Captioning Corner: Favorite Tips for Captioners

By Deanna Baker

Over the years, I've come across many tidbits of good advice for captioners. Some of these tips are things I've learned on my own, but some are from friends and colleagues in my network of captioners. Here's what we've learned, in no particular order.

  • Make sure you know which outlets on your UPS, or uninterrupted power source, provide surge protection and which provide both surge protection and backup power. Often, both types are on a UPS. Also verify the length of time the UPS will run on battery.

     

  • Buy a phone -- or two -- that doesn't require electricity.

     

  • If you are attending an activity before your daily captioning assignment, be sure you have an alarm or something set to ensure that you don't get distracted. For example, consider setting the alarm on your watch or cell phone.

     

  • When you want to update your software, do so while the support office is open and you have several hours before air. Make sure you preserve your old version on your computer. Don't download the update onto your backup computer until you've thoroughly tested the newest version.

     

  • Wherever your home office is, make sure a restroom is nearby. And try not to have air conditioning and heating units close by because they can be very noisy!

     

  • If you choose to have beverages at your desk, make sure that they're the travel variety with lids. Spills can lead to expensive bills for repairing or replacing equipment.

     

  • If you have a shelf above your keyboard, make sure potted plants aren't placed there. Again, spilling the contents can prove expensive.

     

  • While on that topic, double-check your business insurance policy and see what it does and doesn't cover.

     

  • Verify that your backup computer and writer are charged and ready to go.

     

  • When working for many vendors, you may find it hard to keep track of your billing and invoicing. Therefore, bill immediately after each event.

     

  • If you keep backup numbers in your Palm Pilot (located on your desktop), also have them at your fingertips for easy access.

     

  • Run your e-mail and instant messenger on a second system that is separate from your captioning system, so those programs don't interfere with your captions.

     

  • Create a tech sheet for each company you work for with all of your settings, including a contact person.

     

  • Run the atomic clock in the background on your system or visually when switching writers during broadcast. Also make sure you have easy access to a map listing all the time zones or have an actual clock with all the time zones.

     

  • Check ebay daily for great buys.

     

  • Be familiar with the location of your computer's control panel, as well as where and how to change modem speed on your computer and within your software.

     

  • When your long distance is out, you can use a 10-10 number (www.1010phone.com). Or if you have had a time when you get several modem disconnects, just switch carriers with a 10-10 number, which routes you a different way, usually solving your problem.

     

  • Use an old laptop to do research rather than doing it on your captioning computer. It's fast and easy, especially during commercials.

     

  • Keep the name of the station, affiliate, position codes, backup numbers, audio numbers, web address, and master control numbers in the captioning software phonebook for the client as a quick reference. It is very important to also have this exact information in a non-electronic format.

     

  • We always talk about getting paid by the broadcast, and people tend to think they are paid simply to caption. Part of that money is to be used for preparation, review, bill creation -- all the "details" that are essential to running a good operation.

     

  • Make sure personal comfort items are at hand -- ceiling fan remote, tissues, water, reading glasses, etc.

     

  • Make sure to disable call waiting when dialing.

     

  • Always be aware of what program you follow (for instance, sports) and how that can make your show start and end late. If you are scheduled for shows close together, this proximity can create problems!

 

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.