Tiflokommentirovanie is a new service for blind and visually impaired people. This is a laconic, but at the same time detailed description of objects, actions and phenomena - all that is happening on a movie screen or theater stage.
TV commentators work with film distributors, theaters and museums - in the summer of 2017, Russia passed a law requiring Russian filmmakers to supply films financed from the budget with subtitles and TV commentaries. From January 2018, all cinemas will be required to equip the halls with systems for listening to them.
Life around talked with tieflokommentator Vera Februaryskikh about the rules of her work, about how many tiflokommentators work in Russia and where they teach this.
About Tiflocomming Rules
I describe everything that happens, for example, on a theater stage or on a movie screen. The actions of the characters, how they are dressed, how the scenery changes, how the characters interact with each other. I try to convey their emotions if they are not read in intonations and cues. At a comedy session, everyone laughs in the hall, and the blind does not understand why they laugh, because there is some kind of action happening without sound, and he feels turned off from the process - all this also needs to be described.
There is a strict rule of tiflocommenting: you need to pause between the replicas of the heroes and not interfere with the soundtrack of the film, that is, if atmospheric and important for understanding the moment music sounds or the characters talk to each other, then tiflocommentation should not be applied to these sounds.
It is impossible to describe the obvious things - that the blind man hears perfectly. Do not forget that he is not deaf, so you can not say: "Something fell," - he heard it. It’s better to tell what fell and how the heroes reacted to it. Again, everything should be brief, concise, it is better not to say too much, because it very much overloads the sound channel of perception.
There are still rules, there are quite a few of them: including not talking about what happened before this happened. For example, a shot sounds, and it is necessary immediately after it has been fired to say who shot who and not to say: "The main character shoots a villain," if the shot sounds in a minute. So the blind is misled and is very tense, because he didn’t hear the shot, he waits all the time and misses the rest of the sound series. Alas, sometimes there is simply no pause to say, and you have to break this rule. The commentator is always forced to seek and find compromises.
Where do you work?
I am an independent specialist and work with various theaters, museums and recording studios. Now I cooperate with the charity foundation "Art, Science and Sport" by Alisher Usmanov. The fund has a lot of directions, and one of them is “Special Look”. In this area, the fund allocates money to support people with visual impairments, including various ophthalmological surgeries, research, and sociocultural rehabilitation, including tiflocommentation.
With the support of the foundation, I and two of my colleagues work in three Moscow theaters: Sovremennik, Helikon-opera, and the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater. I still comment on one performance and one opera: Cherry Orchard in Sovremennik and Troubadour in Helikon Opera.
I also managed to work with the Moscow Museum of Modern Art named after Zurab Tsereteli and the Museum of Russian Impressionism. If we talk about major projects in the cinema, last year I wrote the text of tiflocommentaries for the film “Solaris” by Andrei Tarkovsky - at the moment this is the most important and most difficult film that I worked with. I also commented live "Elena" by Andrei Zvyagintsev. I just called his producers and asked for a disc for a closed pilot show. And they easily and very quickly arranged everything.
How to learn?
I came to tiflokommentatory courses by chance after learning sign language. I studied language for two years, he turned my mind around, I tried hard, but did not become a translator of sign language. Then one of my teachers brought me to tiflocommentation courses in the All-Russian Society of the Blind. About 300 people signed up for the courses with me. Psychological tests and tests for aptitude were less than half, and about twenty people completed their studies. The training lasted about two months, I received the highest category.
The training took place at the Institute "Reacom" - a division of the All-Russian Society of the Blind. They implement educational programs, train specialists in an accessible environment, and teach blind people the basics of management so that they can get a profession and get a job.
Now Reakom is the only educational institution licensed to issue certificates, and nowhere else can we learn this officially. Its director, Sergey Nikolaevich Vanshin, is the author of the tiflocommenting technique in Russia. There are many uncertified specialists, and they often turn to them for the provision of services, bypassing us, because they are ready to work for a penny, but the quality of work for most of them is significantly lame, they make gross mistakes, they don’t know the basics.
About the law
Adopting the law is a great success for us. In 2011, when we started, no one knew about tiflocommentation and did not want to do anything; The Reakom Institute, its like-minded people and assistants (including helping to prepare a package of amendments to laws) made their efforts to ensure that amendments to the legislation were developed and adopted. When I found out that the law finally passed to the State Duma, I opened a bottle of champagne. Finally, money will begin to pay for our work. This used to be volunteering, although the work is very difficult.
So far we have not noticed a large number of orders, because filmmakers do not know at all that they need to do something. They say that a large number of orders for tiflocom commenting will appear closer to the New Year - the directors will go to submit their films to the Cinema Fund, and, according to the new law, they will not be able to go on rent without tv-comment.
We try to hold round tables and conferences, invite representatives of the cultural community and tell them what they should do, why they need to accompany the films with tv commentaries, how this is done and how it is paid.
Of course, the adoption of the law is an amazing event for the blind. Until January 2018, many cinemas across Russia should be equipped, then they will be able to go to the cinema with their sighted friends, using special portable equipment, as for interpretation, listen to tiflokommentari through the headphone, and immediately after the session discuss films with them.
My profession is so new and rare that almost no one has heard of it,but on paper it doesn’t exist yet
My profession is so new and rare that almost no one has heard about it, and on paper it does not exist at all yet - as long as the professional standard is in development, the commentators are not in the list of professions. Abroad, not everyone knows about our existence, because in world practice, the term "audio description" has been used since the 60s.
There are not so many certified tiflocommentators, there are only a few dozen of us all over the country, and not everyone practices. But now new tiflocommentators have studied, in the summer, in August, they graduated - very young, active and want to work. Just Usmanov’s fund allocated money for training, because now the preparation of one tiflokommentator costs 90 thousand rubles, not everyone can afford to pay such an amount.
Due to the fact that they are starting to learn about our profession, interest in it is growing - people will now become interested in this topic and will want to learn, even at their own expense, because training pays off very quickly. It is great that we will soon become more.
There is a Mosfilm channel on YouTube, all films with tiflocommentaries, including Solaris, are uploaded in good quality. There is also the Tiflokommentator application, it can be downloaded to android - it works according to the Shazam principle, that is, you put on the headphones, turn on the application, select the movie you will watch, and it determines by what sound, through the microphone, at what point in the film you are You are then the tiflokommentariy is included from the right moment. There is a similar application for theaters - "Art. Aloud", but so far it is not very popular, live commenting in theaters is leading.
There is the Moscow Provincial Theater, Irina Bezrukova, the most famous Russian commentator in Russia, works there, she has the highest category, and she strongly promotes this topic, brought the entire theater team to courses at Reacomp, they studied, equipped the theater - and now it is the only theater in Russia, in which all performances come with tiflokommentirovaniyu.
In other theaters, the situation is more complicated, because it is quite expensive to hold one show with tiflocom commenting - first, you need to buy invitations for the blind and their attendants so that they are comfortable when they come to the show, because there is usually no accessible environment and theater staff are not always ready to accompany special spectators.
You also need to pay for the rental of equipment - transmitters, headphones, so that the blind in the room listen, and the comment does not interfere with others, as well as pay for the work of a commentator and a technical contractor responsible for sound quality. Theaters, as a rule, do not receive anything for this, the state does not stimulate them, so they are not very interested. There are, of course, enthusiastic theaters who really want to expand their audience, and they are happy to do it, but this is rare. Perhaps in the future some other funds will be interested or private individuals will begin to allocate money.
Everyone has very different perceptions, everyone has his own particular vision — someone has a sensation of light, someone does not have it; someone is totally blind, and someone sees, for example, the shape. The total blind of our audience is a minority. It is difficult for a blind person to find out what he sees and what not - it is considered incorrect to ask.
When I make a commentary for a film or a performance, I try to make everyone understand and see what is happening. But still it happens in different ways: for someone too detailed, for someone not enough. It’s very difficult to please everyone. We work in a team with blind experts - it is simply dangerous to hand over the work without checking the blind text of the commentary on the blind.
Solaris lasts three hours. In order to make a good commentary for the film, I looked at it 20, or even 30 times
The most difficult film that I commented on is Solaris, because there is a continuous visual series and a lot of pauses, its own dynamics and atmosphere that cannot be lost in the process of commenting. It was necessary to find the right balance so that the perception of the film language of Andrei Tarkovsky was not disturbed in a person.
There is such a temptation to fill in each pause with your comment, because you can indefinitely describe how the main character stands in the fog in the meadow. You can say it in one sentence, or you can constantly talk, adding additional outlines that you saw. As a rule, this is not necessary, because the film has its own pace and dynamics - tiflokommentarii should not violate them. But it is better not to do too long pauses. There are world standards for comfortable pauses for the blind. Customers sometimes require to fill in the pauses as much as possible, you have to stand your ground and prove that there is a difference between Tarkovsky’s films and the Transformers blockbuster. A compromise is also always needed here, it’s not easy.
Solaris lasts three hours. In order to make a good commentary for the film, I watched it 20, or even 30 times. I began to have panic attacks, I went to bed and heard background noise, I had the feeling that I was on a spaceship. By the end of the work, you know the film by heart - almost like a screenwriter, director or cameraman.
Films in which there are a lot of elements of dance are very difficult to comment on, because thick books and entire methodological manuals have been written about the description of the dance. It is still difficult to describe special effects, and often companies that take on tiflokommentarii do not work with blockbusters, because it is difficult to compensate for the full visual range.
Usually the biggest problems tiflokommentatory with a description of how the characters look. In the course of the film, there is no time at all for this, so the time before the start is often used - in theaters I do this: I describe the scenery, costumes and how the characters look before the start of the performance. It’s very difficult to find time in the cinema at the beginning, but sometimes it turns out to be agreed with film distributors, and if the film goes on DVD, you can set aside time before it, pause and talk about the characters.
It’s also hard for me to describe modern cartoons - sometimes there are some objects on legs, with pens and eyes, and it is not clear who it is, a little bear or not a little bear, a circle or a ball.
On the attitude towards the blind
I came across a different reaction to the word "blind" - some do not care what they are called if they have a normal attitude, and some want to keep the correct term "blind" in communication.
Usually, when you discuss your work with representatives of the cultural environment, you often hear: “Why should the blind see a movie? Why should they go to the museum?” In such situations, I tell the story that in St. Petersburg at one time there was an excursion - the blind were brought to build bridges, and the guide talked about what was happening. They were told how slowly the sky brightens, because there are white nights, and how bridges are drawn. Of course, they heard sounds - that there are a lot of people around, they felt the atmosphere and general euphoria. The tour was very popular.
The blind themselves use the verb "watch," that is, they say: "I watched a movie," "I watched the building of bridges." This needs to be conveyed to our cultural figures and the public - then, perhaps, they will finally begin to perceive blind people as equal members of society.