New challenges come up all the time in Audio Description. As content-makers innovate, they can throw us stylistic curveballs that force us to rethink how we convey what’s on screen to our visually impaired audience. In order to keep up with this ever-changing landscape, we always have to be agile and adapt our editorial guidelines as required.
Channel 4’s nudity-loving dating show Naked Attraction was one such curveball, where we had to rise (no pun intended) to a new and often amusing challenge. Generally, describers try to be as neutral and objective as possible, and describing full-blown nudity is quite rare, but here was a show that was notorious for its explicit, almost biological, examination of people’s genitals as a means of determining how attractive they were. In order to describe what we were seeing for our audience, we had to roll up our sleeves and, as it were, “go there”.
The premise involves six hopeful romantics waiting eagerly in pods to be slowly revealed in all of their raw, wobbly glory. They’re then judged solely on their appearance by a singleton they’ve never met before.
While many viewers may watch through horrified grimaces and shudders of embarrassment, our job is to ensure non-sighted viewers have the pleasure of feeling just as uncomfortable and, of course, to give them a few laughs too.
Working closely with Channel 4, we understood that using mundane, scientific words wouldn’t fit with the nature of the programme. We decided to experiment and make the AD more of A Thing, a talking point amongst our audience. Rather than sticking to matter-of-fact vocabulary, we played around with funnier terms like “his long schlong” or “her magnificent melons” – anything, really, to complement the good-natured humour inherent to the show.
It was important not to be vulgar for the sake of it and to be fair to the participants, of course, but by following presenter Anna Richardson’s funny-but-kind approach, we were able to hit the right note, keeping the AD in step with the programme’s saucy tone.
We carefully reflect on every word or phrase that we choose and we always have our audience’s perspective at the forefront of our minds. A thought-provoking debate arose within our team regarding the cheeky turn of phrase ‘fun-sized pecker’, used to describe a gentleman who wasn’t as well-endowed as the other contestants. We discussed if this might be a derogatory comment and not in line with the overarching message of the programme. Ultimately, we want the AD to be brilliantly funny and engaging, definitely not offensive, and that’s the boundary that we need to monitor closely when working with this kind of content.
And seeing our audience’s enthusiastic response on Twitter was very rewarding indeed.
One Twitter user went so far as to recommend the experience to celeb Chrissy Teigen.
Our aim is to learn what our non-sighted viewers want and need, and while ‘difficult dick decisions’ and ‘looking chuffed with the line-up of muffs’ may be a bit raunchier than we’re used to scripting, for a programme where the contestants publicise their vulnerable, naked bodies to the British public, we’d say it’s pretty appropriate.
Written by Marie Campbell and Rhiann McAlister