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Captioning Corner: How Do I Get Started in Captioning?

By Deanna Baker

I was recently asked, "What is the best way to start a career in captioning?"

That's a question that would take volumes to answer, but I'll try to do the best I can, though, in this short space.

First off, watch captions as often as possible. Educate yourself as to the difference between realtime captions (live) versus offline captioning (prescripted). Watch with the mute on and off, realizing that the ultimate consumer is the hard of hearing. Watch national live programming with captions, and write along to the show, recording it as you go. When you're done, review your realtime against the video. This is how you can learn where your writing skills are lacking. Keep it foremost in your mind that no conflicts, a reliable number theory, and 225 wpm minimum are the basics to realtime success.

Read as much information on captioning as possible. The NCRA Web site offers articles, e-seminars, video seminars, a captioning section in the Online Forum, and a Captioning Newsletter with more questions and answers just like this. There are also many other Web sites available. Gary Robson has a terrific Web site at www.robson.org, which includes a FAQ section, articles, and links to buy his books.

Consider captioning training in addition to a court reporting program. At http://www.stenographu.com/body2_2.html, there is an online captioning course. I believe there are a few court reporting schools now offering online captioning courses; I would check with NCRA on specifics. There is a terrific dictionary building program at www.dictionaryjumpstart.com. Finally, talk to your vendor about captioning software, what's available as far as training and seminars for captioners using your equipment.

If you live near a captioner who is willing for you to see their setup, ask if you can sit in. Just remember, a competitor in captioning can be located anywhere in the world, so it may not be easy to find one in your area.

I'm sure many of you worry about the Catch-22 of getting hired: if companies are only hiring experienced captioners, how do you become an experienced captioner?

Everyone has to start somewhere. After you begin that process by looking for information and asking questions, your next step is to network with other captioners at conferences and conventions, or contact captioning companies and other captioners about your options.

I have one final thought to share with you, and it's something I certainly am adamant about in the profession of captioning: the writing is the easy part. There are many technology concerns you need to understand ranging from modem hookups, encoder settings, job dictionaries, software concerns, DSL vs. ISPN, etc.

Don't expect all of this to happen overnight, it takes time. But with time comes confidence.


About the Author

Deanna Baker, RMR, is from Flagstaff, Ariz. If you have a question about captioning, you can ask her at dpbaker@mindspring.com.