Netflix Audio Description Style Guide V1.0
This document contains a list of required practices when originating audio description for Netflix content. Consult your Netflix representative for any specification not covered in this document.
Concisely and objectively convey plot-critical and/or character-integral information that would otherwise be missed by a sight-impaired viewer.
1.1 The Basics
Describe the most relevant and important actions in the scene. Avoid over describing, do not include visual images that are not vital to the understanding of the scene. Allow room for dialogue, sound effects, music, and intentional silence.
1.2 Description of the Facts
- Description should prioritize an individual’s appearance to address their most significant physical characteristics, such as skin color, hair, build, height and wardrobe.
- Description should include known relationships when they have been revealed.
- When plot-pertinent, include an age description such as late thirties, fifties, teenage, etc.
- Only identify race or ethnicity if relevant to the content, and when doing so, include the races of others, as well.
- Characters should remain unnamed until introduced through dialogue or plot-point, unless necessary for timing and clarification, as well as to identify characters in a large group.
- Description should objectively describe facial expressions, gestures, movements, and body language.
- Directional movement should be included when relevant.
- Description should be as specific as possible and avoid general terms.
- Colors should be referenced when relevant to the scene.
- Description should include location, time, and weather conditions when relevant to the scene or plot.
- It is best to provide description for visual action in reference to the viewer’s body. (“the mouse ran behind a tree to the right of the house”).
- Description should be informative and conversational, in present tense and third-person omniscient.
- The vocabulary should be consistent with the genre and tone of the content, while also mindful of the target audience. Common terms should be used in lieu of full description (plíe vs. bending at the knee).
- Pronouns should only be used when it is clear to whom they refer.
- When noting shapes and sizes, comparisons to familiar objects is recommended.
- Only interrupt music, sound effects, and intentional silence for vital, timely information that must be described.
Avoid Censorship: Do not censor any information. Description should be objective and straightforward when addressing nudity, sexual acts, and violence.
1.4 Description Consistency
The word choice, character’s qualities, and visual elements should remain consistent within the description for the entirety of the content. A glossary should be created and shared.
2.0 Describing On-screen Elements
2.1 On-screen Text
The introduction of text should be described by stating “words appear” and the tone of voice may be adapted in order to create a distinction between reading text and the actual description.
2.2 Subtitles for Foreign Language
The description should introduce subtitles by adjusting the tone of voice for distinction and read the subtitles verbatim. The original dialogue audio should be dipped in order to avoid confusion, but still allow the viewer to hear the original dialogue in the background. State “subtitles” when necessary to avoid confusion.
Description should be provided for any on-screen logos to include any studio or company names and the detail of the image. Be consistent with logo descriptions.
The Netflix logo should be consistently described as:
Letters pop out from a white background, then turn red. Netflix.
Treat lyrics like dialogue, and only describe over them when necessary. In the case of having to describe over lyrics, allow for the song to establish itself.
2.5 Titles and Credits
The description should include any opening credits with an adjusted tone when not too distracting, but if these interfere with simultaneous dialogue and action, timing adjustments may be made to introduce the text before or after actual credit appearance. Credits will be included as time permits. Introduce the title of the content by stating “title” and the name.
3.1 Technical Requirements
A rate of 160 wpm (words per minute) is an acceptable pace. The description
should flow casually and allow silence and pauses as necessary.
The description should be mixed to sound as though it was part of the original content. For 5.1, description should be mixed to the center channel. For further information about the mix, please consult our technical specs.
The accent of the voice actor should reflect the predominant English-language accent in the program.
3.3 Vocal Approach
- The delivery of the description should match the volume, pace, tone and rhythm of the content.
- Voice - The narrator’s voice must be distinguishable from other voices and tones from the content, but they should not be distracting or animated in such a way as to disrupt the objectivity of the narration by becoming the voice of a performer.
- Enunciation - Speak clearly and at a rate that can be understood.
3.4 Describer Consistency
The same voice talent should be used across all episodes and seasons of a series, as well as movie sequels when possible.
3.5 Describer Credit
Do not include any post-house, script writer, or voice talent credits within the AD track.
4.1 Children’s Content
Tone and vocabulary should match the age range of the target audience. For educational materials, or situations in which the viewer is asked to follow specific actions of a character on-screen, description should be clarified in order that the sight-impaired audience identifies that the audience is being addressed, rather than an on-screen character.
4.2 Horror/Suspense Content
Description should account for intentional pauses, dramatic silences and the musical score in order to allow the sight-impaired audience to experience the same build-up of suspense intended by the production.
5.0 Plot Device
Description may adjust timings in order to introduce plot elements early, but only when there is no other way to sensibly inform the audience to the content.
5.2 Camera Angles & Shot Changes
When shot changes are critical to the understanding of the scene, indicate them by describing where the action is or where characters are present in the new shot. Camera angles or point-of-view should only be included in the description when
plot-appropriate (“from above” & “bird’s eye view”). Do not use jargon and technical terms such as “long shot,” and “dolly.”)
As time allows, describe montages of images or series’ of still images. When the images are relevant but time is restricted, highlight only the most significant images.
5.4 Passage of Time
Always address time shifts in relation to the character(s). When describing certain passages of time, such as flashbacks or dream sequences, describe the visual cues that indicate such, and be consistent throughout the program.