Describing Facial Expressions: Much more than meets the eye

Gert Vercauteren, Pilar Orero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The article looks at one particular element that so far only got superficial attention in the guidelines: emotions and their representation on screen in the facial expressions, and the different ways in which they can be described. Facial expressions in film and other visual media constitute a very complex problem, as will be explained in the first part. Given the implicit nature of visual communication, it will not always be possible for the audio describer to determine emotions unambiguously. As the facial expressions are often shown in (short) close-ups, time to describe them is very limited and concise description is a must. In the second part of the article we look at how this can be achieved, and we briefly look into a longstanding bone of contention in the field: the level of interpretation needed and allowed in this type of description. In order to see what specific problems beginning describers experience with this regard and with a view to improving (academic) training in this field, we also conducted a small-scale experiment at UAB. In the conclusions we suggest some further avenues of research and briefly look at what all this could mean for training in audio description.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-199
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Accessibility
  • Audio description
  • Cognition
  • Emotions
  • Facial expressions


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