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Adding sign language to video

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Martin CurtisAdding sign language to video
by on Nov 14, 2012 at 11:14:28 pm

Someone has floated the idea of adding sign-language to a pre-existing video we made a few years ago. The video is 720 x 576 (PAL) and in the form of acted scenes. My main concern is that adding a signer would take up a fair chunk of the video frame, obscuring what's underneath. My participation in this project is entirely optional, ranging from offering advice and finding a company who can do this, videoing the signer, or actually making the final product.

Does anyone have experience/tips/tricks in this area, for example:
  • make the new one widescreen and put the signer out of the original frame
  • move the signer around the screen
  • don't move the signer around - it's very distracting
  • this is really hard to do - find a professional


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Mark SuszkoRe: Adding sign language to video
by on Nov 15, 2012 at 3:40:15 am

I'll ask the obvious question: what's wrong with captioning, either open, or closed, for this?

Until you answer, I'm going to assume there is some obscure reason against that, so the signing is forced on you.

As a hearing person, I'd be very distracted by a signer sharing the screen space, but this is a case where the customer (non-hearing people) is always right, and if they spec it that way, you should do your best to comply.

The way I've seen this done is to put the signer in a soft-edged oval wipe in a corner of the screen, which is a fight between covering too much of the original material and scaling them too small to read well as a signer.

In a 16x9 frame, however, you now have an opportunity to put them in a larger frame of their own, on one side of the SD original. I'd ask the clients if they'd like that kind of setup.

In all cases, make sure the signer is wearing all black or dark gray solid clothing in a dead neutral backdrop, so the hands and face pop out as much as possible. If you have to letter box, try coloring the matte the same as the signer's clothing to kind of unify the image.


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Martin CurtisRe: Adding sign language to video
by on Nov 15, 2012 at 10:37:35 am

Hi Mark
We recently produced a multi-language version which included English captions, so this is an extra.

Sign language (in my case, Auslan) is considered a separate language. It's not the same as "English being signed", there's different syntax etc. I have no first hand experience, this is what I have gleaned from the interwebs over the years (having been introduced to the importance of accessibility by the super amazing Joe Clark) and the two signers I have worked with before.

This has just come up for me, three months after delivering the captioned version... I'm not sure where the money's coming from, but large organisations like mine can be a bit like that: money just appears and it needs to be spent.

[Mark Suszko] "The way I've seen this done is to put the signer in a soft-edged oval wipe in a corner of the screen, which is a fight between covering too much of the original material and scaling them too small to read well as a signer. "

That's what I've usually seen, and it is quite distracting especially if the material isn't shot with that in mind.


[Mark Suszko] "In a 16x9 frame, however, you now have an opportunity to put them in a larger frame of their own, on one side of the SD original. I'd ask the clients if they'd like that kind of setup.
"


Just today, I saw a powerpoint/talking head video with the PPT being 4:3 and the delivered video being 16:9 so they could stick the head in the side without covering anything of importance. That seemed to work.

Perhaps this project is ultimately being funded by a Deaf advocacy group and if so, I'll suggest we produce a DVD with English captions and Auslan as menu choices.


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Tom SeftonRe: Adding sign language to video
by on Nov 15, 2012 at 1:15:31 pm

Hi Martin,

What is the delivery method for this? Are you supplying DVD's or is it solely for web?


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Martin CurtisRe: Adding sign language to video
by on Nov 15, 2012 at 11:47:51 pm

Hi Tom,
At this stage, it's DVD.
I have replied to the initiators (it's our "Deaf and Hearing Impaired Workgroup") and told them I can film the signer and probably create the movie (using the method described by Mark above, so they aren't impinging on the original video frame) and create a DVD with just the signing, but if they want a DVD with the signing plus all the subtitles/captions previously created, we'll have to go back to an outside provider to do the authoring. My DVD skillz are limited to "advanced iDVD user" :-)

FWIW, I found out how expensive it is to get foreign language subtitles on an existing movie...


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Tom SeftonRe: Adding sign language to video
by on Nov 16, 2012 at 11:45:36 am

We found out the expensive way after creating a multilingual, subtitled DVD with a BSL version too. Some of the languages were Hindi and Gujarati.

We used the CS2 version of Adobe Encore, which was mind numbingly rubbish.

Thankfully CS6 is much improved!

One option is to film the sign language expert on chroma key background and then transport with a transparent alpha layer...

When you cost, I'd allow for plenty of review days with language experts if you do end up doing it yourself!


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