Friday, I had the pleasure of experiencing “The Incredibles” at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. In addition to a theatre full of accessibility compadres, free food and drinks (thanks Knowbility & IBM), we were given the opportunity to experience the movie fully captioned and with live audio descriptions. I think it is so cool that Austin has theatres that provide this service.
So, glass of wine in one hand, artichoke pizza in the other and a small wireless over-the-ear headphone, I sat back, closed my eyes and listened to the movie. The professional audio describer was located near the front of the theatre. She had a microphone that was tuned to the same frequency as my headphone. She had seen the movie once and had determined what important visuals needed to be described for a full experience. Audio describers are trained to objectively describe critical visual information without opinion or bias.
I’ll admit I didn’t keep my eyes closed for too long. But it was fascinating just listening to the movie. My imagination was drawing the pictures, just like when I’m reading a good book. When I opened my eyes and had even more input, I played the “art of alt” game with myself. How would I have described the visual information on the screen? It was like a giant alt text quiz on speed. I’m awed by the brain power of people who can do live audio description and live captioning. I secretly think these people received extra helpings of brain cells when they were created!
As a web developer who revels in rich media, I’m often faced with the daunting task of finding resources to transcribe a video. Now, as I provide the transcripts for rich media, I’ll always remember that transcribing the spoken words is not enough. To truly provide access to the content of the rich media, I need to describe the important visuals as well. So, as I head back to Alamo Drafthouse this weekend for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, I’ll be ever so grateful for my vision and occasionally I might close me eyes just to listen.
Want to learn more about audio descriptions? I suggest starting with Audio Description International. Looking for theatres in your area that provide this service…they are often marked with an OC (open caption) or AD (audio description) symbol.