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ENCO Brings Fast and Accurate Captioning to LTC Public Access TV

Steve Manock

Equipment and Facilities Manager

Lowell Telecommunications Corp.

Lowell Telecommunications Corp. (LTC), also known as Lowell TeleMedia Center, is a public access TV station in Lowell, Massachusetts that operates three PEG channels. Folks in the community can sign up for a membership to broadcast up to three hours of content per week. Memberships also provide access to equipment rentals and in-studio editing without an additional charge. 

 

The city of Lowell contracts LTC as a third-party to broadcast government meetings, which occur daily except Fridays. LTC staff monitors meetings onsite to ensure that live broadcasts go smoothly and are archived for public record. About 10 years ago we decided that captioning services would be a great help to the community, and began working with organizations to fund the initiative. 

We started by using a live caption company, an expensive endeavor that paid a stenographer by the word. The stenographer was also located halfway across the country, and there was a three- to five-minute delay before captions would appear on a live meeting broadcast. The errors were enumerable, and we realized that manual captioning wasn't an ideal solution. 

We soon searched for other options that were faster, more cost-efficient, and a lot more accurate. Lowell is a very diverse community, and thick accents produced embarrassing captioning mistakes. Daniell Krawczyk of Municipal Captioning, an LTC partner that advises PEG stations on technology decisions, suggested ENCO’s enCaption solution. I knew it was a perfect fit upon test driving drviing the device.

For one, we can now schedule captioning services for live meetings in advance. As soon as we go live, it just starts working. Previous captioning delays are now gone, and what once took three minutes to start is now instantaneous. enCaption’s native AI technology has improved speed and accuracy. Having five minutes of words appear on screens after the program ends helps nobody. The machine-learning has been very fast, and I can’t stress enough how accurate it has been compared to before. It's one less thing to worry about.

enCaption also works accurately on many different accents, solving one of our biggest captioning conundrums. It even gets complicated names right for the most part. When it doesn't, we can simply input names into a word bank and the software automatically pulls up the correct name when it hears it. For example, our mayor’s name is Sokhary Chau, which we added to enCaption’s dictionary so that his name is spelled correctly every time.

Our enCaption systems is installed on a rack-mounted computer on-premises. The workflow is simple: The studio at City Hall sends the live signal back to LTC and into our TelVue system, which feeds enCaption to produce real-time closed captions. Besides adding occasional words to the enCaption dictionary and preparing weekly schedules, we almost never touch it. 

When we started using enCaption, we watched it constantly to see how it fared. There were far fewer errors, and we no longer receive complaints from the community about delay and accuracy. We don't even have to think about captioning anymore, which frees us to focus on other aspects of creating a great broadcast.

 

Steve Manock can be reached at smanock@ltc.org.

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