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Digital Accessibility

Adding Descriptions to Videos

There are two ways to add audio descriptions to your videos. Each option has its own set of pros and cons to consider.

Open v. Closed Descriptions 

Open audio descriptions are added in editing software on top of the existing audio track and cannot be turned off. Closed audio descriptions are added as a second audio track that can be turned off and one.

Open Audio Descriptions in YouTube

YouTube is the preferred video hosting platform for all videos appearing on a USC digital product. Unfortunately, at this time, YouTube and most other multimedia players do not support closed audio descriptions. This means most of your videos will need to include open audio descriptions incorporated as part of the video audio track.

Open Descriptions Pros and Cons

  • Necessary for using YouTube, the university's preferred video hosting platform
  • Can be used with any multimedia player
  • Can't be turned off, so you may need to provide a version with audio descriptions and a version without

Closed Descriptions Pros and Cons

  • You will need to purchase your own software to use
  • Can't be used by most multimedia players, including YouTube
  • Can be turned off and on, so you only need to provide one video

Instructions for Adding Open Audio Descriptions

  1. Make a copy of your finished video.
  2. Within the copy, delete the audio track using your video editing software.
  3. Using the audio recording software of your choice, create a new audio track that provides descriptive narration along with the original audio track.
  4. Add the new audio track using your video editing software, and save.

Creating Two Versions

You may choose to provide a version of the video with audio descriptions and one without. Be sure to share both versions each time you publish the video and identify each version clearly so your audience members can choose the correct version.

Instructions for Closed Audio Descriptions

  1. Using your audio recording software of choice, record a separate sound file with the narrator describing all of the visual information as it occurs in the video.
  2. Add the descriptive audio track on top of the original audio track using your video editing software, and save.

Closed Audio Descriptions Not Supported by YouTube

You will need to use open audio descriptions unless you have purchased your own software that supports closed audio descriptions.

Suggested Audio Recording Software Options

  • Adobe Audition (subscription)
  • Apple GarageBand (free on macOS)
  • Audacity (free download, works with most operating systems)

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