Video Description on TV Shows

Last week, my wife and I were watching CBS from 6:30 – 10:00. For reasons we still can’t figure out, Criminal Minds (from 8:00 – 9:00) and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (9:00 – 10:00) played video descriptions to accompany the shows.

We have no idea if it was accidental or intentional on CBS’s or the local affiliate’s part, or if we somehow pressed a button that triggered it. Regardless, it turned out to be a very interesting new experience.

During parts in which characters onscreen weren’t speaking, a voice would narrate what was going on. It wouldn’t describe every minute detail, but just enough to convey what was going on. I chuckled when the narrative described a character as having “All-American good looks.”

The intent is obviously to help visually-impaired people get the context of what was happening, rather than rely solely on dialogue and background noises.

CBS and others use secondary audio service (SAP) to broadcast this additional channel of audio, for select television shows (in other words, not everything on the broadcast schedule).

I knew this technology was out there, but it was the first time I heard it in action. Not being visually impaired myself, I have no appreciation as to if CBS in particular or the technology in general is good, bad, could be better, etcetera.

What are your thoughts?

CBS Video Description TV Schedule

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