On this week’s episode of Scriptnotes, I wondered aloud how descriptive narration for the blind was written, and whether those writers consulted the screenplay.

Several listeners quickly pointed me to WGBH, and this FAQ:

Closed captions and descriptive narration are created as part of a movie’s post production process. Once a film has been finalized, a script and a copy of the film are provided to WGBH’s Los Angeles production office.

While the screenplay is a good starting place for captions, descriptive narration really depends on the finished work:

Descriptions are written by specially trained writers called describers.

A describer initially listens to the film without watching it, in order to approximate the experience of a person who has limited or no vision. The describer pays close attention to what is already communicated by the soundtrack. The describer uses specially designed computer software to map out the pauses in the movie and then crafts the most expressive and effective description possible in the space available.

After a script is written, it is edited and rechecked several times. The script is checked for timing, continuity, accuracy, and a natural flow. Professional narrators then read the script while watching and listening to the program.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in. We’ll try to arrange a conversation with a describer for a future episode.