With the same participants

Enhancing Audio Description

Project: Research

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Description

Audio Description (AD) for film and television consists of a pre-recorded audio commentary that makes visual content accessible to visually impaired audiences by providing information that clarifies the narrative, such as descriptions on actions, gestures and places. Although, throughout the years, digital technologies have been used to improve the mode of delivery of AD, the notions behind its design have been mostly unchanged despite significant advancements in the field of digital sound production and postproduction. Furthermore, AD is a process separate from the creative production and only considered as an accessibility strategy.

The Enhancing Audio Description project investigates how digital audio technologies can transform the design and implementation of AD for film, television and interactive media and as a result, change the ways in which visually impaired audiences experience audio-visual presentations. This research will pioneer novel sound design techniques based on new audio technologies that can be used to enhance AD, providing an audio track that is closer to the artist's vision and that will bridge the gap between sighted and visually impaired audiences. Moreover, the project will enable researchers in the arts and humanities to improve the communication between audio-visual arts and visually impaired audiences and will drive the development of digital technologies and methods that can be used to improve audio-visual experiences for people with sight loss. The project will investigate ways in which AD can be updated through digital technologies to provide both an informative and entertaining experience, while also encouraging the use of the same soundtrack for both visually impaired and sighted audiences.

Enhancing Audio Description explores two key methods: The first method investigates recent advancements in surround sound rendering and interactive media systems to create a more spatially accurate soundtrack, which includes an accurate rendition of the positions of characters and objects in space, types of shot, camera movements, camera angles and depth of frame; such a method will reduce the need for descriptions. The second method is the incorporation of first person narration as an alternative to the descriptive voice, to provide an AD that is better suited to the style of the visuals and could prove enjoyable for all audiences. Both methods would require the incorporation of AD to the creative process, transforming it from just an accessibility measure into part of the creative workflows. Whilst both methods are highly applicable to cinematic presentations, the research aims to generalise the approach so that visually impaired audiences can have enhanced soundtracks in a multitude of environments such as in museums, living rooms, or on personalised mobile media devices as well as in a myriad of applications such as film, television, gaming, therapy, training and other audio-visual activities which stimulate the UK digital economy. The proposers will therefore engage with key stakeholders from the film, television, interactive media industries and accessibility services to consider the practicalities of their implementation, including how they fit within current workflows. A significant outcome from the research will be in linking the new technological mechanisms for the enhancement of AD with the overall objective of inclusion in new media services for those with visual impairments.

Layman's description

Since the 1970s Audio Description (AD) has been making visual content accessible to visually impaired people through sound. In film and television a pre-recorded audio commentary provides information that clarifies the narrative, such as descriptions on actions, gestures and places. Although, throughout the years, digital technologies have been used to improve the mode of delivery of AD, the notions behind its design have been mostly unchanged despite significant advancements in the field of digital sound production and postproduction. Furthermore, AD is a process separate from the creative production and only considered as an accessibility strategy.

The Enhancing Audio Description project will be the first project of its type ever undertaken to research how digital audio technologies can transform the design and implementation of AD for film, television and interactive media and as a result, change the ways in which visually impaired audiences experience audio-visual presentations. This research will pioneer novel sound design techniques based on new audio technologies that can be used to enhance AD, providing an audio track that is closer to the artist’s vision and that will bridge the gap between sighted and visually impaired audiences. Moreover, the project will enable researchers in the arts and humanities to improve the communication between audio-visual arts and visually impaired audiences and will drive the development of digital technologies and methods that can be used to improve audio-visual experiences for people with sight loss. The project will investigate ways in which AD can be updated through digital technologies to provide both an informative and entertaining experience, while also encouraging the use of the same soundtrack for both visually impaired and sighted audiences.
Enhancing Audio Description explores two key methods: The first method investigates recent advancements in surround sound rendering and interactive media systems to create a more spatially accurate soundtrack, which includes an accurate rendition of the positions of characters and objects in space, types of shot, camera movements, camera angles and depth of frame; such a method will reduce the need for descriptions. The second method is the incorporation of first person narration as an alternative to the descriptive voice, to provide an AD that is better suited to the style of the visuals and could prove enjoyable for all audiences. Both methods would require the incorporation of AD to the creative process, transforming it from just an accessibility measure into part of the creative workflows. Whilst both methods are highly applicable to cinematic presentations, the research aims to generalise the approach so that visually impaired audiences can have enhanced soundtracks in a multitude of environments such as in museums, living rooms, or on personalised mobile media devices as well as in a myriad of applications such as film, television, gaming, therapy, training and other audio-visual activities which stimulate the UK digital economy. The proposers will therefore engage with key stakeholders from the film, television, interactive media industries and accessibility services to consider the practicalities of their implementation, including how they fit within current workflows. A significant outcome from the research will be in linking the new technological mechanisms for the enhancement of AD with the overall objective of inclusion in new media services for those with visual impairments.
Short titleEnhancing Audio Description
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/04/1631/12/17

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