Canadian committee releases live audio description guidelines

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Thursday, 7 August 2014 10:12am

A committee led by Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters has released a set of logistical, technical and artistic guidelines for the audio description of live events.

Audio description for television is still mostly confined to pre-recorded programs, with scripts carefully prepared so that the descriptions do not overlap dialogue or other important audio information on the soundtrack. The audio description of live events, which must be performed spontaneously as a program goes to air, presents much greater challenges.

AMI, which operates the fully captioned and described channel AMI-tv (formerly the Accessible Channel), is one of the pioneers of live description for television. AMI’s first audio described live event, produced in collaboration with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was the Royal Wedding in April 2011. Since then it has described over 220 hours of live programming in collaboration with other groups, including the London 2012 Paralympics, the Canadian Federal Election, Remembrance Day and the Canadian Screen Awards.

“The art of description as it was initially defined for post-production remains the same with live description,” said Robert Pearson, Chair of the Described Video Best Practices Committee, which developed the guidelines. “The techniques and recommendations for providing good quality and consistent description can be planned for and evaluated in the first instance, whereas they must occur in real time in the second instance.”

The guidelines provide advice about preparing for the description of a live program, while noting that “the describer should expect the unexpected”. There are also sections on equipment and facilities, the logistics of producing the description and the technical aspects of broadcasting it.

Live Described Video Best Practices can be downloaded from the Described Video Best Practices page of AMI’s website.

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