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Adaptive devices enhance movie experience

By Rick Pusiak Sudbury?s movie complex is now more accessible for those with a hearing or vision impairment.
By Rick Pusiak

Sudbury?s movie complex is now more accessible for those with a hearing or vision impairment.
David Van Dyke

On Friday, just in time for the premier of Spiderman, theatres 11 and 12 at SilverCity were equipped during certain show times with what are called Rear Window Captioning (RWC) and Descriptive Video Services (DVS) systems.

Descriptive Video involves cordless headphones and is meant to assist those who have trouble with their sight.

The headphones pick up a special FM signal from the projector and an announcer describes what is going on in the movie when there?s no dialogue.

Rear Window Captioning works like a rearview mirror and involves a large electronic message board near the projection window at the back of the theatre.

Dialogue and descriptive passages are printed out backwards.

Audience members are given a reflector, a rectangular piece of black plastic. They attach it to their theatre seat with a gooseneck arm and tilt it the direction of the sign.

The backward words are reversed on the reflector and can be easily read.

SilverCity tested out both the RWC and DVS systems at a trial run Wednesday morning and invited local media to the event.

David Van Dyke was one of the vision impaired people who got a chance to preview a reel of the Sandra Bullock thriller Murder By Numbers.

He said thanks to the DVS headset he got to ?see? the whole show.

?When I come to a show?I tend to close my eyes and turn up my ears basically,? said Van Dyke.

?You can tell by sound?you can more or less anticipate what?s going to happen if there?s a lot of action.?

But if there?s no sound and no one to tell a blind person what?s going on it?s hard to figure what a movie is all about.

In the case of Murder By Numbers Van Dyke was able to discern with the help of the narrator that Bullock was going from a street onto a houseboat, that she had retrieved mail, what she was wearing and even that she had passed a drink across a table.

Deaf and hard of hearing guests testing out the RWC system were also thrilled with the technology aimed at them. Wanda Berrette said it?s the same idea as viewing closed captioning on a TV at home.

?I watch television through captioning all the time and I?m quite used to that phenomenon,? said Berrette.

?So I?m really excited to see that finally in movie theatres we?ve got captioning available for us as well.

?Up until now we?d always have to depend on hearing friends to come with us perhaps to get the concepts (of) what was happening in the movie. But now with captioning this gives us a greater sense of independence and it?s wonderful.?

There were some very minor glitches.

Berrette found that the captions projected from the back seemed to be on a slant on her reflector.

?Over time it sounds as though they (Famous Players) are prepared to try and make some changes just to see what would work best but you know we?re just thrilled that we have captioning and that?s the bottom line.?

The headphones for the blind may be a bit of a distraction for audience members sitting near someone wearing the device.

If the volume on the headsets is turned to maximum setting the narration is clearly audible a couple of seats over.

It?s hoped people without a disability will be considerate of those who need the devices to enjoy a show, and if it really bothers them, move to another seat.

Show times where the devices will be in use will also be listed.

SilverCity customers who need RWC or DVS equipment can pick up the reflector or headset at the guest services counter. There is no additional charge for the use of the services other than regular ticket price but people will be asked to show some form of identification.