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Occasionally I’m too lazy to go to bed. Really. I’ll be sitting at my computer or on my couch or something and know that it’s bedtime, but just can’t bring myself to go get into bed. I can be really tired and not even have anything interesting to keep me occupied on the internet, but I’ll still find something.

What I tend to do when this kind of mood hits me—since I know I can’t stay up forever—is get my pillow and blanket, curl up on the couch, and fall asleep there while watching a movie. My couch is actually just as comfortable as my bed, if a little more asymmetric, so it’s actually quite nice. I’m often asleep within 5 minutes.

This works better with some movies than others. It doesn’t have to be a particularly quiet movie, but it does help if it’s one where I can tell what’s happening from the audio alone. Otherwise I’m tempted to keep my eyes open and watch what’s going on. Typically this means mellow dramas with lots of dialogue more than, say, action films with big fight scenes.

I was going about this same routine a few weeks ago and ended up watching Garden State, which I had never seen. It’s usually risky to watch a movie for the first time while doing this—often I’ll either be too bored with it to be soothed to sleep, or too engrossed in it to remember to sleep. This one turned out pretty well though, for one reason in particular: Descriptive Video.

I’ve never seen a movie with descriptive video before. It was a lot like listening to an audio book. The movie is exactly the same as without, but in between lines of dialogue, a narrator will chime in with helpful descriptions of what’s going on:

“Andrew touches a wooden rail on a spiral staircase to his left,”

“Next morning, shafts of sunlight pierce rips in curtains above a couch where Andrew has been sleeping under a blanket. He sits up urgently. He’s got ‘balls’ written across his forehead.”

“Tim glowers through his pretty, almond-shaped eyes.”

Who writes these things I wonder? Are we really supposed to note the pretty almond-shaped eyes? Maybe not, but that kind of marration really does bring out features of the visuals I wouldn’t notice otherwise. It makes it great to listen to while falling asleep, but it also really enhances the film when watching it normally.

I really want to watch more movies with descriptive video now. It would probably be a bit disconcerting for movies I already know and love but it might also be kind of cool.

Next time: How music can be like reading a book.

Random FAQ Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Descriptive video”

  1. Joe Clark says:

    I don’t think WGBH did the description for Garden State. What station was this on, and when?

  2. GP says:

    This wasn’t on television… all I know for sure is the guy had a British accent.

  3. Joe Clark says:

    Well, there’s your answer. It’s the British version.

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