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What is Audio Description?

February 5, 2024 2:12 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

When I first started out in voice over, I mostly did commercial voice overs, as well as promo work for television networks like MTV and HGTV, “Tune in next week and watch the Property Brothers work their magic by turning a homeowner’s dream into a renovated reality!” I always got excited knowing my mom would hear me on tv while she planned her next DIY project. I also wondered if she could hear the subliminal message I planted, “Please don’t get me socks for Christmas. Love you!”

As the years passed I discovered and developed skills in more voice-over genres, like corporate narration, e-learning, and audiobooks to name a few. I did it to expand my business, and to keep finding new things to keep me excited and growing in voice-over. One day, I was skimming a list of auditions on an online casting site and saw one for an audio description company, that wanted to add some voice actors to their list of go-to talent, otherwise known as their talent roster. I thought, “Hell yeah, I’d love to!” followed by, “What is it ?!” You see, I had no idea what the audio description even was. If you do, dear reader, I guess there is no reason to continue reading. If you don’t know, then allow me to introduce you to the wonderful world of audio description!

Audio description (AD) is a narration service that makes visual content accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. It provides a verbal description of visual elements during natural pauses in the audio or through a separate audio track. These descriptions include details about actions, expressions( “Jack frowns”), settings (“the wind is blowing wildly”), and on-screen text that might not be discernible through the dialogue or sound effects alone. Audio description allows individuals with visual impairments to engage with the content in a meaningful way.

Here’s another example; for an action sequence in a film you would hear a voice over saying, “Sam kicks the gun away from Joe. Joe dives after it, scraping his shoulder, picks up the gun, and points it at Sam. Sam grins devilishly and holds up the pin from a grenade.” Those are all important details in the scene that a blind person wouldn’t know were happening without that voice over! They would just hear an explosion.

It works like this: Audio descriptions are carefully scripted and narrated to fit within the existing audio space of the content without overwhelming or interrupting the original audio track. Voice actors performing the narration, deliver the descriptions in a clear, concise, and neutral tone to ensure they are informative without being distracting. Too much emotion in a line of audio description may take focus away from the heartfelt words of the actor in the film. A dramatic audio description performance of ,”The ocean waves swell in the distance” may take away some emotional impact of the hero’s “I love you, damn it!”

And check this out: Audio description is not limited to entertainment; it is also used in educational settings, museums, and live performances, making visual information accessible to a wider audience. Audio description has become a vital tool in promoting inclusivity and accessibility. Pretty cool, right? I did end up making it onto that talent roster, and diving into the world of audio description was not only fascinating and fun but also a revelation. Who knew my voice could help someone “see”, ensuring they get the full experience, plot twists and all? Mom, if you’re listening, I hope you’re proud -and fine, I could actually use some socks. But maybe throw in a scarf this season for variety’s sake!

We welcome you to join us for an introductory Voice Over class HERE

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This post was written by Simone Stevens

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