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ODHHS Information and Tech Assistance
Categories: Technology, Captioning 
Offline (Pre-taped) Captioning
(Source: Gary Robson)
How do I find an offline captioning company?
There are several ways to approach this. The best way is through referrals. Ask people who have had captioning done. See what they thought of the people they used. There is also a list of captioning companies put out by Gallaudet University.
One of the best approaches is to watch the credits at the end of videotapes and television shows. Leave the captions turned on when you watch, and see how they look Keep notes of which companies do the kind of work you like, and call those companies.
How much does offline captioning cost?
The first thing to remember about offline captioning rates is that when you pay someone to caption a one-hour videotape, you are not paying them for one hour of work. Even if you handed them a perfect script, it would take at least an hour to synchronize the captions, an hour to position them, an hour to encode them, and an hour to check them. Realistically, captioning a one-hour video can take from eight to twenty hours.
Rates range all over the map, depending on variables like these:
Dialog Density: If the tape is a documentary with long segments of background music while the camera pans across the scenery, there´s not much dialog and it will be easy to do. If it is a product pitch by that FedEx guy that speaks at 400 words per minute, there will be an immense amount of work.
Terminology: If your tape is extremely technical or contains a lot of industry jargon, the captioners will need to be constantly looking up spellings of words (or calling you for them). This will end up costing more as well.
Equipment: Obviously, someone who is providing a full studio full of equipment will charge more than someone who is working in your facility with your equipment.
Experience: Just as with any other profession, you pay more for the seasoned professionals.
Notice: If you wait until the last possible minute to call, you will almost certainly end up paying more.
All in all, hiring a captioner is no different than hiring any other professional on contract. Check them out beforehand, pay them what they´re worth, and things will work out well.
See also "How much does online captioning cost?"
What equipment do I need for offline captioning?
There are two different stages to offline captioning of a videotape: Creating the captions ("editing"), and placing them on the videotape ("encoding").
Editing requires that you have a computer with captioning software. Pick the software first, and then buy the appropriate computer to run it, as hardware requirements vary from software vendor to software vendor. The computer will have to have a video source such as a computer-controlled video tape recorder (VTR), a way to tell where it is on the tape (such as a timecode reader), and a way to display the video (such as a full-motion video card in the computer, or an extra television monitor). Some editing systems require encoders or character generator decoders, and some are digital, requiring the videotape only to get the video into the system.
Encoding requires a computer with the caption encoding software, which may or may not be the same software you used for editing. You will also need two VTRs, one to play the original master tape, and one to record the new captioned submaster. A caption encoder will be required to actually place the captions on the tape. Some form of timecoding for synchronization will be required, and there are a number of ways to accomplish this.
The best bet is to get the specifications for what you need from your caption software vendor, who will be only too happy to provide all the information you want.
What skills do I need for offline captioning?
The primary requirement is vocabulary and language skills. An offline captioner will encounter a wide variety of terminology in many different situations. This ranges from slang to technical jargon to localized dialects, much of which is difficult to find in reference books. A degree in English (or the primary language in which you´ll be captioning) or linguistics is a big help.
There is also a difficult-to-define artistic quality in a good offline captioner, which manifests itself in how sentences are split between captions, how captions are placed and formatted, and the smoothness of the timing. If captions are formatted and placed well, then the formatting and placement won´t be noticed by the reader.
How do I get started in the offline captioning business?
The best way to get started is just like any other business: Start calling the leading companies in the field (and the local companies) and see who´s hiring. You can also start by working with local chapters of organizations like the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA), Self-Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH), the National Association for the Deaf (NAD), the Alexander Graham Bell Society, and others that may need your services. They pay won´t be as good, but the satisfaction level is high.
Since the equipment for offline captioning can be expensive (most of the cost is in the tape decks), it is costly to just set up shop for yourself. If you do want to go this way, establish some interested clients first and determine their needs, so that you only buy what you have to in the beginning to support their needs.
Once you are ready to go, make a demo tape. Let me repeat that one. Make a demo tape. Show people what you can do and how well you can do it. Check the demo tape three times, and then have somebody else check it for you. If you give someone a demo tape with misspellings on it, you will not get the job. And whatever you do, don´t put someone else´s copyrighted material on the demo tape!