10 Feb 2022 David Titmus

Super Bowl LVI: Captioning the Big Game

It was just a few months ago that we were captioning dozens of college and professional football games per week, but now it’s come down to one…Super Bowl LVI!

As the largest captioning company in North America, VITAC is no stranger to captioning some of the biggest and most-watched events of the year, whether it be the Olympics, the Super Bowl, or that season-ending finale of your new favorite TV show.

When it comes to large-scale, live events, producing high-quality and accurate captions involves ample preparation, scheduling, and coordination, not to mention the precise, high-speed writing skills of our expert team of captioners.

Field level view of SoFi Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LVI“The Super Bowl is really just a game but, with it being so high profile, that definitely puts a different take on it,” says captioner Katie Ryan, who has captioned a handful of NFL championships. “It’s so important to make sure to know what connections are being used, to be in the correct audio, and to always be focused and aware in case any technical problems come up.”

Super Bowl LVI featured the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams in a battle of two offensively gifted teams that promised to put points on the board.

But it’s not just the action on the field that’s quick. Play calls, commentary, and broadcast banter can move at lightning-speed, so keen ears and quick fingers are paramount.

This is where prep work really pays off. VITAC captioners make sure they’re prepared for each and every assignment. In the case of the Super Bowl, they also research and gather information in advance of game day that they anticipate announcers, sideline reporters, and in-studio hosts could bring up throughout the broadcast. They also compile team rosters and coaching staffs, the names of team owners and general managers, and make sure to be aware of any specific or unusual terms that might come up during the game – like the popular “Who Dey?” calls that Cincinnati Bengals’ fans chant.

“I watch the football shows for the week or so prior to the game, and read any articles I can on what’s going on with the players,” says captioner Adrian Jonas of his advance prep.

In addition to covering pre-game, game, and post-game activities, captioners also write for the halftime show. (This year’s performances promise to be more accessible than ever as for the first time in its history, the Super Bowl halftime show will feature deaf musicians signing the performance.) VITAC also provided captions inside SoFi Stadium — displaying text of in-stadium announcements, game calls, penalties, promotions, and anything else broadcast over the public address system — on scoreboards and ribbon boards for fans in attendance.

“VITAC’s sports guys do a great job asking the network for any information about the halftime show,” says Katie. “The coordinators and supervisors do a great job prepping any lyrics we get in time for them to be used during the show.”

Always one of the year’s biggest American sporting events, the Super Bowl also will be tested, set up, and monitored closely by a team of VITAC supervisors, schedulers, and engineers ready to support any potential technical difficulties.

“The unique challenge is the sheer volume of those who tune in to this yearly event, and the feeling that you’d like to be as perfect as you can because your viewing audience is so huge,” says Adrian. “At the conclusion of the game, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and was proud of all the hours I put in to make my captions as clean and accurate as possible.”