I love listening to live music and watching concert videos and music videos from my favorite bands, but it’s difficult for me to attend events in person since I have a medical condition that causes photosensitivity, or a sensitivity to strobe and flashing lights. Since it would be impossible to ban strobe lights from concerts or entertainment altogether, I’ve come up with a few different strategies for watching concerts without strobe lights from my favorite bands and singers. Here are my favorite tips for how I watch concert videos with photosensitivity without strobe lights and avoid seizures, migraines, and other adverse medical reactions.
Examples of medical conditions that are affected by photosensitivity and strobe lights
I have Chiari Malformation and chronic migraines, which are neurological conditions that can be negatively impacted by strobe or flashing lights. In my case, being around flashing lights can make me feel disoriented and experience similar effects to vertigo, and can also trigger a migraine. In the past, flashing lights were also a trigger for my non epileptic seizures in high school, but I haven’t had one of those in a very long time.
Other medical conditions that can be affected by photosensitivity or experience negative effects from flashing lights include:
- Autism/ADHD/Sensory Processing Disorder
- Epilepsy or seizures
- Flicker Vertigo
- Motion sickness
- Neurological issues
- Photophobia or Photosensitivity
- Visual impairments
- Visual Processing Disorder
Not everyone who has these diagnoses will experience photosensitivity, but it is a known trigger for some people with these conditions.
- The Real Villain In Incredibles 2: Strobe Lights (NO SPOILERS)
- Five Common Technology Behaviors That Hurt My Brain
- How I Explain Chronic Migraine
- Explaining Chiari Malformation in Seven Words or Less
Concert video sources
Wondering where to find concert videos to stream or watch online? Here are some of my favorite sources:
Qello for Libraries
I discovered Qello last year and have been using it to watch a variety of concerts, documentaries, and other music themed content from my favorite bands and singers. At my library, Qello is accessed as part of the “Extras” section in the Libby app, and users can get an all-access pass for unlimited streaming of content for 7 days, with options to renew the pass an unlimited number of times. Some of my favorite musicians that I have found on the Quello app include Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Genesis, The Beatles, Queen, and many others.
Some popular streaming sources like Netflix and Disney+ have audio described concerts as part of their program offerings. I strongly recommend checking out the Audio Description Project from the American Council for the Blind to search for audio description on specific platforms
YouTube is a rich source for finding concert videos and live performances, including clips of songs and full concert videos. There are a few web extensions for disabling streaming video on YouTube and watching videos with audio only, including a Music Mode and Audio Only web extensions.
- Live concert streaming | Qello Concerts by Stingray
- My Favorite Digital Library Resources For Low Vision
- The Audio Description Project (ADP) (acb.org)
- “David Bowie Is…” Augmented Reality App Review
- How To Create Audio Description For YouTube With YouDescribe
Enabling a screen curtain/turning off video
For iOS devices like iPhone and iPad, Netflix and similar apps can be played while the screen is locked, though users will need to select the play button again on their lockscreen to continue playing audio after their device is locked. Another option is to enable picture-in-picture, and slide the video to the edge of the screen.
Having someone else pre-screen the content
Sometimes I’ll ask a friend or family member to watch a video for me first and let me know if there are a lot of strobe or flashing lights so I can plan accordingly. In some cases, they will write down time stamps or song names for me where there are a lot of strobe or flashing lights. I also typically will have someone else watch concert videos with me in case I start feeling disoriented.
Listening to audio description
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 often included in concerts that are posted on streaming services such as Netflix- Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour is an example of a popular concert that has audio description available. Audio description can be enabled by changing the audio language to English Audio Description/English Descriptive Audio when watching a video.
- Watching Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour With Audio Description
- Listing of titles on the Audio Description Project
Playing on a smaller screen or minimizing the window
Some people find it easier to watch content with flashing lights on a smaller screen like a computer, compared to a larger TV or movie theater screen. When I watch videos on my desktop computer, I minimize the window playing video content so I don’t see any of the flashing lights.
Putting a blanket over the TV
When I would get seizures from flashing lights as a teenager, my parents would drape a blanket over the TV screen so it was completely covered, and we would listen to whatever was on the TV. This was a low-tech fix, but made it possible for me to watch a concert video that I was really excited about.
Streaming on a mobile device
People with vision loss often benefit from watching videos on a mobile device like a tablet, as it is easier to position the screen or use pinch-to-zoom gestures to magnify details. I also find it easy to cover a mobile device with a case or rest it on another surface. If the device is playing a video, it shouldn’t auto lock, but I recommend disabling auto lock in settings just in case.
Taking breaks while watching
To help with reducing eye strain, I often take breaks or pause the video between songs so that my eyes don’t get sore from a bright display. Another option is to watch individual clips of songs on YouTube, which is what I did while watching a Billy Joel concert with a friend.
Watching videos in a well-lit room
The effects of strobe and flashing lights can feel more intense if someone is watching a video in the dark, so viewers may prefer to watch videos with overhead lights or lamps on to make the lights less intense.
Other tips for how I watch concert videos without strobe lights
- Another option for listening to concert videos and avoiding flashing lights is to see if a live album was released for the concert, which contains only the concert audio
- I have auto-play disabled on social media and across all of my devices to avoid having surprise strobe lights or other content start playing without my consent
- Since fatigue can increase my eye strain or make it more likely for me to get a migraine, I try to avoid watching videos while I am tired, especially in the dark/low-light environments