What do you know about the deaf

Sign language interpreter – how to (not) frame it? What do you know about DEAF? #13

Sometimes the sign language interpreter in a movie show is so poorly framed that it's hard to watch. How to avoid such situations? Explains Tomasz Smakowski. What do you know about the deaf? #13 [Automatic translation. Please let us know if you find a bug].

How big should the interpreter be on a TV show? And what bad practices should be avoided by inserting an interpreter into the footage? We’ll talk about it today.

How big should the interpreter be on a TV show?

The answer is not that simple. Deaf people would like the interpreter to be as large as possible. It is often said that the interpreter should occupy 1/8 of the screen area. Why do deaf people want the largest interpreter possible? The matter is obvious: the larger the interpreter, the more clearly you can see what what shows. And remember that sign language is not only signs, but also facial expressions and body movements, hard to see when the interpreter is too small. In addition, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that more and more often film materials we watch on phones where the interpreter is even smaller.

"Sign language interpreter - how to (not) frame him. What do you know about DEAF # 13" -
1/8 of the screen area for a sign interpreter

On the other hand, producers of TV programs or film materials want the interpreter to be as small as possible. What do they argue with? Among other things, the fact that the estimated group of people who need an interpreter is “only” 100,000 (in Poland) while for the remaining over 30 million people, an interpreter is not only unnecessary, but even disturbing, because it covers part of the picture.

The producers’ second argument for keeping the interpreter as small as possible is the fact that that the surface of the painting… costs money. The place where the interpreter is, after all, it could take, for example, the logo of the sponsor of the program, signatures for the program or the so-called product placement. And even the smallest interpreter obscures part of the program, which, for example in films, can significantly affect the perception of a given scene.

So what is the solution to this question? Common sense is certainly needed here. And also a bit of compromise by both the deaf and the broadcasters. And the size of the interpreter should also depend on the capabilities of each specific program.

Unfortunately, even a large interpreter does not fully solve the problem. Let’s take a look at a few things that you might encounter frequently, and which make it very difficult to receive the content conveyed by a sign language interpreter. At the same time, these are problems that are very easy to eliminate from daily practice.

Poorly framed translator

The first bad practice is bad framing of the interpreter. And it’s not about its size, but about the way the characters are framed. Often you can meet the frame where the interpreter is visible from the knees up. Only… what for? When conveying the content, the interpreter does it with his hands, facial expressions or the whole body, but above the waist! What is below the belt is really unnecessary to the viewer. So it happens that, yes, the interpreter takes the position that is preferred by many deaf people the size of 1/8 of the screen area, but it is still difficult to see through the wrong frame.

"Sign language interpreter - how to (not) frame him. What do you know about DEAF # 13" -
Poorly framed translator

It is also often the case that the interpreter is sitting – which is normal as recordings sometimes last for hours. If we frame a seated interpreter below the waist, the effect is that our knees are in the foreground, and only later is the interpreter – it looks terrible, especially when the camera is set too low.

How high should the camera be?

Exactly – what height should the camera be at? On such that the interpreter could look directly at the camera, naturally, looking straight ahead – so not down, not up, but straight ahead. And you can often find translations where the interpreter’s camera is too low. Most often these are on-line translations, where the interpreter uses a webcam in the laptop, and out of habit he puts the laptop low enough, to be able to write comfortably on it. It is enough to lift the laptop by half a meter, and we have a completely different reception of content from the interpreter.

kadr z filmu "Tłumacz języka migowego — jak go (nie)kadrować Co Ty wiesz o GŁUCHYCH #13" - kamera skierowana na tłumacza ustawiona zbyt nisko
Kamera skierowana na tłumacza ustawiona zbyt nisko

No space for an interpreter

The second bad practice is not leaving any space for an interpreter in one of the corners of the program. What is it about? Suppose we have a program, e.g. an interview, into which we have to insert a sign interpreter. At some point in the program, a signature appears at the bottom right, e.g. the name and surname of the interviewer. In this case, the interpreter is inserted on the free left side. But after a while, at this point where the interpreter is inserted, another signature appears, e.g. with the name of the program guest.

And what now? Should the interpreter remain on the left and cover the name of the invited guest? Can he move the interpreter to the right side earlier and cover the name of the tutor? Sometimes, if there is a break of a few seconds in translation, the interpreter can be moved from one side to the other, but such a transfer is not pleasant to perceive and we can also count it as a bad practice.

What is the solution to such a problem? Very simple. Already at the stage of production, assembly, free space for an interpreter – i.e. not placing any inscriptions, telephone numbers or logos in one of the lower corners or other important elements.

kadr z filmu "Tłumacz języka migowego — jak go (nie)kadrować Co Ty wiesz o GŁUCHYCH #13" - tłumacz migowy zasłaniający napisy w filmie
tłumacz migowy zasłaniający napisy w filmie

The sign language interpreter is but obscured!

The third bad practice is closely related to the second because sometimes it is not the interpreter that is covering, and the interpreter is obscured. Example: we have a program with a sign language interpreter and this program is covered with moving inscriptions across the width of the image. They may be inscriptions with some important event that is happening right now. or a plain text saying that this is a program repeat. And yet such subtitles can only be displayed on a part of the screen so that they do not obscure the interpreter.

sign interpreter obscured by inscriptions
Sign interpreter obscured by inscriptions

Sign language interpreter on TV

Fourth bad practice that I have witnessed many times: imagine that there is a conference scheduled in some important institution, eg a ministry. There is a minister at the conference, maybe his deputy or a few more employees. There are journalists, there are technicians, and there is a sign language interpreter. The interpreter is specially standing next to the speaker so that the interpreter is also visible in the frame, on TV. What’s going on? The conference is broadcast live on TV, on the Internet, and… only the speaker is framed. The interpreter remains outside the frame. So it turns out that the interpreter translates only and exclusively for people on site. Of course, none of these people are deaf.

"Sign language interpreter - how to (not) frame him What do you know about DEAF # 13" - sign interpreter outside the frame during the conference
Sign interpreter outside the frame during the conference

Webinars, i.e. translator in the window

And the last problem I would like to point out, concerns the recently very popular on-line meetings, such as webinars. We have several or a dozen participants, each of them is visible in a separate window. And there is also a sign language interpreter. Everything great… until now.

Until the needs of a given statement, someone starts sharing multimedia. What happens then? These multimedia most often fill the entire screen, covering the other participants of the meeting. This means that the interpreter will also not be visible. So it’s worth checking how the media sharing feature works before starting such a meeting in the program you are using.

"Sign language interpreter - how to (not) frame him What do you know about DEAF # 13" - appropriate framing of an online translator
Appropriate framing of an online translator

Good practice – a film adapted for the deaf

And finally, a good practice – a practical solution when we want to prepare a film material that is as accessible to deaf people as possible. Then a good solution may be… reduce the size of a video image. What do we get in this way?

  • First, the interpreter can be really big, without fear of obscuring a part of the film. Secondly, after the interpreter we can insert whatever background we want, e.g. a uniform background of a neutral color.
  • Thanks to this, what is happening behind the interpreter is not distracting and does not interfere with the reception of content in sign language.
  • And thirdly – thanks to this solution, we also gain empty space at the bottom, under the film with a plain background – so there is an ideal place to insert subtitles into the movie. That’s it for today.

If you are deaf, write in the comment if you have encountered such situations like the ones featured in this episode, or any other factors interfere with your perception of content translated into sign language.

"Sign language interpreter - how to (not) frame him. What do you know about DEAF # 13" -
A reduced image of the film to leave room for a sign interpreter
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