Audio description via smartphones

A Swedish project has developed an interesting solution for the distribution of audio description, based on the use of smartphones.

Story by: Magne Lunde - 03.06.2013

We started a project in May, called Audio Description Online (SETT project), which has the objective of presenting a low cost, user-friendly solution for distributing AD.

Through our contact at the Swedish Association for Visual Impairments we were able to attend at short notice the closing seminar on May 28th for the Swedish project Accessible bio.

Many benefits

The Swedish project has looked at the use of smartphones to distribute AD at the cinema, a solution similar to the one we are now considering, and one that is also well suited to distribution at the theatre and other live events. The use of smartphones has the following main advantages:

  • Use of standard technology
  • No need for extra gadgets
  • Users can use their own personal headsets
  • The venues don't need to store and provide equipment. A problem with the present distribution channels for AD is that equipment is not always ready for use when it is needed.

Test showings

The Swedish project is a collaboration between the Swedish Film Institute and the Post and Telecom Agency and has been running for two years. Test showings were implemented with two main solutions, both of which worked satisfactorily. These are being further developed, aiming at regular cinema shows with AD distributed to smart phones by the summer of 2014.

The chicken and the egg

MediaLT has produced about 30 Norwegian films with AD but only two of these, as part of a pilot scheme, have been designed for cinema showings. Until now, Norwegian AD has focused on the DVD market. Thus we are in the classic dilemma of what comes first: the chicken or the egg? Should we focus on equipment for AD distribution at the venue, or provide cinemas with film versions with AD. We believe that we can now do both simultaneously.

High time

It is important to establish support for the production of AD in the future. They have come further in Sweden with this than we have, but there are now indications that this will change as a consequence of the results of the Swedish project. It is therefore high time that the Ministry of Culture contributes to this and provides funding specifically earmarked for AD for Norwegian films. Captioning for the hearing impaired is already supported in this way, and it is obvious that the visually impaired should have the same rights.







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