Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Create Audio Description For YouTube With YouDescribe

YouTube accessibility has improved tremendously over the years, and one of my favorite tools for making YouTube accessible for viewers with vision loss is YouDescribe. YouDescribe gives volunteer users the ability to create audio description tracks for publicly listed videos on YouTube, recording an additional narration track that plays alongside the video without any other tools needed. I’ve been using YouDescribe for over five years and am a huge fan of the platform, and today’s post is all about how to create audio description for YouTube with YouDescribe.

How to set up YouDescribe

YouDescribe is a website and iOS app that gives blind and visually impaired users the ability to request audio description for videos, as well as search for videos that have been described and shared on the platform. Volunteers create audio description tracks using the YouDescribe web application, describing videos of their choice or videos that have been added to the wish list/request list.

Users do not need to have any specialty equipment or software to create descriptions on YouDescribe, though I strongly recommend using a pair of headphones and a microphone for best results. YouDescribe descriptions can only be recorded on the website and not in the mobile application.

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Who should create audio description?

Anyone can register to describe videos for YouDescribe, and users can vote for their favorite descriptions, as well as have multiple people create audio tracks for the same video. There are a lot of people who make for awesome audio description writers and narrators, but some people who will have strong skills for creating audio description include:

  • Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI/TSVI)
  • Family members of people with vision loss
  • Teachers and teaching candidates
  • Students who are studying film, theater, art, or other visual/performing arts
  • People who are into fandom or music/TV shows
  • Arts and crafts fans
  • Be My Eyes volunteers looking for a similar volunteer opportunity to help people who are blind/visually impaired
  • Students who are putting together a voiceover portfolio

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Choosing a video to describe

As previously mentioned, I highly recommend checking the YouDescribe wish list when searching for a video to describe, as these videos were specifically requested by blind/low vision viewers. If the video is not on the wish list, run a search for the video title on the search bar and then select the “describe” button.

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Watch the video and take notes as you go

After clicking the “describe” button, users are taken to the authoring screen for creating audio descriptions. From there, users can watch the video and pause it as needed.

I recommend writing notes in the notes box on the right side of the screen for easy reference, or in a separate notetaking application like Microsoft OneNote. When writing notes, pay attention to the following information:

  • Who or what is on the screen
  • Any on-screen text
  • Movement or dancing
  • Scene changes
  • Backgrounds and settings
  • Costumes or other visual changes

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Turn the notes into a script for audio description

After writing notes, practice reading them while the video plays, and refine them as needed. Great audio descriptions have the following characteristics:

  • No over-explaining. No need to describe lots of visual information, many people have mental models of how things should look
  • Short descriptions. Make sure descriptions do not distract from the video and are short in length- 1 to 2 sentences is usually plenty
  • Great sound quality. No background noise or static on the microphone
  • No censorship. Don’t skip over scenes because you feel uncomfortable describing them, and don’t censor language either

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Record narration with the YouDescribe website

Once you have created the script, it’s time to record! There are two types of descriptions:

The first type of description is inline description. These play concurrently with the video audio and do not require any pauses. Inline description can be used where dialogue or music is not important, during natural pauses in dialogue, or during transition scenes.

The second type of description is extended description. The video is paused while the audio description plays, and then continues when the description is finished. I recommend using extended description for videos where dialogue or music are important, or for longer descriptions. Both types of description can be used in a video.

To add a description:

  1. Go to the timestamp of the section that needs to be described
  2. Select your preferred description style- Inline or Extended
  3. Name the audio track or add a simple description
  4. Select record and speak, then select record again
  5. Listen to playback and reposition the audio track if needed
  6. Press the two arrow keys to switch from inline to extended, or vice versa
  7. To add more descriptions, click the play button on the video and pause at the next timestamp to add additional description
  8. Repeat

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Watch your recording before you submit it

Before you submit your video, watch it with your eyes closed or with the screen pointed away and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you get all of the same visual information, or does it feel like the viewer is missing out on something?
  • Is the audio easy to understand and follow?
  • Do the descriptions make sense?

Once all of those questions have been answered with a yes, go ahead and select publish. Viewers will watch the video and rate the quality of descriptions to provide feedback to describers.

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More tips for how to create audio description for YouTube with YouDescribe

  • Audio description is not just for people with vision loss- people who experience photosensitivity to strobe or flashing lights or motion sickness/vertigo also benefit from having audio descriptions for visual content
  • Audio description is different from captioning and is designed to describe visual content, not audio content
  • Audio description scripts are often incorporated into transcripts of videos that also include dialogue and other sounds

A unique volunteer opportunity to help people with vision loss (low vision/blind), learn how to create audio description for YouTube with the free YouDescribe tool