London Short Film Festival to use smart caption glasses

The glasses have undergone an entire year of testing. Photo by James Bellorini

This January, the London Short Film Festival (LSFF) will host the first UK pilot in cinemas of the National Theatre’s smart caption glasses – a solution for D/deaf, deafened or hard of hearing audiences, at BFI Southbank.

Launched in 2018 by the National Theatre, following a year of testing, the smart caption glasses have been in use for 80% of their performances on the South Bank.

The Open Access Smart Capture technology was the result of an ongoing collaboration between the National Theatre’s technical team and speech and language experts led by Professor Andrew Lambourne.

The glasses display a synchronised transcript of dialogue and sound directly onto the lenses of the glasses, giving service users the freedom to experience captions how and when they want to. Accenture and the National Theatre developed the service using Moverio BT-350 smart glasses, which are designed and manufactured by Epson specifically with arts and culture applications in mind.

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The new smart caption glasses. Photo byJames Bellorini and feature image by Alex Bell

Including work from Peter Strickland (In Fabric), a poignant turn from Maxine Peake (Funny Cow) and the directorial debut of Lena Headey, the LSFF 2020 UK Competition selection presents compelling storytelling from established and emerging British directors across four screenings on 11, 13, 15 & 16 January.

With 11 million people living with hearing loss across the UK – around one in six of the population – LSFF has been hosting annual screenings in London and across the UK for underserved Deaf and hard of hearing audiences for the past three years, curated by LSFF’s Deaf programmer Zoe McWhinney.

A further development of the Technology Challenge Fund, launched by the UK Cinema Association in October 2018 to find an affordable and inclusive solution to the delivery of subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing people, the pilot will see the first test of the National Theatre solution in a ‘live’ cinema environment.

Sarah Chorley, Festival Director, London Short Film Festival, said: “LSFF is an experimental festival that pushes boundaries in cinema, and so we are  delighted to host the first chance for UK cinema audiences to trial smart caption glasses, a technology which promises to bring accessibility and choice to deaf and hard of hearing audiences at the pictures.

“The pilot during London Short Film Festival 2020 will present this cutting-edge technology as an excellent access option for cinemas and audiences alike.”

Bookings must be made by emailing LSFF on [email protected]