What is Audio Description?
AD is like closed captioning but for people with low vision or who are blind. It is an audio track for visual media that requires concise phrases, rich in detail and feeling. We recreate the image on the screen in audio so it can be "seen" by the person listening.
AD is also used in museums, for theater performances, in parks, anywhere visual content is provided AD can open the experience up for all.
Audio description is audio-narrated descriptions of a television program's key visual elements. These descriptions are inserted into natural pauses in the program's dialogue. Audio description makes TV programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
-FCC site -
Audio Description is a service that provides a succinct and precise account of visual information to people who are blind or have low vision. Audio Description (AD) is sometimes referred to by other terms, including: video description, descriptive video, descriptive video service (DVS), described video, English descriptive video, video translation, descriptive audio, described narrative, visual description, and visual translation. In 2020 the FCC introduced legislation to make “Audio Description” the official term to be used in North America.
-Audio Description Training Retreats-
Listen to some examples
of my work
A two minute demo from Tales of the Waria, an award winning documentary by Kathy Huang on the men who live as women in Indonesia.
You will notice some of the AD does not match up with the visuals. This is called front or back loading. We don't always have time just when an image is shown to describe it, so we may describe it a second or two before or after. This documentary was a particularly tricky job because it was subtitled. The AD artist must both read the subtitles as well as describe the scenes.
This demo is from a short horror movie called Boardinghouse from the producers, House of Gorey. A horror film production house. And yes, that is the producers last name. Fabulous eh?
Warning: if you are sensitive to violent images, don't watch.
The first time I watched it I missed some of the nuances. It was only after I was able to speak with the director that certain subtle signs were pointed out and which made the description much better.
Having this experience taught me the value of working directly with the principles, the writer, director, or producer. Often they never know, see, or speak to the person doing the AD. I wonder how much is lost in translation because of it? Hopefully, as AD becomes more prevalent this oversight will be corrected. And the process will not go in the direction of more distance and use of computer generated voices (to save money). I neither like the sound of it, nor the feeling of it.
A demo from the movie Thunderheart. This movie has not yet been audio described. I would like to do it myself.
I love this opening sequence. There is a power in the music that must be allowed to breath, to have space. As an audio describer one can choose to use the space to either fill it with description or, as in this case, say less and let the mood of the music say more.