MP3: Simpsons episode with "DVS" audio captioning for blind people.
The other night, I turned on The Simpsons, only to find that the program's audio had a weird narrator describing almost everything that was happening. At first I thought that The Simpsons were parodying the voice-over approach from another Fox show, Arrested Development. It turns out that my broken VCR was picking up an additional audio channel instead of the main one, and in the case of The Simpsons, I was hearing the DVS, or blind captioned version of the show. DVS stands for Descriptive Video Services, and it's the audio equivalent of closed captioning for the deaf. Here's a large MP3 of the DVS version of The Simpsons "Rapture" episode from May 8th (right click to download).
While its obviously intended to benefit blind people, DVS also has the effect of converting The Simpsons into a radio show. Every sign, locale and visual gag is described by a harried announcer employed by Fox Television and WGBH.
DVS is a godsend for blind viewers - how else could you follow the weekly couch gag? But as with any subtitled movie, there's a lot of editorializing that goes on. In this episode, Homer pretends to smoke a joint at one point and the DVS description of his action only says "Homer pretends to smoke." In another scene, Marge and Homer start to go at it under the sheets, and the DVS description dares not to describe their sexual cartoon antics. Unfortunately, other technology out there which addresses the problem that blind people face with television strikes me as unworkable - charting the visual action through sounds. Article on that here. How would you translate the couch gag into a series of squeals and whistles?
This all came about when the remote for my VCR fell apart and I attempted to put it back together with rubber bands and paper clips. The audio channels on my cable service went haywire, with half the channels suddenly in Spanish, a few silent, and Fox with the DVS captioning turned on. The best audio mistake though was with CNN's newly atrocious Headline News, which had audio five seconds out of sync with the visuals, and digital skipping, looping and layering of the out-of-sync audio.
As much as I enjoyed my broken VCR, my kids demanded a new unit. So if anybody wants to continue the audio experiments with my broken VCR, you can have it. Let me know.