Lipreading the dregs of history

19 07 2015

It is with great disappointment that we have seen a video from the Royal Archives of the Queen and Queen Mother published in the newspapers with an attempted lipreading translation of the footage.

As expert witness forensic lipreaders, working with the courts and police in the UK and internationally, we are well qualified to comment on this video. Several of our expert lipreaders have examined this footage and our professional conclusion is that this footage is not lipreadable due to the very grainy resolution and distance from the video camera. This video is of such poor quality that it is not lipreadable – at all. Therefore it is not possible to have lipread and to come up with the comments that were published today.

Lipreading is a difficult skill to learn however it is subject to misinterpretation. When lipreading, only up to 30% of speech can actually be seen on the lips. The rest is inferred from the context of what is being said, therefore an excellent knowledge of the language is required.

Have a look in the mirror and say, without voice, “island view” and “I love you” – it is very common in lipreading to have such homophenes (words that look alike). This makes a lipreader’s job much more difficult, particularly so when you have very few words to work with.

Lipreading is not a reliable form of evidence in court and great care must be taken when using it. One of our lipreaders was involved in a quality check of the lipreading skills of Jessica Rees. Independently of two other lipreaders, they all came to the same conclusion, with no prior knowledge, that none of the key words matched the report created by Jessica Rees.

We have been following the reactions on the news and social media, it seems this is not a “wave”, however it must be pointed out that professional forensic lipreaders are not body language experts and it would be unprofessional to comment on this aspect.

The 121 Captions forensic lipreading team

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