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Audio description apps

Smartphone apps such as MovieReading, Earcatch, Greta and Starks, Audible Magic and Actiview synchronise audio description with original filmed soundtrack.

These apps currently aren't available in the UK, RNIB is working with the cinema industry to secure support to pilot these apps in UK cinemas. Internationally, most apps are used in cinemas for now, but a few like Earcatch are available to use while watching TV. Most of these are available on both Android and iOS devices.

Pilots in the UK

RNIB has worked with the TV and film industry to trial audio description apps in the UK. The overall response to the trials with the Moviereading app were positive with most participants expressing a strong interest in using apps to receive audio description in this way.

2015 Video On Demand (VoD) trial

RNIB launched a trial of the MovieReading app in the UK. The aim of this user trial was to gather views and feedback on the use of an app-based audio description delivery system. Just under 200 audio description users participated in the trial, which was part of a wider project to look at the various aspects of introducing this type of service into the wider market. The trial was carried out in partnership with the Universal Media Access Team and their existing app, MovieReading. This app is currently available to cinema goers in Italy.

  • Most participants responded positively to the app and their first experience of using it as an alternative means for getting AD. The main benefit reported was being able to access the track on a personal device.
  • Users who watched films or TV programmes with family or friends enjoyed the option to filter the AD track through their phone or tablet into headphones. This means they can avoid disturbing friends and family who don’t use audio description.
  • App users liked being able to use a video-on-demand service of their choice, at their preferred time and place.
  • Participants from the VoD trial also wanted to try the app in a cinema environment as it would allow them to choose the cinema they wished to visit regardless of whether or not it delivered audio description.

2016 Notes on Blindness

Following the app trial, producers of the BAFTA nominated British documentary Notes on Blindness used the MovieReading Audio Description App to provide audio description for the film. Archer's Mark Productions used the app to deliver a range of audio tracks specially designed for people with sight loss. There was a standard audio description track, a track read by actor Stephen Mangan and an enhanced soundtrack which used sound design and enhanced effects to make it fully accessible. Users were free to choose which track they wanted to listen to while watching the film or could switch between tracks if they wanted.

2017 Cinema Trial

Thirty eight blind and partially sighted people who regularly use audio description in cinemas joined the test screening of Beauty and the Beast at the Odeon Cinema in Haymarket, London in August 2017.

The objective was to try the Moviereading audio description app and find out what it was like to experience using it in the cinema. Overall, feedback was highly positive and most agreed that if such a service was made available in cinemas, they would use it.

Detailed feedback is available in our report.