Posted on 7 February 2024
Professor in Sound Production and Post Production Mariana López brought together the voices and original music and sound design of the animated film called “Visible Mending” in a studio in the University’s School of Arts and Creative Technologies.
As part of the project, Professor López also teamed up with Professor of Electronic Engineering Gavin Kearney to create an accessible version of the film using a new technique they developed at York called Enhanced Audio Description (EAD).
EAD moves away from traditional practices of accessibility for visually impaired audiences by minimising verbal descriptions and instead using sound design as the main vehicle for accessibility, through a combination of additional sound effects, 3D sound, and first-person narration.
The team at the University of York worked closely with the film’s award-winning animation director Dr Samantha Moore, and sound designer and composer Hutch Demouilpied.
The British Academy Film Awards, more commonly known as the BAFTAs, is an annual award to honour the best British and international contributions to film.
The winners will be announced at a star-studded event hosted by David Tennant in London on Sunday 18 February.
Professor Mariana López said: “It was a privilege to be involved in the creation of this animation and the BAFTA nomination is a wonderful acknowledgement of the hard work and creativity of the whole team. When I watched ‘Visible Mending’ for the first time, I was drawn by the unique stories of the contributors who are each represented by a knitted animated character; the film plays with the contrast between the cuteness of the animation and the very real and very moving life experiences of contributors.
“Making an accessible version of the film, which will allow visually impaired people to experience it fully, was really important to us. We believe accessibility should be fully integrated in production and, while we always collaborate closely with directors and producers, a key part of our process is working closely with visually impaired people themselves. For this film, as with every project we work on, we organised a focus group so that we could gather thoughts and feedback from visually impaired people before submitting the soundtrack to the film’s creative team.”
A MediaActive Projects Production, presented by British Film Institute and produced by Tilley Bancroft, the film is about emotional repair through wool. It reveals the role of knitting in people's lives; helping them face adversity, calm anxiety, and make crucial social connections. A group of knitted objects tell stories about how they have used knitting to mend themselves, even if the repair was temporary.
The team from the University of York believe their work on this film and other projects is crucial to breaking down barriers to accessibility in the UK film and television industry.
Professor Gavin Kearney from the School of Physics, Engineering and Technology at the University of York said: “ There is a tendency to believe in a one fits all solution to accessibility. Visually impaired audiences don't have many options, if Audio Description is available, and many times it isn't, they can only choose to switch it on or off, but if they don't like the style of access there are no other alternatives. What we are working towards is personalisation. We would like visually impaired audiences to be able to choose the type of accessibility method that works best for them.”
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Professor López and Professor Kearney’s work pioneering Enhanced Audio Description (EAD) is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Visible Mending is available to view here: https://vimeo.com/827066711. The accessible version of the film can be accessed using the settings button on the bottom right of the screen.