Mixing Video Description for 5.1

Posted by Anna on March 25, 2016 at 9:30 am. Captioning, OTT, Techy, Video Describers, Video Description
5.1 logo

5.1 logo

More and more clients are coming to us wanting Video Description mixed for 5.1 surround sound, so we enlisted CaptionMax Video Describer Caiti Laszewski to explain the ins and outs of mixing for 5.1.

What is a 5.1 mix?

A 5.1 surround mix is an audio mix made of six sound sources assigned to a field of left, right, center, left surround, right surround, and low frequency effects, or LFE, channels. The LFE channel, containing only the lowest frequencies, is typically played through a subwoofer and is represented by the .1. The remaining channels can contain a full range of frequencies, and they make up the five main channels of the mix. The 5.1 mix is meant to envelop the viewer with the program’s soundtrack, bringing the theatrical surround sound experience home.

How we mix to 5.1

For mono, stereo, and 5.1 mixing, we take the client’s completed mix of program audio and combine it with our descriptive audio track. We strategically alter the volume of the client mixes where our description comes in to allow the descriptive audio to be understood as clearly as possible without covering the essential elements of the program audio.

We complete all of our 5.1 mixes using Pro Tools software in a surround monitoring suite. This allows us the most flexibility in description timing and volume when combining our audio with the client’s mix, resulting in the best possible finished product. The granular control Pro Tools affords us allows our description to come through as clearly as possible, even when it covers extended sound effects (like gunfire or prolonged explosions) or stretches of subtitled dialogue.

Differences between a 5.1 mix and a mono or stereo mix

In a traditional mono or stereo mix, dialogue, music, and sound effects are mixed together and audible on all channels. This means that the volume of the entire mix needs to be lowered to allow description to be heard clearly.

A 5.1 mix sends all dialogue (including descriptive audio) to the center channel, allowing music and sound effects to come through from the other channels. In a surround mix, the volume of any program content in the center channel needs to be lowered so description can pass and be easily understood. Often, the left and right channels need a slight reduction in volume to ensure description can pass clearly over any music or effects on those channels.

Benefits of a 5.1 mix

Mixing in 5.1 gives us the flexibility to decide when, how much, and on which channels to lower the volume of program audio. Occasionally, the center channel is the only channel requiring volume alteration, and all the other channels can be left alone without a negative impact on the clarity of descriptive audio. In a mono or stereo mix, lowering the volume of the mix as a whole means covering music and effects. In a 5.1 mix, more of these secondary elements can be heard, helping our description blend with program audio. It’s a more labor-intensive process, but it’s worth the work to help the consumer have a more seamless experience of the finalized program.

Amazon Set to Closed Caption Back Catalog of On-Demand Video

Posted by Anna on October 19, 2015 at 10:30 am. ADA, Captioning, OTT

The National Association of the Deaf announced via press release last week that they have come to an agreement with Amazon over a plan to increase access of their on-demand entertainment service, Amazon Video, to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by adding closed captions to their entire back catalog.  Since the beginning of 2015, 100% of the content on Amazon Prime has already been captioned and, under this agreement, that rate is promised to continue.

The scope of this agreement means that captions will be added to approximately 190,000 titles by 2017.  Amazon has already made captions available on 85% of its video content that has been viewed more than 10 times in the past 90 days. By December 31st, 2015, 90% of such content will be captioned, reaching 100% by December 31st, 2016. All captions added to Amazon will comply with recently updated FCC quality standards for completeness, accuracy, synchronicity, and placement.

Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, declared that the agreement was a huge win for consumers: “This is an enormous step in making online entertainment accessible to the 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States alone. Amazon is a one-stop shop for everything from household items and clothing to books and video entertainment.  The NAD is thus thrilled by Amazon’s decision to make its online entertainment experience more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing customers who also look to Amazon to fulfill their needs for comprehensive goods and services.”

As more and more streaming platforms emerge for entertainment distribution, Amazon is setting an important example of the type of commitment necessary to make those platforms as widely accessible as possible.

iTunes To Begin Pulling Content That Is Not Closed Captioned

Posted by Anna on July 1, 2015 at 11:34 am. Captioning, FCC, OTT

Right on the heels of releasing version 12.2 of iTunes, today is the day Apple will begin pulling any content that is not closed captioned that was originally broadcast with captions off of its platform. This effort stems from a requirement of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) that ensures distributors are only offering FCC-compliant content within digital U.S. markets. Apple made a commitment to this deadline in June of 2013.

While this deadline only applies to full-length programming, beginning January 1, 2016, this will apply to all single excerpt clips that are lifted from programs that were originally broadcast with closed captions. These clips are also referred to as “direct lift clips” or “straight lift clips.” There are estimates that, leading up to this deadline, as much as 18% of content on iTunes lacks closed captions, meaning the potential removal of many widely-loved TV shows and films.

To learn more about offline closed captioning workflows for your programming, contact or request a quote.

Trend: More Online Players Supporting VDS

Posted by Anna on June 16, 2015 at 12:00 pm. OTT, Techy, Video Description

It’s no secret that more and more content is finding a home online.  While this is great for many consumers, it’s created special challenges for blind and low-vision audiences who want to access the visual information of that content.  The problem? Most online players do not have the ability to select from multiple audio tracks.

The current best practice for dealing with this issue is to create two versions of the same video: one without video description and one with open video description that can’t be turned off. Take, for instance, Comcast’s Emily’s Oz commercial that aired during the Oscars, which promotes the XFINITY talking guide that allows blind and low-vision viewers to independently explore current TV and movie selections. XFINITY’s YouTube channel posted two versions of the commercial, one titled Emily’s Oz Commercial and  one titled Emily’s Oz Commercial (with video description). Putting “with video description” in the title of the video is extremely important so that it is accessible to a screenreader.

While this manages to get the job done, it’s hardly an elegant solution for content providers or consumers looking for described content. We are seeing an increase in the number of online players that allow viewers to select from multiple audio tracks, including foreign languages, director’s commentary, and closed description. JWPlayer, OZPlayer, and DivX all offer players with multitrack audio settings.

Netflix, which began its streaming service with the Microsoft Silverlight player and has been transitioning over to HTML5 since 2013, debuted a selection of described content in April. With Netflix’s commitment to expanding their selection of programming with video description, we expect other OTT content providers like Hulu and Amazon Prime to soon follow their lead and revamp their players to allow for closed description.



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