Due to COVID-19, everyone needs to stay home for their safety; some might enjoy having leisure time, for instance, doing yoga, listening to music, or watching movies. However, these do not seem fun for those who are visually impaired when they could not enjoy watching the film like others.
Usually, when movies are released, the laws of many other countries state that they must have an audio description option for the visually impaired. In every film, it is the producer’s responsibility to create an audio description; however, this law does not apply to Thailand. For Thailand, there is a low percentage of movie production that has audio descriptions for visually impaired people. Back in the time, when the visually impaired wanted to watch a movie, the theater usually had a separate showtime for them with the audio description. Although Thailand had what is called “audio description 2015”, it was not popular. The application saw the missing jigsaw when they questioned what if people who are visually impaired want to watch a movie at the same time with regular sighted people, what if they want to laugh with them, enjoy the time with them and experience life like other people? They also questioned if the movie was launched with the audio description when other people are there. The producer knew that others would not enjoy listening to everything in detail. As these questions came up to their mind, they tried to think about how they can accommodate both groups of people. They finally came up with an idea of using mobile phones as the platform for visually impaired to access the audio description since they thought that most people carry their phones with them everywhere.
The application called Pannana- the first application movie for visually impaired, has been introduced in the last three years. It is a free application for them to be able to enjoy the film at the same time with regular sighted people by using a mobile phone as the platform to listen to the description. When visually impaired watch the movie, they can hear the audio. However, they will not be able to see that movement, and so what the application does is describing in every movement for the visually impaired to imagine. Piyawan (2020), the project manager, revealed the main challenge that they face is that the time of the movie must be at the same time as the description of the application. And so what they use to solve the problem is they use the technology “arc audio” to detect what the movie is playing.
The feedback from the visually impaired
The manager reviewed that the team has not done the formal survey of what kind of movie visually impaired prefer. However, they receive the feedback informally through phone call or their official Facebook page, for instance, the visually impaired would write a request on what movie they want to watch through Facebook page or sometimes asked if there will be a movie released soon.
How they promote their application and current users
After they had prototyped the application, they went on a roadshow and talked to movie production companies and theatres about this application, for instance, GDH and SF. GDH thought that it was a good idea since they have already done this on the DVD, it might be worth trying in the theatre. Another way to spread this application can be seen when Pannana’s producer would invite visually impaired to the theater when there is a new movie released. On the other hand, movie production would get help from Pannana when they can help to promote the film. The project manager understood that the movie producers might have concerns that the movies could be leaked before the actual launch, however, since they shared the same purpose and trust in each other, they then cooperated with each other. So far, they have already updated the newest version and still haven’t found the application’s problem. The project manager also stated that right now, everything looks like it is going well. Currently, there are 3,500 ios users downloaded and 2,400 android users.
There are four main things Pannan hopes for the future. Firstly, since the application is currently sponsored by Thai Health. In the longer term, they hope that they still have sponsors from them. Secondly, they would love to reach out to more movie production companies. If possible, they would like to elaborate on Netflix; however, they still meet some challenges and are now trying to make the best solution for the problem. Thirdly, they would love to cooperate with international movies since their movies already have the audio description so that in the future, the application can be used as only the platform between visually impaired and movie producers. Piyawan also believes that it can be even more impactful when visually impaired do not have to wait and be able to watch it faster if more people are interested in creating the audio description.
And lastly, since the producer was aware that creating an audio description needed specialized training, some people might not be excited to do this, so last hope is that there will be more people who are interested in creating the audio description. She ended the interview by leaving a message for everyone that technology made us more convenient and easy to produce innovation; however, to make it successful, we need help from every sector’s corporations.