Hearing the magic.....As part of my husband's birthday celebrations, we went to the cinema to see 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald'. As well as looking forward to seeing the next chapter in the Fantastic Beasts adventures, I was excited to watch a film while using an audio description headset for the first time. My sight impairment means that I miss a great deal of content during films, especially action scenes, because my tunnel vision restricts the amount I can see and my eyes cannot take in information quickly. I find it virtually impossible to follow a scene if it is moving quickly.
I have inadvertently listened to audio description during one of the David Attenborough wildlife documentaries and I found it incredibly helpful, especially when the animals were camouflaged against trees! I did also use it another time during an episode of a drama. At that point in time, I found that it interrupted the suspense of the scenes and was too intrusive for me. Since my sight last worsened, I now find it harder to follow films and I'm welcoming any help I can get to understand the story and make it more accessible.
|A photo of the audio description headphones and receiver unit. (I'm sorry for the very poor contrast between them and the background, next time I'll remember to consider that!)|
Whilst it did aid my understanding of the film, there were some drawbacks to using audio description. The main one was that at times when the sound of the film was very loud (usually the action scenes) it completely drowned out my audio description. I had to keep adjusting the volume throughout the whole film and at times I just had to accept that I couldn't hear the descriptions because the film was too loud. It would be good if the volume of the audio description automatically adjusted with the film's volume but I don't know if this is technologically possible. Also, I found that by listening to someone talking in the quiet moments did take away some of the magic and escapism of watching a film. It was a real conflict in my head of wanting someone to tell me what was happening but also wanting to completely submerge myself in the story. It was hard to escape from reality when listening to descriptions.
It is worth noting that the staff at Empire cinema in Swindon were incredibly helpful, especially as I didn't book the headset in advance. I did check when I booked the tickets online to see if the screening was audio described. I asked the staff why only certain films shown at particular times are audio described, it is natural to believe that all films should have audio description. They were very informative and explained that not all the cinema screens have the infra red technology to allow audio description. It may be available for all films for more modern cinemas.
I would definitely recommend trying audio description if you haven't done so. Do let me know what your experiences are and if you have any tips for getting used to the description during quiet scenes. Also, do you have access to audio description at any film you wish to see?
On balance I think audio description is worth it for me but it is a compromise, as it often is when you have a disability. As much as you wish to wave a magic wand to fix the problem you are experiencing, sometimes you have to accept that the solution isn't always as perfect as you would like (and I'm a perfectionist!) but it can go some way to making your life that little bit more accessible.
I look forward to reading your comments about this and hearing your audio description tips.
~ Best wishes, Melissa ~