I, uh. I think I like my job.
If this sounds outlandish to you, don’t worry, I’m there with you. It’s been so long since I legitimately took pride in my work that it’s boggling my mind. Thing is, I enjoy what I do. This Described Video thing not only provides a valuable service for those who need it, but I flat out enjoy the process. It pulls on so many elements simultaneously. I need to script my descriptions in real time, figuring out how to best relay the non-verbal action happening onscreen. It’s challenging vocally too. I’m essentially voicing for hours on end. I also get to flex weird little Pro Tools tricks when needed, adjusting odd vocal ticks or bringing things up in the mix. Each show is different, each genre is different. Some comedies rely heavily on visual gags. Cartoons necessitate creative description, so as not to lose the joke for those with decreased sight. Some are so stuffed with dialogue that it’s tough to get a word in edgewise. Others have abundant time to really let me chew the mise en scene-ry. Everything I do is without a script, and holy hell it’s a challenge. I love it though, I really do.
Live DV though? Egads it’s difficult difficult lemon difficult. I’m only a few days in, but I’ve done certain shows that barely have pauses longer than a second or two. It’s nigh impossible to squeeze in there without voicing over dialogue. There are certain best practices to follow, some of which really hamper our ability to describe. For instance, we’re not supposed to voice over any English language lyrics. But if there’s an out of context music video clip playing, what’s more important? That the audience hear the lyrics, or know what’s happening onscreen? DV is still a relatively young process. Maybe we’ll develop these best practices further as it expands. Who knows? Live stuff is simultaneously stressful and exciting. It requires knowing when to jump in, and when to stand back. We’ve got no idea how long pauses are likely to be, so we have to quickly get in, then vamp if we have the luxury of extra time. One of the most important aspects is ‘finishing the thought’, and not curtailing yourself because a voice has kicked in. How distracting would that be for a viewer, half a description? Finish the thought and duck out, that’s the game.
Like any any job, I’m new and slow. I still haven’t figured out where to find efficiencies, what kind of stuff is imperative, and what I can leave behind. At the moment, it’s taking me an age to do anything. Mostly because I’m voicing everything I can. In some of these shows, as soon as I have a second or longer, I’m trying to cram in descriptions. I think it’s a bit much. Honestly, I think I’ve been doing a great job at theatre of the mind stuff, but I could stand to describe a little less. There’s a trade-off in efficiency, and I’m not sure I should be spending four hours on one 24 minute episode of Invader Zim. Egads though, that show has a plethora of visual gags.
Strangely, I’ve been quite enjoying working the evening shift. When there’s nobody around, the same building I’ve spent 40 hours a week in for the past few years takes on new charms. It straight up looks pretty at night, the atrium all lit up. I can use all the facilities without waiting. That was meant to imply the water filter, which usually has a line, but it for sure encompasses the bathrooms too. I’ve never had to wait for a stall. I can go to the loo with impunity. I can even sing along to the radio with no fear of judgement. There’s nobody around to hear me. I walk the halls doing vocal exercises to keep my voice fresh. Best of all, I can get my work done at my pace, without people rushing in with requests. It’s a kind of neat I couldn’t conceptualise, and just one more cool aspect of this new gig. It might be kind of weird biking home uphill at 1am, but it’s far from bad.