Audio description in 3D audio

A lot of video content focusses on the image with the audio environment defaulting to simple stereo. This could change with the adoption of object-based audio protocols such as Dolby Atmos however which offer a fully immersive 3D audio experience. Object based audio offers several potential accessibility improvements but it’s also important to consider how it can improve existing accessibility services such as audio description.

As its name suggests 3D audio can place sounds around the listener making them feel embedded in the action and the best way to understand this is to experience it (see the “Virtual Barbershop” clip). This however raises the question of where to place audio description.

AD on action

One possibility is to place the audio description utterances in the direction of the action they’re describing. This feels intuitively like it will give the listener more information but could be disorientating if the AD ends up bouncing around the user and coming from all directions.

Friend on Sofa

Another option is to have the audio description coming from a fixed point within the scene. This is similar to the precursor of audio description: friends and family trying to describe what’s happening. Depending on how the technology is implemented users could even be given control over where the audio description is placed.

Voice of God

Perhaps the easiest presentation mode is not to fix a position for the audio description which makes it appear to come from everywhere and nowhere.  Within the ImAc project this is dubbed the “Voice of God”.

Aim of the ImAc project

One of the aims of the ImAc project is to create advice on how to present access services in immersive content and as part of this we are testing how users respond to these three presentation modes and what preferences (if any) they have. To get more information about the project and our findings visit or follow our twitter feed @ImacProject.

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