A couple months ago, Caroline Congdon interned in our Video Description department. We really enjoyed working with her and are grateful for her invaluable feedback. Check out what she has to say about video description and her internship experience.
I’ve been a consumer of video description since it started coming out in theaters and on TV. I remember going to movies with my family and friends and having people describe what was happening. Sadly, I also remember many people around us who weren’t overly thrilled about the ongoing narration. I also remember one particular describer who, in addition to giving me a running dialog of what was happening on the screen, felt that I needed to be told what each character was saying. To this day, I don’t know how I managed to get through that. Things have only gotten better since then, and I think they’ll continue to improve.
I think the first movie I listened to with video description was the 1989 movie “Parenthood,” starring Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, and Dianne Wiest. That’s when I realized how much my parents chose to sensor when describing things to me. There was one particular scene that I never knew about, and it just happened to be one of the more funny scenes. I enjoyed the movie without knowing about it, but it was a detail others had that I didn’t.
Needless to say, video description has made a huge difference to me. The ability to know what’s happening at the same time as everyone else and to get that information without disturbing others is huge. But I never gave any thought to how the description was actually done. I just wanted the finished product.
Back in February, I received an email informing me that the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center (VDRDC) were teaming up to offer a seminar for blind and visually impaired people interested in becoming involved with video description. I hadn’t heard about the federal mandate for TV shows, but the idea of becoming involved sounded really interesting, so I applied.
About three months later, after several very interesting application steps, I received notice that I was one of nine people who had been chosen to participate in the seminar. I spent a week in Baltimore at the NFB’s Jernigan Institute, where we spent at least fifty hours in intense training. We talked about the best ways to convey information and worked with a variety of media so that we could learn the QC process. We worked both as a group and individually with active describers in the field and had the opportunity to ask questions every step of the way. At the end of the week, we all received certificates of completion.
The goal of the VDRDC was to get all nine of us into internships in the field, working with companies who provide video description to television networks around the U.S. I was teamed up with CaptionMax.
Although I was brought on to provide feedback on the descriptive scripts, I had the opportunity to be involved in the entire description process, from sitting with two of the describers while they described shows, to working in the recording booth while parts of a script were read. I listened to voice-over recordings of scripts to check for audio anomalies and clarity. Finally, I reviewed several types of described shows and gave feedback.
Being involved in the entire process was an incredible experience for me. As a consumer, I never thought about the hours it takes to describe, record, and proof even just one 30-minute sitcom. I enjoyed learning about the process, and I appreciate the CaptionMax staff allowing me to sit in with them while they worked. I felt like I was part of the process and that my opinion really mattered. This was truly an awesome experience for me, and I’m glad that I had this opportunity.