Yesterday, Sam posted a question asking if I knew of any differences in how the two groups I compared (people with congenital blindness and those with acquired blindness) liked audio described (DVS) films. I have a tiny bit of purely anecdotal information about the perceptions of the two groups and will use that to start today’s entry about descriptive video and my opinions thereof.
The sample I have for this completely unscientific survey includes four friends of mine, two who have been blind since birth, one who has been blind since childhood and one who went blind later in life. I provide the fifth opinion. So, as this entirely violates any standard for objective study put it into the category of gonzo research and use the content herein purely for entertainment value.
A pair of colleagues expressed the first opinions I ever heard of DVS movies. These conversations happened nearly eight years ago so my memory may not reflect perfectly the impressions they provided. The first came from a congenitally blind friend who had only listened to one DVS movie, “Pretty Woman.” He didn’t like it much but found the “blow by blow” description amusing. The second opinion I heard came in that same year from another friend, also blind from birth, who told me that he really enjoyed descriptive video tapes. Thus, my information from that group splits evenly and no conclusions can be drawn.
The friend who went blind in her childhood has probably listened to every DVS film ever produced and raves about them. She has described enjoying everything from “Basic Instinct” to science fiction films to action adventure to romantic comedy. I can’t say that I enjoy all of these genres, with descriptive video or not.
I saw or heard my first DVS movie when a friend, the other with acquired blindness in this survey, brought an audio described copy of an Indiana Jones film to the apartment I lived in around four or five years ago. I noticed that, as we sat with the video playing on my VCR, that I paid much more attention to this movie than I had to any other in a long time, probably since losing my vision.
Since then, I have listened to a wide array of different DVS films. I have enjoyed some very much, disliked others and found some to fall in between. In fact, I find that, for all intents and purposes, I enjoy the same kinds of movies with DVS as I did when I could still see.
I continue to enjoy films with excellent dialogue and terrific performances. Even when I had vision, my friends would tease me for my fixation on “chick” films. While still a teenager, I grew out of testosterone driven, muscle pounding, explosive, fast car filled, violent films without a good script and good performances. I don’t dismiss the entire action adventure genre out of hand (I enjoyed Arnold’s movies based on Harlan Ellison novels, I liked the first “Speed” but so did the critics at The New Yorker) but, for the most part, I find them fairly senseless. I enjoy some crime stories but usually those, like “The Maltese Falcon” or “In Cold Blood” that the screen writers derived from excellent books. Finally, I do not nor have I ever enjoyed pornography – some of my old friends still joke about me sitting with my back to the screen as XXX flicks played during my bachelor party.
The growing selection of DVS movies does go some distance to provide a decent selection for those of us who enjoy them but my tastes still tend toward films that don’t rise high enough in the popularity polls as to meet the criteria for going to the expense of adding a DVS track. Of the films that did well in the Academy Awards this week, I would most like to see “Capote” as it describes a slice of the life of one of my literary heroes and “Good Night and Good Luck” which reminds us of the days when America had a press corp that hit hard and told unembedded truths.
It pleases me to see how many videos with DVS that can be found for sale in mainstream retail outlets. I often receive bulletins about new DVS releases available on amazon.com and the Barnes and Noble web site. While writing this, I tried to go to the sites and search for DVS and only found one result (Ray) but I think they have more that don’t show up in a search because DVS doesn’t appear in the title of too many films and the sites don’t let the user search on DVD features. WGBH remains the primary source for information about the latest in DVS productions and their Center for Accessible Media creates the descriptive track for the majority of DVS films that hit the streets.
So, I don’t think I’ve answered Sam’s question properly as my sample was even less scientific than yesterday’s. I wonder if anyone (WGBH maybe) has done research into this matter.
I’ve been contemplating starting a second blog with a name like BC Rants and Raves” in which I talk about issues unrelated to blindness. It will contain my thoughts on movies, books, art, politics and life in general. Obviously, the posts will be colored by the opinion of a blind author and blindness may make appearances but it will be incidental to the articles I write there. I’ve also thought about including some of that kind of writing here on Blind Confidential, I think my parody sequel to 1984 would fall into the other blog rather than hear because it had little to do with blindness. The 1984 post let me exercise my creative writing skills a bit and I had fun writing it. I have fun writing most of the Blind Confidential entries but those in which I have greater creative latitude are most fun.
I’ve also started thinking a bit about changing the direction of Blind Confidential itself. If you look around the Internet, a ton of web sites, online magazines, blogs, listservs and newsgroups exist that discuss current AT products. My relationship with current and past AT offerings certainly frames a lot of what I write here and, personally, I find the more futuristic topics far more interesting. Rather than speaking from my past as an AT professional and as a current user, I think I might enjoy looking more toward things I learn today. Issues that regard human factors and blind technology users, topics that include accessible technology beyond the desktop and PDA like smart spaces, talking signs, access to goods and services and user agents that will work in many different places. My professional path is moving away from screen readers of today and into researching concepts that, hopefully, will find their way into access technologies of the future.
My friends at Access World and elsewhere are better equipped to keep up with the latest versions of the latest technologies and my focus has a horizon far further in the future. I also find remaining unbiased in my opinions very difficult. I’ll think of the great time I had working for Ted Henter and the great gang at HJ/FS and write pieces seen through those rose tinted glasses. Similarly, I maintain friendships with people in a lot of different companies around the biz and my opinion of their products may see the good parts and ignore the flaws as often happens when talking about the work of friends and family. Finally, I only left FS in late November 2004 after six great years there, most of my local friends are current or former FS employees and, therefore, maintaining objectivity of any sort is impossible as my strong feelings about these people will be reflected in any review I do of their work or that of another company.
I think I’ve maintained a reasonable level of objectivity in this blog thus far but some products, especially made by my friends at FS and elsewhere, get mentioned more often and probably with greater favor or, in some cases, deeper criticism than products from companies where I don’t know the parties very well.
What do you readers think? Should I focus on the future (I can hear my friend Will Pearson jumping for joy all the way from the UK) or not? Should I put articles unrelated to blindness in a separate blog or should I mingle my thoughts on other subjects with the
Subjects I discuss here?