VITAC Proves its “Medal” in Captioning This Year’s Winter Olympic Games

by: David Titmus

PyeongChang’s closing ceremony, much like the opening ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, was quite the spectacle, featuring elaborately choreographed routines that brought together music, dance, art, and culture.

And while Sunday’s closing ceremony capped off exciting competition, emotional highs and lows, and Olympic-sized hopes and dreams, it also brought to a close another successful two-and-a-half weeks of captioned Olympic content as only VITAC could provide.

Our talented captioners, coordinators, schedulers, and engineers brought captions to more than 1,300 hours of Olympic programming and events, including 630 hours of broadcast coverage across NBCUniversal and its affiliated television platforms (NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, and the USA Network) and more than 750 hours of webcast video. The work of our team was featured in an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The PyeongChang Games mark the 12th Olympics captioned by VITAC, including, most recently, the Olympic Games in Rio (2016), Sochi (2014), London (2012), Vancouver (2010), Beijing (2008), and Athens (2004).

USA Olympic athletesThe games always pose unique challenges thanks not only to the sheer number of hours captioned, but also because of the amount of preparation and planning that goes into their presentation. Captioners spent hours researching event terminology and participant names in order to load the correct spellings into their dictionaries, a tool which allows them to spell long and complex words with just a few keystrokes. VITAC teams also worked around-the-clock to test equipment and back-up scenarios, IP connections, phone lines, and audio lines, while production coordinators worked with the network to create preparation materials that captioners will use to improve accuracy while writing on the fly.

The games promised to be one of the biggest Olympics yet in terms of production for NBC (with this year’s coverage estimated to be greater than the combined total of the games in Vancouver and Sochi, and the most for a single Winter Games), and people certainly were watching on both their television sets and via streaming video. NBC’s Olympic coverage averaged more than 20 million primetime viewers each night, and NBC Sports Digital’s presentation of the PyeongChang Olympics had in one week more than tripled the live streaming minutes (420 million minutes) of the 2014 Sochi Games.

VITAC also promoted the captioned Olympic events on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, which generated a lot of excitement and more than a few new followers. Seeing the increased engagement on the Olympic posts truly makes VITAC proud, and it’s always nice to see that other people are as excited about captioning the Olympics as we are.

“Captioning the many hours of Olympic coverage across NBCUniversal’s channels is a demanding and very gratifying endeavor, and one that we take great pride in providing to the millions of people around the world who rely on our industry-leading captioning service,” said VITAC Chief Executive Officer P. Kevin Kilroy.

And just as Beijing, China, will begin preparing to host the next Winter Olympics in 2022 (and let’s not forget about the Olympic Summer Games scheduled for Tokyo in 2020), so, too, will our truly dedicated and talented captioners.