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How to Choose an Audio Description Provider for Educational Video Content

By: Aylin Dunham
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What Are the Different Types of Audio Description?

Standard Audio Description

Standard audio description has traditionally been the most common type of audio description. With this form of audio description you’ll hear descriptions inserted into the natural gaps in the dialog of a video or movie. Standard AD is often used for videos that are meant for entertainment purposes because it can be delivered without adding pauses and extending the duration of the program. This type of AD is also usually spoken with a human voice talent in order to demonstrate the tone of the scene that is playing.

Extended Audio Description

When using standard AD there are often not long enough natural pauses to describe the full extent of the visual elements in the video. This becomes a problem when used in an educational setting because necessary information will be left out. When information is left out, the content cannot be accessed to its full extent by a student that is blind. To allow enough time for descriptions to fully narrate the visual content, Extended Audio Description is created by pausing both the video and audio content and inserting a full length, meaningful audio description. This is critical for educational video content because without the necessary pauses audio describers will not be able to fully communicate visuals like graphs, on-screen text and other vital information that is not described in the video’s original audio.

How to Choose between Audio Description Services

Before choosing an audio description provider, you need to first choose between standard and extended description. Is your video purely for entertainment purposes, or is there crucial visual content that needs to be described fully? You should select a vendor that specializes in your type of content. Some audio description vendors do not offer both options, so make sure you ask prior to making any commitment.

How to choose an Audio Description Provider

Cost of Audio Description

After deciding which type of audio description service is best for your content, the next thing you need to look at is cost. A couple aspects affect the cost of audio description. These include the efficiency of the process, the technology involved, and the type of people/talent who create the descriptions. The goal is to get the right balance between cost and quality.

Audio Description Process

An audio description provider can offer lower cost services if the process is automated. This does not mean the descriptions are computer generated, crowdsourced or spoken by inexperienced voice actors. The right type of automation will automatically send your video content to a trained professional audio describer once you submit it. Streamlining the process means the cost can be lower since the video passes through fewer hands. The key is to have the technology to create an efficient workflow while keeping the professional talent to produce the descriptions.

Expert Audio Describers

Some audio description providers use multiple people to create the descriptions. First, someone writes the descriptions, then a voice actor records them. This not only makes the process take longer and cost more, it also means that some of the people involved in the process may not be trained, professional audio describers. A professional audio describer will get to know the content first-hand, watching the video in its entirety to understand the critical information and tone of the content.

Meet our audio description expert, Celia Hughes

Customer Service

While you should choose a company that is technologically advanced, you also want one that is small enough to be able to provide excellent customer service and work with you on a personal level. Some audio description projects require customization. An audio description vendor should communicate with you first to understand your unique needs and come up with a workflow and method that will work best for your content. The same dedicated team or individual should be able to discuss any improvements or issues that arise while the project is ongoing.  

Video Players for Audio Description

Many of today’s popular video platforms do not yet support Audio Description. That is why AST has built in extended audio description features into our Smart Player. The video player supports extended audio description by automatically pausing the original video and audio, then playing the audio description. The Smart Player has also integrated the audio descriptions into the interactive transcript that is displayed alongside the video. 

Audio Description for Educational Content

If you’re searching specifically for audio description for your educational videos, these are the things you should consider. First, you need to find a service that supports extended audio description in case your content requires longer descriptions than the video’s natural pauses allow time for. Then, you should check both the process and the cost to make sure the service is using smart automation that reduces cost by creating an efficient workflow. You also need to check to make sure the right talent is being used. A trained audio describer, especially one that has experience with educational content and extended audio description, should be used. Finally, you should make sure the audio description provider is able to dedicate time to customizing a workflow that is best suited for your needs and will work with you on a personal level.