Let’s Talk About Accessible Video ….

If you know me, chances are you know that I have pretty terrible vision. Sure, my eyes big and blue but man do they suck at seeing things. As a child, I was the nerdy one with the coke-bottle glasses who couldn’t see more than six inches in front of his nose without two telescopes attached to his head. Now, although I can easily correct my vision with glasses/contacts/Lasik, the reality is that many Canadians are faced with disabilities that can’t be easily cured. That is why I wanted to take some time out of my day to provide a few quick tips on how we as  filmmakers can make our video content more accessible for everyone. Let’s dive in!

What is Accessible Video and why make it?

Simply put, accessible video content is video that follows best practices and incorporates features to allow for everyone to enjoy your content regardless of their abilities. If you are reading this article, chances are you are on-board and super excited to make your content more accessible, but if you do need to be sold on why to make your content more accessible, here are just a few reasons:

· It’s the right thing to do

· It’s the law (in Ontario)

· It increases viewership (more on that below)

· It’s 2017 … Get with the program!

Who is Accessible Video for?

When we create accessible video content we often think about those with vision or hearing impairment, but we need to think of disabilities in a more holistic manner, especially as the way we interact with video changes (i.e. 360 video, augmented reality, interactive content and VR), and expand our definition to include all disabilities. For example, those with cognitive disabilities that cannot retain information for long periods of time, or people with a mobility impairment that cannot touch and interact with 360 video content in the ways others do.

We also need to make content more accessible for our traditional viewing audience as well. As our mobile devices shift from being our ‘second screen’ to our ‘first’ and on-the-go content consumption becomes the norm, it is no wonder that over 75% of all Facebook videos are watched without audio and videos that includes captions will double the number of people (from 40% to 80%) who watch your video all the way through. This is a huge opportunity for marketers to capitalize on as the need for accessible content rises.

Gimme’ the Tips!

Now that you know why you should be making your video content more accessible, here are a few tips on how to do it!

Plan for Accessibility from the Beginning:

As the age old saying goes, “It’s much easier to build a house than it is to renovate one” – and the same goes for accessible video content. It is much easier to plan for accessibility from the get-go than to treat it as an afterthought. Great accessible content takes a lot of effort and planning to get it right. This means building a line item into your marketing brief or creative treatment and ensuring all stakeholders are thinking about ways to make your content more accessible; this includes marketing and branding, the creative team, your video production crew, web developers and any external vendors that you bring on to the project. You’ll save yourself a whole bunch of time, money, and effort if you plan for it from the start!

Write a Transcript:

In the context of film, a transcript is a written word-for-word copy of dialogue presented in your video. Your video should never leave home without a transcript. Some common places you can post your transcript is in your Youtube description, on the blog post or page your video content is embedded or incorporated into your website’s video player.

There used to be a time where transcription was an expensive process, but there are a ton of great online services such as Fiverr.com where can get you a 2-3 minute video transcript for as little as $5 US (or $3,0000 CDN after conversion lol).

Turn that Transcript into Captions:

Captions (or subtitles) are a text version of the speech and sound on the video and let deaf or hard of hearing users follow the dialogue. With services such as Youtube championing accessibility, creating captions and subtitles are now as simple as copying and pasting your transcript into the caption editor, selecting the ‘auto-sync’ feature and letting Google do all of the heavy lifting! Even more awesome? You can download a copy of the final caption file so that it can be repurposed on other video players as well. Score!!

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to create subtitles and captions using Youtube:

Get Descriptive With Your Audio:

Descriptive audio is a spoken audio track that is played along with the video and it lets blind and vision-impaired users know what’s happening on the screen. It often describes important visual information such as setting, facial expressions and key actions that are relevant to the narrative, but not conveyed through dialogue. For example:

This process typically means you will have to script and record a secondary audio track for your video and export/upload a ‘descriptive audio version’ version of your video for web … but fear not because may web players are starting to support multiple audio tracks, making the process much easier than before.

If you don’t have the resources to create a descriptive audio track or multiple versions of your video, you can also write accessibility directly into the script. By simply adding a few more descriptive words into your dialogue, you can make content more accessible for all viewers. For example, you could turn the line “Bob you’re a hot mess, get your act together!” into “Bob, your hair is a mess, there’s lettuce in your teeth and your shirt is missing a button. Get your act together!”

Frame it up!

As a director, I love a ton of quick cuts, dramatic lighting, fast paced shots and innovative angles; but at the end of the day this not only makes it harder for people with impairments to understand the main action in the video, but viewers watching on small screens and mobile devices are also missing out on what is going on. Next time you hit record – get lazy! Plan for less camera movement, fewer cuts and head-on angles. Also be sure to light your scene so that there is a clear indication of where the viewer’s eye should be focused at all times.

Take the ‘Motion’ out of Motion Graphics:

When it comes to motion graphics, simple is always best. Here are a few steps to making your motion graphics easier to read on-screen!

· Keep complex animation to a minimum

· Use less images/icons and make them larger

· Make sure your fonts are large and easy-to-read

· Disable motion blur effects

· Incorporate high-contrast colours to make text and images more visible

·  Increase the length of time text and images are on-screen

See for yourself! Squint your eyes and watch the five second motion graphic example below. Which one is easier for you to read on first pass?

Your Video Player Counts Too!

Last but not least, accessibility isn’t just about the content– but also the manner in which you deliver it to your audience. When possible, make sure that your website’s video player can be controlled with the use of assistive devices and software, supports the use of keyboard shortcuts, can easily adjust the screen size, display captions, switch between standard and descriptive audio tracks and can embed your transcript underneath the video panel.

 Final Thoughts

So those are my seven tips on making your video content more accessible for everyone! It’s really great to see that we are living in an era where content is becoming more accessible and large organizations and government are championing the cause. It is our duty as filmmakers, marketers and creatives to put our heads together and think of creative new ways to make our content accessible to every single person on this space rock we call Earth. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!

If you have any other tips or have questions about accessible content, drop me a line below. I check the comments regularly and love to answer questions. Ciao for now!

James

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