Audio Description Tools: Februar Film Full of Praise for Frazier

Audio Description Tools: Februar Film Full of Praise for Frazier

Producing videos that are accessible to everyone is no easy task. As many media companies are keenly aware, one particularly difficult component is the audio description

Thankfully, help is at hand with Frazier, VIDEO TO VOICE's audio description software. Here's how a production company in Berlin lowered costs and audio-described a large catalogue of videos in just a few weeks.

audio description tools. A video editor keyboard on a desk with certain key color coded for different tasks. In the background there is a monitor and a microphone.

A challenging proposition

When the request came in, Sascha Lienert knew that he would have his work cut out. His client needed to make the videos in their online media library accessible with audio descriptions. And as is often the case in the film industry, the deadlines were pressing.

Sascha is the Managing Director at Februar Film, a production company that primarily works on non-fiction documentary films. At the firm's office in the heart of Berlin, an experienced team of award-winning writers, editors, researchers, and directors come together to create films for the German and international market.

"We came into contact with a company that created a platform for mental health topics. We produce instructional videos for them, which are then added to their website. For example, people can get advice on how to live with a relative suffering from depression or dementia."

The client, German health insurer AOK, wanted the videos to include an audio description. Though the videos were usually one to two minutes in length, the catalogue comprised over 70 different projects, and speed was of the essence.

A meeting at a media company. A woman is arranging sticky notes on a whiteboard while her colleagues watch on from the desk.

The conventional route hits a dead end

Sascha is well versed in audio description matters: Februar Film produces programming for German public service television, which requires a certain amount of content to be accessible to all viewers. Therefore, Sascha first calculated how much it would cost to produce the audio descriptions for AOK using the traditional workflow.

Diagram showing the traditional audio description process. The stages are video, authoring, recording, mixing, mastering, and publishing.

However, the web format varies greatly from TV and film production. With tighter budgets and turnaround times to consider, the cost calculation didn't make easy reading for Sascha:

"When considering the number of correction cycles, where we'd need to keep getting a voice artist again and again, we would've gone bankrupt!"

Further, this continuous back-and-forth at the correction stage often leads to delays in the project. At the same time, budgeting becomes unpredictable, with variable costs for voice actor and studio (re-)hiring fees to bear in mind.

With the conventional production process, Sascha also didn't feel he had full control over the final product.

Ultimately, the classical production process was a poor fit for the short clip format of the AOK web series.

Let the software do the talking

With the conventional method now out of the question, Sascha set about finding a workable solution online. This is when he first discovered Frazier, audio description software for describing videos on one simple platform:

Diagram showing the audio description process with Video To Voice's production tools. The stages are video, authoring and production tools, and finally publishing.
"We wanted to have a workflow in place that we could monitor. We wanted to be able to use our in-house writers to create the scripts."

VIDEO TO VOICE provides browser-based software for creating text-to-speech audio descriptions. Frazier reduces production time and costs by automating work steps that are otherwise difficult to calculate.

Here's how Februar Film went about using Frazier:

  1. The in-house writing team created the script using the built-in authoring tool.
  2. Text to speech automatically converted the script into a synthetic voice.
  3. The audio description was automatically mixed and mastered.
  4. The final audio description export was automatically created in the right format for delivery.

After testing the software, Sascha knew Frazier was the right fit for the AOK project:

"The platform is very good to work with. As everything is browser-based, there are no technical hurdles. In terms of usability, everything is incredibly intuitive. Anyone can use it to create an audio description."

For the software's use, VIDEO TO VOICE calculates the cost by the number of minutes of footage to be audio-described. This means film production companies no longer have to worry about varying costs, as the service is provided at a fixed price in line with the project length. 

So it was a big thumbs-up to Frazier from the production house, but would the client be just as happy with the results?

editor f

Text to speech put up to the test

Text to speech has attracted criticism from some quarters in the audio description industry, but the technology has come a long way in recent years. At first, AOK were also sceptical about using a synthetic voice for the audio description in their videos, as Sascha explains:

"We were in long talks with AOK, as they needed some convincing, so we sent them a few voice samples from the system. We also put forward the argument that [VIDEO TO VOICE] had done a lot for MDR [a German public broadcaster], showing the tool was already a hit in the professional media landscape."

Satisfied with the quality of the samples and the software's credentials, AOK gave Februar Film the green light to use text-to-speech audio description for their videos.

Audio description in no time

Since first using Frazier, Sascha's team has provided text-to-speech audio description for over 70 projects for the AOK. The turnaround times are staggering, with Februar Film producing most of these videos within a two-week window

When considering budget and time constraints, output of this magnitude would have never been possible with the conventional audio description production process. As ever, Sascha took it all in his stride:

"There was a lot to get through, but we were assisted by Lukas [Pajonczek, co-founder of VIDEO TO VOICE] and benefited from the activation of beta options.

The finished product

The audio-described videos are now available in the AOK media library (site in German).

Audio description tools: A desk with a laptop and several monitors. The laptop shows the Video To Voice editor. The centre monitor shows the finished videos on the company's website.

The instructional videos proved to be a success, resulting in Februar Film receiving another similar-sized batch of AOK projects to audio describe at the end of 2020.

In early 2021, AOK commissioned Februar Film to produce further accessible content, a fact that pleases Sascha:

"This year, we will be doing a new series with AOK, focussing on how to come to terms with a cancer diagnosis. It's added a new string to our bow and we've enjoyed working with them."

Why Frazier is the right choice

The conventional audio description production was not the right option for the AOK web series, because:

  • hiring voice actors and studios would make costs variable
  • correction cycles would result in delays and costs rising exponentially
  • there is less control over the final result

Instead, Februar Film opted for Frazier's text-to-speech technology to create the audio descriptions, because:

  • costs are fixed based on the length of the projects (calculated per minute of footage)
  • expenditure is ultimately lower
  • the browser-based software is easy to use and presents no technical challenges
  • the writing team can create the scripts on one platform
  • text-to-speech audio description meets the client's quality standards
  • the software was already being used by national broadcasters

Leading production companies such as Februar Film are using VIDEO TO VOICE's text-to-speech software to cut down production times, lower costs, and ultimately boost output. If you would like to use the software for your videos, contact us for a tailor-made plan.

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