07 Subtitling and audio description
Resources for maximising the accessibility of your screenings.
To ensure the maximum number of people can benefit from watching films in your venue, you may wish to hold screenings with HOH subtitles (HOH stands for ‘Hard of Hearing’) or audio description, which serve Deaf or hard of hearing and partially sighted or blind audiences respectively.
It’s important that cinemas are welcoming to all audiences, and as films are now released digitally, more and more are being made available with these files.
HOH subtitles, or ‘closed captioning’, refers to subtitles specifically intended for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. They are a transcription rather than a translation, so as well as reproducing dialogue in films, aim to describe every additional non-dialogue sound available to a hearing audience, e.g. “(sighs)” or “(door creaks)” and song lyrics. These subtitles are shown on-screen in specially advertised screenings.
Audio description is commentary that aims to describe body language, expressions and movements to blind or partially sighted audience members, thereby offering additional information about the film through sound. Cinemas can equip themselves with a system that delivers audio description (AD) through a headset, provided to audience members when they collect their ticket. The audio description runs each time the film is shown and is undetectable to anyone not wearing a headset.
How do I find films with these files and access them?
Films from larger, studio-led distributors (e.g. Universal, Warner Bros.) now tend to come with HOH subtitles and audio description as standard. Medium-sized distributors tend to offer them on only their bigger titles, while smaller independent distributors may only be able to offer them on films which have received funding to produce them.
Usually, drives with these capabilities will contain all versions of the film and any relevant additional files, but occasionally you will require a specific DCP or KDM, so if you are planning an HOH subtitled or audio described screening, ensure you specify this with the distributor when booking.
To check on the availability of files for particular titles, you can review the Film Distributors’ Association website’s UK film release schedule where distributors often display details on their film listings, identifying the files as below:
- 2Dsc = 2D subtitles/captions for people with hearing loss
- 3Dsc = 3D subtitles/captions for people with hearing loss
- AD = Audio Description for people with sight loss
- Sept DCP = Separate DCP required for subtitle/audio description
Upcoming cinema screenings of films with HOH subtitles and audio description across the UK and Ireland are advertised and promoted by Your Local Cinema, a website funded to disseminate this information to the public, and Your Local Cinema also offers a regularly updated online database of upcoming and past releases available with HOH subtitles and audio description.
If information on a particular film isn’t yet available via the FDA schedule or Your Local Cinema, contact its distributor to check if they plan to create the files.
If you’re not screening from DCP but rather from DVD/Blu-ray, you can still run HOH subtitled or audio described screenings.
Your Local Cinema lists films on DVD/Blu-ray available with audio description here (recent/new releases at the top; scroll down for a more extensive list).
Most UK DVD/Blu-rays offer English subtitles displaying dialogue; so for HOH subtitled screenings from disc, check with the film’s distributor that the copy they’re sending you definitely has HOH subtitles and not merely English subtitles available. Often you’ll be screening from your own copy, in which case it should state whether the film has HOH subtitles (or ‘closed captions’) on the back of the case.
- Developing Deaf audiences for film – Read our full online guide for further advice on all aspects of how to serve Deaf and hard of hearing audiences; including information on marketing, audience development, improving your front of house set-up and overall accessibility for Deaf audiences, and much more.
- How do I make my cinema inclusive and accessible? – Our reference guide for independent cinemas to improve all disabled access in venues.
- British Deaf Association
- Royal National Institute of Blind People
- Cinema For All case studies on running non-theatrical subtitled screenings at Liskerrett Community Cinema and 888 Film Club