Firmando en el cine

Movies at the cinema, a cultural phenomena that involves a blend of technology and groups of people, is taking one more step into Inclusiveness. The imperfect solutions for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Blind and Partially Sighted are more and more part of every cinema facility – either special glasses that present words in mid-air or equipment that places words on at the end of bendable post, and earphones that transmit either a special enhanced (mono) dialog track or a different mono track that includes a narrator who describes the action. [At right: One of two bClosed Caption Reading Devicerangos de dispositivos de lectura de subtítulos.]

El trabajo está a punto de completarse en un nuevo conjunto de tecnologías necesarias que ayudarán a incluir a un nuevo grupo de personas en las ricas experiencias culturales de ir al cine. Las herramientas que se agregan son para quienes usan el lenguaje de señas para comunicarse. Como ha sido común para el camino de la inclusión, el cumplimiento de los requisitos gubernamentales es la fuerza impulsora. Esta vez el requerimiento viene de Brasil, via a “Normative Instruction” that by 2018 (el horario se ha retrasado desde entonces) todas las salas de cine comerciales en Brasil deben estar equipadas con tecnología de asistencia que garantice los servicios de subtitulado, subtitulado descriptivo, descripción de audio y Libras.

Libras (Lingua Brasileira de Sinaisis) is the acronym for the Brazilian version of sign language for their deaf community. Libras is an official language of Brazil, used by a segment of the population estimated at 5%. The various technology tools to fulfil the sign language requirements are part of the evolving accessibility landscape. In this case, as often has happened, an entrepreneur who devised a cell phone app was first to market – by the time that the rules were formalized, cell phones belonging to the individual were not allowed to be part of the solution.

The option of using cell phones seems like a logical choice at first glance, but there are several problems with their use in a dark cinema theatre. They have never been found acceptable for other in-theatre uses, and this use case is no exception. The light that they emit is not designed to be restricted to just that one audience member (the closed caption device above does restrict the viewing angle and stray light), so it isn’t just a bother for the people in the immediate vicinity – phone light actually decreases perceived screen contrast for anyone getting a dose in their field of vision. Cell phones also don’t handle the script securely, which is a requirement of the studios which are obligated to protect the copyrights of the artists whose work they are distributing. And, of course, phones have a camera pointing at the screen – a huge problem for piracy concerns.

El hecho es que existen problemas con cada una de las diversas ofertas de equipos de accesibilidad.

Accessibility equipment users generally don’t give 5 Stars for the choices they’ve been given, for many and varied reasons. Some of the technology – such as the device above which fits into the seat cup holder – requires the user to constantly re-focus, back-and-forth from the distant screen to the close foreground words illuminated in the special box mounted on a bendable stem. Another choice – somewhat better – is a pair of specialized glasses that present the words seemingly in mid-air with a choice of distance. While these are easier on the eyes if one holds their head in a single position, the words move around as one moves their head. Laughter causes the words to bounce. Words go sideways and in front of the action if you place your head on your neighbor’s shoulder.

[This brief review is part of a litany of credible issues, best to be reviewed in another article. It isn’t only a one-sided issue either – exhibitors point out that the equipment is expensive to buy, losses are often disproportionate to their use, and manufacturers point out that the amount of income derived doesn’t support continuous development of new ideas.)]

These (and other) technology solutions are often considered to be attempts to avoid the most simple alternative – putting the words on the screen in what is called “Open Caption”. OC is the absolute favorite of the accessibility audience. Secure, pristine, on the same focal plane, and importantly, all audience members are treated the same – no need to stand in line then be dragging around special equipment while your peers are chatting up somewhere else. But since words on screen haven’t been widely used since shortly after ‘talkies’ became common, the general audience aren’t used to them and many fear they would vehemently object. Attempts to schedule special open screening times haven’t worked in the past for various reasons.

And while open caption might be the first choice for many, it isn’t necessarily the best choice for a child, for example. Imagine the child who has been trained in sign language longer than s/he has been learning to read, who certainly can’t read as fast as those words speeding by in the new Increibles movie. But signing? …probably better.

El lenguaje de señas se ha utilizado durante años en el escenario, o junto a los servidores públicos durante los anuncios, o en la televisión o la pantalla de la computadora. Entonces en el cine es el siguiente paso lógico. Y justo a tiempo, ya que los estudios y los equipos de tecnología de fabricación pueden lanzarse al proyecto cuando muchos nuevos componentes habilitadores están disponibles y probados y pueden integrarse en nuevas soluciones.

These include recently designed and documented synchronization tools that have gone through the SMTPE and ISO processes, which work well with the newly refined SMPTE compliant DCP (now shipping!, nearly worldwide – yet another story to be written.) These help make the security and packaging concerns of a new datastream more easily addressable within the existing standardized workflows. The question started as ‘how to get a new video stream into the package?’ After much discussion, the choice was made to include that stream as a portion of the audio stream.

Hay antecedentes en el uso de algunos de los 8 pares AES para fines que no son de audio (datos de movimiento del asiento, por ejemplo). Y hay varias buenas razones para utilizar un canal disponible, no utilizado hasta ahora, de un par de audio parcialmente lleno. Aunque la fecha de ejecución ha sido retrasada por el grupo brasileño de Normalización, la tecnología ha progresado de tal manera que el principal facilitador de películas para los estudios, Deluxe, ha anunciado su capacidad para manejar esta solución. The ISDCF has a Technical Document in development and under consideration which should help others, and smooth introduction worldwide if that should happen. [See: ISDCF Document 13 – Sign Language Video Encoding for Digital Cinema (un documento en desarrollo) en la página web de documentos técnicos de ISDCF.]

Queda una pregunta importante. ¿De dónde se deriva la imagen? Las opciones son:

  1. para que una persona haga la firma, o
  2. para usar el lindo estilo de emoticonos de un avatar derivado de la computadora.

Choice one requires a person to record the signs as part of the post-production process, just as sub-titling or dubbing is done in a language that is different from the original. Of course, translating the final script of the edited movie can only be done at the very last stage of post, and like dubbing requires an actor with a particular set of skills who has to do the work, which then still has to be edited to perfection and approved and QC’d – all before the movie is released.

Un avatar aún requiere esa traducción. Pero la herramienta selecciona palabras de la traducción, las empareja con un diccionario de avatares de signos y las presenta en la pantalla que se coloca frente al usuario. Si no hay avatar para esa palabra o concepto, entonces la palabra se deletrea, que es la práctica común en situaciones reales.

Ha habido mucho debate dentro de la comunidad sobre si los avatares pueden transmitir el matiz requerido. Después de las presentaciones de las partes interesadas, la parte adjudicadora en Brasil llegó al consenso de que los avatares están bien para usar, aunque se prefieren los videos de los actores que firman.

The degree of nuance in signing is very well explained by the artist Christine Sun Kim  in the following TED talk. She uses interesting allegories with music and other art to get her points across. In addition to explaining, she also shows how associated but slightly different ideas get conveyed using the entire body of the signer.

Insertar código de Ted Talk

<div style=”max-width:854px”><div style=”position:relative;height:0;padding-bottom:56.25%”><iframe src=”https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/christine_sun_kim_the_enchanting_music_of_sign_language” width=”854″ height=”480″ style=”position:absolute;left:0;top:0;width:100%;height:100%” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen></iframe></div></div>

Enlace de Ted Talk

Nuance is difficult enough to transmit well in written language. Most of us don’t have experience with avatars, except perhaps if we consider our interchanges with Siri and Alexa – there we notice that avatar-style tools only transmit a limited set of tone/emphasis/inflection nuance, if any at all. Avatar based signing is a new art that needs to express a lot of detail.

Las realidades de los presupuestos de posproducción y los tiempos de estreno de las películas y otros problemas de entrega se involucran en este tema y en las opciones disponibles. La situación con más obstáculos es preparar todos los ingredientes finales para un día y fecha límite. Afortunadamente, algunos de estos paquetes pueden enviarse después del paquete principal y unirse al cine, pero de cualquier manera los puntos potenciales de falla aumentan.

In addition to issues of time, issues of budget come into play. Documentary or small movies made, often made with a country’s film commission funds are often quite limited. Independants with small budgets may run out of credit cards without being able to pay for the talent required to have human signing. Avatars may be the only reasonable choice versus nothing.

En CinemaCon vimos la primera de las dos tecnologías presentadas por dos empresas diferentes.

Riolte Sign Language System InterfaceRiole® is a Brazilian company which developed a device that passes video from the DCP to a specialized color display that plays the video of the signing actor, as well as simultaneously presenting printed words. It uses SMPTE standard sync and security protocols and an IR emitter. Their cinema line also includes an audio description receiver/headphone system.

Dolby Labs also showed a system that is ready for production, which uses the avatar method. What we see on the picture at the right is a specially designed/inhibited ‘phone’ that the cinema chain can purchase locally. A media player gets input from the closed caption feed from the DCP, then matches that to a library of avatars. The signal is then broadcast via wifi to the ‘phones’. Dolby has refreshed their line of assistive technology equipment, and this will fit into that groups offerings.Dolby Sign Language System Interface

Ambas compañías afirman que están trabajando en futuros productos / mejoras que incluirán la otra tecnología, Riole trabajando en avatares, Dolby trabajando en videos.


Ha habido conjeturas en el pasado sobre si otros países podrían seguir con requisitos de firma similares. En este punto, eso queda como una conjetura. No se han notado más que rumores.

Hay aproximadamente 300 lenguajes de señas diferentes en uso. alrededor del mundo, including International Sign which is used at international gatherings. There are a lot of kids who can’t read subtitles, open or closed. Would they (and we) be better off seeing movies with their friends or waiting until the streaming release at home?

Este es un enlace a un Declaración de la WFD y WASLI sobre el uso de avatares de firmas

 

Link for “Thank you very much” in ASL thank2.mp4