Audio Description



           I have attended a very enriching workshop on audio description at Imperial College on 12th November 2011. I have voiced a few AD films in the past and wanted to find out a bit more about it!

The course trainer was Dr Josélia Neves and started with an introduction on the problems faced by the blind. There are different types, people who are born blind and have never seen anything and people who become blind at a later stage and have memories to rely on to picture what would be descibed to them, and people who are partially blind. We were told we could watch The Eyes of Me to discover the plight of 4 teenagers who lost their sights. We were also recommended the book by Oliver Sacks Seeing Voices to discover even more about the way blind people can see with their brain what we see with our eyes.

We were shown a short video, done in a cartoon style to illustrate the difficulties encountered by a child and how it copes with loosing its dog and using a short stick to identify a number of things, including potential dangers. We became aware of very specific problems like sizes. How large is a room or an area, the strategies developed to identify sizes, like whistling for example or any short noises. The time the noise travels gives an idea of size! But how do you cope with directions, what does north, south, west and east mean and the same apply to describing people. Short, tall and relative positioning of people how do you work out what in front, next to, behing and so on mean? What about colours? And it went on like that. I think we all realised how little we knew about blindness. It is therefore of paramount importance to become aware of all these problems to be able to have a chance to write a good audio description. The first work we had to do was to describe a still picture, into how much detail do you go? Do you describe the general astmosphere? or do you attempt to tell the story? or? or?... You can have access to Dr Josélia Neves presentation by clicking here.

We then were "shown" a video without the pictures and only a couple of sentences at the beginning and at the end. This is when we realised how difficult it was to work out what it was all about. There were sound effects, music and children playing but nothing more. The music gave us an indication of mood. We were then shown the video and attempted to write an audio description, some of us wrote too little, some too much, one student managed to encompass the story very well and in a few words even though she had never done it before, but... she is a sign interpreter for the hard of hearing or the deafs and she has developed good strategies to synthesise difficult ideas into a few signs!

I would like to have your info about Audio Description in your own country. Does it exist? Are blind people aware of its existence? Is it widely available? Or have you never heard of it? Please do not hesitate to write to me with all the info you can gather on this subject. (In your own language with a précis in English would be great.

On a recent short trip to Southern France, I came accross a short article in La Provence, the Regional Newspaper, about an audio-description trial in the small town of Forcalquier. Click here to access this newsparper.

And here is a photo of the article published on 19th November 2011 in French




It was a first in this French département and seems to have been well received. The event was backed up by a number of organisations and sponsored by L'Occitane.

For students of French there are some very interesting expressions in this short article:

Voir avec les oreilles: To see with your ears.

The word "blind" is not used, instead references are made to "personnes déficientes visuelles, mal-voyantes and non-voyantes".

Audio description seems to become very popular in France. During the presidential election campaign of 2012, the official campaign posters were given an audio description on the Internet so that people who have difficulty seeing can also know what the posters look like. To hear the descriptions in French click here.






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