Blog: What exactly is Audio Description (AD)?

Audio Description, Blog 9 Aug 2014
Ss Boyd Brooke

Audio Description (AD) is a relatively new area of service for Able. While captioning has been available in NZ for some 30-odd years, AD only started up in 2011.

AD is an audio track that runs at the same time as the regular audio for a TV programme. If you’ve ever listened to the director’s commentary on a DVD, AD works in a similar way, except the audio describer ensures they only speak during the ‘gaps’ in an audio track when no one else is speaking.

The purpose of AD is to allow blind or vision-impaired people to gain a richer understanding of the programme through an audio describer explaining what is happening on screen.  The audio describer will watch the show through to identify where the gaps are, script their description of what is happening on screen, then voice and record that script.

While a lot of information can be gathered by the vision-impaired viewer through listening to the audio track, there’s critical information they can miss out on, such as the locations, what characters look like and non-verbal emotions.

Below is a trailer for the Disney movie Frozen with AD. Much of this trailer involves visual comedy, so the Audio Describer has a significant role here to help explain to the vision-impaired viewer what is going on.

Copyright IMS TV UK.

Able currently use a mix of files bought from overseas (including ones from the caption house that made the Frozen trailer AD) and we also create AD tracks in house, with a focus on NZ programming. It’s a growing area and Able are currently the only television AD providers in Australasia.

If you or someone you know would benefit from using the AD service, more information can be found here about how to access it and what programmes have AD available.

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