Deciding where the describers will work from
Before your first audio described show you need to decide where your audio describers will be operating from.
They need to have a clear view of the stage, ideally through line of sight, but they can also work by video link if the camera and monitor give a clear enough picture to follow the action.
Wherever they work, their description should not be audible to the rest of the audience, and they should be in a quiet place – not a room that might be used by other people during the performance (unless they can keep quiet and it allows the describer a direct view of the stage).
Calls coming over a loudspeaker or traffic noise may be picked up by the describer’s microphone and broadcast, causing irritation to the listener who may also struggle to hear the description.
Hopefully you will have a spare sound-proofed booth at the back of the stalls with an excellent view of the stage for the audio describers to use. If you have to find a remote location for them to work by video link, as well as noise issues you should also consider the cabling required.
In addition to the BNC video cable you will also need to provide an XLR cable carrying show relay so the audio describers can hear the show, and if you are using an infra-red system, you will need to run an XLR cable to the infra-red modulator that will carry the audio description for broadcast. Tie lines can make this easier, fire doors can make it more difficult and if you are cabling through public areas you need to ensure you do not create a trip hazard.
The only difference when using a radio system is that your transmitter may not be in a fixed position, so you will have to find a position for the transmitter that you can cable to, and that provides the necessary coverage of the auditorium.
Unlike infra-red, radio does not require there to be a clear line of sight between transmitter and receiver. However, the signal will be strongest the shorter the distance travelled and the less the signal has to travel through anything solid. It is best to place the transmitter away from mains cables as this may cause interference. Radio reception can be difficult to pre-judge so it is imperative that it is tested in advance.
Your technicians need to be confident that they can set up the equipment in a way that enables the audio describers to do their best work for the blind or partially sighted patron, ensuring that they have a pleasant listening experience.