Don’t Panic: The Channel Surfer’s Guide to Video Description

Posted by Mitch on December 9, 2014 at 5:03 pm. Video Describers, Video Description

You settle in on the couch for the evening and tune in for your favorite TV show. As you start watching, you realize something is amiss. There’s a voice narrating all of the onscreen action. The lead detective inspects the victim’s blood-stained jacket, and the voice says, “He inspects the victim’s blood-stained jacket.” The suspects speed off in a black sedan, and the voice says, “The suspects speed off in a black sedan.”

Don’t panic, you’ve just stumbled upon Video Description.

Why is my TV talking at me?

Video Description, also called Audio Description or Descriptive Video Service, is an additional narration track mixed into the show and broadcast on the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) channel to make television accessible to blind and low-vision audiences. Throughout the show, a narrator describes key visual details during natural breaks in the dialogue, sound effects, and music. The details described can include scene locations, action, body language, costumes, facial expressions, subtitles, onscreen text, or any other visual information that adds to the understanding and enjoyment of the show. Video Description translates TV watching into an experience more like listening to an old-time radio play.

How do I shut it off?

Turning Video Description on or off varies with each television setup, cable provider, and remote control. On some remotes, there will be an SAP button. Others will have this button labeled as MTS (Multi Track Sound) or Spanish. Depending on your television manufacturer and cable provider, you may have to scroll through an Audio Settings menu on your television or your cable box to find the function. Some manufacturers hide the button in the most unlikely of places. After much clicking around on my remote at home, I found a nondescript green button that does the trick.

Now here’s the kicker: once you’ve turned on the SAP channel, your TV will always broadcast this channel when there’s content available. If you can’t figure out how to turn it off,  buckle up for a lot of Video Described and Spanish-dubbed shows.

It can be a real pain in the neck to shut off Video Description. Now, imagine how much harder it would be for a blind person trying to find the right combination of buttons to turn it on.

What’s the point?

Video Description makes television accessible to millions of individuals who would otherwise lack a full understanding and appreciation of the show. Research has shown that Video Description can also help children improve their literacy and vocabulary.

Here at CaptionMax, we’ve been providing Video Description for over 12 years. To learn more about Video Description or to listen to some samples, visit our Video Description page.

For more tips on how to turn the SAP channel on and off, read the Activating and Trouble-shooting Video Description guide at the bottom of our Viewer Resources page.



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