Advanced Television

Sky makes Game of Thrones accessible to visually impaired

April 15, 2019

To make the new season of Game of Thrones accessible to those with disabilities, such as the visually impaired, Sky has employed the skills of actor and writer Neville Watchurst, who describes all of the episodes in extraordinary detail to allow those with sight loss the chance to feel all the action.

Watchurst has written a blog on how he goes about his task – and how he acheives speedy turnaround times to deliver his content to Sky ready for transmission.

The blog reads:

“There’s always a definite buzz and a lot of chatter when a new series of I appears over the horizon. For some of us at Sky, though, while the buzz is certainly felt, chatter is a major no-no – rather as if we’d been made to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Each episode is released quite late-minute, which means that all the processes which have to be completed before it goes to air have to be turned round pretty sharply – audio description included. Most of the programmes and movies we audio describe are sent out electronically (usually with ample lead-time) so that the describer can script at his her or her desk at home and then come in with the completed script to record it at Sky Studios. Not so with Game of Thrones, which is deemed too highly sensitive to be allowed off the premises. So, my Saturdays (and maybe early Sunday mornings) in April and May will mainly be spent shut up in the recording booth, scripting and voicing the AD for each episode there and then.

Not that I’m complaining. To be privy to what happens, ahead of everyone else in the country, is quite a thrill. Also, having worked on Game of Thrones from Year 4 onwards, I just love the spectacle and the spectacular plot-twists, and have grown very attached to many of the characters – although we all know it’s unwise to become too attached to anyone in Westeros.

Because it is such a high-profile and much-loved drama, I feel a special responsibility to do my utmost to render the jaw-dropping effects and huge set-piece battles (as well as the subtle ‘looks and smiles’ between the characters) into description that will enable people with impaired vision to more fully share in and enjoy the experience.

Audio describers are always striving to weave clear, concise and timely spoken information around the existing soundtrack in such a way as never to jar with the dialogue, sound-effects or musical score. With a series whose production values are this high, there is much satisfaction to be got from working towards creating an AD track which attempts to fully harmonise with it and truly do it justice.

And the stakes are even higher, this being the final series. With the four fabulous female characters – Cersei, Daenerys, Sansa and Arya – in the ascendant, the stage is set for… Who knows what?  I am just hoping for not too many extended battles per episode and a minimum of subtitled scenes. Enjoy!”

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