Date Updated: August 23, 2022
Netflix’s partner help center page contains some great resources for producing accessible content. Along with their captioning style guide, they also provide a style guide for adding audio descriptions to video content. Although the guide is meant for Netflix content, the information provided is more generally about videos and is applicable to anyone producing captions and audio descriptions.
The information is summarized from Netflix’s Audio Description Style Guide v 2.3.
- You need to balance visual description with the amount of time you have in your media. Do not over-describe your media because you need to leave room for dialogue, sound effects, and background noises.
- Descriptions should be informative, conversational, and in the present tense.
- You need to narrow down the most critical actions to the overall plot and then describe those (do not describe unimportant actions).
- Focus on the primary and secondary characters of the media. Do not describe the actions of extras or background characters.
- Describe what the main characters look like, especially characteristics that reveal their personality and identity in the media. This can include hair colour/texture, eye colour, facial features and expressions, age, and build (height and weight).
- Describe everyone equally, regardless of sex, race, or disability (e.g. do not single one character out to describe their ethnicity and not the other main characters).
- If you do not know a character’s race, sex, or disability, do not guess! Leave that information out and describe their physical features.
- When naming characters, include a descriptor before their name (e.g. long blond hair Amy), do not name them if they are supposed to remain anonymous, and ideally wait to identify them until the media introduces them.
- Describe the character’s movements and actions when vital to the plot.
- Describe the character’s location (city, weather, business, etc.) when important to the plot.
- When describing characters, content and actions do not sensor information.
- Be consistent in your descriptions! For example, do not describe the city as “Toronto” and then start saying GTO unless the characters have moved location.
- If time allows and the information is pertinent to the media’s plot, describe onscreen text, logos, subtitles, and objects.
Netflix (2021). Audio Description Style Guide v2.3. Retrieved from: https://partnerhelp.netflixstudios.com/hc/en-us/articles/215510667