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, 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!