Looking for a means of getting audio description through ear piece whilst watching Apple TV with sound on main surround system

tvOS and Apple TV Apps

Sorry, exceedingly long title there...

So, I went to the cinema for the first time in years last night to watch Infinity War... Spoiler alert, it's far fetched... Anyway, I used one of the audio description headsets which was fantastic, if not a little uncomfortable and hard to balance with the ambient audio track and dialogue. Ended up wearing it half on and half off and looking like a complete div.

Anyway... This got me thinking. I enjoy watching films with family and friends but I don't like them describing it to me because, most of the time its during some important dialogue, which we both then miss and lols of rewinding ensues. What would be great is a means of connecting to the Apple TV with a bluetooth earpiece that pipes through the AD, when available. I'm not going to ask family and friends to put up with audio description on the main sound system, it completely ruins atmosphere when someone in a brash Birmingham accent announces "They kiss tenderly, John looks sad!"

I'm not aware of any way of doing this, is anyone else? Could I, for example, put AD on my iPhone for Netflix and just hope to start both the Apple TV and iPhone playing at the same time? Or has anyone found any other delicious and delightful solution?

Looking forward to your replies.




Submitted by That Blind Canuck on Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hi, I too am wondering if this could be done. Maybe this could be a suggestion we could all send to Apple for a future TV OS update? Just a thought.

Submitted by themusicman08 on Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hate to say it but, it's not possible. I've looked for different ways of doing this and I don't think you can split off the sound since it's a voice overdub and it's all recorded on a single track.

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Thursday, May 24, 2018

Generally speaking, this can't be done since the film companies provide the audio description embedded in the film audio as a single track. However, if an app like Actiview was able to get a larger library of descriptive audio, and could allow that audio to be accessed for home releases as well as in theaters, that would accomplish what you're asking. As I understand, Actiview plays only the description track, and uses your phone's microphone at the start of the movie to sync up the track with the film. Unfortunately, the app's library is very limited at present. I expect the licensing costs to get access to the audio description for every major home release would be prohibitively expensive.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Friday, May 25, 2018

Yeah, I've come across that, a great idea, but the best solution, in my mind, would be to approach the providers, or at least the front end providers, to see if they can't change the method of delivery. Yes, it is an integrated audio track but, if there could be a channel within the audio for audio description, think of 5.1, 7.2 etc, that could then have an optional output.

Does anyone know the system or how it works at the cinema? It's great that we get audio description, I just feel it shouldn't be a choice between being social and knowing what is happening on the screen.

And, TheMusicMan08... Anything is possible, it's just a question of how hard. :) Though yes, I agree there doesn't seem to be an immediate solution to this.

I might draft an email to Dolby, Netflix etc with some suggestions if anyone wishes to chime in on either who I send it to or what I should say.



Submitted by LBM on Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Don’t raise your expectations. I don’t wish to sound like I am being harsh on your comments, but I know someone who works in the audio description industry, and realistically they just find it hard to even get the film companies to do the bare minimum which is to include audio description at all. They regarded as an obligation and will do it at the minimum cost. I know that’s ridiculous, that they probably spend more on catering for a film then they do on the audio description but that’s just the reality of it. Only saying this because I would be very surprised if you get very far with it. Good luck though

Submitted by kool_turk on Thursday, May 31, 2018

What you're asking for could probably be done with a braille display and subtitles, but it seems no one likes a synthesized voice reading subtitles, therefore even what I like to call descriptive subtitles won't happen.

I think it's great that you can now read subtitles in iOS 11, but I also think it's under utilised.

I'd definitely use it, netflix has some pretty cool japanese shows, but the only way to read subtitles and not annoying people watching with you is to use a braile display, wether you cast to a chromecast, or use airplay, those subtitles won't come through to your phone.

Submitted by AntiOX465 on Thursday, April 18, 2019

Be very interested if this could work somehow with todays technology at HOME. will report back.

Submitted by DavidL73 on Thursday, September 12, 2019

Let's not get into splitting out the AD only track, and just let me connect my AirPods to my Apple TV, and let me choose to send the full AD track to the AirPods whilst letting the standard audio track play through my TV....

I absolutely love AD - Thank you Apple and Netflix for having so much content these days!, but sadly the rest of my family think it's terrible and tell me it ruins their viewing experience. I tell them that being visually impaired ruins my viewing experience, but it's 4 to 1 in my house!!!

Another option may be to do some cool sync up using the new Apple TV app, so lets say we start watching a show on the Apple TV box, the app can sync to my iPhone and let me chose the AD track on the phone which allows me to use the phones audio output as I wish?...... (a similar suggestion was made in an earlier comment)

Submitted by Remy on Friday, September 13, 2019

In the cases where you're using Netflix and the like and have an extra device, I find just synking two versions of the movie on two Netflixes to be easy enough. A little awkward sometimes, but the least amount of hastle. Unfortuantely if you're watching an actual movie, you might have to download the AD version from something like BlindMice. Again, easy enough to sync the tracks, but the problem with BM is for some strange reason, their movies play at a barely perceptible higher speed than the actual movie. Someone told me there's a reason for this, but I can't recall what it ias.

Submitted by Bruce Harrell on Friday, September 13, 2019

Hi. I have a home recording studio and am in the process of converting from stereo to surround sound. If you want to watch in surround sound, then you are using an AV receiver, which sends the Video to the screen and the audio to the surround speakers.

I am not familiar with the Apple TV, but I am familiar with my Mac and MacOS, which allows me to send voiceover to the Mac internal speakers while the stereo or surround signal is going to the audio interface (in my case) or your AV receiver (in your case). Thus split off from the movie sound track, my wife watches the movie on the Mac screen and listens to the sound track on the external speakers, while I can listen to voiceover through half a headphone. Not comfortable but effective.

Meanwhile, if you're AV receiver is using an IOS device for input, you might be able to split off voiceover directly to your made for iPhone hearing aids, if you have them, or you can try using bluetooth headphones if you don't have hearing aids. This last set up might work, and it might not, but it's worth a try. smile

Good luck!


Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Friday, September 13, 2019

Hi, thanks for the reply however it's the audio description channel we're looking for and not voiceover. I'm thinking of apps like Netflix where you can turn audio description on or off, my desire is to have it playing without AD through speakers, and with AD via something like a bone conduction headset. Even better would be to have the just the audio description track playing through the bluetooth headphones to avoid any issues with latency.

Submitted by Bruce Harrell on Friday, September 13, 2019

If the audio description is sent to a single output on the surround sound set up, it should be possible with an adapter to unplug that speaker and plug the speaker cable into a pair of headphones to play the analog sound. I'm guessing, though, that the description will be on the center speaker along with all the other dialogue.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Friday, September 13, 2019

Yes, in fact the audio description track is 2.0 rather than multi channel so there is no single routable channel that could do that, but this is the sort of thing I'm thinking of. An optional channel in the entire mix that can then be routed to a headset. Cinemas do it so I'd hope that it is possible in the home. It's a sign of the times when TV watching becomes a social event...