VITAC Prepares to Caption the 2016 Olympic Games


Rio Summer Olympics Open This Friday–VITAC is Ready.

Olympic Mascots in the Stadium

Days before the opening ceremonies, hundreds of thousands of individuals work tirelessly to ensure that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is fully equipped and prepared for the start of the of the Summer Olympic Games.  They must make certain that the city is ready for the influx of record number visitors, and provide a safe, secure infrastructure for international athletes and spectators alike.

Back here in the States at VITAC Headquarters in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, nearly every department is heavily involved in preparation for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.  Starting this Friday, August, 5th, we will begin a two-week surge in captioning, nearly doubling our daily volume as we caption the Olympics  across at least seven different NBC Universal-owned networks,  five live Multi-Distribution System feeds and multiple web channels.

Manager of Realtime Production Coordinators, Mark Paluso says his team has been working nonstop to ensure equipment and captioners are ready for anything that might happen.

“Together with our engineering department, we’re testing primary, backup, and redundancy scenarios,” he said.   “This includes intensive testing of Headquarters and Realtime Captioners’ IP connections, phone lines and audio lines.”  One event may require a captioner to be connected to up as many as eight encoders, and our engineering and coordination teams must ensure those connections are fluid and working.

Production coordinators are also responsible for working with NBC to create preparation material that captioners will use to improve accuracy while writing on fly, including:

  • Song lyrics and scripts for the opening and closing ceremonies
  • Lists upon lists of athletes – not just those participating, but those who won or lost in the past: i.e., anything that may be referenced on air.
  • Medal Counts – several times day the production coordinators will update our “medal count spreadsheet,” which details country, athlete, and team awards. The medal counts are blasted to Olympic captioners several times a day.Aerial view of the Rio Olympic Park

Once the games begin, the production coordinators work with our scheduling team to ensure captioners are set up for scheduled events and tested with NBC in advance of air.

Our systems and engineering team is creating a caption monitoring station where all of the Olympic video feeds’ captions will be monitored to ensure captions are on air even when the captioner cannot see the feed.  We’ve also revised our technical discrepancy reporting procedures so that any technical issues are immediately directed to our technical support team for resolution.

And let’s not forget the realtime captioners, who will be on air non-stop, doing their best to ensure that those viewers who rely upon captioning see the most accurate captions possible.   “Captioners are using the NBC Olympics website and volumes of prep material provided by NBC to update their dictionaries,” said Realtime Captioner Trainer Karla Ray.  She points out that though captioners may have a schedule indicating that one sport will air in a given time slot, they must be prepared to caption all sports, as one never knows what may air.

Captioners not on the air for the Olympics will be working overtime to cover our regularly scheduled programming.

The entire Olympics preparation effort is being led by Chief Business Development Officer, Doug Karlovits and Chief Operations Officer, Chuck Karlovits.   Veterans of Olympic captioning, they say this summer’s event, with its extensive web and Spanish captioning feeds, is the biggest yet.   “We couldn’t do this were it not for our dedicated team of caption experts and captioners,” says Chuck. “I am grateful every day for the extraordinary efforts our team makes to ensure delivery of accurate captions– especially now to Olympic viewers the world over.”

Be sure to tune in with the captions on at 7:00 PM EST this Friday, August 5th, for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and check back here on our blog next week for an update of our golden Olympic captioning coverage.

Logo for Rio Olympics 2016

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