Captioning Corner: What's What in Captioning

By Deanna Baker

I've mentioned a few terms, and I wanted to take the time to explain a few of them.

Realtime captions: Realtime captions are used during live programming or programming that hasn't had time to have post-production captions put on. Live captioning is performed by captioners watching or listening to the program and sending their captions, or data, through telephone lines to the location of the studio airing the show. You can tell when captioning is live by the words appearing basically one at a time on the TV screen.

As an example, during CBS football, a captioner is sending data to CBS in New York and CBS is then distributing that video signal to satellites where other TV stations are retrieving the signal which has the captions included. Another example would be local news programming where a captioner is sitting in California writing through an audio line a news program in New Jersey, sending data through one phone line, and listening to the audio with another while the news program is being aired live in New Jersey.

Scripted captions: Scripts are any pieces of a live broadcast that are given to the captioner ahead of time that can be run during the live broadcast. An example would be a graduation ceremony where either a person's speech or a song is provided ahead of time. The captioner would need to format the text to the captioning software's specifications ahead of time and intersperse into the program as needed. When it comes time for the script, it is "pulled up" one line at a time as opposed to one word at a time. Once the script is complete, the captioner goes back to writing live on the steno machine.

Teleprompter captions: The most prevalent place teleprompter captions are viewed is on local news broadcasts. If no live captioning is available, TV stations use the script that the anchors are reading from the teleprompter to run through as captions. These are rather obvious as they have cues to the anchors as to which camera to look at and who to "toss" to as far as other news reporters. And specifically for weather, sports, and any other reporters without teleprompter scripts, there is no captioning.

About the author

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