Caption Quality Best Practices: Infrastructure and Support Part II


In preparation for the new FCC Caption Quality Requirements effective March 16, 2015, we continue our series, “FCC Caption Quality Rules Explained.”

Our last post focused on a portion of 79.1(k)(2)(ix) of the Real-Time (Live) Captioning Vendors Best Practices: Infrastructure and Support, specifically the people responsible for supporting our captioners and customers.

Today, we shift our attention to the systems and technical equipment keeping VITAC up and running 24/7. What the rule says: The captioning vendors must… ” Ensure there is an infrastructure that provides technical and other support to video programmers and captioners at all times.”

What the rule means: In order to produce quality captions, a caption company must maintain a state-of-the-art infrastructure that has been tested and is adaptable to constantly changing technology.

How the rule helps improve caption quality: VITAC takes great pride in a 99.9% realtime captioning uptime rate with no outage. Our clients don’t need to stress about the reliability of VITAC’s technical components. Our dedicated systems and engineering departments work tirelessly to keep up with all of the elements needed to produce the highest quality captions. While it is understandable that technical difficulties can occasionally happen, our software and hardware set the bar for the caption industry standards and includes:

IP and Encoder Captioning Capability: All of VITAC’s realtime captioners have the capability to not only caption via modem, but to connect via IP and deliver captions in that manner, Many video programmers have recently upgraded their equipment to accommodate IP captioning. However, a lot of networks still use encoders and a modem connection for their broadcast captions. VITAC boasts the ability to use either, or a combination of both. Either mode of captioning is reliable, and rarely disconnects the captioner from the network, so there is minimal loss of captions.

Satellite and Audio Feeds: Through a combination of satellite receivers, off-air antennas, audio backups and signal distribution, VITAC has access to receive and monitor virtually any program airing internationally, nationally or regionally. We possess a proprietary system in which these satellite feeds are able to be routed to all of our captions via an IP connection so the captioned broadcasts can be monitored in real time.

Audio telephone lines directly from video programmers can be used in conjunction with satellite feeds, or independently when satellite is not available.

Our technical center houses multiple telephone systems that allow us to receive program audio via standard telephone lines, and to patch that feed as line audio to all in-house and remote captioners.

Redundant Equipment: Having redundant equipment allows for the utmost consistency and superior realtime and offline captions. All employee captioners have the same computer setups and encoder/IP settings. This allows for easy troubleshooting by our support staff, should a problem arise.

All captioners are trained on identical captioning and placement software, which allows for captions to be constantly created in the same way.

Backup Power: Last year, VITAC upgraded the Uninterruptable Power Supply in our Pittsburgh, PA headquarters. The UPS powers all core critical electrical equipment and allows VITAC to function normally for up to 30 minutes in a total power loss. In that 30 minutes, the backup diesel-powered generator powers up. With this plan in place, it is assured that captions will not be interrupted, even for a second.

Telecom Platform: VITAC’s robust telecom platform allows for further redundancy, with multiple circuits for voice/dial tone and internet connectivity. Both systems include extensive, regularly tested backup paths to ensure once again that captioning can continue without interruption.

VITAC’s network, technical infrastructure/support and facilities are all managed with the greatest level of care and have undergone continuous upgrades and improvements to better serve our customers. In this way, we will continue to provide the highest quality captions that can be created and comply with the new FCC guidelines.