FCC Caption Quality Best Practices: Verbatim Offline Captioning


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 explained how video programmer and caption vendor technical contacts can improve caption quality.

Today we will discuss how VITAC complies with 79.1(k)(4)(i) and 79.1(k)(4)(ii) of the Caption Quality Best Practices, specifically offline (pre-recorded) captioning.

What the rule says: Caption vendors must “Ensure offline captions are verbatim,” and “Ensure offline captions are error-free.”

What the rule means: Our offline captioners must caption exactly what is said.

How the rule helps improve caption quality: Viewers of captions should have the same experience as people who can hear. Our captioners are trained to transcribe everything that they hear, whether it be spoken clearly, with an accent, or mumbled.

VITAC’s captioners take multiple approaches to ensure that viewers achieve the best possible understanding of the program when viewing our captions:

Treatment Sheets: Any time our offline department begins transcription on a new series, the captioner builds a treatment sheet. In the offline captioning world, a treatment sheet is a document that lists terms and confirmed spellings that will be used frequently throughout the show. If one of our employees was new to captioning “Moonshiners,” and heard the phrase “nip joint,” and didn’t know how to spell it, they would simply refer to the treatment sheet, where they would learn that is a place to sell moonshine.

Collaboration and review: Should an captioner have an issue hearing or understanding something being said in a program, they have a whole team that they can ask to listen to the problem or phrase right near them since over 80 people work different shifts in our offline department. A senior captioner or one of our offline supervisors may have experience with a certain program or may be familiar with the type of accent or dialect in the series. Many debates have risen over British-accented characters in particular.

Going to the source: We may also be able to get some clarification straight from the show’s transcript. If one of our captioners isn’t familiar with a term or phrase, perhaps paired with a thick, British or Appalachian accent, we may ask the producer of the show to send along a script, or listen and provide their own interpretation. This is a particularly helpful option when captioning regional dialects, whether they’re foreign or even from parts of the United States.

VITAC goes to these great lengths to provide accurate offline captions. The expertise of our offline department along with these methods of verification is just another example of our dedication to quality captions.