The power of description

The power of description

3 January 2019

Advert for Sky Atlantic

The Night Of

My name is Ciaran McLaughlin, and I script and voice Audio Description* across a whole range of our programming. We create audio description for just under 30% of our shows across 24 channels, so there’s a lot going on for us. Productions I recently worked on include The Night Of, Ray Donovan, Lucky Man, Quarry, Soundbreaking and Soccer AM.

I really enjoy the contribution I can make to helping our visually impaired customers enjoy their TV experience. The production I most enjoyed working on is The Night Of, a gripping drama about murder and the justice system. Apart from the fact that it was brilliantly plotted and acted, there were specific challenges from an AD perspective. As the episodes unfolded, I found I had to take care over what to describe as there were quite a few seemingly inconsequential details that only assumed significance later in the series. These needed to be described but in a way that still maintained the overall suspense. Similarly, there were red herrings that also needed flagging, as the feeling of uncertainty they caused was an integral part of the plot. Leaving gaps for sound effects and music always helps maintain the integrity and atmosphere of a show and with The Night Of, I felt there was a good opportunity for me to up my game.

As an AD’er, I feel it’s my responsibility to give the visually impaired audience an experience as near as possible to that enjoyed by those with sight. In any given production, there are only a limited amount of opportunities to insert AD so it’s a constant judgement call over what should be described. I enjoy these challenges and hope that most of the time I get it right.

The positive contribution made by AD goes well beyond just simply watching the telly. I regularly meet with Sky customers who use our Audio Description service. They tell us it not only helps them keep up with their favourite shows but also helps them socially as they can join in on conversations with friends about what they watch. One also explained that in his house, the AD is permanently switched on, so it’s really helpful in expanding his relationship with his three year old sighted son as they watch kids’ shows together and then talk about them.

We hope you enjoy your experience of Audio Description on our Sky channels, and we always love to hear your feedback.

*Audio description is an additional commentary that describes the action taking place in a film or television programme. The spoken narration complements the original soundtrack, making it possible for blind and partially sighted people to enjoy programmes on Sky TV.

Ciaran McLaughlin