Describing ‘Life in a Day’

Posted by CLeininger on January 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm. Movies, Video Describers, Video Description

by Jeremy Fisher

Describing 'Life in a Day'

Have you ever had the privilege of working on something that made you feel like you’d spent your whole professional life preparing for that particular project? If not, I wish it for you. It’s a great feeling, a feeling I had while describing Life In A Day, a behemoth of a film from a describer’s viewpoint.

Stream it with audio description: Stream it live with audio description and captions (by CaptionMax) on Friday, January 27, 2010 at 8:00 Eastern, 7:00 Central at Life In A Day. Only streaming with AD for a limited time!

Life in a Day is a feature-length film encompassing life on planet earth on one day: July 24, 2010. Filmmakers of all sorts submitted over 4,500 hours of footage of their own lives that Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and his team cut down to tell a story of our shared human experience.

The footage jumps across the globe from modern cities to developing countries, from the joy of birth to the pain of conflict, from mountaintop vistas to subway platforms. This broad scope and rapid pace presented myriad challenges for a describer: quickly setting new scenes, respecting the flow of the soundtrack and dialogue, and conveying the global feel without making blanket generalizations or race and nationality. And with footage provided from around the globe, it’s full of subtitled speech, a describer’s most troublesome foe! How do we describe the scene and characters and read subtitled dialogue all at the same time? (Yikes!) We tried something new to solve this problem: multiple describers reading as the voice of a single subtitled character in the scene. I think it turned out well and will sound much clearer to the listener than me having a back-and-forth conversation with myself while describing at the same time.

All told, just about every difficult situation a describer could come across presented itself in Life in a Day, but this project is filled with wonderful visuals that I’m thrilled to have been able to verbalize for the blind and low vision audience. In this one project, I got to describe: a giraffe giving birth, a Parkour walker climbing walls and jumping off rooftops, a field of people releasing tissue paper hot air balloons into the sky, a human tower, and more. Check it out while you can. It’s only streaming with AD for a limited amount of time before it moves on to other distribution channels. Catch it while you can!

Creative Commons Films

Posted by Emma on January 26, 2011 at 9:50 am. Captioners, Movies, YouTube

by Jason Mitchell

Sita Sings the Blue Poster
Sita Sings the Blues (2008)

Films fall into the public domain for many reasons.  Sometimes their copyright wasn’t documented correctly.  Sometimes their copyright period has expired.  In most cases, a public domain status goes against the wishes of the would-be copyright holders.  If it were up to them, they would retain their copyright forever.

In recent years, artists working in many mediums have found copyright laws too restrictive.  Some have opted to release their works under a Creative Commons license.  There are several different types of Creative Commons licenses, but in essence, they are less restrictive about how the work can be distributed.  Many licenses allow anyone to make copies of the work, hold public performances or displays of the work, or even make new works using aspects of the original work.

As opposed to films that are in the public domain, films released under a Creative Commons license are willingly made more available by their owners.  This is how filmmaker Nina Paley chose to distribute her 2008 film, Sita Sings the Blues.

Graphic of Sita sitting under a tree with a 16 armed god.

Sita Sings the Blues is a truly unique film that could only have been made in recent years.  I’m not sure there’s ever been a feature-length animated film that was animated by one person before.  (Apparently a second animator contributed to one scene in the film, but that hardly diminishes Paley’s efforts.)  The fact that Paley animated the entire film is even more impressive when you consider the varied animation looks and styles that are implemented in Sita.

Three different graphic styles represented in Sita.

Sita is a rather irreverent retelling of portions of the Ramayana, a Hindu epic.  Much of the story is told by three shadow puppet characters from memory.  Their dialogue is clearly improvised, and they frequently disagree over aspects of the story or forget them entirely.  You get a sense of how the story is perceived by modern India and how it might be passed on orally from one generation to the next.

The film contains many musical interludes where Sita’s situation is expressed using recordings of jazz singer Annette Hanshaw from the 1920s.  The juxtaposition of Hindu imagery and early jazz recordings is surprisingly effective.  Haley also introduces an autobiographical storyline that reenacts scenes from her personal life that parallel aspects of Sita’s story.

Sita on the water.

The way Nina Paley incorporates elements from so many different sources and time periods along with so many different animation styles makes for a really one-of-a-kind movie.  Filmmaking this distinctive is rare.

CaptionMax has recently added a captioned and audio described version of the film to the CaptionMax YouTube page.  There are also downloadable versions of the film in many formats on the film’s website. You can also read an interview that Nina did that is all about creative commons licensing.

Fun Word Friday: 1800s

Posted by Emma on January 21, 2011 at 9:39 am. Captioning

by Kirsten Dirkes

101 (okay, 5) Reasons Not to Live in the 1800s

Semmelweis reflex – the automatic rejection of a new idea because it contradicts an entrenched belief; named after Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865), a Hungarian doctor who was ridiculed for his belief that handwashing could reduce the spread of disease.

phrenology – a pseudoscience in which a practitioner feels a person’s skull to determine that person’s personality, most popular between 1810 and 1840.  A phrenologist who felt Semmelweis’s head might have been able to use the additional clues of red skin and rising steam to deduct that Semmelweis was really ticked off.

The Great Game – a term used for the conflict between the British and Russian Empires for control of Central Asia (1813-1907), because nothing says fun like having one’s homeland divvied up by foreign invaders.  Corner on India!  I mean barley!

1816 –This year was nicknamed Year Without a Summer or Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.  At the time, people didn’t know that the cold temperatures were due to volcanic eruptions, and if they had, they wouldn’t have cared, because what can you do?

landau – a type of horse-drawn carriage with a fold-down roof.  Actually, these are kind of cool, but I’m sure you can think of a reason or two why modern cars are better.  (See 1816.)

An (Almost) Accessible Day In The Life of Teens with Hearing Loss

Posted by Emma on January 19, 2011 at 9:33 am. Consumer Advisory Board

CaptionMax has a dedicated Consumer Advisory Board with experts in all kinds of accessibility. As guest bloggers, we ask our board members to  share their accessibility stories. Our next CAB guest blogger is Michelle Rich, an Educational Captionist/ Advocate for the Olathe School District in Kansas. She also loves advocating with production companies to provide captions, detailing the necessity of such, and encouraging those companies who are already providing captioning.

Subject 1:  Megan, 15, High School Freshman, Hard of Hearing
6:00am: The bed rattles and shakes with her snazzy multi-colored Shake Awake alarm and she rolls out of bed to start her day.
A quick check of the captioned weather helps her decide her wardrobe for the day.
6:30am: Text messages from friends keep her up-to-date on all things social.
7:15am: Out the door with her iPod plugged in…rolling music and simultaneous lyrics on the screen.
10:00am: 3rd hour video clip with captions allow her equal access to media.
6th hour streaming media borrowed from the Described and Captioned Media Program.
3:00pm: A bazillion text messages hit the phone and the day’s drama unrolls.
7:00pm: Off to the gym to work out while watching a captioned TV program.
8:00pm: A Friday night open captioned movie at the cinema.

Not that long ago, Megan’s day would have been a struggle to gain information.   Thankfully many pioneers in the field of access came before us paving the way to a leveled playing field.  They established laws that require companies to provide access to media.  They created standards for a consistent, accurate and artful representation of the auditory information.  Each day they continue to roll out the printed word and to address the rapidly changing formats in which media is delivered.

Subject 2:  Kyle, 20, College Sophomore, Profoundly Deaf
6:00am: The bed shakes and rattles him out of his deep sleep.
6:05am: The bed again shakes him and let’s him know it means business this time.
6:30am: Team workout with iPod and lyrics.
Lunch with a quick update of scores on captioned TV.
Bus leaves for an out of town game…cell phone in pocket with text messages buzzing in and iPod blaring.
3:00pm: Baseball games with access coming through face-to-face communication and baseball signs.
Captioned game with the PlayStation3.
10:30pm: Rerun of “The Office” and then time to hit the books.

For Kyle, his access to the world at this point in time is both amazing and limited.  His school is unable to provide academic supports due to budget constraints.  Reality.  It is costly.  So he manages his academics the old-school way–  pre and post reading of classroom content, teacher notes, follow up with the teacher after class for missed information, studying with classmates, lip reading in class and following visual clues, and the use of residual hearing.  Not ideal, but he manages through determination.

For both teens, there is gratitude for access to academic and social information.  For both, there are needs.  For me, mom of both, I am forever grateful for the pioneers of accessibility and for those still working each and every day to deliver information in an accessible way.  It is a gift that is appreciated.

The Description of ‘Sita Sings the Blues’

Posted by CLeininger on January 12, 2011 at 10:19 am. Movies, Video Describers, Video Description, YouTube

by Jeremy Fisher

Greetings, Description Fans.

We’re just wrapping our audio description for Sita Sings the Blues, a feature-length animated film that retells the ancient Sanskrit Epic, the Ramayana. In editing Annie’s description script, I came away both impressed and reminded of how hard our job is. In the course of writing description for this feature length film, Annie had to master Indian culture, fashion, names; a whole host of animation styles; and more.

I handpicked some of my favorite bits. Check ‘em out. Then watch the described film at our YouTube site and hear for yourself.

“An old bearded Brahma, his four heads revolving on one body, perches on a lotus that’s connected to Vishnu’s navel. Lakshmi massages Vishnu’s feet while he reclines on a five-headed cobra.”

“A palace rises above an ancient Indian city. Inside, Dasharatha holds a crown over Rama, who bows, his hands in prayer. The animation resembles traditional Indian paintings, with characters in profile.”

“High above, one-eyed Rakshasa demons in bird form fly. Pink bat wings propel their purple eel-like bodies. They swoop down and fly in the forest.”

Hanuman, with the body of a man and the face of a monkey, races off, tail flying behind him. He wears a crown and wields a mace. At the seashore, Hanuman grows huge and leaps over the ocean.”

“On a black background, the flickering heart montage pulses inside a woman rendered in simple white lines. The scene alternates between her body frozen in a dance pose, and her lighting a match.”

Sita Sings the Blues is a creative content film. With the blessing of the films producer/director, Nina Paley, we have posted the film, with audio description, captions, and Spanish translation on our YouTube site!

Fun Word Friday: Medical Terms

Posted by Emma on January 7, 2011 at 10:08 am. Captioning

by Kirsten Dirkes

Thinking about becoming a doctor? Time to study up on those medical terms. Start with some of our favorites below.

M.A.S.T. suit – an abbreviation for military anti-shock trousers, which is a really amusing name that caused me to picture a bunch of army guys running through a swamp of electric eels with impunity, and you should too, because it’s much more cheerful than the reality, which is that these suits are medical devices used in the field prior to hospital arrival in cases of extreme blood loss and/or pelvic fractures.

Babinski sign – an indication of the presence or absence of brain and/or spinal cord damage achieved by rubbing the sole of the foot.  In people over the age of 2, an involuntary raising of the big toe indicates a positive Babinski sign that signals a problem.  Amaze your friends by checking the condition of their central nervous system via one simple poke of their feet!  You could call yourself The Great Babinski.

erythematous – red.  You could say, “I was trying to get my box of Hello Kitty kitchen appliances off the top shelf of the pantry and dropped the box on my foot, and now my big toe is red.”  Or you could say, “I was trying to get my box of Hello Kitty kitchen appliances off the top shelf of the pantry and dropped the box on my foot, and now my big toe is erythematous.”  Don’t be boring! (No picture for this because it makes us a bit squeamish!)

ilium – the largest pelvic bone

ileum – part of the small intestine

(If you’re studying to be a doctor, try not to get these two mixed up.  Removal of the ilium is almost never advised.)

Finally, if you have one of these next two procedures, sure, you may have lost a body part, but you should feel a lot better when you tell people the name of your surgery.

uvulopalatopharyngoplasty – surgical removal of tissue in the throat.

salpingo-oophorectomy – surgical removal of a fallopian tube and ovary.

2011 Maxblog Goals

Posted by Emma on January 5, 2011 at 9:29 am. Techy

2010 went by very quickly so we wanted to take a moment to really set some maxblog goals for 2011. We publicly proclaim a few of our resolutions in the hope that it’ll light a fire under our arse and help us “get there.” Resolutions are different for everyone and we always find it so inspirational to hear what other people are trying to achieve. So if you’re up for sharing, we’d really love to hear what all of you are aiming for in 2011.

1. Find balance. We do not want to fall in the trap of only blogging about a few topics. Our number one goal is to find a solid balance between guest blogs, our tech blogs, our advocacy for accessibility and our staff blogs. We’ve been at it for a year, we’re no longer completely new at this.

2. Monthly Consumer Advisor Board guest blogs. Many of our favorite blog posts of 2010 came from our friends and advisors. This year we will continue our monthly CAB guest blog posts. We want to continue to share the knowledge and stories of our advisors while giving them another platform in the accessibility community.

3. YouTube public domain movie. We had  great year in 2010 and we want to keep that momentum going in 2011. Our goal is very lofty but we want to put a new public domain video on YouTube each month. Our videos will have audio description, English captions and Spanish captions. If you have any movie favorites that you want to see on our YouTube page, give us a shout and let us know.

4. Document real life at our offices. Many times we’ve flat out forgotten to take pictures of many important things that have happened in our offices. So this year we want to be better about taking pictures and posting them frequently to Facebook for everyone to see. It’s hard to top a great memory, but it’s nice to have something to actually look back on, too.

5. Start adding quizzes and polls to get to know our readers. Lastly, we want you to be inspired by the content we are creating. The only way we can create better content is to know what you think and what you like. We’ll be creating polls and quizzes this year to get your feedback. We’re going to work hard this year to really soak what our readers tell us. It’s such valuable feedback!



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