Veronica With Four Eyes

Creating Audio Description For Viral Videos With YouDescribe

A lot of my friends enjoy sharing videos with me on social media about topics that enjoy, ranging from serious videos about visual impairment to comedy videos featuring my favorite music. One of my friends just shared a video today that was celebrating “Earth, Wind, and Fire Day” on Saturday, a reference to the first line of their song “September.” Problem was, I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on in the video, other than that it was supposed to be funny, because I have low vision that makes it difficult to see videos. Luckily, I have a brother that is awesome at audio describing videos and he was able to describe the video to me easily. If we weren’t in close proximity, I would have asked him to use the awesome YouDescribe tool to make recording his description even easier.

Here are my tips for recording audio description for viral comedic videos using YouDescribe. The tips listed here can also work for sighted viewers describing viral comedic videos in real time to viewers with blindness and low vision.

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Audio description, sometimes referred to as descriptive audio or described video, is an additional narrator track that provides visual information for people who otherwise would not be able to see it. Audio description is provided during natural pauses in dialogue so it does not distract from the video. Occasionally, describers may pause the video themselves and add description if there are no natural pauses available.

For most online videos, open audio description is used, meaning that the audio description automatically plays and does not require a special device to be used.



YouDescribe is a free website and iOS app that allows viewers to watch YouTube videos with audio description. The audio description tracks are written and recorded by sighted volunteers so that people with blindness and low vision can watch YouTube videos and receive visual information. YouDescribe is a project of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, California.

YouDescribe is available online and as a free iOS app. At this time, audio description tracks can only be created through web browsers. YouDescribe can be used with or without an account for viewing videos, but connecting to a Google account is required for requesting videos and creating descriptions.


Considerations for describing a comedic viral video

Does the video even need description?

Some comedic videos don’t have a lot of things going on visually speaking, or the audio provides enough contextual information. For short videos that would benefit from an introduction, listing a video/scene description in the captions that a user can read prior to watching the video would be more beneficial than recording a full audio description. However, for videos with sight gags or that convey lots of visual information, adding audio description is a great idea.

In the future, I will be adding a post about writing video descriptions for short length videos, such as videos posted on TikTok or Vine.

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Inline description vs forced pauses for description

Since most comedic viral videos do not have lots of space for natural pauses in dialog or action, using forced pauses, meaning pausing the video to add the narration track, is much more practical than adding inline descriptions that play over the video’s existing audio track.

How much description to use

The more someone has to explain a joke, the less funny it becomes. Try to let the video speak for itself whenever possible, and don’t spoil the joke before it happens. In the example video, someone unexpectedly opens the door to the refrigerator and climbs out of it, so it would be better to wait until after the fridge opening sound to describe what was going on, instead of when the camera first is pointed towards the fridge.

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Things to describe

If the information is not otherwise explicitly mentioned in the video, helpful things to describe include:

  • Basic physical descriptions of people onscreen
  • The setting of the video and time if relevant (i.e a basketball court at night)
  • Props or items that are the main focus of the camera, such as the calendar in the example video
  • Relevant text or signs
  • Significant movement or setting changes

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Things not to describe

Items to exclude from audio descriptions include:

  • Racist/derogatory descriptions of people in the video
  • Items that are not important to the video, such as background objects people don’t interact with
  • Information otherwise conveyed by sound effects

Final thoughts

I love having a brother who is willing to describe videos in an accurate, objective way so that everyone else can enjoy the humor that comes from comedic viral videos. I’m hoping to have him record the audio description he wrote and posting it on YouDescribe in the future. Audio description is a great way to make sure everyone is included when watching a fun video, and I hope to see more comedic videos with audio description in the future!

Creating Audio Description for Viral Videos With YouDescribe. How to write audio descriptions for comedic viral videos, inspired by this question- "Do you remember the 21st night of September?"