The Filmmakers’ Guide to Captions and Audio Description


The Filmmakers' Guide to Captions and Audio Description.

On Wednesday, 5 April, captioning and audio description provider The SubStation presented a seminar covering the essentials of captions and audio description (AD) for filmmakers. The seminar was attended by about 30 members of the ASE, SPAA and AFTRS in the AFTRS main theatre.

Captions and AD make audiovisual content more accessible, not only for people with impaired hearing and vision, but for the wider population. They are becoming standard deliverables, and really should be considered in preproduction whether you’re working on a feature or an internet video.

For editors, the main points are:

If you are providing media for captioning and AD providers, please make sure the resolution is high enough to be able to read any credits and other onscreen text, and to be able to see important details. (It’s rather tricky to describe what you can’t see.)

If you’re editing website videos, find out what accessibility standards your clients need to meet. Videos for Australian government websites will need to meet Level A or Level AA of the WCAG 2.0 standards. If your client doesn’t know, ask them to find out because this can affect the edit, and you can save time and money by taking accessibility into account right from the start.

To meet Level A standards, if the video is already accessible - ie, all the information is available onscreen and in the soundtrack - then it won’t need to be captioned or audio described. If the vision- or hearing-impaired audience will miss out on any information, then the video will need to be captioned and/or audio described.

If the website needs to meet Level AA standards, then any videos must have captions and recorded audio description. If there is no time for recorded audio description, then the videos will need to be re-edited to make time, or an additional version of the video with time for recorded AD will need to be edited.

Some websites, such as Facebook, keep all captions at the bottom of the screen, which means that they will cover any supers or other text in that area. So it’s a good idea to keep supers and text raised. How high is tricky - this depends on aspect ratios, letterboxing, etc, but keeping text at least as high as the top line of a lower third should make enough room for one line of captions.


More information and examples can be found on The SubStation’s website - and Facebook page -
If you would like a copy of the presentation document, email


On the day of the seminar, the federal government released the report into the 2015-2016 ABC iview audio description trial and announced an audio description working group.
The night after the seminar, the ABC screened an episode of You Can’t Ask That about blind people, which was audio described by The SubStation, and can be watched with AD on iview.

Alison Myers,  ASE Committee Member - NSW
(The SubStation's Audio Description Manager)


I would like to give a huge thank you to Alison who prepared and gave this amazingly enlightening session, and the team from The Substation who were there to answer the myriad of questions that came up. I was fully prepared for a fairly technical evening, but Alison gave us clear  reasons for the very real need to do this work. She included examples of viewing films from a blind or deaf person's perspective, giving insight into the need to cater for the whole audience out there. She also explained the implications it has on our edit if we do not plan for Closed Captions and/or Audio Description. It was a very clear example of how we need to plan backwards from delivery!
Thank you, Alison.

Fiona Strain, ASE


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