RNIB seeks to support and advance excellence in the delivery of accessible experiences to people with sight loss, nationally as well as internationally, by collaborating with other organisations.
Project duration: October 2017- March 2020
ImAc was funded by Horizon 2020, the EU’s funding programme for research and innovation that provides funding for multi-national collaboration projects.
The aim of the ImAc project was to explore how traditional access services could be adapted for content produced in the 360 degree format, to understand the factors that impact the viewer experience of people who rely on these access features to watch and enjoy audio-visual content, and to design tools to facilitate the production and distribution of this content with audio description, audio subtitles, subtitles and sign language.
The research assessed access service users’ expectations in relation to immersive content, collated user requirements and then through an iterative process refined a selection of access service presentation styles. For example, examining the relationship between scripting, immersive soundscapes, and between voice and delivery styles in the context of audio description.
This was one of the first in-depth studies that also looked at the requirements of the professional sector for making these experiences accessible. That resulted in a set of production tools specifically designed for producing accessible 360 degree content.
The inclusion of end users, both content viewers, artists and producers, in focus groups and pilot trials, provided a significant insight into the design possibilities, which has not previously been available to researchers and technologists.
The project produced:
Below are links to case studies of films in the 360 degree format. These demonstrate the different styles for presenting audio description and audio subtitles and the feedback from end users gathered during the various focus groups, interviews and the final pilot trial.
Audio description has been the bedrock of accessibility for content from all sorts of genres including TV, film, theatre, and short video The target audience comprises blind and partially sighted people. Despite minor differences across countries, what is generally considered good solid description is a track that does not step on the dialogue or the original narration, complements the original style where possible, and does not describe the obvious.
The challenge for audio describing videos produced in the 360 degree format was to sustain the immersion despite an external element being introduced into the scene. The audio description also had to match the novel character of this emerging format.
The following case studies showcase different styles of access service trialled as part of the project and aimed to redesign the experience for an audio description user:
Like any other art form, each presentation style discussed here has its own challenges and merits. It would be up to the content producer to decide which style or combination of styles is likely to give the best viewer experience.
We would like to extend our deepest thanks to audio describers Roz Chalmers and Jezz Watts for sharing their expertise in accessibility of media content and talent with us through the course of this project.