NCRA member honored by school with Alumni Award of Distinction

RenaNCRA member Rena Nathanail, a broadcast captioner and owner of National Captioning Canada, Calgary, Alberta, was recently honored by her alma mater, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), with its Alumni Award of Distinction. She was recognized in May for her outstanding career as an entrepreneur and her support of the community.

Nathanail’s firm is the largest Canadian-based provider of live closed captioning. With more than 100 employees working from home studios across Canada, the company provides 1,800 hours of closed captioning and realtime transcription services a week for news, sports, political commentary, entertainment, and government proceedings. Their clients include major broadcasters across the country like Rogers, Bell, Shaw and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as well as the Alberta Legislature and the House of Commons.

According to the press release announcement, when Nathanail started working in Toronto in the 1980s, the field of closed captioning was a fledgling industry. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had just begun to mandate that broadcast stations provide closed captioning for a certain amount of hours of programming per day as a condition of license. Nathanail, who graduated from NAIT’s court reporting program in 1984, was one of only two realtime closed captioners in Canada working for the sole not-for-profit captioning provider; it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

“I started the business in 1988, captioned full time at all hours of the day and night until 2001,” said Nathanail. “I hung up my captioning gloves then and focused solely on building the e-business. We have more than 100 employees stationed from Australia to France and everywhere in between,” she added.

Nathanail said she learned she was being nominated for the award by faculty of NAIT’s court reporting program, who she and her firm work closely with.

“We are on the NAIT advisory board, and we were instrumental in having the program changed to the broadcast captioning and court reporting program. We have our own captioners teaching continuing education using their knowledge of closed captioning and work with NAIT and other advocacy groups to set a standard and maintain the quality of closed captioning in Canada,” she said.

“I was honored to have been chosen, but the most important thing was it allowed me to recognize and give credit to my employees that helped build the business and provide such a valuable service to the hard-of-hearing community in Canada,” Nathanail added.

Online live and near-live captioning deadline nearing

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyTVTechnology.com posted an article on June 23 written by Heather York of VITAC, about the FCC requirements mandating that all live or near-live programming on television be captioned when delivered via internet protocol, which take effect July 1.

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VITAC joins Sports Group Video as a corporate sponsor

JCR logoA press release issued June 13 announced that VITAC, based in Canonsburg, Pa., has become a corporate sponsor of the Sports Video Group.

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Cloud service to insulate media and entertainment industry from caption outages

JCR logoIn a press release issued April 25, VITAC Corp announced VTAC Power Connect, a new cloud service that hardwires continuous programming from realtime captioners to live broadcasting encoders.

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NCRA members represent captioners at captioning quality meeting

JCRiconOn June 3, several NCRA members, along with NCRA Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel, participated in a caption quality meeting in Washington, D.C. The members were:

  • Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., representing LNS Captioning
  • Darlene Parker, RPR, a broadcast captioner from Reston, Va., representing the National Captioning Institute
  • Phil Hyssong, CMRS, a firm owner from Lombard, Ill., representing Alternative Communications Services

In addition, Gerald Freda represented CaptionMax, Heather York and Bob Beyer represented VITAC, Jill Toschi represented the National Captioning Institute, and Quang Pho represented the Media Access Group at WGBH. Other attendees were advocates for the deaf and hard-of-hearing organizations and representatives from the cable and broadcast industry.

The meeting covered the steps that the programming industry and the captioning industry have taken to implement the FCC’s best practices and consumer impressions of caption quality since the best practices have been adopted for both live and prerecorded programming. The captioners pointed out that, in general, they have seen an increase in prep material and audio quality provided to the captioners. Also, in general, more stations have been complying with efforts to prerecord captions for prerecorded content, which allows for higher quality captions for the consumer in regards to placement and accuracy.

Members Jeanette Christian, RDR, CRR, CRC, from Topeka, Kan., and Deanna Baker, RMR, from Flagstaff, Ariz., provided CART captioning for the event.

The changing role of closed captioning for PEG channels

A post on April 27 by Government Video, part of NewBay Media, features an interview with NCRA member Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., about the impact recent FCC rules have had on companies that provide captioning services. Studenmund serves as chair of the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission in Oregon. She also serves on NCRA’s Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee.

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How Prince once saved VITAC’s captioning of his songs

A post on April 26 VITAC’s blog by broadcast captioner Brittany Bender recalls her quest to obtain the lyrics to two new songs that the musician Prince, who passed away April 21, was to perform on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2013.

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A captioner’s day – what it takes to succeed

A blog posted on March 30 by The Captioning Group based in Calgary, Alberta, and written by NCRA member Susan Hahaj, RPR, provides an inside look at what it’s like to work as a broadcast captioner. Hahaj, who is based in Nevada, Texas, is a broadcast captioner for The Captioning Group.

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NCRA member discusses broadcast captioning in radio interview

The Takeaway interviewed NCRA member Amy Bowlen, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Imperial, Pa., and manager of training at VITAC, on March 3 about her captioning the recent GOP debates. Bowlen is also chair of NCRA’s Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters.

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Captioning the Super Bowl

final punt of Super Bowl 50

Photo by: Steve Jurvetson

For most people, the only stress associated with the Super Bowl is whether their team wins or loses. However, for Paula Arispe, RPR, Octavia Brandenburg, and Stefani Tkacs – all captioners with the National Captioning Institute – the Super Bowl provided them an opportunity to showcase their captioning skills.

“Despite the anxiety of knowing that it’s a huge event and that everything needs to go as perfectly as possible, both connection-wise and in translation, it’s very exciting and an honor to caption such a high-profile event,” said Brandenburg, a sentiment that Arispe and Tkacs shared. The three captioners researched the team rosters ahead of time, along with names of coaches, announcers, etc. They also received prep work from CBS.

“We were given a rundown of each show that was going to be that day. We didn’t know who was going to be interviewed during the shows, so it was pretty much on the fly. And they were jumping around to a bunch of different announcers that we normally don’t have so that was a little nerve racking at first until you figured out who they were,” said Arispe. She and Tkacs traded one- to two-hour shifts captioning the pre-game material into the beginning of the game, covering eight hours of programming altogether. Brandenburg then took over for the remainder of the game through the end of the postgame show.

Arispe also recognized the technical support that the captioners received. “Our organization for the whole day could not have been made smoother if it wasn’t for the hard work of all our engineers involved. The encoders were different for a few of the shows, and we only had a couple of minutes to disconnect from one to connect to the other,” she said.

All three captioners have had experience covering football games and talk shows – this was Brandenburg’s fourth time captioning the Super Bowl – so they were familiar with many of the names, the terminology, and the issues that come up in commentary. They also all have experience captioning other sporting events as well as other high-profile events.

“I have had the privilege of captioning March Madness, and I will tell you that is so much harder because you have to have all the teams in that are part of it,” said Arispe (she also was one of the captioners who covered Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S.).

“I used to caption the pay-per-view wrestling main event shows, but it’s not as widely viewed as the Super Bowl. However, the pay-per-views were commercial-free and the Super Bowl day had commercials. That’s a much-needed break. For the commercial-free pay-per-view, we would write for 15-20 minutes and switch off,” said Tkacs.

“I’ve done NCAA championships, both football and basketball, Academy Awards-related programming, and nationally televised fundraising shows, such as Stand Up To Cancer. I feel like awards shows require more tedious prep because they’re obviously more scripted and names of all nominees and movies have to be captioned (not to mention fashion designers),” said Brandenburg.

But captioning the Super Bowl isn’t all work – it’s a fun and rewarding assignment too.

“Football is my favorite sport, so I was super excited that I could be part of the Super Bowl and able to make sure that everyone else had the opportunity to enjoy it as well,” said Arispe. “Oh, and captioning Lady Gaga’s rendition of our National Anthem was pretty cool as well!”

“My favorite thing about captioning the Super Bowl is to be able to watch it (since I’m a big sports fan) while also hopefully contributing to its enjoyable viewing by the audience who is hard of hearing and also those who watch in public venues,” said Brandenburg.

“I doubt anyone would ever imagine captions for the Super Bowl event takes place in Dallas, Texas, when the show is in Santa Clara, California. That is pretty remarkable,” said Tkacs. “Although it was high pressure and nerve-racking, I had a great time captioning the Super Bowl, and my family and friends are always in awe of what I do.”