“Homeland” and Jeff Hutchins
By Monette Benoit
Copyright 2007 by Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved.
In my opinion, Jeff Hutchins, more than any person, tipped our court reporting profession. I have always believed that more court reporters, captioners, and students need to know Jeff’s involvement in captioning technology and our profession.
In 1972, The Caption Center began captioning The French Chef. Jeff Hutchins and five individuals were hired to learn how to transcribe the PBS news four and one-half hours after it originated on ABC. The show recorded live 6 p.m. EST, was transcribed by five people.
They heavily edited programs, rewriting portions, to produce a steady reading rate of 120 words per minute at a fourth-grade reading level because experts on deafness, deaf and hearing, felt few deaf people would be able to follow verbatim captioned news. The show was broadcast with integrated captions to PBS at 11 p.m. with “live-display captioning,” a term coined by Jeff Hutchins.
In 1979, NCI, the National Captioning Institute, a private nonprofit corporation, was created using a $6 million grant to the U.S. Department of Education to develop captioning technology. Arrangements were made with Texas Instruments to produce 10 integrated circuits (“chips”) that were placed inside decoders that consumers purchased. Sanyo contracted to make “TeleCaption” decoders; Sears was given exclusive rights to sell. Once closed captioning of pre-recorded programs were under way, attention turned to development of realtime captioning of live programs. NCI hired Jeff Hutchins to oversee systems development.
In 1981, the first sports captioning was developed by Jeff Hutchins when he generated his own commentary programming of 200–300 sentences. Sentences were set with a blank space at the end of each line. The typist (often Jeff) sent a sentence filling in blanks with players’ name and facts. The displayed captions were not verbatim to commentators; facts were “called up” to replace sports running commentary. Deaf and hard-of- hearing people still desired announcers’ verbatim translation; realtime continued to be developed.
That same year, Jeff tested a prototype by Translation Systems, Inc (TSI) for captioning live TV programs. NCI hired Martin H. Block.
In 1982, Jeff Hutchins selected Marty Block to become the first realtime court reporter to be a captioner. Mr. Block became a member of the team that developed live closed captioning with Jeff at NCI in 1981 in order to caption the 1982 Academy Awards Presentation. This is the first live telecast with realtime closed captions that displayed realtime captioning of unscripted dialogue with Johnny Carson as host. Source: A.D.A. Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, Business and Convention Handbook and CATapult CD, Volume B.
I learned this history from Jeff Hutchins in 1995 when I was seeking captioning history as I prepared The History of the A.D.A. and Captioning.
Jeff and I became friends when I phoned VITAC seeking captioning history. He took my phone call and offered to fax me information. Within minutes a 13-page fax arrived in my office. My cat Brutus used to stand on my fax machine, playfully batting paper as it arrived. That cat became so entangled in Jeff’s multipage fax that I immediately phoned Jeff immediately sharing he’d darn near killed my cat. Thereafter, Brutus never ventured near any fax machine.
Jeff and I kept in touch. I loved to listen to his stories on how he worked, how captioning was created. Jeff is the nicest gentleman; he has pulled more bunnies out of his hat when I need help or advice. When I visited VITAC, I asked Jeff for my tour. He and Gary Robson privately showed me their technology. I cherish memories of their pure joy describing their world – their work.
When captioning companies discussed forming a coalition, Jeff Hutchins was their choice. Throughout the years, I receive e-mails from Jeff traveling the United States and France. While I wrote this article in August, Jeff’s on a driving vacation.
When I received Jeff’s e-mail about his CD, I laughed. This was one side of Jeff that I had not seen – or heard.
In 2006, Jeff Hutchins retired as chairman of the Accessible Media Industry Coalition, a trade association of companies that provides services such as captioning and video description so he could make media programs accessible to people with hearing and/or vision impairments.
Prior to this, Jeff was owner and executive vice president, Planning and Development, of VITAC, a Pittsburgh-based company providing complete captioning services nationwide. He also was director of Systems Development at NCI (1980-86); and from 1973-1980 was producer of “The Captioned ABC News” and an executive for The Caption Center, WGBH-TV, in Boston.
Jeff has been honored as one of the Pioneers who helped implement closed captioning. He was the author of the closed-captioning specifications adopted by the FCC in 1992, and the principal author of EIA-608. Mr. Hutchins currently is a member of the Boards of Trustees of the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (Pittsburgh, PA) and the American Community School in Beirut, Lebanon. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcasting and Film from Boston University.
Here’s the June 8, 2007 e-mail prompting this holiday column:
Dear Friends, I am very excited to tell you about a four-year project, and I hope you’ll be excited, too. I’ve been producing a CD of original songs I’ve written over the past 35 years or so. I always wanted to know what they’d sound like if a full band played them, instead of just me on a guitar or me in my head. I thought some of the songs would sound pretty good if they were well produced.
Four years ago, I started working with Korel Tunador, a talented man who moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles to pursue his music career. Between gigs, he composed and arranged songs for which I’d written melodies and lyrics. Then in early 2006, he joined the Goo Goo Dolls for their international tour, and he remains with that famous, popular band. (They’ll be on Jay Leno for the umpteenth time Friday night!) He asked their drummer, Mike Malinin, to lay down drum tracks for five of my songs. Mike agreed; together he and Korel provide nearly all instrumentation.
Korel finished the twelfth song last December; since then I’ve been doing final mixes in Pittsburgh at Mr. Smalls Studio. There, I met Liz Berlin, a singer with Rusted Root, a popular band that went double-platinum in the ’90s. She agreed to do lead vocals on my song “No Shame.” Liz designed the CD package, which looks like a “gallery” wall in my home might look.
So, at long last, the CD is finished. It’s called “Homeland,” because that song appears twice on the CD: once in generic version, once in a special bonus track with lyrics written for the Aramco Brats with whom I grew up in Saudi Arabia.
You can preview 2:00 minutes worth of each song or buy the complete Homeland CD by going to www.cdbaby.com/hutchinsjeff. To purchase individual songs for iTunes, just go to iTunes and search for Jeff Hutchins. (CD Baby has great independent artists!)
It’s all professionally done in spite of the fact that I sing all but two songs. Then let me know what you think. If you like it, please tell others. I need to sell a LOT of CDs to pay for this thing! Thanks for letting me tell you about “Homeland.”
Monette: This is great music, folks! As the holidays approach, a perfect gift for our CD players, friends and family should be Jeff’s CD. Jeff has shared so much with us. Check out “Homeland,” put your feet up, rest your hands – then tip back and enjoy Jeff Hutchins’ brilliant creations.
Monette, the Court Reporting Whisperer, may be reached: Monette@ARTCS.com and Monette@CRRbooks.com
Monette Benoit, B. B.A., CCR, CRI, CPE, Paralegal
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