finishing his first enlistment, he was given a choice between driving a 56-ton M60A2 tank or attending Marine steno school (he chose the latter) with a predominantly male class.* "I never give much thought to working with mostly females," Lance added on the topic. "The focus is more on your skill level, your certifications, and more importantly, your professionalism," said Don.

The second point of agreement is that their female colleagues have been nothing but supportive of them. "I've received nothing but help...from the other Captioners of both genders," said self-proclaimed captioning rookie Mike Cavagnaro. "I'm able to learn more from my more experienced coworkers at VITAC, who happen to be female," said Lance.

Nor does the subject matter of a program affect the ability of a male or female Captioner to provide quality realtime captions. The interviewees agree that being male does give them an advantage when captioning sports or a disadvantage when captioning a jewelry-shopping network. Every Captioner, male or female, does an immense amount of research for every program, looking up terms and proper names, and adding them to his or her dictionary. What does matter: "It's about what you like," said Lance. "You either like sports, news, movies, or you don't...the biggest advantage we can have as Captioners is a well-rounded vocabulary on all subjects." Some are raised with an intimate knowledge of certain programming, and some -- as Mike points out -- develop an interest in sports or news in the process of captioning them.

Don, for one, likes sports. As a marathoner, weightlifter, and runner, he is a fierce competitor, and brings his game face to the steno machine. "I like individual sports where you are competing against yourself to improve all the time. Similar qualities are required for captioning." Indeed, speed, dexterity, and drive are qualities of any Captioner, male or female, athlete or not.

As for the calendar? We asked each of the interviewees what month they would take, if they were given the choice (no VITAC Captioner has been selected for the honor yet). Mike humbly declined, and Lance and Greg chose their respective birthday months of June and January. Don chose January, too, "because it's first. I never have liked to be second." 

At the end of the day, every Stenographer and Captioner who has finished court-reporting school is part of a different minority group. Court-reporting schools have an extremely high dropout rate, around 90%, which means every Court Reporter you meet is of the elite 10% converse -- about the same percentage of men in the court reporting field. So if you think a male court reporter is a rare sight, that is about as rare as any court reporter is!

To view the 2006 Men of Court Reporting calendar, click here.

*Greg served on the NATO Commander's staff in Sarajevo during their involvement in Bosnia/Herzegovina in the '90s. He transcribed intel briefings and was the armed escort for the Commander's interpreter. 

by Carlin Twedt



Get Thee to an Open-Captioned Play!: Captioning Grants for Theater

Posted on: 9/13/2013 4:08:29 PM under News 


For theater enthusiasts, captioned performances are anything but new. Classic operas, traditionally written in Italian (the word opera means "work" in that language), are often accompanied by small hand-held translation screens or open-captioned screens beside the stage so that a non-Italian-speaking audience can understand what the heck is going on.

It would seem like a natural progression that an English language theater performance would be available with captions for the deaf and hard of hearing. While this is the case for many Broadway productions, theater, by nature, demands a full cast and a limited audience for each performance, unlike TV programming -- for this reason, some theaters may THINK they lack the budget to make their production accessible. The fact is, live captioning can be acquired at a rate that a theater director can afford, and even this rate could be eligible for a grant from the National Open Captioning Initiative, sponsored by the Theater Development Fund. This fund subsidizes the cost of having theater performances open-captioned, especially for small theaters that think they may not otherwise be able to afford it.

Applications are closed for the 2013-2014 season, but bookmark the page and come back to it next summer, when the program will open again! Some testimonials from viewers at the Clarence Brown Theater at the University of Tennessee, a participant in the program:

"As a hard-of-hearing adult, I always 'missed' things. I haven't attended a movie theater for years because of this. Having the open-captioning turned the CBT from a great to an exceptional experience for me! My guest, who was very pleased for me, did not find the captioning detracting in any way." -Sharon

"Although I don't require the captioning, it was helpful to catch some lines which I did not hear and/or understand specially with the British accent. The captioning was definitely not a distraction and added to the enjoyment of the play." -Joy

There you have it. Captioning attracts new audiences and clarifies the King's English for an American audience. Check out if there's a participating show coming to your town!



9/11: How VITAC Reached Across the Aisle to Make It Accessible

Posted on: 9/11/2013 11:30:46 AM under News 


Anyone who remembers September 11, 2001 recalls many of the same experiences of fear and uncertainty that seemed to hang over the nation on that agonizingly long day. They remember the first attack and the suspicion that an apparent plane crash may be something more sinister, then the confirmation of that suspicion as the second, third, and fourth planes crashed. They recall people of all ages abandoning work and school to watch and re-watch looped footage of the attacks in hopes of a new development that might help them make sense of an otherwise senseless day.

One also remembers the stories of unity and heroism. Tales of first responders rushing into the burning towers inspired us, as did the bravery of the flight 93 passengers who thwarted a possible strike on a more critical target than a rural Pennsylvania field. After the decade of debating whether we should require the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, Americans galvanized under the stars and stripes, planting flags in their gardens, flocking to police and fire academies, and donating blood at the Red Cross. Pride in America overtook the country to an extent not seen since World War II, and the sentiment was no different abroad: Tony Blair, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, pledged to stand "full square beside the U.S." and the prominent French newspaper Le Monde famously ran the headline "We are all Americans."

One story of unity that occurred away from the front lines came from VITAC, which captioned an immense amount of unplanned work as the major network stations went to 24-hour coverage, but also assisted its competitors through their technical difficulties to ensure that the entire event was accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing. In short, caption connections failed for every provider captioning the New York stations -- except for VITAC.

It is not difficult to imagine how the attacks affected captions: dishes atop the World Trade Center buildings, including the iconic 360-foot antenna of the North Tower, which had held critical equipment for nearly every local news station in New York City, were gone. Many of the communication lines that weren't destroyed were overwhelmed by the increase in activity amidst the chaos. What was clear was that no caption provider except VITAC had a direct feed into the different networks on September 11th and in the days that followed.

This fact alone was a victory on a day that needed every victory it could get. VITAC Founder Joe Karlovits described how "through the brilliance of our engineering staff, we were able to keep a hot connection into New York...I still, to this day, don't understand why our com lines into New York held." As Tim Taylor, VP, Engineering, explains it, VITAC was not scheduled to caption the three major network stations that day, since networks like NBC and CBS air mostly prerecorded programming in between their morning shows and their evening news broadcasts. However, by never disconnecting the modem connection to the respective network encoders, VITAC was able to keep a steady stream of captions throughout the disaster. "To the best of my knowledge, there was not any loss of captions," said Tim. "I could only imagine what would have gone through [deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers'] minds if they could not read what was transpiring."

But the amount of programming was overwhelming for even VITAC, the largest caption provider in the country. To ensure that all of the news coverage of the national tragedy was accessible to the 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans, VITAC allowed its competitors, unable to connect to the various New York encoders even days after the fact, to borrow its connections. As Tim Taylor explained, "We quickly put together a system where NCI or WGBH could dial into use [our systems] and we would patch the data over to the modems connected to the networks." This went on for two days, when a small degree of normalcy had been reestablished and the connections could be put in place again. But it was in that moment of chaos on September 11th, that VITAC had done its part for the industry and for 50 million Americans who rely on captions.

These qualities -- ingenuity and compassion in crisis -- are part of what define this country and shepherd us through our greatest achievements and worst tragedies. In celebrating the heroics of the Americans who encountered 9/11 firsthand, it is VITAC's humble honor to have made the coverage of a inconceivable day accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals across America.

by Carlin Twedt



Does VITAC Recycle Its Old Captions?

Posted on: 9/6/2013 5:06:49 PM under Blog 


It seems like every time you turn on the TV, there is a new cable network vying for your viewership. Just this week, FXX joined a host of Fox networks, including FX, Fox News, Fox Sports, and Fox Sports 1, which launched in mid-August. And Fox is hardly the exception.

With 24 hours of air time to fill each day on each of their myriad networks, most broadcasters re-run their most popular programming in addition to airing live programs or first-run recorded content. Some even delve into much older content that originally aired on different networks entirely, tapping into laugh-track-era shows and their viewers' nostalgia to keep their audience engaged. Want to watch A.L.F., the '80s-'90s-era sitcom? It airs on Discovery HUB. In the mood for a Nicholas Cage flick? Name a month, and there will probably be one on TBS or TNT. For even older or more obscure content, there's Netflix.

The good news for broadcasters is that the caption files for these shows that have already aired are often "recyclable." That means that if you want to air The X-Files pilot from 1993, the caption file for that episode might be in VITAC's extensive cache of program caption files. If this is the case, and the original owner of the caption file gives permission to reuse it, all that may be required is a simple reformat, to make sure the completed transcript meets your specifications. That means less hassle for us and quicker turnaround for you, not to mention a possible lower rate!

How do you know what shows are in our archive? Call our Client Sales and Services hotline at (724) 514-4077 and ask! With VITAC's 27-year industry experience, your chances could be pretty good!



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...





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