Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

May 7, 2009

Technologies help more enjoy movies

TRAVERSE CITY -- When Libby Magee watches a movie on the big screen, all she sees is a series of shapes and colors.

"If I go to a movie that's a lot of dark scenes, I have to ask someone what's going on," said Magee, who is visually impaired. "I don't hardly go to the movies because it takes (the fun) out of it when you can't see the screen."

With assistive technology coming soon to the State Theatre, Magee and others like her can experience movies like "Slumdog Millionaire" and "State of Play" with rich descriptive narration. The technology, called DVS Theatrical, is part of the MoPix system, which also includes a patented "Rear Window" captioning system for deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons.

The system is expected to be installed at the theater in time for the fifth annual Traverse City Film Festival this summer, festival Executive Director Deb Lake said.

"There are several hundred systems installed in the country, but it really hasn't caught on as a standard in the movies," said Sharon Neumann, chairman of a community group raising money for the project. "With it, they will probably make the State Theatre one of the most accessible theaters in the country."

The MoPix system works by displaying reversed captions on a light-emitting diode (LED) text display which is mounted in the rear of the theater. Deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences use transparent acrylic panels attached to their seats to reflect the captions so that they appear superimposed on the movie screen. The reflective panels are portable and adjustable, allowing the caption user to sit anywhere in the theater.

Descriptive narration is delivered via an infrared listening system, allowing blind and visually impaired moviegoers to hear the narration on headsets without disturbing other audience members. The narrative provides information about key visual elements such as actions, settings and scene changes during natural pauses in the dialogue.

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