1 Feb 2022 Laura Swanson

VITAC Olympic Captioning: It Takes a Winning Team to Bring Home the Gold

The 2022 Olympic Winter Games were held in Beijing this month, and while athletes from around the globe had been training and preparing for their moment in the spotlight so, too, had VITAC’s teams of captioners, schedulers, coordinators, and engineers.

Nearly every department gets involved in providing captioning services in English and Spanish for the roughly 1,400 hours of programming fans could watch across NBC’s broadcast networks – NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC, and USA Network.

Providing hours of quality captions for programming is something VITAC has been doing every day for 35 years as an accessibility provider. Adding those 1,400 hours of Olympics coverage to our normal captioning schedule means that, for a few weeks, our whole team is in a full-on aggressive forecheck of sorts to keep things running smoothly. Fortunately, our many years in the industry have afforded us some expertise which means our team has a winning strategy.

Training
For the Olympics, our captioners are on-air around-the-clock for the duration of every event. To make sure viewers at home can see the most accurate captions possible, our realtime (aka, “live”) captioners receive rigorous training and must meet designated captioning benchmarks before their debut on air.

Equipment
Just as skates, skis, sleds, and snowboards need to be well-maintained and tested before athletic performances, VITAC has been working nonstop to ensure our equipment is ready. We test primary, backup, and redundancy scenarios, as well as IP connections, phone lines, and audio lines.

Anticipation
Practice makes perfect, and when it comes to captioning, we have a lot of practice. Our experience means we know how to prepare for large-scale events like the Olympics and the many challenges that can come along with it. Our professionals meet well in advance to determine hours and schedules, and work with the network to create preparation materials for captioners. Names of athletes (both current and past competitors), historical data, and scripts for the opening and closing ceremonies are all information that captioners use to improve their accuracy while captioning on the fly.

Mettle
Our team knows that nothing is won with top-notch training, state-of-the-art equipment, and preparation alone. Follow-through is always required to stick the landing. Once the games begin, coordinators work with scheduling teams to ensure captioners are slotted for each event, and monitor network feeds to check that captions are displaying correctly on broadcasts. We’ll also keep a running tally of medals won to add it to the captioner reference materials, so their work remains accurate throughout the entirety of the games.

VITAC is proud of our hardworking team and proud to caption the Olympics for the 14th time with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Of Note

  • NBCUniversal presented a Winter Olympics-record 2,800+ hours of coverage across NBC, Peacock, USA Network, CNBC, NBCOlympics.com, and the NBC Sports app.
  • In a Winter Olympics first (but similar to its coverage of the Tokyo Olympics), NBCU provided full-day coverage of the Opening Ceremony on NBC and Peacock. The day included live coverage in the morning followed by a special edition of TODAY, an afternoon Olympics preview show, and an enhanced primetime presentation of the Opening Ceremony.
  • The NBC broadcast network featured 18 nights of primetime coverage. USA Network, the cable home of the Winter Games, provided coverage from Feb. 2-20, while Peacock live streamed all Winter Olympics coverage on its premium tier and immediately hosted replays of all competition.
  • NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app live streamed more than 2,100 hours from Beijing, a record for a Winter Olympics.