Described video tips?
February 20, 2018 12:24 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to create a Described Video track to accompany a video project... ie, an optional audio track in which a narrator describes the visuals onscreen, so that low vision people get context. I'm seeking tips on how to do this well, things to avoid doing, or links to media with great descriptive tracks that I can use as templates.

I have some questions, like-

How important is it to visually describe things like colours and shapes?
Is it better to give a list of adjectives (Alice is wearing pink jeans, a red sweater, and green shoes), or subjective descriptions (Alice is neatly dressed in bright, playful colours)?
I come from a screenwriting background where punchy, gestalt-summing descriptions tend to be favoured over factual list-based descriptions, but I get the sense the opposite is preferred in this context.

I'll be both writing and reading the track, so I appreciate tips and examples related to either task.
posted by pseudostrabismus to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Robot Hugs had a Twitter thread about describing still images for accessible captions, which might have some useful ideas. Also, this is apparently what RH does for a living, so if you contacted them they might be able to point you toward other resources for learning more.
posted by Lexica at 12:43 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I did this for a few years! My work was mostly for animated shows, though I did a few feature-length films.

To address your specific example, it depends on the length of silence. You never want to overlap speech, so in some cases the descriptions are succinct by ncecessity. Context matters: if Alice’s red sweater is later mentioned by another character, it’s more important to mention it in the first description rather than a more general statement about her clothes.

Will you be writing and recording the description yourself? It takes awhile to get the proper feel for silence duration and description length, so if this is a one-off project consider hiring a contractor.
posted by third word on a random page at 1:13 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Totally blind described video Connoisseur here. :) I can only speak to my own personal preferences, but I'd vastly prefer color actually be mentioned. I don't have many reference points for it either way, but I just appreciate the information. I'm no master of inserting the descriptions into possibly brief pauses, but will just recommend you maybe watch, say, a British-described program, like Dr Who, and something with an American narrator, like a recent feature film. Most British describers I've heard are shorter, less detailed, and arguably less descriptive, but YMMV.

As far as sources for sample descriptions go, you can't go wrong with The Blind Mice Movie Vault, which offers MP3s of described TV and film. It could be argued it's a form of piracy, but the regulations around obtaining this stuff legally are painful, particularly in the case of TV shows—I cite, for instance, the fact that the newest Star Trek is available on Netflix with description outside of the US, but nowhere with it over here. ::end rant:: Sorry.

I hope this is at least helpful in some fashion :)
posted by Alensin at 2:36 PM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have some links (and had a long chat with one of our audio describers at work, so I could include a better set of resources in a presentation I'm doing in April.) They're at work, but I will snag them tomorrow and share them.

One thing she pointed out was that there are genre conventions here: feature film and other more art-focused things tend to have more arty descriptions, while videos that are conveying information tend to be briefer in how they describe the visuals. (Also, films-as-art tend to have a bit more space for descriptions than, say, a training video.)

Depending on the project, it's also possible to build the description into the actual video in various ways (I definitely have samples of this at work.)
posted by modernhypatia at 4:48 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

(Links come from projects related to where I work, mostly, but I wasn't directly involved in making them.)

Tips I've gotten include:
1) Consider a descriptive transcript with additional details in the text.

Example of a video with descriptive transcript. (Also, this is an example of not describing everything: there's no particular description of the teacher or the background which is not relevant to the content, but there is description of the visuals in the video clips.)

The benefit of the descriptive transcript is you end up with a fully searchable version, and if there are details you can't fit into the video itself, you can add additional comments.

2) Building description into the video narration in the first place can work really well.

Here's a video with my predecessor where the first few minutes includes talking about the space they're in and describing what it's like. (AMI focuses on accessible media, so may well be worth mining for content like yours and seeing how they do description as models to try out.)

3) The American Council of the Blind has a great page on their audio description project, with many resources and lots of examples of different kinds of description.

4) Multiple people have recommended Joel Snyder as a good resource, and his site includes some additional resource pages and a bibliography.

5) And another list of resources from Scout, the information clearing house site we run. (this one, if you email the contact address, you'll get to me.)

Finally, I got the recommendation to consider working from the outside in - general shape or size, then materials or structure, then more details or context. How much you include depends on a lot of factors, but focus on what's needed to understand what you're talking about in the rest of your content.
posted by modernhypatia at 5:25 AM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

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