Signing for the Deaf

We have recently completed three training videos for Explore York City Archive, to help community groups in and around York to create their own archives as part of the Gateway to History project. In order to make the films as accessible as possible, it was decided to add signing for the deaf. Sounds simple but it proved to be much more complex than we had imagined.

Sign language has it’s own rules, grammar and syntax making the construction of sentences very different from spoken English. As these films contained a good deal of technical information, the signing also took much longer than speaking. As with any language, it is best if the translator translates into their mother tongue. This meant that we were working with a deaf signer and her interpreter.

Consequently we had to co-ordinate 4 people working in two different forms of language. While I recorded the proceedings, Sarah operated the video playback and auto-cue, and Elizabeth signed in time with the auto-cue. Matt had to verbally cue Sarah to stop and start the machines when things got out of synch. With practice and patience we were able to make it work and finished in under 5 hours.

In the edit, it took some time before I became confident that I was matching sign and spoken word as I don’t understand sing language. The pauses were covered with either an audience reaction shot or holding on a graphic. As much of the presentation consisted of graphics this was not a problem.
The original film is multi-layered and in some scenes clips from power-point animation are superimposed onto a screen. (Trying to shoot projected images and the speaker at the same time gives unsatisfactory results) Supplementary information is given via crawling text at the bottom of the picture.

When superimposing the signer, the original film is reduced by about 10% and moved to one side. Adjusting the crawling text and background strap presented a challenge when extending the edit for signing because of the way it faded in and out. I had to re-edit the original sequence to fit the new timing and import it into the new film.

The signer must now view all three films and make sure there are no discrepancies before the film can be delivered to the client.