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, May 29, 2009

LiveDescribe Week 4

Week 4: May 25th – 29th, 2009.

Week 4!!

I have been learning more and more about decision making when it comes to descriptions. I’m finding myself having to decide which descriptions are necessary and which are not. Sometimes, there is enough room in between dialogue to include certain descriptions, but when I go back to evaluate the description, at times I realize that it is simply not necessary at all. So, thus the debate is: Do I include all the description possible to fit into a space, or do I only include what tells the story?

A few things to think about:

Can silence be a storyteller as well? - - In Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister there was a moment, where there was a sombre silence for less than 3 seconds, and I had the choice between describing an audience member`s reaction or allowing the silence alone to hit the listener. I chose the silence because I felt that that had more purpose and served the experience more, rather than describing an audience member’s reaction.

In studio audience types of shows: I find that the reactions of audience members are nowhere near as important as describing reactions of people in dramas for example. In fictional shows, they further the storyline, while in audience-interactive shows, rarely does a reaction of an audience member change the direction of the show.

Again, I am running into a huge problem with group scenes - - how to make them clear??? Does naming the characters help? Or is that distracting? Can the listener already distinguish between voices? Do I assume they cannot distinguish between the voices? I was having such a hard time keeping all of the Degrassi characters straight, I had to go to a website with character profiles so that I can figure out who’s who, before going in to do the descriptions.
Show introduction descriptions: description aside - - what is the purpose of introduction? What is the purpose of the images and the titles? It’s to give the viewer information about the show. So, when describing an introduction, should you just describe what the visually impaired individual cannot see? Or do you create a show introduction to serve the same purpose as it would for a sighted individual?

For the purpose of Degrassi’s show introduction - - it plays a song, that is representative of the time, the audience, the characters represented. Listening to it, I believe that it gives the listener the introductory information necessary, that if I were to speak over it to offer my own introduction, it would take away from what the introduction’s audio already offers. I have the option of possible describing characters throughout the song’s intro, but A) it would lose the song in the process and B) it would be so much information thrown at the listener at once, that it would probably not be helpful anyway.

Extended Description:

COOL TOOL - - Extended Description - - minor glitch!! It is a bit delayed in the recording, and doesn’t always show up in the audio line, which makes it very difficult to edit. But Ryan is fixing it! Also, as extended description plays, you can’t stop it - - you have to wait for it to finish before you can pause. I’ve found that the extended description works well, but it does cut off milliseconds off of dialogue on both ends of the description, so you have to be very careful when considering placement.

I’m beginning to have a much better understanding of what is necessary to be communicated to the listener, vs. what is just empty information. It’s not about following any sort of rules, it’s about telling a story. Good motto to go by when describing comedy? - - Don’t tell me how funny it is... make me laugh. The describer has to remember that shows are supposed to be entertaining, and that should not be lost because of description.

Newest Episodes – Check them out! @ http://livedescribe.com/wiki/browse.php

- Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister 2008.
- Rick Mercer Report March 10th, 2009.
- Rick Mercer Report March 17th, 2009.

Friday, May 22, 2009

LiveDescribe Week 3

Week 3: May 19th – 22nd 2009.

Third Week. Today we solved some more bugs!! There was one bug that kept coming up, that made my project crash... TWICE!! Which was very annoying, because the only way to get rid of it was to close the program, which means any unsaved info was lost... again, I’m reminded to SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!!!!

More Program News - - YEAYYYY!!! New discovery has been made - - extended description!! I did not know that this existed! If a description is long - - too long to fit in the dialogue pause, but is very important, and MUST be described, you have the option of using the extended description option. In the record box, you can check off the “extended” checkbox, and wherever your scroll bar is, you hit record, and you record your description from there. This pauses the original video, so your description can be as long you need it to be. However, be aware, that this PAUSES the original video, including background noise, and the only thing heard will be the description. This means that this cool tool must be used with care in a way that does not disrupt the experience of the show, but supports and contributes to it.

**Note: Shows without a background score are easier to use Extended Description on, because it doesn’t sound like it is pausing the original video or delaying it in anyway - - like in The Office - - except for, of course in the cases of background noises other than score, which still one should be wary of, in terms of deciding when it is appropriate or not to use this tool.

I’m finding that even after only doing descriptions for a little while, I’m already catching myself using the same vocabulary over and over again. I have to be really conscious of this. Because not only should I be careful to not be repetitive, but I also have to change up the way I write based on what kind of show I’m writing for.

It is a really big challenge to make the description a part of the entertainment. I am describing what is going on, and I manipulate my tone of voice to support what is going on. However, I am concerned that if my writing isn’t properly complimenting the style of the script-writer, that it may negatively affect the experience of the listener. I wonder if it takes them out of the story.

My next big challenge: Comedy - - how to interpret visual comedy with an audio experience that can have the same effect or similar effect as the visual humour. Does this mean I must resort to the appropriate words to use, or could it be possible use of sound effects?

I’m reaching a point where I’m going back on descriptions I’ve already written, and feeling the need to re-do them because I am unsatisfied with their comedic quality. With the descriptions I wrote for the Friends episode, I feel that even though I’m trying to adjust my tone to the comedy, it is still detached, so I need to seek out a different approach.

I have come across a new particular dilemma when it comes to describing certain shows, such as Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister, which has a studio audience. There are so many shots of audience members, and a lot of the time their reactions aren’t that meaningful, but occasionally there are some really interesting audience member reactions - - but often they happen so quickly, and we see several little quick, diverse reactions in the audience one after the other with no time to describe. This is either because the break in dialogue is too short, or because the reactions are occurring during dialogue. When coming across a situation such as this, I have to decide how important these reactions are. Do they support what is happening on the stage? Or, if I were to describe these reactions, would it simply disrupt the listener’s experience, and hinder their opportunity to have their own individual reaction?

When facing myself with a description project, I need to ask myself some important questions: What would the director want? If the writer were to hear my description would they feel that it was complimentary to their original script or would they feel that it completely ruins their vision for the show??

This week, Daybreak was posted on the LiveDescribe website. Check it out at http://livedescribe.com/wiki/displayFile.php?key=30&size=&sender=genre

Other new episodes will be up soon, so be sure to keep checking back! Thanks!

Friday, May 15, 2009

LiveDescribe Week 2

Second week: I’m working on new episodes. Not all video formats are compatible with LiveDescribe and I’m currently trying to figure out which videos I can use.

Working more with the program, I ran into some things. For the automatically created description bars on the audio line, it would be very convenient and helpful to be able to split them as well as the audio. Being able to type in text descriptions while watching the video would also be helpful for longer sequences that require long, detailed descriptions. Furthermore, It would be helpful if the textbox could be enlarged so as to be able to see the whole text altogether, instead of having to scan it down. Also, while recording or watching, it doesn’t allow you to scan down unless you are using the text record option, which sometimes isn’t always the preference of the user.

Another little thing with the program that could be improved is that after a recording has been made, and I click to begin playing the audio mid-way through the description, I can only hear the original audio, not the description audio as well. I have to start the playback before the description bar in order to be able to hear the recorded description as well. It would be helpful if I can start the playback at any point I would like; it would be useful in order to make little specific changes. This also goes for hitting pause - - if I hit pause in the middle of a description section, and then press play again to continue from there, I will no longer be able to hear the description, and have to start again from just before the description. Also, when audio description is rolling, it would be cool if the text numbers could be highlighted as it is rolling.

I am currently working on the pilot episode of Daybreak, starring Taye Diggs. It is an action-mystery style drama, which is very different from The Lucy Show. There are so many important details in quick short shots, that are vital to the story line, but don’t allow me much time to describe them. Therefore, I have to figure out a way to be quick at getting to the point. This is especially true in terms of clues - - very hard to fit in all of the details, because they are all important. Also, subtle background noises in scenes can be just as vital and important as dialogue between characters, so it is very important to not disregard them or overwrite them with description.

In Daybreak, there are many action sequences. They are challenging to describe because, especially when dealing with fights, the hits and blows are so quick and fast one after the other and so continuous that it is difficult for description to keep up with it.

I am also exploring description with the show Friends. This is a comedy very much based on social interaction. However, my greatest challenge when describing Friends is the fact that the show is about six important lead characters, and there are many scenes in which all six friends are in the scene together. The challenge is being able to use description effectively in order to allow and help the listener to easily distinguish the characters apart. Description must be specific and clear in order to achieve this.

I’m finding the descriptions between social interactive comedy much more difficult to do than physical comedy descriptions. Physical comedy, is very much “it is, what it looks to be” and I am able to aid the comedy with the expressions in my voice, while social comedy has to be described very carefully, and effectively in order for the joke to not get lost in terms of subtle facial reactions. And Friends for example has a lot of sarcastic humour in which facial expressions and physical hand motions aid it along. This can get lost in description if I’m not careful.

The comedy of the description has to somehow match or compliment the type of comedy of the show itself. Different comedies have different specific kinds of comedic tendencies, and if the description doesn’t support that, it can spoil the uniqueness of the show, and its personality.

I am very close to wrapping up both the Daybreak episode and the Friends episode. They will both be online by the end of this weekend. Again, see www.livedescribe.com for audio descriptions!

Monday, May 11, 2009

LiveDescribe Week 1

Week 1: May 4th – 8th 2009.

This was my first week on the job! I’ve been learning about the LiveDescribe Program; how to use it, its purpose, different alternatives in the way to go about working on the program and doing audio description. It’s really interesting, and exciting to know that there are a lot of creative possibilities, if you allow yourself to go beyond the standard description ways. I’ve been reading papers and watching audio description examples. Also, before beginning work on my first description, of The Lucy Show, I made sure to do some research on the show itself so that I could familiarize myself with the show’s characters, the show’s influence, and just get a better understanding of it so that I could adjust my description to effectively reflect what the show is all about.

When beginning to work on the episode on LiveDescribe, I started off with going through the bars on the audio line that indicated where voice description was possible/needed. Going through it, however, I realized that there were a lot of adjustments to be made. Although it was done automatically, I needed to edit through a lot of it, if not most of it; either shortening some bars, extending some bars, deleting some bars, or adding extra bars.
Before recording, I went through all of the voice description bars, and wrote in the description in the text boxes to make recording easier by planning out my description. Regarding the text boxes, I learned it’s very important to save after any sort of change, because otherwise, not only will your change not be saved, but you will lose the entire text. This was a little bit annoying, because even if you were to just open the text box without making any changes, if you don’t save, you’ll still lose the entire text. So, the save reminder box that pops up after each text box use is very helpful. Something useful might be spell check for the text boxes. Although at the end of the day, the audio is really the final product - - for the neurotic, knowing that spelling is correct might be nice.

For the recording, having a bit of a difficult time working with the microphone, because each time I record, the volume of the recording changes depending on where exactly the microphone is. It’s still taking some getting to used to, but with more time I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

Throughout recording, and often during play-back a message box with some sort of warning kept coming up, but I ignored it, which was not the smart thing to do. It would offer a details, continue, and quit option. Often, even when pressing continue, the message box would immediately come back on, and would take several continue clicks for it to actually continue. Very annoying. Would come up at the most inappropriate moments. At one point, by accident, I pressed quit, and lost an hour’s worth of work. Very frustrating. However, lesson learned: don’t ignore message boxes, and always save. Also a “are you sure you want to quit” message box after clicking quit might be useful in case a person like myself clicks quit by accident.

Another thing I’m having an issue with is the scroll bar, and using it. It would be really helpful if I could just scroll down the audio line, instead of only being able to see certain chunks of audio at a time.

I ended up switching laptops so we had to transfer the LiveDescribe project from one to the other. We ran into an issue with the program. Project refused to open for a while, but then we fixed it. Then, the following day, the project refused to open once again. Turns out it has to do with the text boxes and using the “enter” button within one text box. This was messing around with the program, but once again Ryan fixed it, and then the project opened and is fine!

I discovered some things with the audio after switching computers. The volume of my previous recordings on the old laptop were triple the level of volume of the original video. We went into the wave-pad and halfed the volume of my recordings. Now, the size of the audio on the audio line is within the blue box, while before it was out of the box, meaning that it was too loud.

Afterwards, we played it again, and the volume of the recordings was still much louder. In LiveDescribe, there is a volume adjustment scroll. I would adjust it, and by doing that, I thought I was adjusting the total volume on the computer. Afterwards, I realized that it only adjusts the volume of the video’s audio, NOT the audio of the recordings. The computer’s volume control is what adjusted the total volume of all, and the individual microphone volume controls on the computer were what independently adjust the microphone volume.

The warning box from the previous day continued to appear on the screen during playback, and also during recording on LiveDescribe. I showed it to Ryan, and he understood the problem. Something about the size of the files. Solution is being worked on.
When downloading audio descriptions of the LiveDescribe website. You have to download the original video as well in order for the LiveDescribe player to open it. It won’t open otherwise. But there is nothing on the website that indicates this direction. They are listed as two separate options, which is fine, but a direction to say that you need the original for the description to work would be helpful.

Also, on the LiveDescribe Player, the volume control option that shows up in the player doesn’t work. To adjust the volume, you have to go to the computer’s volume control options. You can’t control it through the player at all.

Something to keep in mind when using the program itself, you have to be really careful with enunciation when recording, because sometimes the ends of words can get lost in the microphone. I have to make sure to carefully sound the “s”’ and “t”s otherwise, you won’t be able to hear them.

I completed my first episode this week! After creating an account on the LiveDescribe Website, I published the episode as well. See http://livedescribe.com/wiki/browse.php?type=&choice=Comedy#here