Live from VITAC, It’s A Captioned SNL!

By: David Titmus

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Saturday nights at VITAC are a tradition. Every week, our realtime department captions “Saturday Night Live,” a process that takes alomost all night. We’ve captioned more than 366 episodes over the past eight years.

Ted Gilliland, a Senior Coordinator, is just one of the many Production Coordinators that oversees the process. Ted has been at VITAC since 2006. He handled daytime shows for over three years and started overseeing nighttime programming almost three years ago. Check out Ted’s insight on how we caption SNL.

The Breakdown:
Captioning SNL pretty much takes all night. We work on the captions from the time the dress rehearsal begins at 8pm until well after the show airs.

Before the show, one coordinator takes the lead. They connect to the dress rehearsal audio line and routes the audio to the realtime captioner. From there, the captioner writes the transcript of the rehearsal show. Luckily, the producers at SNL give us a rundown of the show. It gives us an idea of what’s coming.

Next, the lead coordinator listens to the audio line and splits the segments into 11 individual video files. As soon as a segment wraps up, the lead coordinator sends the captioned file to a coordinator for prep. Everyone gets involved. This speeds up the prepping process since multiple coordinators can work on the show as it happens.

Once all of the segments are prepped, we receive an air rundown from the SNL producers. Segments often get cut from the live show, so this lets us know what will actually air. The lead coordinator arranges the prepped segments and sends the file to the realtime captioner.

Meanwhile, another coordinator sets up the show for air. They connect to NBC and the captioner and test to make sure the captions are working. As soon as everything is confirmed and tested, we start the captions at the top of the show. For the rest of the show, the realtime captioner uses the prepped and edited transcript from the dress rehearsal to caption the live show. SNL is constantly changing, so the captioner adds and removes content as the show progresses.

After the show, we have more work to do. We often revise the file for the Mountain and West Coast airing, which can take all night.

Ted’s Favorite SNL Moments:
The “Napster Hearings” sketch is my all-time favorite. My favorite guest host on SNL is Conan O’Brien. Mike Myers also ranks up there, both as a host and a cast member. My favorite cast member would be a tie between Chris Farley and Phil Hartman. Oh, I should add Jimmy Fallon to that list.

I’ve worked with SNL for almost three years and seen a variety of episodes. None of them are particularly weird… It’s a show where anything can happen, so you have to be ready as a viewer.

For more information, check out:

SNL’s Facebook Page (take the timeline back to 1994!)