A Caption Pros’ Tools of the Trade
When Caption Pros’ owner, Jennifer Schuck, arrives at an event or conference to caption, she has a plan A, B and C. Captioners have many tools of the trade – and many tools in their toolkit – but Schuck says it comes down to being prepared and knowing the best tools and technology for any given job.
“The biggest thing is knowing how to use everything in my toolkit to my client’s advantage,” she says, “Knowing the latest products and technology on the market, how they work, what settings they work in and what settings they don’t; also knowing the environment and where I am going to work.”
Humans using state-of-the-art technology
Caption Pros provides a wide variety of captioning services, including on-site corporate event captioning, CART captioning, instant transcription for high-profile and media events, webcasting and broadcast captioning. During Court Reporting and Captioning Week, February 8-15, we want to educate about a Caption Pros’ tools to add guidance when adding captioning to your event. Schuck says one of the biggest misconceptions is that people think captioning is automated through technology – not delivered via a real person. “People do not understand that it is a human using state-of-the-art technology to make the world accessible,” she says. “Sometimes I look at this steno machine and think it really is pretty cool.”
A captioners work environment
Many captioners have been trained first as a court reporter using the same stenotype machine (a chorded keyboard) and special software. The job outlook is good as captioners can work for large companies as employees or as independent contractors. Freelance captioners are expected to have their own equipment and toolkit and be skilled in all aspects of the profession.
The majority of captioners work remotely from home and have a varied schedule based on the assignment. Some captioners create off-line captions that are added to programs before they are aired. But the pressure is on as captioners write in real-time what is being said during live programs for viewers/attendees. Conferences, public meetings, speeches, and live broadcasts are examples of events that use CART or real-time captioning.
Tools of the trade
A chorded keyboard used to produce machine shorthand. Captioners must be able to write a minimum of 225 words per minute using a steno machine, along with transcribing dialogue in real-time without missing any words. Schuck is certified at 260 words per minute, winning contests up to 295 words per minute.
A personalized database that contains shorthand combinations and their English equivalents. Captioners may predefine unfamiliar names and terminology into their dictionary before a real-time event or ceremony to improve accuracy.
Computer-aided transcription (CAT) software allows captioners to connect to different platforms to be able to produce captioning. Captioners must learn the various software programs associated with their specialty and understand how to troubleshoot them. This technology translates the phonetic symbols into English captions almost instantaneously.
Necessary for remote CART captioning to stream words from point A to point B as well as audio.
A captioner’s CAT software connects with an encoder to encode the text and then embeds it into the video to be displayed on a TV screen or large screen.
Technology enhances accessibility
Some events use Text on Top technology to display captions. Text on Top is a wireless solution for real-time captioning used to display the captions on the same screen as the presentation.
“I own Text on Top but not all captioners do,” Schuck says. “The tools of the trade are not only the physical devices and the technology that I have; it’s the knowledge to use them and use them in creative ways.” For large conferences and events, Schuck consults with the audio-visual company and event planners to determine the best way to display the captions compatible with the event’s setup. “We do pre-planning with those companies to make sure on the day of the event, when we walk in, everybody knows what each department needs and it’s all there and ready to go,” she says.
Ultimately, what makes Schuck a pro at her job is coming equipped to make accessibility work in the best way possible for the consumer. “I have multiples of just about everything in my toolkit,” she says. “I always have a plan A and plan B and sometimes a plan C; you just never know what you are going to find in certain environments.”
Visit Caption Pros to learn more about our award-winning captioners and make your next event accessible to all participants by adding real-time captioning.