Audio Description Formats

Audio Description Formats are Transforming Video for the Visually and Hearing Impaired

Audio description formats are fast becoming the go-to metadata add-on after captions and transcripts for media creators. Writer, speaker, and critical thinker Deepak Chopra have often referred to the internet as the “global brain,” a reflection of our collective consciousness. This makes sense when you consider the vast amount of personal data that exists online. All of our hopes, dreams, fears, love, and ambition are out there, converted into 1s and 0s. While this might make you feel a little uncomfortable, there are exceptional improvements that can be made worldwide by the discoveries made therein.

When it comes to the virtual world, the world has become a much smaller place.  It’s seen as ‘normal’ that access and outreach of media with a shared viewing experience has become the collective consciousness. That’s why the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created, and the addition of video captions was mandated.  Now, we see the rise in other technologies whose entire aim is to create a more unified and accessible world.  Audio Description and Descriptive Audio are two of these emerging media technologies.

Audio Description Formats Bring A Fuller Video Viewing Experience

Imagine being visually impaired, trying to watch a movie. If it sounds almost impossible, that is because it is. While one can, experience the dialogue but so much of the viewing experience happens outside of the characters’ conversations. 

Audio description essentially turns video files into a book on tape. It takes each scene and describes what’s happening through the narrative in the spaces between dialogue. 

According to the American Council of the Blind, the official definition of audio description is:

“Narration added to the soundtrack to describe important visual details that cannot be understood from the main soundtrack alone.  Audio description is a means to inform individuals who are blind or who have low vision about visual content essential for comprehension.”

The primary elements of Audio Description include:

  • Information about actions, characters, scene changes, on-screen text, and other visual content
  • The narration which guides the listener through the video with concise, objective descriptions of new scenes, settings, costumes, body language, and “sight gags.”
  • Supplementing the regular audio track of a program, added during existing pauses in dialogue.

A great example of Audio Description:


Descriptive Audio Helps to Better Understand Media Content

The two phrases are so similar, yet their primary functions could not be more different. Whereas audio description is describing the scene through a separate narration, descriptive audio is information added to video captions and audio transcripts to help describe what’s happening through sound. 

Examples of Descriptive Audio include:

  • Explanations of sounds, such as “the door slammed loudly”
  • Descriptions of background noises, like “cars honking”
  • Identification of theme songs and other essential music tracks
  • Descriptions of important sounds happening off-screen, such as “Rosie crying”

The Benefits of Audio Description Formats

audio description formatsBoth audio description and descriptive audio are critical in creating a more descriptive media world.  This does not only benefit those with visual or hearing impairments. We know from research that by adding captions to a video, many more viewers are watching a video than those with impairments. Facebook has reported that 85% of people watch videos on their platform without sound. It’s not unreasonable to assume that that statistic holds up across the web.  We also now know that it’s proven that video captions extend view times by more than 12%. 

Without the advanced media resources that we now have access to, the video viewing experience would be significantly reduced. It won’t be long before audio description, and descriptive audio is made widely available around the world.  Through this evolution, we all benefit.  If you have questions about your media content, contact us online or call us at 1-855-243-5624.

How to Start a Video Captioning and Transcription Strategy
How to Start a Video Captioning and Transcription Strategy


Nicole E. Flynn, CMO at cielo24, is deeply interested in exploring and communicating the ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) intersects with various aspects of our daily lives. She is passionate about exploring the ways in which AI can be ethically harnessed to improve the quality of life and make our world a better place. Nicole seeks to educate and inform audiences about the potential of AI technology and how it can be used to drive innovation and growth.