Multitrack audio: opening new doors to accessibility
As many brands expand their offerings to be more inclusive, they’re in search of better tools to add to their accessibility toolkit.
One such tool is multitrack audio, which lets you overlay multiple audio tracks onto an existing video in just one file. It’s a simple - and creative - solution for a variety of accessibility issues.
Perhaps the most important multitrack audio tool is audio description, which enables those with visual impairments to fully enjoy content by narrating the visual elements of a video that aren’t conveyed through sound and dialogue. Visual cues such as characters’ movements, facial expressions, and settings are described in detail to create a holistic experience.
2.2 billion people worldwide have some form of blindness or visual impairment.1
1 World Health Organization. (2021, October 14). Vision impairment and blindness. World Health Organization. Retrieved July 8, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/blindness-and-visual-impairment
But multitrack audio doesn’t just support audio description - it also enables content creators to push boundaries and produce audio tracks specifically designed for those who rely on their hearing to guide them through the world.
For example, 2016’s film, Notes on Blindness, which streamed on Curzon Home Cinema, contained a variety of audio tracks, most notably an “Enhanced Soundtrack Version” that translated the visuals on screen into an expressionistic, sonic experience designed specially with blind and visually impaired individuals in mind.2
2 Lyne, C. (2016, October 22). Can Notes on Blindness change the way streaming caters for disabled people? The Guardian. Retrieved July 8, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/22/notes-on-blindness-on-demand-tv
Beyond enabling visually impaired audiences, audio description also empowers many individuals on the Autism spectrum to help pick up on facial expressions, body language, and social cues to assist with understanding the unspoken elements of what’s happening on screen.
The Autism Research Institute notes that many people with Autism are auditory learners who benefit from hearing information versus seeing it.3
3 Edelson, S. (n.d.). Auditory processing problems in ASD. Autism Research Institute. Retrieved July 8, 2022, from https://www.autism.org/auditory-processing-asd/
Additionally, those with dyslexia stand to benefit from multitrack audio as an alternative to subtitles when watching content in another language through overdubbing (playing dialogue recorded in a different language over the original content).
Audio descriptions, enhanced soundtracks, overdubbing - even popular bonus features like director commentaries - are all made possible through the magic of multitrack audio. It creates exciting new opportunities to promote accessibility and empower people from every walk of life.