Viral videos are a common conversation topic in my friend group, but there are times when I’m watching a video and I have no idea why it is funny or popular. Something that helps me a lot is watching videos with audio description, which provides an additional narration track that describes visual elements shown on screen for those who might not be able to see them. Here are my favorite tips for creating audio description for viral videos with YouDescribe, a free tool for adding audio description to videos posted publicly on YouTube.
Creating audio description with 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 the best results. YouDescribe descriptions can only be recorded on the website and not in the mobile application and require a free Google account for adding or requesting descriptions.
- YouDescribe: Audio Description For YouTube
- 8 Myths About Audio Description
- YouDescribe – Audio Description for YouTube Videos (external link)
Things to consider when creating audio description for viral videos
Should I add audio description or just a video 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. For videos that have several sight gags throughout, or where there are a lot of scene changes, audio description would be helpful to have.
Inline description vs extended description
Inline description plays 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.
With 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.
Choosing what to describe
Environmental sounds such as a car honking or a dog barking are distinctive and don’t need to be explained. However, it is helpful to know what the car is honking at, or why the dog is barking, as these are often the focus of the video- for example, is the dog barking at a bear that is sitting outside of the door?
Another thing to consider is the timing of the description. If the dog is barking at a bear, don’t mention the bear until it is visible in the video- don’t make the “big reveal” too early! To learn more about creating descriptions for blind and low vision audiences, read my post on alt text and image descriptions linked below.
- How To Create Audio Description For YouTube With YouDescribe
- How To Write Video Descriptions For TikTok
- How To Write Video Descriptions For Animal Videos On Social Media
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
What to describe when writing audio description for viral videos
When listening to audio description for viral or popular videos, I find it super helpful when scripts include the following information:
Basic descriptions of people/subjects in the video
- If the subject of the video is the person who posted it, use their name or username. For example, if I posted a video where I am the only subject, I would say “Veronica” (my display name) or “@Veron4ica” (my username)
- When names or other identifying info is not available, I would give a basic description such as “yellow lab”, “happy blonde-haired girl”, “Target employee”, or other contextual info that is important for understanding the video
- For celebrities or people with their own Wikipedia page, I would use their name, e.g. “David Bowie”
- If I knew who was in the video but they didn’t identify themselves, I would not share this information- for example, if I recognized my brother in a video but he was not otherwise identified, I would not mention his name when creating audio description
Time and place for the video
- The setting of a video can provide important contextual info, such as if a video is being shot on a basketball court at night or in a kitchen
- If the location is not tagged but is a place I recognize (like a nearby coffee shop or shopping mall), I do not mention the location of the video unless it is a landmark like the Statue of Liberty
Props or other items of significance
- What is the subject of the video holding? Is there an item in the background that the subject is focusing on? I wouldn’t need to know that there is a stop sign in the background of a video where a dog is running around, but I would want to know about the stop sign if the dog interacts with it in some way
- At the beginning of one of my favorite videos, the camera zooms in on a picture of a calendar marked September 21st, which is a significant date for the context of this video. If someone was creating a description for this video, it would be more valuable if they mentioned the calendar had September 21st circled, instead of just mentioning a calendar on the wall
- With the exception of captions, all on-screen text should be read out loud when creating audio descriptions for videos, unless the text is read out loud by the subject of the video.
- If emoji show up on screen, those should also be mentioned as well, such as “three cake emoji.” If the emoji are covering something, I recommend mentioning what they are covering, i.e a face
Movement or setting changes
- When the subject of the video moves around or changes locations, this should be mentioned in the audio description. For example, “Veronica leaves the kitchen and runs outside”
- If the subject makes different facial expressions that are relevant to the video, this should also be noted. For example, “Veronica stops smiling and looks confused as she notices a bird on top of the TV”
- How To Write Alt Text For Memes
- How To Create Image Descriptions For Red Carpet Looks
- Emoji and Low Vision
- Creating Audio Description For Dance Tutorials With YouDescribe
- Accessing The News With Assistive Technology
Other tips for creating audio description for viral videos
- When thinking about how to write a script for audio description, imagine how you would talk about this video in conversation without looking at it. What are the most important parts? What makes this video funny, important, or otherwise significant?
- Audio description is different from captioning or transcripts- it does not describe the audio of a video
- Want to learn more about video descriptions? Read How To Write Video Descriptions For TikTok
- Want more audio description content? Check out Audio Description Archives | Veronica With Four Eyes (veroniiiica.com)