Standard vs. Expanded Description: When Do You Need It?

Here at Captionmax, one of our favorite services is Description (often called audio description or video description). Description is the act of adding a secondary audio track that describes actions, settings, and other visual details so that blind and low-vision audiences can have the same experience with media as someone who is full-sighted. However, once you start looking at Description, there are many different options for mixing and editing that can impact how people consume your content. One of the biggest differences is Description and Expanded Description.

What is Expanded Description?

With Standard Description, the describer narrates their script over natural breaks and silences in the media. This works well for a lot of media, like TV shows and movies. The difference between the two is that with Expanded Description, the editor inserts pauses in the video at key points for the narrator to give a full picture of the scene. In most cases, Standard Description can suffice, but there are other kinds of content that can greatly benefit from Expanded Description.

When Do I Need Expanded Description?

If your video has a lot of constant sound, action, or few natural pauses, then it is a perfect candidate for Expanded Description. A good example of a piece of media that would require Expanded Description would be a training video with constant narration. In order for a low-vision audience member to fully comprehend the training, they would need to pick up on visual instructions and demonstrations that might not be discussed in the standard training narration. With Expanded Description, this would change; you now have the ability to break up the action and insert pauses to accurately narrate what’s happening, giving everyone a similar experience with your media and ensuring that the information presented can be comprehended by all.

Having described audio on your video content is vital to create an equal experience for low-vision consumers (and in some cases, mandated by the government). Even though it can be confusing knowing when you need Expanded vs. Standard Description, offering a version of your content with extra gaps to accommodate narration can make the difference between a viewer having a difficult and disengaging experience and full comprehension of your media.