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If you produce video content, audio description should be high on your agenda. Along with captions, transcripts, appropriate media players, and a suitable design, audio description is a key component for ensuring a video is accessible to all your viewers. It's by no means an easy task though, and the traditional audio description workflow leaves many businesses floundering.
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.
An audio description is primarily intended for blind or visually impaired viewers, so key visual elements are described to help their understanding of the video.
Here's a fun example of audio description in action…
Audio description is a key element in producing accessible visual media content.
Without it, people with visual or cognitive impairments won't be able to fully understand or enjoy a video in the same way fully sighted people do.
Moral aspects aside, denying the blind and visually impaired access to media, products, and services falls foul of legal requirements.
In the European Union, only between 4% to 11% of programming contains audio description.
When considering the millions of videos uploaded online every minute, the numbers make even worse reading.
However, critics say that quotas, which tend to hover around 10%, are currently too low.
For example, only 4% of German television is provided with an audio description, mainly because the quota only applies to public service TV stations.
Conclusion: Audio description is an essential element for making videos accessible to all. Yet not enough is being done to promote audio description availability.
The reasons are manifold.
In order to understand why availability is lacking, we first need to take a closer look at the traditional audio description workflow.
There are several steps to the audio description production process.
Conclusion: With so many stages, reviews, and people involved, the workflow is fairly complex.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question.
Here are some of the main factors that can affect how long an audio description will take to produce:
A simple one to start with: longer videos will typically require longer descriptions and more work.
Video length isn't the only consideration though.
Content with plenty of dialogue such as documentaries may not need much visual description, whereas intricate animation films will need a lot of input from the audio describer.
As you can see from the workflow above, there can be plenty of back-and-forth between the audio describer and the client when it comes to corrections.
People work at different paces.
An experienced audio describer will typically be able to work through more projects than someone just starting out.
Conclusion: With so many variables, it is difficult to determine how long it takes to produce an audio description.
Now we're coming to what really matters for decision-makers and business owners: money.
Again, there are a number of factors that come into play when calculating the costs of an audio description:
Audio description prices are usually calculated per minute of footage to be described.
In order to create the time-coded description transcript, you will need professional writers.
Writers' fees are reliant on lots of factors, such as experience and location.
In the UK, rates may be around £3 per minute of footage to be described, while German audio description writers charge up to €12 per minute.
Once the transcript is ready, human voice actors are required to deliver the description.
Voice actors tend to be paid per project based on the word count and their hourly rate.
With different transcript lengths and rates to consider, it is tricky to determine the voice actor's recording fee.
To create an audio description that is suitable for broadcasting, you need to record it with professional equipment.
Use of recording studios is a country-specific matter: While some audio describers and voice artists can do their own recordings from home, many clients require studio recordings.
Before delivery, the audio description also needs to be mixed with the original soundtrack of the TV show or film at the correct levels.
Studio hiring fees for this kind of production range start from around $50 per hour.
Audio description vendors provide all of the aforementioned services.
Different factors to consider for each component mean the price per minute can vary wildly.
While some (mostly questionable) audio description vendors ask for as low as $15 per minute, you will find others charging $75 for their service.
Conclusion: With various personnel, studio, and equipment fees, costs can be unpredictable and rise quickly.
Let's review the conclusions we've drawn from audio description production:
Faced with a complicated production process, quotas to meet, and high costs, it's no wonder that audio description gives media companies a headache.
As laws for increasing accessibility continue to be passed, business owners have no choice but to get to grips with audio description.
While the process may seem a pain, it's a good exercise to identify where the difficulties lie in creating audio description.
Let's now go through some of the solutions you can adopt for making your audio description production less time-consuming and more cost-effective.
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