Independent New York Radio station WFMU's blog, Beware of the Blog, points out that a number of television shows have alternative soundtracks in Descriptive Video Service format, which is basically closed captioning for the blind (The Simpsons as Described by WGBH). You hear the normal soundtrack, but during the pauses inbetween a narrator rapidly narrates many of the visual images and jokes. As WFMU notes, it essentially turns a television show into a radio show. They've posted an example from The Simpsons. Download the 21.5MB MP3: Simpson's DVS Version [MP3]
Narrator: Homer mopes past the Android's Dungeon
Comic Book Guy: Hey Nostra-dumbass. Did the Rapture come? I can't recall. Oh, in fact I can recall and it didn't and you suck.
Jimbo Jones: Hey fatwad, here's another thing you didn't predict.
Narrator: The bullies punch him.
[Sounds of Punching]
Homer: Ow ... Ow ... Ow ... Ow. Oh, let's go to Moe's, we'll walk and punch.
Narrator: Further along, Homer stops at a sign for Tokyo Rose's Sushi Bar.
Narrator: Under paper lanterns Moe wears a white headband behind a glass paneled counter.
It is actually quite easy to follow the show and even picture the well-known characters and locations in your head.
Beware of the Blog notes that a couple of the site gags are passed over:
But as with any subtitled movie, there's a lot of editorializing that goes on. In this episode, Homer pretends to smoke a joint at one point and the DVS description of his action only says "Homer pretends to smoke." In another scene, Marge and Homer start to go at it under the sheets, and the DVS description dares not to describe their sexual cartoon antics.
Still, pretty darn good.
Interestingly, the MP3 also includes a commercial break (Wendy's Salads, Mach3 Comfort Gel, Kicking and Screaming, Old Navy, Family Guy) with the full audio, but without the narration.
Which brings us to Metafilter (It's Like Closed Captioning In Reverse):
Are podcasts of TV show audio tracks next? Will we be listening to Family Guy and the Daily Show during our commutes?
Absolutely. Why not? It isn't as if this will really compete with the visual version. Commercials are included. How can broadcasters lose?
Shows using DVS:
- ABC: Blind Justice, some movies
- CBS: CSI, JAG, Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer, Rugrats, some movies
- NBC: Endurance, Scout's Safari, Kenny the Shark, Tutenstein, Trading Places, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, Saturday Movie of the Week, some mid-week movies
- FOX: The Bernie Mac Show, Malcolm in the Middle*, The Simpsons*, That 70s Show, Magic School Bus, some movies
- PBS: There are so many shows described on PBS, with more added all the time, that we choose not to attempt to list them all here!
- Lifetime (LIF): about one movie a day is described
- Nickelodeon (NIK): Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer, Jimmy Neutron and Rugrats
- TBS: No information available at this time, but some movies used to be described
- Turner Classic Movies (TCM): many old movies
- TNT: Law and Order reruns, some movies
- USA: some movies