Video for VI Learners
Extending existing video materials
Hints for adding supplementary audio
The brief checklist below gives you the flavour of the issues you will
need to consider, but we urge you to read further before starting, especially
if you are intending to supplement specialist material such as science
programmes. RNIB, the AUDETEL Project and US producers all have good advice
to offer on how to do audio descriptions. Even if you are only aiming
for modest supplements on a very limited scale for local consumption these
make worthwhile reading. Their experience has shown what makes for helpful
supplementary commentary, and how to avoid awful mistakes. They also show
that there are no hard and fast rules, and how cultural differences affect
what is acceptable - the American experience differs from that in the
UK, for instance.
Note also that much of this advice is shaped by the limited time gaps
available for inserting linear supplementary material, and will need rethinking
if you are creating non-linear resources. There is little experience to
guide you here, so be prepared to innovate and evaluate.
- Use a neutral voice, distinct from the main narration and dialogue.
- Describe relevant on-screen action in the present tense.
- Be objective: don't add your own impressions or interpretations.
- Aim to provide continuous answers to the unspoken questions 'Who?
When? Why? Where? What?'
- Pay particular attention to the names of people.
- Don't overdub on-screen dialogue, even if it means your own cues are
reduced to critical single words.
- Don't destroy the mood. If tension is building, don't pre-empt what
is coming. Don't remove the mystery by highlighting too strongly things
which a sighted viewer might only recognise later are important.
- Remember that your descriptions should include 'sighted' language
such as colours and shades, where they are important to the plot or
mood. VI audiences are not wholly composed of congenitally blind people,
and even when a person has never seen, such language is part of day
to day experience and will help build mental imagery. Figure out when
and why colours (say) are important, and highlight those. (Are they
evocative? Used to help disambiguate similar objects like cars in a
- Help identify when scene shifts and time-shifts are happening (flash-backs
and flash-forwards and the subsequent returns, the passing of time).
- Clarify or highlight ambiguous or important sound effects.
- Don't repeat what documentary or educational narrators say: concentrate
on describing the illustrative graphical or video material itself.
- Credits and titles can be complex. Prioritise the main actors and
producers in credits. Decide if it is more important to set the scene
running under a title than to read out opening text.
- Your style will need to match the situation. Look for specific guidance
on how to handle different audiences (children, adults, elderly people,
learners), and what is needed in different situations (soap opera, documentary,
news, cartoons, adventures, educational material, nature programmes)
- Evaluate and refine: check your material with third parties before
you use it.
- Note that most guidance comes from working with linear, broadcast
programmes. Non-linear or educational material will pose new problems,
and generate new guidance.