How Much Does Audio Description Cost?

June 3, 2022 BY ELISA LEWIS
Updated: June 6, 2022

Questions to Ask Your AD Vendor [Free Checklist]

From the education industry to the entertainment industry, cost is a leading barrier to providing accessible content across all markets. Audio description is often misunderstood as an accommodation, and it can be difficult for those unfamiliar with the process to understand how this can impact audio description’s cost.

Let’s break down the cost of audio description.

Is Audio Description’s Cost a Barrier to Accessibility?

Despite the legal requirements to implement audio description into web media content, many do not comply – often because creating accessible content takes a lot of time, and can involve the use of costly tools and technologies.

Typically, decision-makers are hesitant to spend 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 an accommodation request or someone files a lawsuit against them).

The lawsuit filed against the producers of Broadway’s “Hamilton” for failure to provide audio description is a prime example of this. While the producers of the show probably didn’t have bad intentions – and surely wanted their show to reach a large audience – they neglected to provide AD simply because of the cost and not foreseeing a significant need/demand for the accommodation.

Benefits of Audio Description

Audio description (AD) is most commonly known as an accommodation for blind and low vision individuals, but it can also prove beneficial for sighted people as well. Implementing audio description can lend itself to improved learning outcomes, particularly with those on the autistic spectrum – in some instances, AD can better convey social and/or emotional cues which may be otherwise difficult for someone on the spectrum to pinpoint.

AD allows anyone to go “eyes-free,” meaning that users have the ability to multitask while they listen and follow along without missing crucial visual information. Furthermore, research shows that the brain processes auditory information differently and that viewers can actually be “tricked” by a psychological phenomenon called inattentional blindness.

Cost of Audio Description

Audio description’s cost can vary greatly from provider to provider, and even from video to video! This fluctuation largely depends on which method of AD is necessary to yield the best result – for example, some videos have no spoken audio and thus require a lot of description, while others have only brief silences or pauses where the description must be inserted carefully and deliberately.

Creating high-quality audio description clearly requires a lot of time, attention to detail, and a high level of skill. Because of the expertise and equipment required to produce audio description, it can quickly become costly. With prices significantly higher than the cost of closed captioning – ranging from $15 to $75 per minute – many don’t have the budget to regularly implement audio description on video content. If you have multiple hours of content to audio-describe, these costs can add up 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, writers create the transcript for description, and human voice actors then deliver the description within the specified timecodes (for extended description, the amount of time allotted to writing and voice acting can increase dramatically).

Human voice talent can be quite expensive, and the media industry’s unionization requirements often raise the cost even higher. In addition to voice actors, paying the writers can also be costly considering they’re skilled laborers requiring high wages. On top of labor costs, the cost of equipment necessary to record, implement, and publish audio description is usually not even included in description pricing.

Despite generally high prices, however, there are measures that can be taken to bring the cost of audio description down (and subsequently make the accommodation more widely available). One of the primary ways to reduce costs is to take advantage of the current accessible technologies available.

Choosing the right AD workflow is hard. Learn how in our free guide ➡️

Incorporate Technology to Bring Costs Down

3Play Media takes a new approach to audio description, using the best of both worlds – real, human describers and the best in machine technology – to bring costs down. Combining humans and technology has always been a part of our captioning process, so we wondered why it couldn’t work for audio description as well? We use a combination of humans and technology in every step of the process, in order to make the process of writing and time coding audio description easier, faster, and more cost-effective.

Additionally, we use human describers who are certified to write high-quality descriptions, and then synthesized speech vocalizes these descriptions. One of the hidden costs of audio description is the resource-intensive process of publishing audio description – with the 3Play plugin, we’ve eliminated the need to duplicate your video with audio description.

When using a combination of human editing and advanced technology, the cost of audio description can be decreased greatly without sacrificing quality.



Finding an audio description vendor doesn’t have to be difficult when you know the right questions to ask.

audio description 101: 10 questions to ask your audio description vendor with link to read the guide

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