Handset based closed caption system for theatre productions launched

The world’s first closed caption system for theatre productions has been designed, developed and launched in the UK ensuring that theatre performances are now accessible to all – where the system has been installed.

The Airscript system has been developed by Cambridge Consultants for Show Translations and delivers subtitles from each show via personal handsets in real time, in a wide selection of languages simultaneously, allowing both non-native speaking audience members and those with hearing impairments to enjoy the production.

The device features a full colour, high resolution widescreen display and a high reliability wireless link delivers subtitles from the performance to personal handsets in real time, supporting both non-native speaking audience members and those who are deaf or have hearing impairments.

The speed of the subtitles is controlled by the stage prompt, thus ensuring the captions that appear on the AirScript handsets remain synchronised with the action on stage.

“Wirelessly supporting potentially hundreds of devices simultaneously in a theatre was one of the main issues that we have had to overcome, but perhaps more important was ensuring that the handsets were universally accessible and non-distracting,”said David Bradshaw, group leader of the Software Technologies Group at Cambridge Consultants.

“Existing translation solutions in theatres do not cater for everyone satisfactorily,” commented Alexander Vegh, chief executive of Show Translations. “For example, a screen to the side of the stage can only provide one language and can be very distracting for the audience members who don’t require translations.

The handsets have been designed to avoid the problem of light spillage often associated with mobile phone screens.  The screen background is black rather than white, and the brightness of the subtitles can be centrally controlled.  This means, for example, that the screens can be synchronised with the house lights going up and down.

The Airscript system is being launched by Show Translations in conjunction with the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, for performances of ‘Hairspray’.

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