Audio Description makes films, TV shows, and theatre productions more accessible to blind and partially sighted audiences. However, it’s a complicated process that requires a careful balance of brevity and depth.
One of the biggest challenges in creating AD is keeping costs down without sacrificing quality. This is where technology comes in.
What is Audio Description?
What does audio description mean? Audio description is a verbal narration that describes the visual elements of a video or film. It enables individuals who are blind or have low vision to build mental images, understand complex details, and participate more fully in visual experiences. While it was originally developed as an accommodation for visually impaired individuals, it has proven to be beneficial for a wider range of audiences, including auditory learners, those on the Autism spectrum, and even non-visually impaired viewers who enjoy the flexibility of watching videos in eyes-free environments or want a better understanding of what they’re seeing.
When creating audio descriptions, it is important to remember that the description should always be clear and focused on the original media. The description should also be well scripted and recorded to be clear, concise, and not interfere with the dialogue or sound effects. It is important to take the time to review and test the final audio description to ensure that it meets quality standards and accessibility guidelines.
While automated and AI-based methods of audio description have made significant strides, human-created descriptions remain the preferred method. Combining a knowledgeable scriptwriter and experienced voiceover artist provides depth, context, and nuance that is difficult for automation to replicate.
Why is Audio Description Important?
Audio description is vital to making video content more accessible for people who are blind or have low vision. The description adds context-giving visual cues to the audio track, allowing people to understand what is happening in a scene. Without it, people may miss crucial information that would otherwise be conveyed visually – like on-screen text, changes in character or location, facial expressions, and scene shifts.
In addition to helping people who are blind or have low vision enjoy movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos, audio descriptions improve accessibility for people with neurodivergent conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For example, autistic individuals can find it difficult to decipher expressions and social cues in movies and TV shows. The descriptive narration on an audio track allows them to interpret these visual elements and make sense of the story, resulting in a more satisfying experience.
In the future, we may see audio descriptions incorporated into more media and experiences, including online, mobile, and virtual reality. New advancements in technology, personalization options, multi-modal accessibility, community involvement, and global accessibility efforts will continue to drive the growth of audio description. Audio description will become increasingly more efficient and seamlessly integrated into the visual media experience as these trends unfold. Whether creating content to entertain, educate, or communicate with your audience, audio description can help you do so effectively and inclusively for all.
How to Create Audio Description
If you want to make your video content accessible to all viewers, audio descriptions should be included. This will ensure everyone can follow the video content, help you comply with accessibility laws, and reach a wider audience. However, implementing audio descriptions can seem intimidating at first.
One option is to use text-based audio descriptions created in a timed text file (WebVTT). This method can be used for pre-recorded media. It works by adding the description to the original soundtrack at timestamps that match the pauses in dialogue and sound effects in the video.
Another option is to use a third-party agency or plugin that can add an audio description toggle to your videos. This is usually more expensive but can be a good option for a high-quality description.
A third option is to record the audio description simultaneously as you create your video. This is the most expensive option, but it can be good if you need to describe a complex video with multiple characters and actions. It is important to ensure the audio descriptions are recorded clearly and synchronized with the video. Once you have recorded the audio description, you can then use it to create a separate closed or open version of your video.
What are the Benefits of Audio Description?
For users of all abilities, audio descriptions can help them understand visual elements that may be difficult to comprehend without assistance. It also provides contextual information to help them navigate unfamiliar or complex digital environments. This can make a significant difference in the quality of the user experience and can help prevent mishaps or safety issues due to distraction or inattention.
While audio description was initially designed for people with blindness and low vision, it has since been a critical resource for everyone. Offering an additional layer of context enables viewers to enjoy and fully appreciate the rich tapestry of visual media. It can be applied to movies, TV shows, online videos, live performances, and educational content.
As a bonus, adding audio descriptions can help businesses increase organic traffic by increasing the SEO ranking of their content. This is because search engines recognize audio descriptions and transcripts as valuable content.
Whether creating an online video, producing a movie, or planning a corporate event, it’s important to ensure your content is accessible to all audiences. Including audio descriptions in your visual media effectively ensures equal access for blind and visually impaired users while complying with accessibility standards and laws. However, it’s essential to follow best practices when creating audio descriptions. This can help you avoid common pitfalls that can result in subpar output and frustration for your audience.