Guest Blogger Jeremiah Taylor Goes to the Movies with a New Descriptive Audio Narration System
by Maureen Duffy
Guest blogger Jeremiah Taylor (pictured at left with his wife Jo-Ann) is the founder and CEO of ProActive Sales, Inc., a full-service sales management company. In 1999, Jeremiah became suddenly and totally blind as a result of complications during routine back surgery. You can read more about Jeremiah's (and Jo-Ann's) long, steady, and inspirational journey – from sudden blindness through rehabilitation to full employment – at the VisionAware website.
In addition to his talents as a dynamic sales professional and motivational speaker, Jeremiah is a serious movie buff. "Going to the movies," he says, "is not just the movie! It's a night out with friends and family, hanging out together, enjoying conversations in the car or on the train as you travel to the theater. Movie night is pure Americana! Just because I can't experience the entire event visually doesn't mean I can't be a part of it!"
Descriptive Audio and the Sony Entertainment Access System
Recently, Jeremiah and Jo-Ann had the opportunity to "test drive" the newly-released Sony Entertainment Access System, which provides descriptive video service (or descriptive audio narration) for blind and visually impaired film-goers, as well as closed-captioning and volume control for deaf and hearing impaired audiences.
Descriptive video service (DVS) provides audio narration of key visual elements inserted into natural pauses in the film dialogue. Key visual elements are those cinematic features that viewers with vision loss would ordinarily miss and include actions, costumes, gestures, facial expressions, scene changes, and onscreen text.
The Sony Entertainment Access System (explained and demonstrated in this YouTube video) is available at approximately 6,000 Regal Cinemas since late summer. The service can be accessed on any film for which captions and descriptive text have been included with the digital print. You can check online at the Regal Cinema website for the availability of the system in your local area.
For deaf patrons, the system includes lightweight glasses that project holographic subtitles on the lens, keeping the captions within the wearer's direct line of sight. The system also provides volume control for patrons with hearing impairments. For patrons who are blind or have low vision, the system includes headphones that provide descriptive audio narration.
The Sony Entertainment Access System
Jeremiah, Sony, and "Gravity"
Here is Jeremiah's first-person experience using the Sony system at a showing of Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as a veteran astronaut and a medical engineer who become stranded in deep space during a routine spacewalk:
We went to see Gravity last night. It was my suggestion, since the theater had DVS and I thought my wife and friends would love the 3-D aspect of the film. It also got great reviews. The first shock was the price: We paid $13.50 per ticket for the 3-D version of the film and that was with a senior discount!
When you request the device, the box office has you fill out a form with your personal information. This took some time and a long line was forming. The box office had several DVS devices right at the window, so I knew immediately there would be some confusion. I knew the theater wasn't expecting a rush of blind people coming to see Gravity. (The device is used for deaf and hard of hearing patrons as well as for vision impaired people.)
I was right, as all the devices were "set" for hearing impairment. Luckily, I had called in advance and spoken with a manager and she brought down the device "set" for audio narration.
Now here's the best part of the story. I seemed to enjoy the movie better than my wife or my friends, since there were many silent scenes of the astronauts working with their equipment. Because I had the narration, I knew what they were doing, but my wife was getting confused. So I was leaning towards her and telling her what was going on. Usually she would be telling me!
My guess is that if you are an action or special-effects person you will love the movie; plus, it did have a good story line and a spiritual side. The DVS worked fine and they did a great job of describing the action. The evening was a total success. Go see it! (PS: with those prices – no popcorn!)
- AMC Theaters provide Descriptive Video and Assisted Listening Devices in select theaters
- Regal outfits almost 6,000 theaters with Sony closed-captioning glasses at Engadget.com
- Enjoying Theater, Film, and Television When You Are Blind or Have Low Vision at VisionAware.org
- Video Description Explained at American Foundation for the Blind
Re: Guest Blogger Jeremiah Taylor Goes to the Movies with a New Descriptive Audio Narration SystemPosted by susangayle on 11/22/2013 at 3:41 PM
Hey Jeremiah: Nice post. Haven't seen the movie yet, but I think it's still playing near me this weekend. I may try and go. The SONY glasses sound really cool. I wonder if any other VisionAware site visitors have used them....
Re: Guest Blogger Jeremiah Taylor Goes to the Movies with a New Descriptive Audio Narration SystemPosted by Empish on 11/25/2013 at 11:23 AM
Thanks for sharing your experience with audio described movies. I just went to see a movie last Saturday for the first time with the headset for the blind. It was a good experience overall but a few things to keep in mind. One, the headset was not programmed for the blind even though they said it was and I had to have a friend go back out to the lobby to fix it. While that was happening I missed about 10 minutes of the movie. The headset does not work until the actual movie starts so no description on the previews. I was told by several blind friends this happens all the time where the headset is not charged or programmed properly for the blind.
Second I went to see a new release on a Saturday afternoon. I discovered that was a bad decision on my part. The theater was too crowded and too loud. I had a hard time hearing the description even though I had the volume turned up loud. So in the future I will go during the week and early in the day when the theater is not so full.
But besides those little hiccups I enjoyed myself and would do it again. Also, the theater I went to was use to blind people coming and so I got great sighted guide assistance and additionally help getting inside the theater. Also, my movie was a bit pricy to, even though I went to matinee, but I still got my popcorn anyway! LOL!
Re: Guest Blogger Jeremiah Taylor Goes to the Movies with a New Descriptive Audio Narration SystemPosted by marja.byers on 11/27/2013 at 5:21 PM
Jeremiah, Thank you for the post. I went to my first DVS movie last spring. I went with a friend who has no vision and loves movies; he didn't know about DVS. I have good central vision but a small field and the descriptions help cue me when to look at different parts of the screen. At one point he asked me what I saw on the screen, I told him it was just as it was described. We did hit a small glitch coming in to the theater; the devices had to be set up by a manager with obvious little experience. After several minutes I realized she had glasses in her hands; the devices for the hearing impaired so it took additional time to straighten it out. I've been back for several other movies and things have been much smoother. My favorite part of going to that first movie was walking out of the theater into the lobby where literally everyone in the lobby stopped and stared at the 2 white cane users coming out of a theater. I told my friend and we both just laughed!
Re: Guest Blogger Jeremiah Taylor Goes to the Movies with a New Descriptive Audio Narration SystemPosted by jeremiah taylor on 12/2/2013 at 4:04 PM
Movie theaters are open seven days a week and for over 12 hours per day - they employ many part-timers. The turnover must be high and the new staff training must vary.
I've accepted the reality the person handing out the devices at the ticket booth has no idea a vision impaired person needs a different device than a hearing impaired person.
So, to avoid delays when attending a described movie I call the theater management prior to ensure they have a device programmed for the movie I plan on attending.
Unfortunately, I have to explain the purpose for my call in detail as the person staffing the office is usually different and they have no idea what I am talking about. I remain pleasant and things work out!
Re: Guest Blogger Jeremiah Taylor Goes to the Movies with a New Descriptive Audio Narration SystemPosted by Empish on 12/4/2013 at 12:36 PM
That is great advice and I do some of the same things too. But I only go to Regal Cinema theaters, not sure if there in your town or city. That way all the theater rooms are accessible and it does not matter what time of day either.
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