By Deanna Baker
Does my captioning software have to be able to do scripting? Is that part of a realtime captioner's job?
The term "scripting" may be confusing in the captioning profession. Most people think of scripting as someone reading from text, which in the captioning world is not the case. You may run across this version of scripts if you're captioning a graduation ceremony or acceptance speech, but these are not as common as other scenarios.
Normally, scripts are used for broadcasts that have video clips inserted into them, such as teleconferences, national syndicated shows, repeats of shows with minor changes, and so forth. Having access to the scripts ahead of time is a luxury, but it does happen. In such situations, having those portions already in a scripted format -- meaning you don't write it live but instead insert the pre-prepared material as scripts -- is definitely a luxury not just for the realtime captioner but also for the consumers who get to read "perfect" captions. Another scenario is if you're covering a news broadcast that perhaps repeats the top stories every 20 minutes: The ability to reuse what you've already written and "replay" a script is extremely advantageous.
Another way that scripts are used during nearly all broadcasts is in the credit or fund files. Those files are the few lines of text at the beginning or end of a show and they read something like "Captioning provided by your local Ford dealer" or "Captioning performed by XYZ Captioning company." In reality, those miniscript files get popped up during programs quickly at the beginning or end, and there's not enough time to write live.
Another time you might use scripting is for musical sections of any show where you know who is singing and, most likely, that person's "hit" song. Lots of times the words are not totally understandable, but with a quick Internet search, you can cut and paste the song lyrics and can use them during the performance. The same goes for very common things, such as the Pledge of Allegiance, "Star Spangled Banner," and other scripts you can prepare once and can keep on your computer for easy access.
As an independent freelance captioner, I want to be as marketable as possible, which is why my personal opinion is that having the ability to use scripts provides me with the tools to cover any program.
Similarly, Amy Bowlen, manager of Realtime Captioner Training at VITAC, had this to say:
Albeit a functionality that is not necessary to the process of captioning, it's certainly a very useful tool to have in your back pocket, so to speak, to pull out in certain circumstances. For example, if your clients submit files to you in advance of the show or if they provide you with access to their newsroom system so that you can retrieve the files, then having the scripting functionality would give you the option to incorporate scripts into your realtime broadcast. Some captioners have access to advance files, and they choose to use them for preparation purposes only, while others convert them into air format and send them out in conjunction with their realtime captions.
Often we relate captioning directly to news, but the work of a captioner is diverse. If you caption corporate, collegiate, or government teleconferences, the speakers likely will be following a prepared speech or script, of which the client may give you advance access. If the teleconference is for the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control, the scripting function may be a lifesaver. Likewise, if you have the opportunity to caption on-site conferences or conventions, scripts may be available. If you ask 10 captioners if and when they use the scripting function, you will get 10 different answers. I'd contest none of their answers, but I think having the option to choose is important. If sending scripts were a requirement for a particular program, then you wouldn't be eligible to do the program.
About the Author
Deanna Baker, RMR, is from Flagstaff, Ariz. If you have a question about captioning, you can ask her at firstname.lastname@example.org.