Thursday 23 September 2004

Star Wars DVD: A deaf/hearing impaired point of view

I pre-ordered the Star Wars DVD from amazon.co.uk in April back when there was no information on what will be subtitled.

I have learnt to lower my expectations of what is subtitled these days and would have just been happy if only the movies were subtitled though I found out later via DVD Subtitles that nearly all the extras would be subtitled.

I got my DVD through the post yesterday and the first thing I did was play the bonus DVD in order to see what was subtitled and what was not.

As it turned out, except for the Video Games and Still Galleries (which do not need subtitles anyway), all the extras have subtitles; including Trailers, TV Spots and a Preview of Episode 3.

Next, I took a first look through the movies and was gratified to see that in addition to the movies being subtitled, the commentary track were also subtitled.

I have over 300 DVDs and except for Gladiator, Once Upon a Time in the West, Contact and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, as I write this, I cannot recall any other of my DVDs with subtitled commentary tracks. The commentary tracks for my Lord of the Ring DVDs were not subtitled.

I think the guys who produce these DVDs assume only hearing users are film buffs!

I have watched A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (I will be watching The Return of the Jedi tonight) and as far as I can tell, even the subtitle tracks were not dumbed down; they reflect what the players are saying.

Hearing users may not realise this, but subtitle tracks on DVDs do not always reflect the dialog. I think the guys who produce these DVDs forget that deaf/hearing impaired people can lip read and will notice these things!

I got a rude shock the first time I played Jerry Maguire on my brand new DVD player (at the time) many years ago. I have seen this movie many times on Video (I have a video caption reader) so I knew most of the dialogue off head and it was disconcerting to find that the DVD subtitles did not always match what the players were saying (it was dumbed down and made more concise for our benefit). I haven't played my Jerry Maguire DVD in years because I still get upset at the initial rude shock I received the first time I viewed it. Unfortunately, over the years, I have acquired box-sets of shows such as The West Wing, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and they all dumb down the dialog for the benefit of the deaf. (I am not quite sure if Star Trek: The Next Generation does this - I didn't notice it when I was watching the DVDs around two years ago and I only notice it on the other box-sets because I had the shows on Video and I have seen them on Television so I knew most of the dialog anyway. ST:TNG was a new show for me since I haven't seen it on TV or watched it on Video before).

I cannot speak for the quality of the picture or sound of the Star Wars DVD (my second generation DVD Player - Pioneer DV-515 which I bought when the DVD format was still relatively new is not really a good judge of picture and sound quality these days). But I am quite happy with the subtitling and it has been a while since I have seen a DVD which I was very happy with.

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