Audio Description

Audio description is a narrated description of important visual details that are essential to understanding visual media.  The narrated description is inserted into the original soundtrack’s natural pauses. Integrative Describe Videos (IDV) which focus on using descriptive scripts, would be an alternative to audio description for self-authored videos – see Tips for Writing Descriptive Scripts for more information.

Why is Audio Description Important?

Audio description is of great benefit to those who are blind or low vision because it gives them valuable information that can only be acquired visually.  This allows them to connect further with the visual media, which results in a better understanding.

Audio description also provides benefits to individuals who:

  • Are auditory learners
  • Have autism
  • Are working on language development
  • Are in an “eyes free” environment (example:  listening to audio description while driving)

3Play Media’s video provides further details on how audio description benefits these groups.

Examples of Audio Description

This Frozen movie trailer is a great example of an appropriate use of audio description.

This YouTube video has an audio description overlay. The original video is still available without audio description, but the overlay was added by 3Play Media for a student who needed it to access the video in a UNCG online course. The overlay doesn’t infringe on copyright laws and preserves the video creator’s original video.

When is Audio Description Needed?

Determining when audio description is needed can be subjective, but a good rule of thumb is to consider the description from the listener’s perspective.  If you are only listening to the audio, would that be enough to adequately understand what’s going on, or would you need a description of the visual content to fully understand everything?

Below are a few questions to consider when trying to determine if your media needs audio description.  If the answer is yes to any of the following questions, then it is likely that your media needs audio description:

  • Does your media contain information that can only be understood through viewing it visually?
  • Does your media contain visual information (examples are listed below) that gives context to the content and allows the viewer to better understand and enjoy the content:
    • on-screen text
    • animations
    • change in speaker, facial expressions, costumes, or scenes

DIY vs Outsourcing Audio Description

The process to create and insert audio description accurately can be complex and costly. If it’s needed, it is best to outsource audio description to a vendor. However, when you are creating your own videos (lectures, demonstrations, presentations, etc), using descriptive language in your video script will reduce the need for audio description. If you integrate descriptive language into your video, audio description services won’t be necessary. Tips for Writing Descriptive Scripts covers techniques you can use to avoid audio description for the videos you create.