Live captioner caught behind the scenes

Emcee making sure Wendy Osmond can hear the audience by applause

When Wendy Osmond, CRC, was captioning a recent tech conference, she was surprised when the speaker addressed her directly. Almost as surprised as the attendees, who hadn’t realized that the captions were being written by a live captioner.

Artur Ingelevic was attending the conference and tweeted about Osmond’s captioning.

“I was surprised. I have seen captions during other conferences and just thought that this was one of these algorithms that caption YouTube videos,” he said. “Then I thought, wow, this is really cool stuff these days.”

JCR | How long have you been a captioner and where do you usually work?

WO | I’ve been captioning for 13 years following a decade working as a court reporter in London.  I work mostly remotely from home in Wiltshire (UK).  My days are very varied, ranging from captioning live sports on TV, webcasts, work meetings, gallery tours, company reporting, lectures, conferences, etc.

JCR | What conference were you captioning for?

WO | This was a tech conference, and I was covering a day of it for White Coat Captioning.

JCR | What happened in this moment in the picture?

WO | There was a delay while speakers were changing over, so the MC was filling time and started talking to me.  When she asked if I could hear the audience, I thought that she was querying the audio quality and how well I could capture the audience remotely, but the photo gives the impression that I was milking applause for the captions!

JCR | How did you feel while it was happening?

WO | Quite embarrassed, actually.  I’m not the most outgoing of personalities and my hands started shaking, which was really annoying!  It’s difficult to take down what’s said, think of an appropriate response and steno at the same time.  It was fabulous to receive such lovely and immediate feedback, though, so there was a mix of panic and pride in that moment.

JCR | What kind of response have you gotten?

WO | There were some very generous tweets and there was also surprise that the captions were generated by human intelligence rather than AI.  Some delegates expressed an interest in hearing a lightning talk on how it all works.

 JCR | Anything else you would like to add?

 WO | I’m quite mindful of the importance of staying in role.  That said, I couldn’t ignore the MC and it’s great to spread the word that high-quality captions = humans.  I hope it was taken as a bit of fun on the day.