Live Closed Captioning Blunders Explained

The captions are horrible!  Why can’t they spell?  These are the valid questions asked when watching live closed captioning of a TV broadcast.  Let’s briefly look at the behind the scenes of live closed captioning.  Live closed captioning, in the majority of cases, is completed by a human.  Live captioners, called writers, write to a steno machine (keys are all based on sounds).  The steno machine is connected to live captioning software that has an extensive dictionary to take the steno strokes and convert to English words.  A dictionary is not just imported from Webster’s to the software but rather created per writer based on their writing theory.  So how do they know the difference between words that sound the same such as to, two and too?  They have to remember the stroke they gave that word when creating their dictionary.  So when writing 200-300 words per minute the human behind the machine can mistroke the word and you could see errors such as:

 prays Hymn when it should be praise Him

mall mighty God  when is should be almighty God

top or pop

 There are other times when a word may just clearly not be in their dictionary and it would show up as:

 graph fight when it should be graphite

authentic cater when it should be authenticator

you know sex when it should be unisex

ear gates when it should be irrigates

Aberdeen’s live Abercap department strives to write every show with a 98% or better accuracy rate.  This is completely possible as long as the following is provided:

 1)      Show information such as key words, hosts, guests, websites and phone numbers

2)      Clear audio feed to the live captioner so they can hear the audio they are to write well 

98% accuracy means you may see 4 errors per minute when the speaker is speaking at 200 words per minute. 

 To see a live demo of a live writer, watch this clip:

If you are interested in learning more about our live captioning department or any other of our broadcast services, feel free to send us a note here.