Monday, August 24, 2015

SABC adds audio description as a trial project from September to SABC1's Zulu drama Sticks & Stones for visually impaired viewers.

As a trial project, the SABC will introduce audio description from 1 September on the repeat broadcast of the SABC1 Zulu language local drama Sticks & Stones.

It's not yet clear how ordinary terrestrial SABC1 viewers or those watching SABC1 on MultiChoice's DStv, On Digital Media's (ODM) StarSat or Platco Digital's OpenView HD will be able to access and enable the option to hear the audio description on Sticks & Stones, or whether it will be a compulsory soundtrack as part of the test.

Audio description, also known as video description or visual description, is done for two reasons: firstly to enable visually impaired viewers to get an audio "reading" of what is happening or screen and written on screen, secondly being able to follow a show and therefore what is being said in another language as a translation service.

Visually impaired viewers will now be able to hear what they can't see on Sticks & Stones like production credits and descriptions of what is being shown when there are no characters or only actions or scene-setting shots.

The audio description trial won't come with other language audio tracks however and will just be in Zulu, the same as the show.

The trial project forms part of the SABC trying to gear up to provide audio description options on some programming once the government's long-delayed digital terrestrial television (DTT) finally starts in South Africa with a commercial service.

Viewers will then be able to toggle and choose the additional audio description or sound track on selected SABC programming.

Depending on funding, cost and capacity, its theoretically possible that SABC viewers in future might be able to listen to a show like Sticks & Stones in one of the other 10 official languages like Venda for instance as a service provided by the public broadcaster.

SuperSport already runs multiple commentary audio tracks in different languages for some major sport events on DStv; and TV channels like Glow TV (DStv 167 / OVHD 108) gives DStv and OpenView HD users a choice to toggle between an English or Hindi sound track. Its however different language options and not actual audio description.

Renee Williams, series commissioning editor at the SABC says the public broadcaster has empowered a blind company with this production which in turn helps with the training and development of blind audio describers through the production of Sticks & Stones.

"SABC TV is proud of the achievements of Audio Describe, not only in the training of audio description but in the successful production of this show and hopes that together with the support of stakeholders, it can broaden its development of blind viewers in the creative industry," says Renee Williams.