Audio Description Matters

Daniel J. Gray

Audio Description Matters - Join audio description professionals worldwide who want to learn more about accessibility and the AD industry. Our podcast is the best place for staying on top of the latest developments and brushing up on your skills.

All Episodes

In addition to audio description, VIDEO TO VOICE is actively involved in other fields surrounding accessibility for digital media. To break down language barriers, Frazier includes a neural machine translation service. With lower costs and fewer delays, this option is a popular choice for clients wanting to create video content in multiple languages. Jokes about online translation tools are so last decade. When the first real-time machine translation services emerged in the early 2000s, they were ridiculed for producing questionable results. At best amusing, and at worst wildly offensive, translations created this way would often be too literal and stray away from the intended meaning of the original text.  But as technology has improved in recent years, there have been noticeably fewer "translation fail" memes doing the rounds on social media. The latest developments in machine translation involve neural networks. These are subsets of machine learning that try to mimic how the human brain works during the translation process. Intrigued? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the language service industry, where providers are having trouble, and how neural machine translation can solve their problems.  How Machine Translation Makes Localization Easy on FrazierWhy is translation important? It's simple – we all want access to content and information that is naturally communicated in our own language. From a business standpoint, effective communication helps companies improve their brand image, boost customer satisfaction, and increase productivity of staff. As well as keeping existing customers happy, translated content can help companies expand into other markets. This is backed up by findings in the 2020 Common Sense Advisory Report "Can't Read, Won't Buy": Weiterlesen

Aug 19

8 min 46 sec

In addition to providing technological solutions for audio description, VIDEO TO VOICE is actively involved in other fields surrounding accessibility for digital media. For some time, VIDEO TO VOICE has been working in close partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) on topics such as automated mixing and MPEG-H Audio. The following article provides a fascinating glimpse at Dialog+, a production technology developed by Fraunhofer IIS to make TV dialogue easier to understand.It's a frustration many of us have experienced while watching TV: We can't quite hear what the actor is mumbling during an important scene, so lose track of the plot for the rest of the show. Likewise, when the music, sound effects or background noises are too loud, the dialogue becomes difficult to follow, prompting us to turn up the volume to an uncomfortable level or switch over.  To combat this issue, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) teamed up with public broadcasters in developing Dialog+ – an innovative AI-based solution for making TV dialogue easier to understand. In essence, Dialog+ provides viewers with an enhanced version of the dialogue which they can select as an alternative to the original audio mix. In late 2020, German television networks Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) and Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) conducted viewer testing to see how Dialog+ would be received. But before we examine the results, let's take a closer look at why TV dialogue is difficult to follow in the first place.Dialog+: The Game Changer for Easier-to-Follow TV DialogueIs hard-to-follow TV dialogue a common issue? Weiterlesen

Jul 27

7 min 50 sec

TTS AD is the abbreviation for text-to-speech audio description. Now you may have heard text to speech and audio description as separate entities, but TTS AD is a relatively new concept that is starting to turn heads in the world of accessible media. Speed is the name of the game with TTS AD, as media professionals seek cost and time-effective solutions for making their programming accessible to low-vision audiences.  So let's take a closer look at what TTS AD is, how it is made, and what role it will play in the future of accessible media.TTS AD: A Viable Solution for Audio Describing Content?First, can you quickly explain to me what text to speech is?Text to speech (TTS) converts written text into a synthesised spoken voice. It is sometimes referred to as "read aloud" technology. TTS is an increasingly popular accessibility feature on computers and phones for reading out digital text. You can find TTS in many places today such as internet browsers, smart assistants, e-book readers, and word processors.And what is audio description?Audio description for film and television is a form of narration that uses verbal descriptions to provide information on visual aspects of a media production. In other words, a pre-recorded voice over track describes what is happening in a video, TV show or film. The audio description should be neatly intertwined with the production's original dialogue and soundtrack.So TTS AD is a combination of the two?That's right. TTS AD is audio description that is read aloud using synthetic voices through text to speech.Who is the audio description intended for? Weiterlesen

May 11

7 min 12 sec

Audio description software is increasing in popularity. With tight deadlines and limited budgets to worry about, audio describers and production companies are turning to technological solutions to lower costs and save time. But what's involved in audio description software and what features are included to help users? We'll be using our own tools as an example to show you the ins and outs of audio description software.Remind me, what is audio description?The audio description is a narration spoken during quieter moments of a video. The audio description provides additional information that would otherwise not be clear from the dialogue. This often includes descriptions of the location, characters' facial expressions or the type of scene. Here's an example of an audio description made with our software: Who needs audio description?The audio description is primarily intended for people with vision loss. Around 250 million people worldwide have a visual impairment, with sight issues becoming more prevalent as we age. Despite its importance, only a small percentage of productions are provided with audio description.Who makes the audio description?Put simply, audio description production is usually broken down into the following stages:scriptwritingvoice recordingaudio post-productionDifferent professionals are normally required for each step, but some audio describers can take on all three tasks if they have a home studio.Got it. So why do we need audio description software?Audio description production is often a complicated process. Audio description scriptwriters need to deal with fiddly timecoding and export issues, which slows down progress. Clients usually ask for corrections to the script, so there's also a lot of back and forth on the phone or by email. Weiterlesen

Apr 15

8 min 58 sec

Neglect the disabled market at your peril. Businesses are losing billions by ignoring the guidelines outlined in the Web Accessibility Initiative and failing to make their websites accessible. Why is it important to create accessible online content? First and foremost, it shows that a business or service provider cares for its audience. Failing to accommodate disabled users means about 1 billion people around the world are not given the same treatment as the rest of the site's visitors. Whether it's a company website, blog, or a post on a video-sharing platform, disregarding accessibility can have a considerable impact on views, session times, and bounce rates —some of the key indicators for the amount of time people spend on the site. How is disability defined?Disability comes in many shapes and forms.  It may be a temporary injury like a broken wrist hindering your ability to type, whereas severe issues such as permanent cognitive and visual impairments are classified as long-term disabilities.  It is also worth noting that the chances of having disabling conditions become greater as we get older: almost half of over 60s experience some sort of moderate to severe disability. How is neglecting disabled internet users costing businesses?Around 70% of disabled internet users will simply leave a website if they find it inaccessible.  According to the Click-Away Pound Survey, poor web accessibility cost UK companies 17.1 billion GBP in 2019.  The study also shows that many major retailers are unaware that standards for supporting disabled people online even exist.  The figure above should leave business owners and online service vendors alarmed, considering around 15% of the world's population has some form of disability.  Weiterlesen

Mar 22

8 min 15 sec

Hashtags are a great way to expand the reach of your company or brand. By adding hashtags to a post, you're making your content discoverable and giving other social media users the chance to engage with you on a common interest or theme. However, many people and businesses are forgetting one important thing when writing their hashtags. It's time to learn about the wonders of camel case... First of all, what is camel case? In camel case, the first letter of each word is capitalised when writing compound words or phrases; the first word isn't uppercase. You may also see this practice stylised as camelCase. Here are a few common examples: eBay eLearning iPhone macOS vCard When you also capitalise the first word, it's known as upper camel case or pascal case, as seen here: BlackBerry HarperCollins LaserJet LinkedIn YouTube So why the cute name? This way of writing is called camel case because the capital letters are taller than the lowercase ones. The rise in the middle of the compound resembles a hump on the back of a camel. What has this got to do with hashtags? On social media, longer hashtags using multiple words have become increasingly popular. In most instances, people write out the entire hashtagged phrase in lowercase like this: #videotovoicerocks However, this way of writing hashtags is problematic for many social media users. What sorts of problems do lowercase hashtags create? Lowercase multiple-word hashtags are an issue for screen readers. A screen reader is a form of assistive technology that reads out text and image content as speech or renders it as braille. Weiterlesen

Feb 10

7 min 1 sec

Alt text and image descriptions are vital for web accessibility. Ignoring these features makes visual content inaccessible to website visitors with low vision. As most people will click away from a site they cannot use, it's time for businesses, bloggers, and webmasters to get smart with alt text and image descriptions. Before we get started, what does web accessibility mean? It's a good question and you can check out our web accessibility guide for a detailed answer. In short, web accessibility means designing a website in a way that doesn't prevent anyone from being able to use it. Therefore, people with disabilities or impairments shouldn't have any trouble on your site. Where does writing alt text and image descriptions come into it? Alt text and image descriptions remove hurdles that stop people from accessing your content. What is alt text? Alt text is the abbreviation for "alternative text". Alt text briefly describes what is in an image, such as text and the most important details. You'll sometimes see the alt text when an image fails to load. In HTML view, you can provide alternative text for your pictures by adding alt="describe your image" within the image tag. In many content management systems, you can add alt text by simply clicking on the image and entering a short explanation. Most social media sites, such as Twitter, have a feature for adding alt text. What is an image description? An image description is more detailed than alt text, so that someone can find out more about what is happening in the image. Weiterlesen

Jan 7

7 min 51 sec

Setting up a new business? Starting a new blog? Get clued up on web accessibility first... We set up our blog with the intention of providing valuable insights into the world of audio description and accessibility. So it wouldn't be a great look if we failed to practice what we preach. Before starting the blog, we did our homework on web accessibility and the key points to bear in mind to accommodate blind and visually-impaired visitors to your site.  Why does web accessibility matter? Web accessibility means designing websites in a way that doesn't prevent anyone from being able to use them.  In other words, any visitor should be able to access and use your site, regardless of any disabilities and impairments. Around 15% of the world's population has some sort of disability.  And over two-thirds of people in this category will leave a website if they find it inaccessible. So no matter how fantastic you feel your services, product or content might be, an inaccessible website is going alienate a lot of visitors and make them want to click away. What guidelines are out there to help us? To help people and companies setting up websites, there are various sets of guidelines for reviewing web design and usability.  For example, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) defines several levels of accessibility, including minimum thresholds that are considered acceptable.  Laws and regulations also need to be considered, since accessibility is a legal matter. But don't start despairing just yet – we've drawn up a few easy-to-follow steps to make your site more accessible and increase your potential readership. Weiterlesen

Dec 2020

7 min 24 sec

It's a difficult game of catch-up to expand the presence of audio description online.  While audio description is becoming increasingly embraced in the world of TV, film, and video on demand services, there remains a severe lack of availability online. As inaction continues, this black hole in the online media universe continues to grow wider. The blind and visually impaired aren't the only ones missing out on the opportunities audio description can provide either... April 17 2015 was a big day for audio description, when Marvel's Daredevil became the first show on Netflix to include an audio description track. This meant low-vision viewers could select an option to have a narrator describe everything on screen that they would otherwise miss. Featuring blind superhero Matt Murdock as the spin-off's main protagonist, it was an apt choice for the visually impaired community.  Since then, the video on demand provider has been steadily increasing the number of productions that feature audio description. According to the American Council of the Blind (ACB), Netflix has 1,272 film and TV titles with audio description on its platform in the United States, accounting for around a quarter of its total content. There's still a lot of work to do, but the trend is positive.  Staying stateside, the situation is even rosier for blind movie-goers. Since 2018, federal regulations require cinemas to have the necessary equipment to provide an audio description in the English language. In most cases, visually impaired people access the narration track through special headphones. As such, nearly all first-run movies are now accessible to the blind. Weiterlesen

Nov 2020

7 min 17 sec

After a long day, parking ourselves in front of a screen is often the best cure to deal with life’s stresses. Whether it’s flicking through channels, catching up with our favourite YouTubers, or binging on the latest Netflix series, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to what we can watch. It is now second nature to load up movies, sporting events, news, and television shows at the touch of a button. Access to audiovisual media has become our basic right. It would be quite a shock, then, if our viewing options were abruptly slashed to a comparatively minute selection. In the digital age, there would be justifiable cause for outrage. And yet, lack of access to media is the grim reality facing around 30 million blind and partially sighted people living in Europe today.  The low-vision population enjoys watching television and going to the movies, just like anyone else. However, people who fall into this category also need to have a complete picture of the on-screen action, which is why productions require an audio description. What is audio description?In short, an audio description is a spoken narrative detailing everything that is happening on screen. During gaps in dialogue, a voice artist describes the setting as well as actors’ movements, gestures, and facial expressions so that blind and partially sighted viewers can stay on top of the action. The concept of audio description was first developed by American professor Gregory Frazier in 1974. Since then, the technology has been limited to movie and TV production due to the laborious production process, which is usually based on the following workflow: Weiterlesen

Jun 2020

6 min 44 sec

Swiss Conference on Barrier-free Communication - VIDEO TO VOICE discuss accessibility with fellow industry experts From 29 June to 4 July 2020, VIDEO TO VOICE once again attended the Swiss Conference on Barrier-free Communication. While the Coronavirus outbreak prevented participants from travelling to Switzerland, the ZHAW School of Applied Linguistics made arrangements for the event to go ahead online. With an exciting program lined up, the Berlin-based tech firm didn't let the current global situation dampen their enthusiasm for the lively forum.  This rescheduled e-conference was the final edition in a series of three events being held as part of the “Proposal and Implementation of a Swiss Research Centre for BfC”. The primary aim of the scheme is to ensure people with visual, hearing or temporary cognitive impairments have access to higher education. Service providers, target groups, and umbrella organisations are involved so that research and practice can become more closely aligned. First ConferenceVIDEO TO VOICE flew to Switzerland for the first two editions of the BfC VIDEO TO VOICE was in attendance at the first conference held in September 2017 which focused on the current methods and products used in BfC. Here, the Berlin start-up presented the first prototype of Frazier, an intuitive text-to-speech editor for simplified and cost-efficient audio description (AD) production. Co-founder Christian David also provided a detailed account of text-to-speech audio description (TTS-AD) on the internet and the potential for more accessibility.  Second Edition VIDEO TO VOICE also attended the second edition of the conference which also took place at the ZHAW in November 2018. At this event, student Marina Gerster from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting presented a paper on Frazier that explored whether blind and visually impaired people consider a synthetic AD voices as a viable alternative to their human counterparts. As evidenced here, VIDEO TO VOICE has been committed to working with academic institutions in the development and use of Frazier from the company’s very beginnings.  Weiterlesen

Jun 2020

2 min 47 sec