Pretty Simple: web, digital, social

Camera and bluescreen set-up

Camera and bluescreen set-up

I’ve just got back from a busy day filming BSL videos – simple, short clips of a person signing key content taken from the website. For the whys and wherefores, see my previous post on Deaf Awareness Week and BSL videos online. In a nutshell, many users have BSL as their first language, with written English being their second language. Offering content in the form of a BSL video takes this into consideration, showing that we are aware of the needs of these users and ensuring they have optimised access to information offered online.

Preparations and requirements

Before the day I prepared five scripts, taken from key pages on our website. It was my estimation that each video would last between 90 and 180 seconds. The idea was to identify content that was high-level enough not to need regular updating – i.e. an overview of a particular service with contact information and maybe a weblink to further info. These were then passed to our signer to read through and prepare the BSL.

On the day we had the signer and another deaf colleague to assist with checking the signing, as well as an interpreter. We were told that ideally our signer would have brought two interpreters, but a second one was not available for today’s session. This meant that the interpreter spent all day speaking and signing, which must have been quite a drain on her. We aimed to stop for breaks whenever required, although there was a concern that stopping for too long would break the signer’s momentum, so we ended up taking a rather late lunch too!

As we had planned to add the audio in post production, we did not need a location with perfect acoustics, although in future it might be possible to record the interpreter’s voiceover live and have that accompany the final video, to save on production time.

Lights, camera…

We prepared a room with a blue curtain backdrop and a video camera positioned about two meters away. On the day, no additional lighting was required although it may have been necessary to position additional lighting on the signer and backdrop to ensure that the two were distinct.

We also set up a mic so that the interpreter could sit to one side and interpret the signing aloud in real time. In post-production we will use the interpreter’s commentary to help us ensure the correct timing for the official voice over, as well as the closed captions.

…and action!

Each video required only four or five takes, taking between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the complexity of the content.

Flipchart with script prompts

Flip-chart with script prompts

The signer set up a flip-chart behind the camera to serve as a memory prompt for the reading order of the content, as well as an aid for any tricky sections (for example, lists or contact details). She also had various discussions with her colleague about the best way to get across particular concepts in BSL, as certain phrases in the written English did not work as smoothly once signed.

I was on hand to give clarification about any particular points in the script, and to make sure that the overall message was maintained. This was particularly important with some of the scripts, where the descriptions of processes or services had to be accurate and specific.

While it would have been possible to film each script in chunks, reconstructing them in post-production with subtle cuts, we actually managed to get each one perfect in single takes. This will make editing far easier.

Contact details and web addresses

Although the original scripts involved the signing of key contact details and web addresses, it was generally felt that it would be better to offer these as on-screen text against a plain background at the end of each clip, to avoid any confusion that could arise by trying to follow the signing and the text at the same time. It was also observed that users could then simply pause the video to write down the information, rather than potentially needing to watch the signed version more than once.

Next steps

Our Audio/Visual technician will now edit the clips, adding the contact detail screens and opening titles for each video. I’ll then be back in the studio next week to oversee the adding of a voiceover track for each video before we finally add the captions and upload them for all to see! I’ll blog here again once we’ve gone live. In the meantime, if you’ve got any questions or comments, do get in touch!

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3 Responses to Filming web content in BSL

  1. Gary Miller says:

    A good day’s work by any standard! Well done to all those involved.

    Can’t wait to see the final results.

    James, were the signers and the interpreter (she’ll have been drained!) part of an in-house team, or did you have to outsource?

    • James says:

      Thanks Gary. The main signer (who will be in the video) is a member of staff. I assume her interpreter is provided by the council, as her employer. In this respect we’re quite lucky to have access to her services at effectively no extra cost. I’m sure, though, that there are plenty of willing volunteers out there for any other organisation wanting to do similar.

  2. The end product must be exciting to watch. It must have been a challenge to film a person with hearing impairment and must have been fun.

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