What Is...

What is Captioning?

Captions are the visual representation of a video's soundtrack. They are created according to a specific set of style rules by trained captioners and are available on almost all television programs and television sets. Captions are mandated by the FCC and have been proven to not only help audiences that cannot hear their television, but also serve as a valuable tool for educators and people learning English as a second language.

What is “pop-on” captioning?

Captions appear and disappear, “popping” onscreen in sync with the audio. These captions tend to contain one or two lines of text that can be placed essentially anywhere on the screen, such as under the specific speaker of the dialogue. See a sample clip in our services library.

What is “roll-up” captioning?

Captions start on the top or bottom left-hand side of the screen and “roll” out to the right side of the screen in sync with the audio. Roll-up captions typically roll two or three lines before the top line disappears completely, constantly being replaced by new text as the program audio continues. See a sample clip in our services library.

What is the difference between closed captions and open captions?

Closed captions are captions that are encoded, or embedded, into the video and cannot be seen unless turned on using your television menu. Open captions are always visible and cannot be turned off. They are burned directly into the video and are a part of the picture. See a sample clip in our services library.

What are CC1, CC2, Service 1, Service 2, etc.?

These menu items represent different captioning “fields.” CC1 will always represent the primary caption data, with captions representing the language as it is spoken onscreen. Other fields are used for different languages or reading speeds. You can see VITAC’s Spanish captioning on CC2 during NBC Sunday Night football. Newer televisions, specifically digital and high-definition models, have begun using the “Service” titles to represent the captioning fields. For example, Service 1 contains the same information as CC1 – the primary caption data.

What is transcription?

Transcripts are also produced by highly trained personnel who listen to the program audio, transcribe every word spoken, every sound effect, regional-accent descriptors, and even onscreen action and time stamps – depending on the level of detail the client requires. The script can be formatted in a variety of different ways.

What is subtitling?

Subtitling is a method of making the soundtrack of a video recognizable to viewers who do not understand the language being spoken or viewers unable to hear the audio. Subtitles may appear as translations to foreign languages from the spoken language or straight transcripts of the spoken language. See a sample clip in our services library.

What is encoding?

Encoding is the process whereby closed captions are embedded into a video, or subtitles or open captions are burned onto the video. After a caption or subtitle file is created, it can be fed through a caption encoder, which marries the caption file with the original video, and the end result is a separate captioned master. Once the captions are encoded onto tape, they will be part of the program with each airing or with each dub created.

What is audio description?

Audio description offers blind and low-vision audiences the opportunity to enjoy filmed programming. It is a narrative description of onscreen actions, visual cues such as characters and costumes, and text appearing in graphics or the video. The track can be found on the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) available on most television sets, accessible through the television’s menu. SAP is sometimes used to provide Spanish audio for English-language programs in the United States. See a sample clip in our services library.

What is the best way to handle problem captions?

There are several reasons why a misspelled word might slip through onto air. It may be a wrong key-combination stroked by the realtime captioner, a misheard word, or even a unique spelling not pre-entered into our software’s dictionary. They can also result from technical glitches in your television caption decoder that cause the wrong characters to appear.

If you are seeing jumbled or scattered characters in your captions, especially in prerecorded programming, you are probably experiencing a technical error. Contact your cable provider or see our CaptionsON Viewer Relations Bureau.

Captions Matter

When you screen a favorite program you want the full experience. Captions give you access to that experience, despite personal, environmental, or cultural barriers. But what do you do when captions fail? Almost all programming on television is required by the FCC to be captioned. If you are not seeing captions, start with your service provider.

New FCC rules require video distributors (the company that gets the signal to your house - cable, satellite, etc) to provide contact information specifically for caption issues. Check your monthly bill or the company's website for this contact information. Or check the FCC's caption complaint website for details.


Are all programs captioned?

All English- and Spanish-language programming airing between 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. must be captioned, with some exceptions. See the FCC’s closed captioning viewer FAQs.

How much does it cost to caption a video?

The price of captioning depends on many factors: length of the program, number of episodes / volume of work, turnaround time required, caption style, and tape format. Call us at 1-888-278-4822 or request a quote.

How are offline captions created?

Captions are created by highly trained captioners who listen to the program audio, transcribe words, sound effects, and music to give the viewing audience a full sense of what is happening in the audio track of the program. Captions are timed to sync with the program audio and placed to match the speakers on the screen. The program is then watched all the way through to ensure accuracy in the timing, transcription, research, and overall readability.

How are live captions created?

Live programming is captioned by specially trained realtime captioners who listen to a program as it is airing and type what they hear on stenography machines, often at speeds exceeding 240 words per minute. These words feed into customized software which transmits the captions to display them live on your television screen.

What equipment is needed for realtime captioning?

All of VITAC’s captioners use equipment provided and maintained by VITAC. Read our realtime captioner FAQ for more details. A producer wishing to caption an event in realtime needs to provide two telephone lines, an audio coupler, and a caption encoder. Couplers and encoders may be rented from VITAC.

What video formats can VITAC caption?

For a full list of file and video formats that VITAC can deliver, as well as those that we can accept, see our Deliverables PDF above.

Can web videos be made accessible for the deaf and hard-of-hearing?

VITAC specializes in web captioning, and we can provide caption files for most web formats, such as YouTube, Flash Video, WMV, and QuickTime.

How do I get VITAC's caption file to work in my editing system?

VITAC produces caption files which will work in many editing environments. The correct format is determined by your software and your final output (tape, DVD, digital file). Please contact us for details.

Will captions be lost if I edit my video?

Most video edits will corrupt caption data. A very careful editor who keeps the captions in mind and sight while making small edits may be successful.

Can captions be created in different languages?

Closed captions can be created for any language which uses Roman characters (with some character limitations for accents such as the German umlaut). Captions are most commonly created in English, Spanish, French, Italian or German. Subtitles can be created in any language.

Can VITAC create subtitles from my translation?

Not only can VITAC use your provided translations to create a subtitle file, you likely will receive a discount on the service.

Can VITAC create subtitles compatible with my authoring system?

VITAC plays matchmaker for authoring systems and file formats every day. We have yet to find an authoring system for which we couldn’t create the appropriate file. Simply let us know what system you are using, whether it is Mac- or PC-based, and the file type it requires. We’ll take it from there. See our deliverables list on this page for a list of the DVD formats we regularly deliver.

Can the subtitle file created for my standard-definition video be used for the Blu-ray version?

Much like different authoring systems require different subtitle file formats, Blu-ray is a file format unto itself. The process of creating the subtitle file remains the same, but at the end we run the file through a conversion to make it compatible for Blu-ray authoring. If you are producing high-definition (HD) and standard-definition (SD) versions of the same program, you will need two different file types. You also may require a subtitle file “reformat,” or edit, if the HD & SD versions have different frame rates.

Does VITAC have a library of caption / subtitle files?

VITAC archives every offline caption and subtitle file that we produce. Captioning can be disrupted if you attempt to edit a captioned video. VITAC can “reformat,” or edit, your caption file for you at a highly discounted rate and redeliver the file to you.

Where have I seen VITAC’s captioning or subtitling work before?

Check out some of the rave reviews we’ve received from our customers.