Tag Archives: audio described films

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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Audio Description Brings “The Host” To Life For Blind Audiences

Our wonderful working relationship with the folks at Open Road Films continues this month with The Host (Official Site for the movie here) – An excellent science-fiction film that will be coming to movie theaters across North America on Friday, March 29, 2013.


If The Host sounds familiar to you it’s probably because the movie is an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Stephanie Meyer, the writer behind the smash-hit Twilight books which have also been turned into incredibly successful movies. We are very proud to have provided described video for the film making it accessible to more than 30 million blind and vision-impaired people across North America.

Writing video description is always a challenge but it is especially so when the TV show or feature film is of a fantasy or science-fiction nature. There are often strange gadgets and creatures to be described and sometimes even entire alien worlds that we must help our non-sighted viewers visualize. In painting vivid but succinct pictures through our descriptions we strive to transport our blind audience members to the world of the story in a way that is as close to the experience as it would be for a sighted audience member.

The Host is set in a near future Earth that has been invaded by a technologically advanced alien race that lives inside humans, turning us into host organisms. The alien parasites known as “souls” consume the memories and personalities of their host organisms but some humans manage to fight back – such is the case with the main character in the story, Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), who refuses to fade away and who survives as an inner voice within the alien soul inhabiting her body. From a video description standpoint this presented a unique challenge as we had to ensure that the distinction between human characters and the alien soul inside them remained clear throughout.


Central to The Host, much like the Twilight saga, is a teen love story and this meant the video description and the voicing of the description also needed to maintain a quality of sensitivity that was in-keeping with the central themes of the film. For those of you who might be put off by science-fiction or teen romance, we urge you to go and check out the film – directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show, In Time), the film has a surprising level of depth and beauty to it.

We are very proud of our work describing The Host and whether you are a sighted or a non-sighted audience member, it is well worth your time and money. If you attend a screening of the film with the described audio track, do let us know what you think!

Watch the trailer:

Buy the book the film is adapted from here.

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Filed under Described Shows, Industry News, Uncategorized, Vision Impairment

ZULU: Making A Classic Accessible

A Guest Blog by Descriptive Video Works writer/describer Neil Every

In my role as a writer/describer with Descriptive Video Works I’ve had the opportunity to help make a staggering variety of shows accessible to the blind and vision-impaired. Of these shows, the feature length movies are often the most challenging. However, when a movie comes along that is regarded as a classic, the challenge becomes so much more than meeting the delivery deadline and making it accessible to the vision impaired – it becomes a responsibility to do it right and honor the respect the movie has achieved with audiences worldwide.

Released in 1964, Zulu depicts the infamous Battle of Rorke’s Drift when British soldiers suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of thousands of Zulu warriors in January 1879. In an historical context, The Battle of Rorke’s Drift can be considered the British equivalent of The Alamo or The Battle of Little Bighorn.

As a film, Zulu is up there with the best historical war movies ever made – it’s truly cinema on an epic scale. Considering the movie was made more than 50 years ago, well before the anti-war movement of a Post-Vietnam era world, one might expect the film to revel in colonialism, patriotism and the glorification and honor of battle but the film has a surprising perspective on the matter for the time. Even the most patriotic and dutiful of characters, Lt. Bromhead (played by a young Michael Caine in one of his first starring roles) is devastated at the senseless loss of life come the end of the movie.

Michael Caine as Lt. Bromhead cradles Stanley Baker as Lt. Chard

Unlike many Westerns of yesteryear, where the antagonistic Natives are portrayed as stereotypical, one-dimensional violent savages, writer-director Cy Endfield gives the Zulus an air of mystery, majesty and empathy and he does it with barely a single line of dialogue.

Preserving the intent of the filmmakers and communicating the story, its tone and sweep in as truthful a manner as possible quickly became apparent to me in describing the film. The process began with a viewing of the film from start to finish, taking notes as I went. The first challenge is always identifying each of the characters. With modern films there is usually a plethora of actor details to be found online through the IMDB (International Movie Data Base) and Google image search. Sometimes I’m even lucky enough to track down a copy of the screenplay. However, when a film is decades old as was the case with Zulu, it’s not so easy. There were few pictures identifying the characters other than the main stars and the screenplay has never been made public. Making matters worse in this case was the fact that 99% of the cast were all wearing red and white British Army uniforms and many had period mustaches. Patience and perseverance are the order of the day.

Uniforms and facial hair. Stanley Baker as Lt. Chard and Nigel Greene as Color Sgt. Bourne

What makes Zulu really stand out is the depiction of the battle that forms the centerpiece of the movie. The battle is a masterclass in action directing with a slow building of tension that increases inexorably until the Zulus finally attack. From this point on it is a war of attrition that keeps the viewer engaged and wondering how on earth any of the characters will survive the situation. Indeed, the battle scenes are so well staged that many contemporary filmmakers have found inspiration in them. One only has to look at Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (which even re-purposed the Zulu chant in the opening Roman Legion battle) or Peter Jackson’s Battle of Helms Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to see homages aplenty.

Capturing the pacing, intensity, tone and atmosphere of the battle scenes was a unique challenge in describing Zulu. When describing action sequences, one strives to paint as vivid and authentic a picture as possible whilst still timing the description so that various elements line up with the appropriate sound effects.

For example the description for one sequence was:

His men returning fire, Chard hunkers down, revolver clutched in one hand as he slowly moves along the edge of the barricade. He fires off a shot.

The word “fires” was timed to land at the point in the action when the viewer hears the sound of the revolver firing.

Following five days of work, the descriptive script for Zulu was completed. Totaling 18 pages and including 356 separate events for a sum of 8,324 words our voice talent and post production wizards at the studio were certainly kept busy bringing it all together and completing the movie in time for delivery!

Here’s a sample sequence of the finished audio described film:

Zulu is well worth the moniker of “Classic Movie” and is well worth your time. The audio described version of the film will be airing as part of “Saturday Night At The Movies” on TVO at 8pm on September 8. I hope our hard work making Zulu accessible helps a new audience of vision impaired viewers re-discover the film.

In addition to working as a describer at Descriptive Video Works, Neil Every is an accomplished Writer, Director and Story Consultant. Check out his website here or visit his blog here.


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