I wanted to share with you an exciting new development here at John Hauber Productions. Because your time is probably tight, the short version will come first, with a lengthier explanation further down.
Effective today, most episodic shows described by us, and some select movies, will include a line on the DV track, during the title or opening sequence, that will read: “For more descriptions on this show, visit moreDV.com” or “For extra descriptions on this show visit extraDV.com”. You could try it right now if you want, if you type moreDV.com or extraDV.com in your browser, it will redirect to a dedicated page on the JHP website, listing some shows. Click on any of them and it will open a page of simple text with enhanced descriptions for the characters, places and things in that show. How much will this cost? Nothing! This has been a pet project of ours for a long time, and now it’s finally happening.
Now, for the details:
Is this intended to replace DV?
Absolutely not. We will continue to describe each show to the highest standards, ensuring that the experience for the vision-impaired audience is as close as possible to that of the sighted audience, as is our stated goal. However, often there isn’t time to describe everything in as much detail as we would like. MoreDV is intended as an enhancement of the experience for those who choose to use it. Just a bit more detail on the visual elements that may not be crucial to the story in each episode, but that those of us lucky enough to be sighted do appreciate when we watch the show and that contribute to our more general enjoyment of it.
Why episodic shows but not movies?
The way DV works is that characters, places and things get described when they make their first appearance. In a movie, which is self contained, any person watching from the beginning should have a decent idea of what they look like (provided we’ve had the time to describe them). On a typical TV series, however, the characters, places and things tend to get described early on in the run, usually the first few episodes of the first season. On episode one of Seinfeld, George would get described. But as the episodes roll on, he just becomes “George” as there is no time to re-describe everyone on each episode. While the DV may make mention of the fact that he’s balding if the episode deals with his hairpiece, it may not be mentioned on other episodes that don’t. So if we are to provide enhanced descriptions, it makes the most sense to do so for episodic TV, or any situation where characters, places and things tend to be recurrent, rather than one-offs and movies.
Will it be retroactive?
For shows that we’re no longer working on, no. For any previous seasons of shows we are working on, yes. The reason is that the call to action will appear on the DV track of each show. So it makes little sense to produce an enhanced description for shows that won’t contain the CTA. Moving forward, if this were to become a popular service and there were enough requests for it, we may consider doing something similar for shows we’ve worked on in the past. But right now we’ll focus on the ones we’re currently describing first.
As domain names go, it doesn’t sound too catchy. But it had to be short, to fit in the CTA on most title sequences. It had to be easy to remember, so that if a blind or low-vision person is watching the show and cannot stop it right there and then, they’ll be likely to remember it. And it had to be easy to spell. Ask someone to type moreDV.com without looking and chances are they’ll get it, ask them to type descriptivevideoproductions.com/enhanced-descriptions and they probably won’t.
How will the vision-impaired access this?
Through any of the screen readers they already use, or perhaps by asking a family member if they wouldn’t mind reading it out for them. We toyed with the idea of making these audio files, instead of text files, but the problem is that these will mostly be “living documents”; as new characters or places appear in the story they will have to be added on. This is trivial to do on a text document, but much harder to do with audio files.
At no cost? Really?