Category Archives: Described Shows

MasterChef Canada is Back!

Once again, Descriptive Video Works is proud to make MasterChef Canada accessible to the blind and partially sighted audience by providing the audio description for this lively show. Season 2 debuts on February 8th with a new crop of home cooks competing for the grand prize of $100,000, the trophy, and the title of Canada’s next MasterChef.

Season Two promises to be an exciting and entertaining one, featuring home cooks from all across the country, including a single mother of six, a former BC Lion, and a small-town veterinarian. Also returning for Season Two are the three MasterChef Canada judges; professional chefs Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile, and Alvin Leung.

In the first 2 episodes, the contestants face the nerve-wracking audition process, where they have to prepare their signature dish and present it to the judges. At least 2 of the judges have to vote “yes” for their dish in order for them to receive the coveted white apron.

Once the finalists are chosen, the home cooks will battle it out to become one of the Top 16. Then, over the course of the season, contestants will do their best (“like their lives depend on it!”, according to judge Alvin) to avoid elimination by winning challenges that will include special guests, mystery boxes, and a restaurant takeover. Descriptive Video Works will be along for the ride too, describing the action (and food!) every step of the way.

Please join us for another unpredictable season of the ultimate Foodie Fight – MasterChef Canada! Who knows what the future holds in store for the winner? Season One winner Eric Chong has already gone from home cook to restaurant chef! In partnership with judge Alvin, Eric will be opening an Asian/Fusion restaurant this year in Toronto.

Now if only someone would invent “Smell-O-Vision”!

MasterChef Canada debuts February 8th at 7:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on CTV. Please check with your cable provider if you need help turning on the described video, this promises to be a Season not to miss!



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It’s Awards Show Season!

It’s that exciting time of year when we celebrate last year’s entertainment achievements.   On Sunday, March 1st, Canada fetes our talent with the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s, 2015 Canadian Screen Awards, which will be broadcast live on CBC. Stage and screen star Andrea Martin will host the awards, which celebrate Canadian productions and talent who excel in front on the camera, and behind-the-scenes in Canadian film, television, and digital media.

Descriptive Video Works is thrilled to once again be providing the live audio description for these Canadian Screen Awards allowing the blind and partially sighted to celebrate Canadian accomplishments alongside their sighted family and friends.

Descriptive Video Works is further honoured to have provided the descriptive video making six of the nominated television shows accessible to the blind and partially sighted audience. Find out what shows and actors are this year’s 2015 Canadian Screen Awards DVW Nominees!

For the Shaw Media Award for Best Dramatic Series, the Nominee is:


A feisty Vancouver homicide detective tracks down the most cunning of killers, by trying to figure out the motive to a crime.

In the category of Best Reality/Competition Program or Series, DVW had fun providing the descriptive video in two of the nominated programs:

Amazing Race Canada

This, the 12th international version of the multi-Emmy award winning reality series, pits teams against each other as they race across Canada and around the world.

MasterChef Canada

This culinary competition offers home cooks a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demonstrate their skill and passion, as they compete for $100,000 and the title of Canada’s next MasterChef!

Nominated for Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program, or Series:

Charlie Storwick, in Some Assembly Required – Realm of Raiders

For fourteen-year-old Jarvis Raines, running a toy company isn’t just fun and games. But it is fun. And there are games.

For the Shaw Media Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role, the Nominee is:

Adam Beach, in Arctic Air – Rites of Passage

Set in the booming Arctic, this adventure series is about a maverick airline, and the unconventional family who runs it.

For Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role or Guest Role in a Comedic Series, the Nominee is:

Jay Malone, in Package Deal – Kangaroo Court

Three very different brothers can’t get enough of each other, until a beautiful, smart and funny woman begins dating one of them.

Descriptive Video Works congratulates all of the nominees in these, and all of the categories for this year’s Canadian Screen Awards. We’ll be watching on March 1st to see who wins – join us!

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January 22, 2015 · 4:34 pm

Descriptive Video Works Visits A Strange Empire

Over the years Descriptive Video Works has provided its fair share of described video for period dramas, from Anne of Green Gables and The Road To Avonlea to Titanic: Blood and SteelBringing to life these richly realized past eras is always a challenging but rewarding endeavor for our describers and narrators and CBCs new 9-part feminist Western drama series, Strange Empire is no exception.


Set in 1869 Alberta, Strange Empire centers on a group of once-helpless women in a small frontier camp who are forced to take control of their situation when the men are mysteriously murdered. For CBC, the show is an attempt to stand shoulder to shoulder with the darker in tone shows more common to premium cable channels such as HBO and Showtime. Featuring brothels, sex and violence and morally ambiguous characters, Strange Empire is a long way from more familiar CBC drama programming such as Heartland and Murdoch Mysteries that’s for sure!

Capturing the richly produced period details and dusty cinematography of the series is an important priority for our descriptive video writer, Joel, but equally challenging has been the aspects of the show that are less obvious. Joel says, “Perhaps the most intriguing and challenging aspect of Strange Empire from an audio description perspective is the way in which the creators have tried to suggest the supernatural or otherworldly through the use of religious imagery, symbolism, or other visual imagery. Obviously, I don’t want to play spoiler here, so let’s just say there’s a lot of subtle hints and allusions that can be tricky to convey.”

Though it makes our job at Descriptive Video Works more challenging, we are delighted that CBC are not only willing to take on more complex material with shows such as Strange Empire and The Honorable Woman (read about our work on that show here) but that they are keen to make these terrific TV dramas accessible to the blind and partially sighted. Strange Empire is Orange Is The New Black meets Deadwood, a fascinating female dystopia and we’re sure it will generate its fair share of ‘water-cooler talk’. By commissioning us to provide described video, CBC has ensured that more than a million blind people across Canada can now contribute to those discussions about the show.

Starring Melissa Farman, Tattiawna Jones, Cara Gee and Aaron Poole, and created by Laurie Finstad-KnizhnikStrange Empire airs on Mondays on CBC at 9pm.


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DVW Brings Critically Acclaimed Series “The Honourable Woman” To Life


Descriptive Video Works recently concluded providing audio description services to the new drama series The Honourable Woman. A Sundance Channel and BBC co-production which has already aired in the UK and exclusively on The Sundance Channel, The Honourable Woman has been a huge hit with audiences and critics alike. Viewers in Canada will get their first look at the show on Monday, September 29 when it premieres on CBC at 9pm with a second episode following at the same time on Tuesday night.

The Honourable Woman tells the story of Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal in an astonishing performance), a newly made baroness at the forefront of the Middle East peace process who is struggling to maintain her idealistic principles whilst wrestling with personal demons from a troubled past. Nessa’s harrowing personal journey is set against a backdrop of political intrigue that has all the trappings of the classic spy thriller. As entertainment, it’s as gripping as anything else on television and yet it is so much more than just entertainment – this is a show that is complex in its plotting and fascinating in its character development whilst deftly navigating subject matter that is both highly controversial and topical. It’s impossible to view the show without giving serious thought to what is currently happening on The West Bank.

In bringing the story to life for blind and partially sighted viewers, the The Honourable Woman provided an incredible challenge as well as an opportunity for DVW to showcase the talents of our team.  Given the complex nature of the story, extra attention to detail was required in establishing each location and the characters present in each scene. This was made especially challenging with the story unfolding through numerous flashbacks. As with all spy thrillers, every episode was also abundant with elements that added to the suspense and mystery such as mysterious figures lurking in doorways, evidence uncovered, and props and clues along the way that would not be significant until much later in the story. These details are key to the genre and even for sighted viewers could easily be confusing, missed or forgotten entirely. For us, the key was in being precise and memorable in our descriptions so that when they reoccurred, our blind and partially sighted audience would be reminded of their importance in the story.

Written and Directed by Hugo Blick, the TV series is extremely visual with many themes and metaphors present only as images. For DVW this afforded a wonderful opportunity to write evocative description that we hope honors the rich source material and provides blind and partially sighted viewers a truly immersive experience.

Watch The Honourable Woman on CBC beginning Monday September 29 at 9pm, Tuesday September 30 and every Tuesday after that at 9pm.


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Descriptive Video Works races from coast to coast in The Amazing Race Canada!


Last week saw the premiere of Season 2 of the hugely successful series The Amazing Race Canada which is based upon the multi-emmy award winning format of the original CBS show The Amazing Race. Descriptive Video Works is proud to once again be providing described video for the series which takes eleven teams of two on a race across Canada which is interspersed with physical and mental challenges.

Season 1 was a big hit for CTV and was the most-watched series last summer and the second most-watched tv program of the entire year. Last year viewers saw teams encountering such diverse and uniquely Canadian challenges as taking a polar bear dip into an ice hole in the Yukon, attend an RCMP boot camp in Regina and building an igloo in Nunavut.

Season 2 looks set to take contestants and the audience on an equally thrill-ridden adventure with the premiere alone featuring zip-lining from the top of a ski jump in Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park, tandem skydiving over Victoria, serving the perfect high tea to guests at The Empress Hotel and braving cold water and claustrophobia as they became Navy recruits attempting to plug holes in a sinking ship simulation!

The teams competing in Season 2 of The Amazing Race Canada with host Jon Montgomery.

The teams competing in Season 2 of The Amazing Race Canada with host Jon Montgomery.

For the winning team, The Amazing Race Canada offers the biggest grand prize ever awarded for a Canadian competition series and includes a $250,000 cash prize, free flights in Business Class for a year to any destination flown to by Air Canada, two Chevrolet Silverado pick-up trucks and courtesy of Petro-Canada, free gas for life.

For Descriptive Video Works, the high-paced nature of the show, unique action and jaw-dropping backdrops, provides a terrific challenge. The task of successfully translating these visuals into audio description while still capturing the excitement of the race for blind viewers is always a delicate balancing act.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect for us in providing audio description for The Amazing Race Canada is the reminder that the place we call home is a truly remarkable and spectacular country.

The Amazing Race Canada airs on CTV every Tuesday evening.

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It’s Job Swap Time At Descriptive Video Works!

Over the many years we’ve been providing quality described video services we have maintained our position as one of the best in the business by not being afraid to learn and adapt. It is from our continued relationships with organizations in the blind community, producers, production companies and broadcasters that we have been able to see approaching trends and in some cases, even influence them! However, for any company wanting continued success, one cannot underestimate what can be learned from those already in one’s organization.

This past week Descriptive Video Works threw down the gauntlet for its staff to experience what each others jobs entail and the results provided us all with a fun evening of socializing but more importantly, an excellent learning experience and appreciation for what each of us brings to every audio description project that comes through our door.

DVW Narrators unite! Voice talent Arran Henn, Paula Hoffmann and Russ Froese try their hand with the writing side of the process

DVW Narrators unite! Voice talent Arran Henn, Paula Hoffmann and Russ Froese try their hand with the writing side of the process

Descriptive Video Works President and CEO, Diane Johnson, didn’t quite go as far as letting the staff run the company for a week (that’s work best left to the experts…) but she did have the team job-swap on two crucial elements of the video description process – the writing and the narration. With so many laptops spread out, our studio began to look like an Apple Store as our voice talent were tasked with writing a section of audio description for the TV show “The Liquidator“. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the studio, our writing staff took turns in the sound booth attempting to record perfect descriptive video for a segment of the TV drama series “Arctic Air“.

DVW staff Jamie Murrary and Shana Selwyn stretch their writing muscles on "The Liquidator"

DVW staff Jamie Murrary and Dianne Newman stretch their writing muscles on “The Liquidator”

For our professional voice talent faced with writing description, there were a couple of surprises. It goes without saying that significant writing talent is required in order to bring to life the visual elements of a TV program or movie when describing it for the blind but it also requires meticulous attention to detail, consistency and economy of language. This, even for a show with a lot of dialogue such as “The Liquidator”, can take a lot of time and patience and this was the biggest surprise for our narrators in their role-swapping experience.

DVW Head Writer and Trainer, Miranda Mackelworth, gets a taste of what its like in the sound booth for our professional voice talent

DVW Head Writer and Trainer, Miranda Mackelworth, exercises her vocal chords recording a segment of “Arctic Air”

Next door, our writers got to see what our voice talent go through when recording the completed described video scripts in our sound booth. The first thing one is struck by is the isolation of being in a sound proof environment and the awkwardness that comes from “performing” and having ones voice recorded. In terms of the specific process that we go through with descriptive video, our writers were particularly taken aback at the multi-tasking side of things – when recording, our narrators have both the script and the program itself in front of them and must split their vision between the two all the while speaking clearly and succinctly without missing a beat. For our writers, understanding first-hand how their written choices can affect the job of our narrators was an invaluable experience.

Following the writing and recording sessions the team re-convened and asked questions, shared their impressions and even a few trade secrets (several of our narrators sing on their way to the studio!). In attendance was Rosamund Van Leeuwen who has been blind since the age of two and who heads up Descriptive Video Works’ research and development team. Our job-swap experience was given a wonderful context as Rosamund shared her insights on the process as an end-user, the audience our work is focused on.

Rosamund van Leeuwen (right) giving our staff invaluable feedback

Rosamund van Leeuwen (right) giving our staff invaluable feedback

A great team-building exercise, our job-swap evening also highlighted for all of us at Descriptive Video Works how much time and dedication goes into describing movies and TV for the blind. Closed Captioning is mandatory on all programming whereas only a small percentage of descriptive video is mandatory. Whereas Closed Captioning can be produced at a rapid rate, descriptive video requires a very different set of skills and a lot more time and dedication. Since it takes more to produce, does this mean it should be any less important when there are more than 30 million people in North America alone who can benefit from described video? We think not. If you’d like to see more programming available for the blind, you can help by introducing to your friends to what we do at Descriptive Video Works because as we discovered with our job-swap this week, there’s a lot to gain from sharing one another’s experiences.

Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter to learn more or visit our website.

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Academy Originals Spotlights Described Video

This month The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the folks better known for The Oscars, launched a new documentary webseries, Academy Originals,  highlighting and celebrating various aspects of the movies and the movie making process. The first three short films in the series premiered last week and one of them is of particular interest all of us here at Descriptive Video Works as it focuses on something near and dear to us.

Here’s the film, it’s well worth your time checking it out.

Not Much To See – How The Blind Enjoy Movies does a great job of capturing what makes described video such an important service as well as what it means to the blind to be able to enjoy something most of us take for granted.  Every single one of us has a treasured memory of sitting in a darkened movie theater and delighting as larger than life images flickered before our eyes, inspiring, informing, entertaining and in many cases transporting us to far off places beyond our imagination. There are some who dismiss the need for greater accessibility in media (be it described video for the blind or closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing) as being a needless service that only caters to a minority. However, there are more than 20 million people affected by serious vision loss in the United States alone. According to the World Health Organization, in 2013 there were 39 million people worldwide who were legally blind and 246 million with significant low vision. That’s 285 million people around the world who cannot experience the magic of the movies.

During our many years providing descriptive video we have made more than 800 movies accessible to the blind. Here are just a FEW of those movies:

A Fish Called Wanda, Analyze This, Before Sunrise, Brazil, The Bridges Of Madison County, Castaway, Catch Me If You Can, Crimes And Misdemeanors, Die Hard, Do The Right Thing, Father Of The Bride, Fight Club, Forrest Gump, The Fugitive, Hard Days Night, JFK, Kramer vs Kramer, Leaving Las Vegas, Mississippi Burning, My Beautiful Laundrette, Rebel Without A Cause, Roxanne, Something About Mary, Speed, Stand By Me, The Color Purple, The French Connection, The Full Monty, The Thing, The Client, Twelve Angry Men, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, White Christmas, X-Men, Zulu…

…and many, many more!

All of these movies are generally regarded as classics in their genre and it has been both a delight and an extremely rewarding challenge for us to be able to bring these films to life for those with low vision. The power of the image, especially the moving image, has left an indelible mark on our culture over the past 100 years and nobody should be denied access to it especially when as a society we have the means to ensure that nobody is excluded. Through quality writing, voice recording and audio mixing  we remain committed to providing the very best audio description in the business. Shockingly, we still encounter people on a daily basis who are completely unaware of video description. Their reaction is much like what Melissa Hudson of says in Not Much To See – “Blind people don’t go to the movies!” As such, we also remain committed to spreading the word concerning the importance of descriptive video. We encourage you to do the same. Share, Like, Retweet, etc. Inform, illuminate and help us make a difference.

It is our hope that the day will come when all movies and television includes described video as standard. We applaud the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for launching their new online series with an episode that highlights described video services and its importance to the blind. The magic of the movies will continue to captivate the world, lets all do what we can to ensure that nobody is left out from experiencing that magic.

Crowd watching a movie

You can check out the other Academy Originals webseries episodes via their youtube channel here. Future episodes will be featuring Academy members such as writer-director Paul Haggis, producer Kathleen Kennedy and filmmaker Ava Duvernay.

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