How Much Does Audio Description Cost?
Is the Cost of Audio Description a Barrier to Accessibility?
Across all markets, from the education industry to the entertainment industry, cost is a leading barrier for providing accessible content. Despite the legal requirements to implement audio description into web media content, many do not comply. Creating accessible content takes a lot of time, and often utilizes costly tools and technologies.
Typically, decision makers are hesitant to spend the money and resources on creating content that is accessible to individuals with disabilities until they’re certain there is a need for such—for instance, if they receive a request for accommodation or someone files a lawsuit against them.
A prime example of this is the recent lawsuit filed against the producers of Broadway’s “Hamilton” for failing to provide audio description. While the producers of the show probably didn’t have bad intentions—and surely wanted their show to be available to a large audience—they neglected to provide audio description simply because it was costly and they didn’t think there would be a significant need for it.
Benefits of Audio Description
In addition to making content accessible for blind and low vision individuals, audio description proves to be quite beneficial for sighted people as well. For example, some of the benefits of implementing audio description include improved learning outcomes, helping individuals on the autistic spectrum to better understand social cues, and allowing users the ability to multitask without missing crucial visual information, for instance, if you have the TV on in the background while you’re cooking.
Cost of Audio Description
The cost of description differs greatly from provider to provider, and even from video to video. This is because the need for description varies so much. While some videos have no spoken audio, thus requiring a lot of description, some videos only have brief silences or pauses where the describer must make careful and deliberate word choices. The precision and care necessary for creating high quality audio description takes a lot of skill and time.
At prices ranging from $15-$75 per minute, significantly higher than the cost of captioning, many don’t have the budget to spend this kind of money on implementing audio description. There are several reasons that description is so costly. Creating audio description requires a lot of time, attention to detail, and a high level of skill. It also requires many people and a lot of expensive equipment to create and add audio description. When you have multiple hours of content to describe, all of these costs begin to add up very quickly.
How Process Dictates Cost of Audio Description
The process for creating audio description varies; however, traditional audio description providers use humans for the entire workflow. In most cases, description writers create the description transcript, then human voice actors deliver the description within the specified timecodes. (For extended description, the amount of time allotted to writing and voice acting can increase dramatically.) Voice talent is often quite expensive, and in the media industry it often has to be unionized, thus making it even more expensive. In addition to the voice actors, paying the writers is costly as well, as they are skilled laborers that require high wages. Paying these individuals, in addition to the cost of all of the tools necessary to record and implement the audio description can become very costly. On top of the cost of the actual description, the cost of publishing is a resource cost to the content owner that is not even included in the description pricing.
However, despite generally high prices, there are measures that can be taken to bring the cost of audio description down, and in doing so, make the service more widely available. One of the main ways to bring costs down is by taking advantage of current technology.
Why Does the Cost of Extended Description Differ From the Cost of Standard Description?
If you are in the market for audio description you may have noticed that extended audio description typically costs more than standard audio description. Extended audio description allows for pauses to be added to the video, thus creating more room to describe visual content. This is done in cases where there would otherwise not be enough space to sufficiently describe all crucial visual information. Due to the slightly different process of creating extended audio description, describers have to make a greater number of judgement calls than they would with standard audio description. The higher price of extended description is a reflection of the fact that creating extended description takes more time, consideration, and decision making than standard audio description.
Utilizing Technology to Bring Costs Down
3Play Media is taking a new approach to audio description, utilizing technology to bring costs down for both extended and standard audio description. At 3Play, combining humans and technology has been a critical part of our captioning process – so why shouldn’t it be a part of the description process? We’re using a combination of humans and technology in every step of the description process. By employing technology, we’re able to make the process of writing and time coding description easier, faster, and more cost-effective.
Additionally, we use certified human describers to write high quality descriptions, then utilize synthesized speech to vocalize these descriptions. In addition, one of the hidden costs of audio description is the resource-intensive process of publishing audio description. Again utilizing technology, we are developing a plugin that will alleviate the need to produce a second version of your video with audio description. Using a combination of human editing and advanced technology, the cost of audio description can be significantly decreased without sacrificing quality.