All of the Entry Cash Can Purchase – A Listing Aside

Simply if you inform your self accessibility is past the attain of on-line video, somebody proves you flawed. And the proof comes from the place you’d least anticipate it. The horny new BMW Movies challenge targets an elite viewers and isn’t precisely what we’d like, however it has nonetheless delivered a viable mannequin of on-line accessibility – and with a stunning company dedication besides.

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Background to historical past#section2

Net accessibility, considered by completely everybody save for just a few obsessifs like me as a burden and chore, is properly previous the purpose of being a burden and chore folks can postpone or keep away from. Excessive-profile examples:

  • Everybody remotely concerned in U.S. federal authorities Net initiatives is biting their fingernails on the looming deadline of 21 June 2001, after which basically all future authorities websites have to be accessible beneath the so-called Part 508 necessities. Nearly each chunk of software program, together with Net-authoring instruments, should be made accessible, with spillover advantages properly exterior the American authorities.
  • And Bruce Maguire, an unusual blind civilian of no specific wealth or affect, gained an Australian human-rights case in opposition to the mighty Sydney Olympics over its inaccessible Website, finally resulting in a $20,000 effective. (Sure, they paid up.) The People with Disabilities Act (U.S.) and the Incapacity Discrimination Act (U.Ok.) unequivocally apply to Websites, although very thorough documentation of that truth is unavailable on-line.

Even within the broadcast realm the screws are getting tighter. In Canada, the CBC was ordered to caption each single second of its broadcast day on the primary community and Newsworld (now beneath attraction, naturally). Australian broadcasters now have captioning quotas to fulfill.
Audio description shall be required on U.S. tv in coming years (although a lawsuit has been filed in opposition to such mandates). Quotas are in place for captioning and audio description within the U.Ok. (with some delays). And so forth, and so forth. And these necessities say nothing about voluntary enhancements in accessibility, which far outweigh something mandated judicially.

Studying this, you crack your espresso cup into its saucer and take a candy languorous drag in your fag, exclaiming “Accessibility – the unstoppable juggernaut!” Effectively, yeah, virtually.

Making a routine text-’n’-graphics Website accessible to guests with disabilities is just not notably troublesome. Making multimedia accessible, nonetheless, is. Certainly, till current weeks I had each purpose to consider that Net video, Flash, and their ilk would by no means obtain even the accessibility of tv. (Aren’t tv and multimedia alleged to be converging? The entry methods used are the identical.) Because the yr 2000 drew its final breaths, I defined how Macromedia particularly was blowing it in accessibility. The technical infrastructure isn’t there, and we have now no coaching packages to show Flashturbators (or, for that matter, DVD authors or anybody else) tips on how to adapt their work.

Whereas I’ll have gave the impression to be selecting on Macromedia, in truth the obstacles are simply as pronounced in “conventional” Net video of the QuickTime or Actual type. There are not any standardized, foolproof, universally-compatible methods to do one thing so simple as embedding captions or subtitles in a film stream, to say nothing of the opposite half of the Massive 4 entry options, audio description and dubbing. We additionally see an inclination to copy the constraints of tv (the place a single sign has to serve everybody, forcing entry options into hiding) when what we will truly do on-line is serve up a number of variations of the identical file with numerous entry options pre-enabled. Because it stands, you want a assist file simply to determine tips on how to flip captions on in numerous gamers.

Then BMW goes and solves a part of the issue.

To appreciable fanfare, in April 2001 BMW of North America launched a web site prosaically named that includes an ongoing sequence of brief movies beneath the rubric The Rent.

In subsequent press protection, story angles veered wildly. We learn of the challenge’s horny name-brand “expertise” (horny Madonna, ugly-sexy Clive Owen) and its A-list administrators and producers of varied levels of sexiness (Frankenheimer, Fincher, Ritchie, and naturally the family identify Gonzalez Iñárritu). We additionally learn of the bugbear of “product placement.” Director John Frankenheimer, whose 1966 characteristic Seconds stays the creepiest movie within the historical past of cinema, denied outright that The Rent constituted product placement, which presumably is a codeword for prostitution down in Hollywood.

(Trivia nugget for keener-completists: Aside from Croupier, Clive Owen shall be identified to sure audiences for his position as police detective Ross Tanner on numerous British teledramas. In a current miniseries, Second Sight, Tanner step by step loses his imaginative and prescient, concealing his encroaching blindness from his bosses and roughly adapting. As a part of the PBS Thriller sequence, Second Sight aired with audio description and captioning. One episode displayed completely the one case I’ve ever seen of captioning and outline disagreeing over materials truth. All eerily coincidental in a dialogue of accessible BMW Movies.)

Anyway, you head on over to BMWFilms and are introduced with a spread of obtain choices. Not one of the recordsdata is especially small, so we’re concentrating on the broadband demimonde right here. (Wouldn’t typical BMW consumers depart Net-surfing to their secretaries? Extra on that later.) True to the clichés of on-line cinema, The Rent’s standing as a group of courts métrages makes the web viewing expertise not less than marginally tolerable. I can’t think about downloading Cleopatra or perhaps a single episode of House: 1999, however six minutes of BMW motion flick I can deal with.

I dutifully hoovered within the untold-megabyte MPEG stream and watched the primary manufacturing, Frankenheimer’s Ambush. Then, weeks later, when Ang Lee’s The Chosen “premiered,” I used to be shocked to notice one thing known as a BMW Movie Participant. (Really, three completely different names are used: BMW Participant, BMW Movies Participant, and BMW Interactive Movie Participant. There could also be no product placement right here, however a little bit of constant “branding” wouldn’t harm.) Macintosh and Home windows Participant variations can be found, they usually supply a spread of doubtful benefits, like notifying you when a brand new film is obtainable and enjoying saved films robotically. (Can’t QuickTime do the latter already?)

Sight unseen, I instantly thought: If they’ll write their very own rattling participant program, they’ll bloody properly put in all my entry options.

After all, they didn’t. That is perhaps an excessive amount of to ask proper out of the gate. However they received us midway there.

For the reason that mistily-recalled days of twelve-inch videodiscs, director’s-commentary tracks have been falsely marketed as a value-adding characteristic. Simply as a Website isn’t thought of “interactive” till it’s jammed to the gills with Shockwave geegaws, a video on any species of disc is considered as incomplete with out the addition of infinite yammering by a movie director and, within the worst-case state of affairs, by virtually everybody else on the crew, too.

Think about unscripted narration delivered by a non-actor with no command of pacing or vocal inflection. The eighth circle of hell, you say? Like a buzzsaw slicing galvanized tin? No, it’s truly a characteristic usually demanded by geek DVD acolytes, who, like hi-fi lovers of many years earlier than, adore the expertise however aren’t notably within the artwork it communicates.

And, since The Rent is a geek extravaganza, by gar we’re gonna ship a commentary observe, which the BMW Participant makes potential. After you obtain the observe, you possibly can merely flip it on and off. The Participant, furthermore, provides you entry to a B-story submovie that tags together with the primary featurette.

However making it potential to incorporate director’s commentary and submovies is just about the identical process as enabling the Massive 4 entry options. This brings us inside exchange-of-bodily-fluids distance of a holy grail of on-line accessibility, during which you might merely choose no matter entry options you want. (It have to be potential to take action by standardized interface parts which are themselves accessible and manipulable by adaptive expertise like display screen readers, and we’re not there but, both, however it’s a begin.)

All this issues largely as a result of BMW rounded up high-calibre administrators. The courts métrages aren’t unhealthy in any respect. Even when they had been unhealthy, the challenge is so horny and high-profile that folks would truly wish to watch the movies.

I occur to assume that even disposable or atrocious movie, TV, and Websites have to be accessible; anything is a form of censorship. (Who’re we to guage what a deaf or a blind persion can and can’t take pleasure in?) However let’s be lifelike: A high-profile A-list movie challenge takes precedence merely as a result of it attracts a lot curiosity.

And since entry options add worth, richness, and complexity to a piece, an already-attractive movie sequence turns into much more so when made accessible.

In The Rent, we have now a killer mixture: A high-budget movie sequence by prestigious administrators that’s “kewl” in a geeky method but additionally of inventive curiosity. And, by the Participant utility, we now have incontrovertible proof that it’s potential to ship the mixture of a participant that allows you to flip numerous tracks on and off and content material that really incorporates such tracks that individuals truly wish to watch.

Thus far, on-line accessible media has been restricted to a couple demonstration initiatives. Good little segments on relativity or potato chips or whatnot.

However not actual films from actual administrators, with actual manufacturing values and a advertising and marketing marketing campaign that features ads in Wallpaper<asterisk> journal and TV commercials on CNN! (Uncaptioned commercials, by the best way – one other oversight.)

Effectively, now we’ve received ’em, and obtained a reported 100,000 hits in its first two days alone (and three million confirmed hits to date).

If BMW and its contractor, Fallon Interactive, might go to all the difficulty to write down a participant utility with selectable audio and video channels, why be just a bit bit pregnant? Why not give us the entire shebang – each form of title, audio, and video observe possible?

Why go to all that bother to provide us the frills of director commentary and B-stories with out giving us fundamental accessibility first? We want a most important course earlier than dessert; providing them in reverse is uncivilised.

<!– CQ this: Hold it as “uncivilised.” –>
<!– We’re enjoying off the piss-elegant British orthography. –>

It’s not as if there wasn’t the cash.

In keeping with press accounts, the finances for Ang Lee’s featurette was two mil. (BMW responds that such accounts are exaggerated, and that precise budgets gained’t be disclosed.) Lee is merely one of the administrators beneath Rent. Bandwidth prices alone – think about serving up 100,000 twenty-megabyte streams only for starters – would have fronted’s cocaine invoice for at least an excellent month.

And why aren’t we pondering internationally right here? Oh, there’s the patina of worldwide goodwill, what with hiring administrators from 5 international locations (a conservative estimate; Lee and Wong Kar-wai are multinational), however nobody appears to have seen that every one the movies to date can be found in English solely. I do know BMW makes SUVs and roadsters in South Carolina, however isn’t BMW a German firm? Isn’t German a Main World Language? Not like, say, the Icelanders or the Estonians, who settle for that nobody else within the universe speaks their native languages, Germans don’t must be taught English to get alongside on the planet. Simply how does a unilingual German-speaker perceive The Rent? (Even the positioning itself is English-only, by no means thoughts the films.)

Couldn’t we not less than think about a task for subtitled and dubbed variations of the Rent featurettes?

Press reviews (unavailable on-line) maintain that cinema and DVD launch of the Rent steady is deliberate. Wong Kar-wai’s The Observe was screened on the French-speaking Cannes pageant, the place the official guidelines demand that movies arrive with French subtitling (although, confusingly, English subtitles shall be supplied by the pageant). Isn’t accessibility one thing that was all the time on the plate anyway?

So why was it ignored on-line, when everybody went to a lot bother to allow director’s commentary and subplots?

After lots of toing and froing, I finally coaxed a developer of the BMW Movie Participant, Jobin Hume at Fallon down in Minnesota, to clarify simply what provides with being half-pregnant with accessibility. (A helpful catchphrase, isn’t it? In the event you spot somebody at a convention sporting a long-sleeve T-shirt emblazoned with “I Am Primed and Prepared for Gayness” on the face and “I Am Half-Pregnant with Accessibility” on the obverse, come up and provides us a kiss.)

Hume philosophizes:

The participant was constructed for a really particular, and admittedly small, viewers – folks with high-end pc techniques and superior sound and video playing cards, the true video- and audiophiles who would have the ability to simulate the DVD expertise…. We didn’t truly “construct in” a number of audio tracks. Apple’s QuickTime, which is what the BMW Movie Participant relies on, consists of two tracks. We used one for the primary movie audio and one for the director’s commentary characteristic. The director’s commentaries had been included in an effort to supply extra content material per the target talked about above and provides the customers perception into the administrators’ ideas and concepts in the course of the filmmaking course of….

There are a lot of options of the expertise that we had been unable to incorporate on this launch as a result of tight timeline. We needed to desk many desired options for future growth. One of many issues we’re investigating for the long run is making BMW content material extra accessible. Whether or not that is the participant or the streaming content material, or possibly each, is undetermined at this level. As I discussed above, the {hardware} “bar” is fairly excessive for the participant, so it could make extra sense for accessibility options to be built-in into the Website. We’re trying out the completely different choices and hope to accommodate as many customers as potential into the model expertise.

[W]e are evaluating completely different choices for the following spherical, and accessiblity points are on the desk.

When pressed for specifics on the company coverage stage, Karen Vonder Meulen, advertising and marketing and occasions communications supervisor at BMW of North America LLC, supplied responses, requested questions, and spoke utilizing nonverbal cues that every one confirmed she took the difficulty critically and hoped to be taught extra.

All the query of accessibility was new to BMW till I introduced it up. Now that they learn about it, although, BMW appears prepared to supply all of the entry anybody might need.

“We’ve solely performed common commercials earlier than with out sound or something with them,” Vonder Meulen says. “It’s a complete new problem with the closed captioning and that. We tried to consider every thing… We didn’t make it closed-caption accessible, however we definitely are investigating methods to do this sooner or later if we have now extra movies.” (TV commercials for The Rent do include dialogue; even wordless all-music commercials and music movies might be and are captioned. The soundtrack in totum is embodied in textual content, not simply spoken phrases.) Vonder Meulen had no remark both method on the subject of retrofitting the current movies within the Rent sequence.

“I can decide to the DVDs, as a result of that’s one thing we have now management over, I feel. We would like everybody to benefit from the movies. We’ll do what we will to make them accessible.” No specifics had been forthcoming, however which may be forgivable owing to the novelty of the difficulty across the proverbial BMW water cooler.

“We agree with you and we’re going to make each effort to closed-caption our [online films] and make it in order that sooner or later, if the movie sequence continues, they are going to be accessible.”

What occurred at Cannes? Vonder Meulen explains: “We confirmed [the film] on the American pavilion on the movie pageant,” not in competitors; it was “simply a chance to showcase the movie.” On the time, no guests to the pavilion requested about subtitling.

How a couple of international viewers for the web filmclips? It’s meant as a North American marketing campaign, she responds. “It was performed with the Web and the servers right here in the US…. We’re studying as we go and we’re dedicated to it and we’re dedicated to doing the best factor,” Vonder Meulen concludes.

All excellent information, isn’t it?

You’ll now stab the dying embers of your fag into an ashtray as you sigh grandly and supply the retort “Sure, OK, internationalism. Localization, no matter. OK. However blind folks can’t drive automobiles, and deaf persons are too poor to purchase BMWs!”

Effectively, if the difficulty at hand had been precise automobiles, you’d have some extent. The “product” in query is the web multimedia. BMW has introduced The Rent as a group of movies, not a group of vehicles. That’s been performed already, they usually’re known as Artwork Vehicles.

As with captioned music movies, that are cinematic artworks of curiosity to anybody who can see or hear however not essentially each, a distinction have to be drawn between the putative advertising and marketing objective (promoting a document, promoting a automotive) and the free-standing medium engaged to do it.

This problem retains popping up in “standard” accessibility. The U.S. army is required by §402 of the People with Disabilities Act to caption its tv commercials though a deaf or hard-of-hearing particular person would by no means be admitted to any department of the forces. What’s the level? The purpose is data. Ceci n’est pas une pipe and a TV industrial is just not army service.

Listed here are some real-world examples of why an inaccessible entity have to be marketed accessibly:

  1. Your hard-of-hearing grandma might wish to know what you’re signing up for.
  2. Or you might want to be part of the civilian ranks the place such disabilities are accommodated.
  3. Otherwise you acknowledge the truth that listening to persons are the bulk viewers of captioning anyway (not merely these watching with the Mute key pressed), and listening to persons are not barred from serving within the army.

(Certainly, in a BMWFilmsesque twist, beneath Part 508, new video segments on, extensively bruited on captioned TV adverts I’ve seen, should be accessible if added after 20 June 2001. Some snippets are already supplied in Spanish, however the English and Spanish aren’t translations of one another.)

Moreover, within the BMW case, it could be hypocrisy to say, on the one hand, that The Rent doesn’t represent product placement (that means prostitution, that means vile commerce), however that the movies ought to not be made accessible to “undesirable” teams who gained’t be shopping for a BMW anyway.

Can we not additionally think about that the form of potential BMW drivers who would go to all the difficulty to obtain these Movies and watch them on a crappy pc monitor is just about restricted to Silicon Valley geeks? One wonders why BMW bothers providing Macintosh file and utility codecs. Geeks like these are full-on Home windows apologists.

Or possibly there isn’ta direct hyperlink between viewers of The Rent and elevated gross sales. Possibly such a hyperlink was by no means meant. BMW is wealthy sufficient to interact in delicate, indirect, mushy promoting of this type. (Suppose Artwork Vehicles.) All the program buttresses BMW’s popularity for sophistication.

In actuality, a BMW Movie has a life unto itself, and when you’re calling them Movies, then every thing concerned in movie manufacturing involves bear.

Oh, however there’s one other downside. Writing the BMW Movie Participant price some huge cash. And it’s fairly proprietary. (The movies are additionally costly and proprietary. Gold plating all over the place on this entire enterprise.)

What does this imply?

It signifies that a ubiquitous, cheap, common media participant with all of the entry options you possibly can eat nonetheless doesn’t exist. The BMW Movie Participant instance, to paraphrase Ben Elton, gives a merciless glimpse of an unattainable future the place every web site has its personal custom-built media participant with selectable entry options (very broadly outlined).

Are you able to afford to write down such a participant utility? After all not. You do discover the occasional l33t h2xor (elite hacker) who writes his personal Linux caption decoder, however right here in the true world, we mortals rely upon customary tools, which isn’t as much as the job. Neither is the BMW Participant, not fairly, however by model 3.0 it’s gonna be a showstopper. Or a presentstarter: It’s gonna be one case the place a proprietary system exhibits us how industry-standard techniques must be put collectively.

However we now know what is feasible. Maybe the long run is just not unattainable. Maybe the glimpse BMWFilms provides us is just not so merciless in spite of everything.

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