Audio Description is either live or recorded information, provided by a trained describer that provides descriptions of visual components of an event to become accessible to those who are blind or of low vision. This information is not provided with the normal recording or live performance, yet is synchronized as not to interrupt the primary event.
Self-Driving Car Test: Steve Mahan – Audio Described
Presentation with Audio Description
HTML5 video accessibility and the WebVTT file format – Audio Described
(Edited to input pauses time 33:25)
Audio description is used in various venues. Either live or recorded, audio description is a science and an art form. Live descriptions take place in theatres with live performances and essential information about the stage environment, look of the performers and movement, be it a clenched fist or a beautiful gesture of a dancer. With recorded audio description, media allows us to offer a rich alternative to just the visual images in video. A recorded presentation may be paused and slides explained in detail, describing an animation or documentary could benefit everyone universally.
The rest of this page will focus on audio description for recorded video
When to use audio description could be a subjective standard. When deciding to use A.D. consider the description from the listeners’ perspective and if the description could enhance the video production for everyone.
Here are some examples:
- A newscaster who introduces themselves and the stations at the beginning of a video, delivers news of the day without any visual support during the cast is, plainly put, a talking head. In this situation, you need not describe a talking head, as it does not add to the content.
- An animation of cells dividing in their various stages needs to have audio description. Depending on the narrator’s explanation, an audio describer may offer a more detailed and helpful description of what is visually occurring in the video.
- Another example is a video explanation of a math equation. In the math tutorial example, audio description of each step may be needed depending on the detail of the instructor’s explanation. Specifically, to supplement if instructor does not sufficiently describe written steps.
- Now, recordings of presentations may need post-editing to offer detailed audio descriptions of slides.
Use your best judgment.
There are basic techniques to audio description.
- Use of Natural pauses in existing soundtrack to insert descriptions of visual elements such as actions, settings, appearance of characters, body language, costumes, lighting, and on-screen text.
- Offer good description when no audible indications are offered.
- Describe what is seen and do not interpret and try to describe objectively.
- Keep language consistent.
- Do NOT censor the material.
- Provide a separate script and record to a separate audio track.
- If possible, allow the narrator’s voice to compliment the video. An appropriate tone should be used based on the levity of the topic. If possible, use a voice to compliment the topic being Audio Described.
- A trained individual is recommended to narrate and/or write the descriptions.
You can find extensive and detailed written examples of audio description at these sources
- Audio Description Project Guidelines
- National Library Service Audio Description Resources
- W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Audio Description
Selecting a vendor to record your Audio Description is dependent on your venue. So, remember to select the right vendor for the right occasion or based on their service specialty.
The WGBH Media Access Group provides information on Web Video captioning and video description service at:
NOTE: Pennsylvania State University does not endorse or recommend any of the vendors that provide Audio Description Services or Training. This list is only an example that audio descriptive services and training are available.
The two logos are samples of Audio Description logos offered for use by American Council of the Blind. These logos are free for you to download and use.