Joe Clark: Accessibility | Design | Writing

Failures in audio description:
The Hunchback

In November 2000, for some reason the Showcase network aired, on a Sunday matinée, the film The Hunchback (the Mandy Patinkin–Salma Hayek version, 1997) with descriptions by AudioVision Canada. There was no advertising for the show that I could find, and neither the Web site, TV Guide, nor any onscreen or voiced announcement advised that the program would air with descriptions.

This is the sort of thing Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting likes to describe as “experimenting” with audio description.

And, as with The Arrow, AudioVision’s work is appallingly slipshod and overwrought, wildly editorializing and insulting the intelligence of the viewer. Several scenes are described with factual inaccuracies.

The good news? The work is not quite as substandard on The Arrow. But we’re merely dealing with the difference between contemptible and inept.

And, as ever, the reproduction quality of the tape is poor (it barely compares to broadcast quality) and the recording levels of the hayseed, incompetent, breathy, drama-queen narrator are too low. When you have to strain to make out the words and the picture is blurry, you know you’ve got a problem.

Worse yet, I was subjected to equally appalling Canadian captioning. Yuck.

Who’s at fault? The chief miscreant of AudioVision Canada, Marco Sauren (spelling uncertain). He wrote and produced the descriptions. (So I guess there weren’t any editors.) Narrator: Valerie Hunter.

Someday we’ll get rid of these twits. And just remember, for the moment they’re the only game in town and can do whatever the hell they want. How does that sit with you, viewers of audio description? I figure that makes you a captive audience.

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Updated 2001.10.13

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