About Me

Welcome! My name is Katerina and I'm an Acting student at Ryerson University. This summer, I will be working with the Centre for Learning Technologies at Ryerson on their LiveDescribe Program. This Blog will record and follow my process and experiences as an audio describer for the visually impaired. Using the LiveDescribe program, I will be creating audio descriptions for videos of TV episodes, films, etc. These audio descriptions are and will be available online as they are created at www.livedescribe.com. Keep checking back here for new video details, discoveries, and so forth!

Friday, August 21, 2009

LiveDescribe Weeks 15&16

LiveDescribe Weeks 15: August 10th - 14th, 2009. Week 16: August 17th - 21st, 2009.

I’ve been running into some problems with the LiveDescribe program. I accidentally lost a full 95% completed episode of the Office somehow, and I have no idea how. I closed the program due to an issue with the microphone, before which I saved my work. When I went to re-open the program it was unable to locate any of my descriptions. It is all gone, and I’m very upset by it, because it was a good episode!! And now must be re-done, which is annoying to say the least.

While working on an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, while recording an extended description, the program froze, and now every time I go to open this episode on the program, it freezes once again. I have not pin-pointed the problem.

Just to keep you all posted otherwise, I’ve been doing a lot of writing and recording lately. I am fully aware that it has been a very long time since I last posted episodes. There are many reasons for this! One of the reasons is that we have run into an uploading glitch that is being fixed, so until then, I won’t be posting any new episodes. But just so you are aware of my progress…

The following episodes have been recorded/described, just need to be briefly edited before being posted:

- The Office Full Season 1 – Episodes 1 through 6

- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Full Season 1 – Episodes 1 through 7

- Friends Season 1 – Episodes 1 through 6

The following episodes have been written:

- Full House Season 1 – Episodes 1 through 6

- Degrassi High Season 1 – Episodes 5 & 6

Soon, more described episodes of: 30 Rock, Being Erica, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Saved by the Bell, Degrassi, Flashpoint, and Dawson’s Creek – will all follow!

So that’s all good stuff you can look forward to! I will let you know once they’re all up!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

LiveDescribe Weeks 13 & 14

LiveDescribe Week 13: July 27th - July 30th, 2009. & Week 14: August 4th - August 7th, 2009.

The Office (US) is still on its way!! They're almost done. I want to post the episodes up at the same time. I just have some editing to do.

I'm realizing that these days, my details are not as specific as when I first began describing. Little details that don't further the story are being omitted. I've begun to do this naturally without giving it much thought because I just know that they don't progress the story at all and are distracting. Specific details such as "she is taken aback" are evident already in the tone of voice. I need to trust the tone of the voice and the silences in between dialogue in certain situations because they are great story-telling devices, and I don't want to be sharing information that is already obvious. I've had to ask myself what details don't need to be explained.

This last week, I've been going to help out at a Clay and Paper Theatre Company Production - - A show in a park! This production company organized their play to integrate audio description into their show, and also offer a Touch Tour before the show. If you don't know what a touch tour is: it is an opportunity for individuals to be guided through the show's costumes, props, sets, masks, etc. The touch tour is led by the actors, and audience members are able to talk to the actors about their characters, their character voices, and touch all of the items involved in the show. This is an amazing opportunity for blind or low-vision audience members to gather as much information about the show as possible before experiencing the live production.

As for the audio description used, it was absolutely seamless. I hadn't really experienced audio description of this sort. The script was adjusted to integrate description. For example, through dialogue, it was always clear who entered the scene, who was speaking. For Example: "There's the marine biologist", etc. However, if you were not a blind or low-vision person aware that audio description was to be provided, as a sighted person, the audio description easily went unnoticed.

I was working at the show to survey individuals about their experience with the touch tour and the show.

This experience of seamless integration of audio description has really got me trying to think of ways to make my descriptions less intrusive to the experience. It's very difficult to achieve this as someone not involved in the original creative process. I think it's so great that Clay and Paper Theatre Company decided to make their show accessible and made the necessary adjustments to create a seamless experience.

Monday, July 27, 2009

LiveDescribe Weeks 11&12

Week 11: July 13th - 17th, 2009. Week 12: July 20th - 24th, 2009.


Ryan has worked the program to be able to combine the original audio and descriptions together as one single combined audio file! This way, the video with the description can be played in other programs other than just the Livedescribe player, and it can be created into a DVD. Last week, I was asked to describe 10 slideshow videos for the Disabilities Centre at Ryerson. I worked through those videos, and then needed to put them on a CD for them so that they could play it at the event they needed them for. Now with the new abilities of the program, we were able to do that!

We ran into a couple of uploading the single audio file onto the website but now it works!! You can now upload just the audio files! This is really exciting because it makes the descriptions so much easier to access, and play-able on a variety of media players. There is an issue with the combining of the two audio tracks in that sometimes the description is much higher in volume than the original description and there’s no way to adjust it once the audio has been combined. However, the improved accessibility of the descriptions is a huge advancement!!

I am now starting work on The Office!!! I am very excited about working on this series because of its format. The format gives me some really cool creative options in terms of how to go about describing the TV show. Since the camera is actually set up to depict a documentary format, and the characters direct a lot of their attention and dialogue to the camera, it really creates a character on its own, so I’m excited to record as the “camera person”!

Goal is to complete the complete first season of the Office in the next couple of weeks! I’ve finished writing almost the entire first season, and I’m hoping on having the full season recorded and posted by the end of next week!!

Upon request, in this blog I am including some more of the information we handed out to the individuals that attended our LiveDescribe Workshop last month. I have already posted my handout on audio description in an earlier blog. The following is taken directly out of the rest of the handout created specifically for the workshop. There was also a handout on the steps to using LiveDescribe. I will use that to create an Instructables Tutorial, and I will post the link once that is completed.

Excerpts from Workshop Handout:

Notes on Audio Description:

Used in film, TV & live theatre

Insert descriptive words between dialogue

Do not describe over dialogue

Describe important and meaningful visual information & stimuli

E.g., facial expressions, actions, set, costumes, etc.

Not sound (e.g., sound effects)

Conventional AD

Use monotone, non-emotional voice in 3rd person

“describe information”

Our Approach:

Watching a show is about entertainment

not only information

AD is a creative process; it’s about being concise, precise and entertaining

AD should fit with the style and ambiance of the show

Use an approach that fits

1st person, new character, emotion

Amateur AD has been happening for much longer than professional AD

Our studies show amateur AD can work

Tiring and intense process

Software tools can help


***Newly Posted Episode:

- Degrassi High - Season 1 Episode 4 - Dream On by katerinag

Thursday, July 16, 2009

LiveDescribe Week 9&10

Week 9: June 29th - July 3rd, 2009. Week10: July 6th - 10th, 2009.

The last week I've run into several technical difficulties with my work laptop that has severely delayed my work, but I am catching up, so bear with me!

The Instructable Website suggestion sounds really exciting! It’s got me thinking and excited, and I will begun work on that shortly to begin creating that for the website. I didn’t even know that that existed! Thank you very much for your input! Also, as for a transcript of the workshop itself - - I don’t know if I can make a transcript available, however, I can post the collection of notes we handed out to all of the attendees of the workshop! I will work on getting that up here for my next blog post.

Description Roadblock:

I just ran into an example of having to describe something that is directly connected to the dialogue that is extremely difficult to describe. I still haven’t made up my mind about how exactly to go about it. In an episode of “Being Erica”, Erica’s boss makes “air quotes” with her fingers while saying certain words. It is significant and needs to be described in order for jokes later on in the episode to make sense. Furthermore it contributes to this character’s obnoxious personality, and it is commented on later by Erica. I still haven’t decided how to insert a description for it. Will let you know what I come up with when I do!

I’ve been thinking more and more about what I’m doing as a describer and how to approach the work. The following question needs to be asked: Are describers: informers? Guides? or storytellers? As informers, we are like journalists, news broadcasters. As guides, we help an individual experience the story. As storytellers, we take the audience member on a journey, on an experience. That’s so much more exciting than just being an informer, or a guide. This way we have an opportunity to affect the audience in the way that the TV show or film or whatever is being described was meant to affect.

Scene transitions are very important and sometimes the specifics of them can be overlooked. For example, sometimes a scene switches between 2 locations quickly back and forth, and often this switch can be identifiable by the character`s voices or other sounds, but sometimes they require more description than that.


What if: Extended Description: You can indicate the amount of space you want to fill in with continuous dialogue. That way there won’t be silent spaces in between extended description??? Since one way or another it describes on top of a certain amount of original sound. I discussed it with Ryan so we are going to see if we can figure something out!! I will keep you posted!

Newly Posted Descriptions at www.livedescribe.com :

Degrassi Junior High - Season 1 Episode 2 - The Big Dance by katerinag
Degrassi Junior High - Season 1 Episode 3 - The Experiment by katerinag

Friday, June 26, 2009

LiveDescribe Weeks 7&8

Week 7: June 15th – 19th, 2009. Week 8: June 22nd – 26th, 2009.

We held a workshop last week to teach others about the LiveDescribe program, and audio description itself. It went well, the use of the program was received well, and many of the group members that were involved found the program easy to use. So that’s exciting, that it is found to be accessible and usable.

The Program:
- I often run into issues of cutting off my voice when recording - - I need to be sure to allow an extra moment after my dialogue during recording before clicking the stop button.

- Also, I still get the “failed description” pop-ups. Sometimes they appear, sometimes they don’t. I don’t understand why it happens.

Description Issues:
- I find that sometimes when I’m describing some things I get a bit ahead of myself, for the simple reason that I already know so much about the show. For example, I was recording description for the 1st episode of Degrassi Junior High. When the character of Yick is first introduced, for a first time audience-member, his name is still unknown. I found myself describing him as Yick, but then I had to remind myself that he is a new student, and any viewer who watches this episode does not know his name until the character introduces himself. This occurs early on into the scene, but I think that the experience of an audience member collecting information for themselves is important, and that as a knowledgeable describer, I should not mess with the series of events that lead to certain information being revealed to the audience member. It is important to remember to give information as it is meant to be received, not give the information just because I, the describer know that it is so.

- Another issue that I’m running into is the following: as I am working to find an exciting, entertaining way of describing, I find that I sometimes sound over-dramatic. This may come from a concern of sounding monotonous which I am trying to avoid at all costs. I just hope that it does not reach a point of over-doing it to the point where the description isn’t taken seriously. I need to trust that the point is being sent across without needing to over-emote in my voice.

- Clarity is extremely important in descriptions. When describing it is important to be aware of the most important words in the description sentence so that the point of the description is not missed. For example, in my Daybreak Episode, I recorded the following sentence: “Detective Hopper bends down to pick up the papers revealing a gun inside his jacket”. Listening back to that recording, the word “gun” gets lost in the sentence. I need to always ask myself: what is the important word or subject that drives the sentence that should not be missed during the description?

Newly Posted Descriptions at www.livedescribe.com:
- Degrassi High – Season 1 Episode 3 – Breaking Up is Hard to Do
- Degrassi Junior High – Season 1 Episode 1 – Kiss Me Steph

Saturday, June 13, 2009

LiveDescribe Week 6

Week 6 – June 8th – 12th, 2009.

Week 6! This week - - I did a lot of writing rather than recording. Several new recorded episodes will be posted early next week, because this week I did all the writing for them!

LiveDescribe Program: Still getting “Failed Description” Messages. Don’t know if this is just a bug, or if it is actually a mistake that I am making in my utilization of the program.
Thank You for the Comments! It’s really interesting to read about your thoughts. The points made on character use were interesting points. I completely understand how the creation of a new character describer may not be taken kindly by those who have original creative control over the show. However, when a show is telling a story that is comedic or heartbreaking: does a purely “state-the-facts” monotonous description do the show justice? Is that sort of description preferable to a voice/character that is supportive of the experience that the writer and director originally were trying to create for the audience? I’d love to hear more opinions on this! If you are interested in checking out some of my descriptions at livedescribe.com, I’d love to get some feedback.

Now, when tackling a character description, I’ve been asking myself certain questions. If I`m taking liberties as a character – could I permit myself to make conclusions such as (in Degrassi High): “he totally likes her”. Would that form of conclusion at all offend the listener or put them off in any way?

I ran into a concern today in terms of description for a blind person vs. a partially blind individual. I find myself having to describe something just a moment sooner than when the event occurs visually on the screen for the purpose of finding the time I need for the description in between natural dialogue , or to set up the scene before dialogue begins. For a blind person this would not in any way interrupt their experience, however, for a partially blind individual who is following the show visually, if I describe something before it occurs on screen, it may cause some confusion for the individual. I had not even considered this previously. It is something important to be aware of.

I will be participating in a workshop on the use of this program, and I have compiled a list of some things to consider when doing description and when approaching the LiveDescribe Program. Here are the lists:

Audio Description

Before Describing:
- What is the story about?
- What is the purpose of the story?
- What type of story-telling is this? For example: The Office vs. Law & Order

When Describing:
- Location – description of the place. What is the environment like? Paint a picture. Can you do this during the natural breaks in dialogue, or is extended description required?
- Physical Appearance of Characters? - - Does anyone look a particular way that is significant to the story?
- Who is speaking?
- Sound Effects – what background noises are significant and should not be overwritten with description?
- What details can be omitted? What details are indisputably vital to the story?
- Is Extended Description needed? Or is there enough time in between the natural dialogue to create the description.
- How can you describe in a way that supports the entertainment value of the show, and is still interesting.
- Liberties - - How can you take your own approach to it?
- Allow yourself to be expressive, and creative.

LiveDescribe: Reference Sheet

Using the Program:
- Import
- Select Capture Device
- Notice the automatically identified “description spaces”
- The Description and Spaces Box at the top right hand section of the screen identifies several lists. The 1st is a list of all of the spaces with their time frames. After you’ve written descriptions, there is also a 2nd list of all of your text descriptions. The 3rd list in the box is that of all of your extended descriptions used in the video.
- Check the description spaces: Do any adjustments need to be made? Are they where you want them to be?
- Description Spaces are easily adjustable with the mouse.
- To create a new description space, use the space mark in/out tool on the left end of the Timeline.
- Watch the clip: Familiarize yourself with the video
- Write the descriptions in the textboxes. Be sure to save after creating each text description!
- Is the Extended Description tool necessary?
o Extended Description pauses the original video and audio, inserting description. Original video continues after extended description concludes.
- Test the volume of the microphone before recording.
- Record the Description! Play it back!
- Save! Save! Save after every description (written and recorded)!

Like I said at the start of today’s blog - - There aren’t any new episodes posted, because I spent all week writing several episodes, so check back next week for the recordings on livedescribe.com! Thanks!

Friday, June 5, 2009

LiveDescribe Week 5

Week 5: June 1st – June 5th, 2009.

Week 5!!! I’m learning more and more about the program, and exploring new territory!

Here are some little issues I’ve run into with the program:

- Sometimes in the description list, it says that there’s supposed to be a description, when there isn’t
- Extended Description: Turns out, after an episode with extended description was posted on the website, the LiveDescribe Player wasn’t playing the extended descriptions! Therefore, if you have viewed any of the videos recently, they were probably missing descriptions, and also your version of LiveDescribe Player didn’t read them. Ryan fixed it, so now, with the new version of LiveDescribe Player, extended description does play properly. Thanks Ryan!

I’m beginning to explore characters! Is a character describer effective? Not a character in the show, but a character that is the observer? For Degrassi High and Degrassi Junior High, I decided to use a student character named Caroline. I introduce the show as “Caroline”, and continue the rest of the description as “Caroline”. I don’t really use a character voice, except that my voice tends to resonate in a higher register, and sounds younger. I don’t know if this contributes to the experience, or if it is a distraction for the listener, or if it’s just completely pointless. Would it be better to just use this younger sounding voice to describe the show, without introducing it as “Caroline”? Not sure. I wonder if it does increase the entertainment value. I’m worried about the voice being annoying. I think that that is my biggest concern - - being obnoxious.

A decision-making issue I’m running into is having to describe an important action that occurs directly over important dialogue that does not have long-enough natural breaks. In cases like this, extended description would severely interrupt the dialogue, but the action occurring during the description is extremely vital. In situations like this, I need to find the most appropriate moment to slip in an extended description so that the important dialogue is not ruined, but that the action is described so as not to lose any part of the story.

On the other hand, at times with Degrassi, I’m finding that there is a lot of background dialogue that is audible, but really doesn’t further the story at all, but the action occurring overlapping the dialogue involving other characters, does further the story, so I have to describe over the insignificant dialogue. Not to say that it’s insignificant, but I just have to choose which is more important.

Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot this week is how much I can allow myself to make conclusions on behalf of the listener. Again, this all brings us back to whether or not a describer should be simply giving the facts, or if the describer should be allowed to take liberties in terms of perspective and delivery. If I take on a character-describer, when I am describing certain characters on the show or certain events, a particular perspective is inevitable. For example: “geek” vs. boy with glasses. The character is a boy with glasses, but among the student body, he is viewed as the “geek”. Therefore if my character describer is a member of the student body, then the perspective of the description is bound to describe that person as a geek.

Something that can be forgotten is that as describers, we are writers. And more often than not, we really have to have a complete understanding of the story, and what the story is about. Specifically, research-wise. The describer must be considerate of terminologies, meanings, etc. For example: Little Mosque on the Prairie. I need to have some understanding of Muslim expressions, and terminologies in order to be able to effectively describe the situations according to what it all really means and is. I have to describe it as somebody who knows what it is about. I can't afford to be ignorant.

New Episodes up on www.livedescribe.com :
-Degrassi High – Season 1, Episode 1. A New Start Part One

The Following episodes will be up as of Monday:
- Degrassi High – Season 1, Episode 2. A New Start Part Two
- Degrassi Junior High – Season 1, Episode 1. Kiss Me Steph

Check out the new episodes, and check back next week for more!