by Kate Schlagel
CaptionMax gets busy! Even after putting in hours of overtime, our expert captioners still find themselves up to their ears in work. To help cover the load, audio describers are asked to bring their skills to the world of closed captioning. They always step up to the plate. This is Kate’s story of venturing into Captionland.
With excitement and a little trepidation, I left the AD world of “describe what you see” and set out for Captionland. Though I had done a little transcribing during audio description slumps, I had only a vague idea of what captioning entailed. All I knew was that captioners recorded and timed dialogue. Thoughts filled my head as I began my journey to the unknown. “I don’t know how to time captions!” “What if I can’t understand what is said?” “I don’t remember what a comma splice is!” I was in trouble.
Upon arrival, I soon found that Captionland was not as scary I thought it would be. Captioners are very kind to visitors. They were extremely helpful, understanding, and friendly. Their constructive feedback helped me to understand their complicated world of grammar, punctuation, and timing. During my relatively short visit to Captionland, I learned a lot about life as a captioner and gained a new level of respect for the work they do. Here are just a few things I learned about it.
I have been working at CaptionMax for four years and have written dozens of college papers, but never have my forearms burned as badly as they did when I was captioning. Even with help from a foot pedal, my wrists and arms screamed for mercy at every long-winded rant or fast-paced exchange they had to record. After years of this work, I imagine captioners must have their shirts tailored and their bracelets resized to accommodate their rockhard forearms and muscular wrists.
They’ve got grammar smarts.
The fact that they have a multipage manual on grammar and punctuation says it all. While in Captionland, I didn’t add a comma or put anything in italics unless I consulted the captioning bible. They know parts of speech that haven’t even been invented yet! My visit almost made me want to revisit my high school grammar classes for a refresher…almost.
As mentioned before, I come from a world of “describe what you SEE.” As an audio describer, I’m used to listening closely to dialogue, but captioning took my ear muscles to a whole new level. Between Mark Cooper’s mumbling and Martin Lawrence’s slurred slang, my ears were working overtime. This concluded my long-term suspicion that captioners are superhumans who can decipher any phrase regardless of clarity, speed, volume, or pitch. Not only that, but they’re highly trained specialists who can tap the “time-in” key as soon as their ears pick up a certain syllable.
Superhuman hearers with ear-hand coordination? What more could a company ask for? Since my visit, I have returned to the wonderful world of Audio Description, where I can rest my weary forearms and let my creative juices flow freely. Thank you, captioners, for a great time. Perhaps I’ll visit again sometime. Until then, happy typing!