Category Archives: Industry News

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 Makes Case For DV At CRTC Hearings


This past week, Diane Johnson, CEO and President of Descriptive Video Works, took part in the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission – the administrative tribunal that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications) hearings discussing the future of Canadian television. Dubbed Let’s Talk TV the hearings gave Diane, who was joined by Shawn Marsolais, founder of Blind Beginnings, the chance to make the case regarding the importance of described television.

Following a submission process, Diane and Shawn were among the lucky few to be invited to the discussions pertaining to audio description (other speakers included AMI – Accessible Media Inc.).  “Over and over again I am asked why are not more programs described,” Diane said prior to Let’s Talk TV. “I don’t understand why the current mandate is only four hours a week for described video on TV, and 100% for closed captioning. I don’t understand why the blind and partially sighted are denied equal access to information and entertainment”.

During the allotted ten minute session, Diane gave the CRTC a background of her experiences with Descriptive Video Works and the kind of services the company offers, many of which are practices that we have pioneered such as Live Video Description. Also addressed were emerging worldwide trends that show availability of described video increasing, blind audiences becoming harder to ignore and how Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in the field. As a founding member of the Canadian Described Video Broadcast Committee, Diane expressed the importance of Best Practices and how these standards only have value if everyone follows them.

Shawn said to the members of the CRTC panel, “Please imagine not being able to see. We don’t know what our peers are wearing or doing leaving us at a disadvantage socially. It is difficult to make friends when can’t talk about sports, TV programs, fashion, or when you miss the action or joke because it was something visual. DV fills in these gaps”. She went on to say, “Being able to talk knowledgeably with sighted people about these things demonstrates that I am not that different from them, I just can’t see”.

Diane capped off their time speaking with the CRTC by saying, “Both entertainment and information are received via television, lack of access is socially isolating. The blind and partially sighted community deserves the same access to television as enjoyed by all viewers. Descriptive video directly contributes to a higher quality of life. We respectfully request a mandate that requires 100% described video on Canadian television programming”.

Diane and Shawn then answered questions from Stephen Simpson, CRTC Commissioner, British Columbia and Yukon who was particularly interested in Live DV and the associated costs of DV and how these costs may be reduced for broadcasters.


To watch Diane and Shawn’s full presentation to the CRTC as well as how they responded to Commissioner Simpson’s questions, CLICK HERE and jump ahead to 135:00.

It is our hope that the CRTC listens to not just Diane and Shawn’s feedback, but the feedback from the entire blind and partially sighted community across the country, a group of one million plus Canadians that is expected to increase significantly over the coming years as the baby boomers retire. The blind community is tired of being mostly ignored – a fact supported by a complete lack of media coverage during the video description portion of the CRTC hearings. Though Let’s Talk TV is now over, we can all do our part to continue pushing for increased DV. Let’s not let the importance of equality for all be overshadowed by focus on BDUs (Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings), pick ‘n pay contracts and Netflix. Let’s continue to talk TV and ensure that nobody is left out of the discussion.

For a full breakdown of the topics covered by the Let’s Talk TV CRTC hearings, CLICK HERE – Sections 20 and 21 pertain to Described Video and Media Accessibility.

We also encourage you to check out the amazing work being done in the community by Shawn and her team at Blind Beginnings.


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Descriptive Video Works Wins ACB Audio Description Achievement Award!


This past week Descriptive Video Works‘ CEO, Diane Johnson, attended the American Council of the Blind (ACB) Annual Conference in Las Vegas where she and the DVW team were awarded the ACB Audio Description Achievement Award – Media which recognizes outstanding contributions to the establishment and continued development of significant audio description programs in media.

This was one case where ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ was definitely not the case! All of us at DVW are thrilled and humbled by this news recognizing all of our hard work and we couldn’t be happier to share it with the world!

ADP - DVW_Vocal Eye

Descriptive Video Works CEO, Diane Johnson, (right) with Vocal Eye Executive Managing Director, Steph Kirkland

Also recognized at the ACB conference were our friends at Vocal Eye, also based in Vancouver, who continue to excel in providing live video description for many local theatre productions, arts and cultural events and who brought home the Audio Description Achievement Award – International. Huge congratulations to all the Vocal Eye team.

In an official statement Diane said, “What a great day for Canada to win two audio description awards at this international conference, a meeting which raises both awareness and the importance of audio description to the blind and partially sighted audience worldwide”. She went on to say, “Television, films and theatre play such an important role in our society. In providing the blind and partially sighted audience with the details and descriptions of scenes and physical characteristics, we provide them with an engaging and robust entertainment experience so together they can be immersed in the story with their sighted family and friends”.

Very proud to hang this on our wall!

Very proud to hang this on our wall!

This year marked the 53rd ACB Annual Conference which saw approximately 1,500 blind and partially sighted people from across the United States and many other countries descend on La Vegas. Participants enjoyed a packed 4 day schedule of events including over 350 meetings, numerous workshops, seminars, tours and social events as well as an exhibitor space that included technology, products and services for assisting the blind and partially sighted. We were lucky enough to meet a participant at the conference familiar with the work of Descriptive Video Works who told us, “Described video has made a significant difference in our lives, both my wife and myself are blind. We just want the benefits that everyone else has. As a blind person when watching a show or event you really feel you only get half the story. When we go to a movie and it’s not described, we spend the time guessing where they are, for example, we hear a wave, and say to ourselves ‘oh they must be at the beach’. With Described Video we now know what’s going on and we can enjoy the program without spending our time guessing. We look forward to enjoying Described Video programming for years to come. Thank you”.

Chris Gray, Chair, ADP Awards Committee and former President, ACB presents Diane with the award for Achievement in Audio Description - Media

Chris Gray, Chair, ADP Awards Committee and former President, ACB presents Diane with the award for Achievement in Audio Description – Media

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the ACB for once again putting on a fantastic conference and for presenting us with the Audio Description Achievement Award. It was an honor to be a part of such a wonderful event which brings together so many inspiring individuals.

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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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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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Descriptive Video Works Congratulates Canadian Talent

Award season may have culminated south of the border with the Oscars but the biggest event on the Canadian entertainment calendar is still to come, the Canadian Screen Awards!


Descriptive Video Works is thrilled to be providing the live video description for the Canadian Screen Awards which will be airing on Sunday March 9, 2014 at 8pm on CBC and as with last year, the show will be hosted by Martin Short. Our live video description services were a huge hit with vision impaired audiences recently when we were honored to have described the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics as well as the men’s Gold Medal Hockey Game. With so many Canadian stars breaking out their best fashions this coming Sunday at the Screen Awards our live video describers will undoubtedly be given a good challenge in bringing the proceedings to life for all our non-sighted viewers across the country.

We send our congratulations to ALL the Canadian Screen Awards nominees especially the shows which we are proud to have made accessible to the blind and partially sighted audience by providing the described video. The shows we have worked on that have been nominated for awards include the following:

Arctic Air

Currently half way through it’s third season, we have been describing the adventures of the Yellowknife based maverick airline since the very first episode. The show is nominated in the Digital Media Category for Best Cross-Platform Project – Fiction.


The Amazing Race Canada

In it’s inaugural season the hit reality series picked up three nominations including Best Photography in a Lifestyle or Reality/Competition Program or Series, Best Writing and Best Cross-Platform Project – Non-Fiction.


Highway Thru Hell

Given the tough winter we’ve experienced this year, the rescue and towing company featured in this show set along the Coquihalla Highway in B.C. must have been kept very busy! The team behind the show have been rewarded with noms for Best Direction and Best Picture Editing in a Reality/Competition Program.


The Liquidator

Also nominated in for Best Direction and Best Editing in the Reality category, we can’t help but wonder if the deal-hunting star of the show, Jeff Schwarz, will try selling his award if he wins…



Season 2 of the police procedural drama series premieres this Thursday on CTV. The first Season has three Canadian Screen Award noms including Best Dramatic Series, Best Direction in a Dramatic Series and Best Performance in a Guest Role (awarded to Molly Parker for her work in the episode “Public Enemy”).


Nerve Center

The reality series that takes its viewers behind the scenes of complex organizations, utilities and special events has kept our writers busy the last couple of months. The show has a nom in the Best Direction in a Reality Program category.


As the longest-running current affairs/newsmagazine program in North America and the third longest-running Canadian television program, W5 continues to showcase hard-hitting, controversial stories. This year, the show is nominated in four categories including Best News Information Series, Best News Information Program and Host or Interviewer (to Victor Malarek for the story “The Throwaway Children”) and Best News Information Segment (for the story “The Survivor”).


2013 Much Music Video Awards

Describing Korean pop sensation PSY performing his hit single “Gangam Style” was among one of the more interesting challenges for our descriptive video writers last year! The colorful awards show has noms in four categories including Best Music Program, Best Photography in a Variety or Performing Arts Program, Best Production Design or Art Direction in a Non-Fiction Program and Best Performance in a Variety or Sketch Comedy Program (for the aforementioned viral sensation PSY).


Primeval New World

Rounding out the Canadian Screen Awards nominees who we were privileged to have provided described video services to in 2013 is the sci-fi show Primeval New World which sadly was cancelled after only one season. The show provided many an action-packed moment with dinosaurs invading contemporary Vancouver and is well deserving of its nomination for Best Visual Effects.


Congratulations again to all the nominees! Tune in to CBC at 8pm on Sunday March 9 to find out who takes home the awards.

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Crossing Lines takes Descriptive Video to Europe

Crossing Lines, is a unique, global action/crime series we encourage you to check out and when it premieres June 23, as part of NBC’s summer line up of new programming. Descriptive Video Works was delighted when Tandem Communications  (who we previously worked with on the series Titanic: Blood & Steelasked to provide the audio description for all 10 episodes of the thrilling new series.


Crossing Lines follows a diverse, skilled team of investigators as they track down and attempt to bring to justice a variety of despicable criminals. What makes this fresh and so different from other similar tv show concepts is the stunning backdrop international backdrop.

In a world increasingly driven by global trade and economics, borders between countries have vanished, especially in Europe. With fewer restrictions for travelers and those doing business in the international marketplace, there have been many benefits but it has also brought with it a serious increase in international crime. Compounding the issue are police and investigative authorities that have been slow to adapt to the new world and who lack the ability to easily share information with one another. In Crossing Lines Major Louis Daniel, empowered by the International Criminal Court, is tasked with setting up a special crime unit to investigate cross-border criminals and bring them to justice. Aiding Major Daniel Louis are a team of investigators from across Europe and beyond. All of them have their own unique ways of doing things, their own cultural idiosyncrasies and their own troubled pasts and they must put all of these things aside as they find a way to work together.

For Descriptive Video Works describing Crossing Lines became a journey through a multitude of gorgeous European locales stretching from the canals of Amsterdam to the sun, sea and sand of the French Riviera. With all our shows we try very hard to capture the look and feel of the world the story is set in and Crossing Lines was no different. In this particular case, we went to great to lengths to ensure we were accurately describing the various European locales, vehicles, costumes and props and paying special attention to correct pronunciation of the many European character names in the show. For us, it is not just about ensuring the audience understands what is happening in the story but about honoring the authenticity of the show and the intentions of the filmmakers.


Crossing Lines  comes from executive producer/writer Edward Allen Bernero (Criminal Minds, Third Watch) and Rola Bauer (Pillars of the Earth, World Without End) and Jonas Bauer (Impact, The Company). The series features a terrific cast of international names including William Fichtner (Prison Break, The Dark Knight and soon to be seen this summer in both Elysium and The Lone Ranger), French actor/singer Marc Lavoine (The Good Thief), Italian star Gabriella Pession (Capri), French actress Moon Dailly (OSS 17 – Lost In Rio), Irish actor Richard Flood (Titanic: Blood & Steel), German actor Tom Wlaschiha (Game of Thrones) and Canadian icon Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, Six Degrees of Separation, Ordinary People). The series is produced by Tandem Communications in association with Bernero Productions in co-production with TF1 Production in association with Sony Pictures Television Networks.

For us at Descriptive Video Works it was refreshing for us to see such a well-trodden genre take creative risks in a new setting with a wonderful and talented international cast. The show premieres on NBC in a 2-hour special on Sunday, June 23 at 9/8c. It will also air on CBC in Canada as part of their Fall line up.

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