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The new Apple TV+ kids show “El Deafo” uses unusual sound design in order to present the experience of being deaf or hard of hearing.
“El Deafo” began as a New York Times best-selling graphic memoir by Cece Bell, and has been made into a series on Apple TV+. Now Bell, who executive produced the series, has revealed just how detailed and careful the sound design had to be.
“‘El Deafo’ is the story of my childhood, and adjusting to a sudden hearing loss,” says Bell. “It’s very important to me that the kids watching the show are experiencing it the way I experienced it.”
Bell says that with the original graphic novel, readers could read the characters’ dialog, but she wanted the TV show to convey what it sounds and feels like to be hard of hearing.
“You can watch the show and actually hear it,” she continued. “Audio design was really tough.”
“I want to be able to explain to hearing people what this is like,” she said. “If my character on the show can see the person’s mouth move, the audio is pretty much clear.”
“But then there are situations that happen where that comprehension just goes away,” says Bell. “Maybe the lights get turned off, or a character faces away. And I think by recreating that experience, it’s sort of a reminder of how to be with a person that doesn’t hear very well.”
“El Deafo” is a three-part animated series for children and families. It’s streaming now on Apple TV+.