Audio Description: The Beginner’s Guide

By: Verbit Editorial



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If you regularly consume video content, odds are you’re familiar with closed captioning. Captioning is a way to improve accessibility for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.  You might, however, be less familiar with another assistive technology that plays a critical role in the creation of inclusive content, audio description. Audio description is a tool that supports audience members who are blind.  

When it comes to captions, the general population became increasingly fond of viewing with this added feature. In fact, 50% of respondents in a recent survey reported that they watch video content with subtitles most of the time. Like captioning, it’s possible that audio description will find new and wider audiences as well. Already, more video producers are including audio descriptions for their videos. 

Here is some basic information about this solution, which can help support more equitable viewing experiences for all audience members.  

What is Audio Description? 

Audio description is a form of assistive technology that serves primarily to offer equitable viewing experiences to audience members who are blind or low-vision. This solution uses audible descriptive narration to communicate what is taking place on-screen. The video producer will typically insert the narration into pre-existing pauses in a video’s original audio track. With this careful timing, the descriptions won’t overlap with any potentially important elements from the original audio. This style of audio description is referred to as standard audio description.  

Alternatively, some creators use extended audio description, which provides more detailed narration of what is happening on screen. Due to the comprehensive nature of these narrations, it is often necessary to insert additional pauses into a video. The descriptions can then provide extra details without overlapping with the original dialogue and other audio elements. 

What does it mean when a movie has Audio Description? 

When a movie has audio description, it means a viewer can turn on a real-time descriptive narration track. The narration plays over the existing content, describing visual elements that audiences need to understand to follow the plot.  

Here is an audio description example from the opening scene of Disney’s The Lion King:  

“Hundreds of animals gather at the bottom of Pride Rock – a tall, flat ledge that towers over the rest of the savanna.”  

This audio narration plays over the opening number “The Circle of Life.” It is important to include this because the existing audio track doesn’t explicitly describe the scenario portrayed on-screen. Without this description, viewers who are blind or have low vision would likely miss out on important plot elements.  

What is Audio Description on TV for? 

Audio description functions the same way for television content as it does for long-form films. TV viewers can enable or disable the audio description function on their device at will, usually via an on-screen accessibility menu. TV shows often rely on visual imagery in the same ways that films do, so it’s important to provide audio description of these visual elements for viewers who need them.  

Audio description is primarily a tool for supporting individuals with vision and eye disorders. However, you may wonder, “What does audio description mean for viewers with other disabilities?” Descriptive video is proving capable of supporting the needs of other audience members. For example, some viewers with autism spectrum disorder benefit from viewing videos with audio descriptions. Having the AD track can help these individuals clarify the meaning of certain visual cues like body language and facial expressions they may not readily pick up on.  

How can I add Audio Description to my content? 

If you’re a video content creator, adding an audio description to your accessibility toolkit can improve the inclusivity of your content. The easiest way to get started with audio description is to partner with a professional audio description service like Verbit. Verbit’s professionally trained describers carefully analyze video content to craft comprehensive descriptions of pertinent visual elements. Also, quality audio descriptions don’t interrupt or detract from the video’s overall messaging. It takes training and skill to achieve the balance between giving enough information and not causing distractions.  

Verbit makes it easy to get high-quality, professional audio descriptions. Users can simply submit an MP4 file to Verbit’s platform for narration. Once ready, users can add the audio description file to videos on various media hosting sites, applications, and more. Professional audio description vendors like Verbit also offer built-in software integrations. Integrations are helpful because they allow users to request YouTube audio descriptions more easily without third-party intervention or additional resources.  

Verbit is all-in on accessibility 

Verbit is a leading provider of accessibility technology solutions like captioning, transcription, translation, and audio description. Verbit’s dual approach to transcription combines the efficiency of artificial intelligence with the diligence of professional human transcribers to quickly create accurate final transcripts and captions. These transcripts support the creation of audio description files, so users can rest assured that they’re offering effective assistive technologies.  

Verbit’s software solutions support critical accessibility guidelines and provide content creators resources they need to develop more diverse, inclusive audiences. Verbit also offers a range of real-time assistive technology solutions, so creators can improve the accessibility of live and pre-recorded content. For more information about how you can expand your reach and support the diverse needs of your audience, reach out to Verbit today