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 Steel. Bringing 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-Knizhnik, Strange Empire airs on Mondays on CBC at 9pm.
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.
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.
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.
At Descriptive Video Works we love seeing talent and excellence recognized but we especially like it when the recognition includes shows we have provided audio description for and clients we have long-standing relationships with.
A new year always brings change and in 2013 there’s already a big shake-up in the award season. The Genie Awards have disappeared back inside a magic lantern and the Gemini Awards have, one presumes, gone to find their long lost twin. In their place comes the new and improved, epic, combo-meal of awards in the shape of the Canadian Screen Awards which combines excellence in both the film and television mediums.
We would like to pass on our congratulations to ALL the Canadian Screen Award nominees but especially to the following shows which we are very proud to have made accessible to blind and vision impaired audiences.
Arctic Air – Best Television Drama
W5 – Best Information Series and Best Host/Interviewer
InSecurity – Best Comedy Actor and Best Photography
Pyros – Best Documentary or Reality Television Series and Best Sound
The Juno Awards – Best Live Television Direction
Sanctuary – Best Costume Design
Saw Dogs – Best Direction in a Reality Program and Best Photography
We look forward to describing lots more quality entertainment over the coming year for people who are blind and vision impaired. The Canadian Screen Awards will be broadcast live in a 2 hour special on Sunday March 3, 2013 @ 8pm on CBC.
A special message from Diane Johnson, President & CEO of Descriptive Video Works.
Happy New Year! Break out the bubble – we are celebrating our 10th Anniversary in 2013!
For many people 2012 was a challenging year. Economic downturn affected virtually every business – ours included. Thankfully with our dedicated Descriptive Video Works team and wonderful clients we have held our own through the slow periods and things are shaping up quickly for some exciting developments in 2013. I am so grateful for your dedication to keeping us number one in Canada – with incredible potential to expand at a global level. Many new irons are in the fire and I hope to have some very exciting news to share within our first quarter.
We hear from our friends in the community of blind and vision impaired people how they are enjoying television and theatre like they never have before. We know that as more and more people hear about audio description this group will have even more wonderful described entertainment to enjoy this coming year. One of the highlights for Descriptive Video Works in 2012 was doing the descriptive video for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics. We plan to do the same for many years to come.
On a personal note I wish you all the very best of health, happiness and prosperity in this auspicious new year!
One of our writers sent this to me and I would like to share it with you as we all move into a year filled with possibilities.
“If anything were possible… quickly, easily and now… what would your life look like. Who would you be with? What would you be doing? Where would you be living? What would you look like, feel like? Invite your future self into your present to help you become the person of your dreams.”
May your dreams become a reality in 2013 and may we all continue to take even small steps to make the world a softer more gentle place for all.
We’re getting into the festive spirit here at Descriptive Video Works with two very special Christmas assignments which we will be providing audio description for.
CBC‘s Holiday Festival On Ice is an annual special that promises a spectacular show for all the family as world class figure skaters perform against a holiday-themed backdrop. The star-studded cast includes skating greats Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, Jeffrey Buttle, Joannie Rochette and Kimmie Meissner. Special guest and international opera sensation, Measha Brueggergosman, will be performing hits from her new album “I’ve Got A Crush On You”. Viewers will remember Measha for her incredible performance of the Olympic Hymn at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
CBC Holiday Festival On Ice airs across Canada at 8pm on December 12th and again on December 26th at 9pm.
Our second festive assignment continues our work in making classic movies like Zulu and The Gold Rush accessible to sight impaired viewers. This week we completed work on providing descriptive video for one of the most endearing Christmas movies ever made, White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney (whose ever so slightly famous nephew named George you may have heard of!).
White Christmas follows two Word War II army friends (Crosby and Kaye) who make it big as entertainers and who fall in love with sisters and fellow entertainers Betty and Judy (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen). Featuring classic Irvin Berlin songs “White Christmas” and “Sisters”, White Christmas has the distinction of being the very first movie to be filmed using the VistaVision process. Hugely popular with audiences, the film was the highest grossing movie in 1954.
Head Writer at Descriptive Video Works, Miranda Mackelworth says, “Describing White Christmas knowing we were making this well-loved classic accessible to an entirely new audience who could now not only enjoy description of the scenes but also have the sets, colorful costumes and performances brought to life alongside the timeless music, was an absolute pleasure”.
White Christmas will be airing over the holidays on Channel Zero in Canada.
We’re all very excited at Descriptive Video Works to announce that we’ll be providing descriptive audio services to the highly anticipated new show Primeval – New World which will be forming part of the new Fall Season line-up on Canadian channel SPACE.
Primeval – New World is a 13 episode spin-off series from the successful British television science-fiction show Primeval which was first broadcast on ITV in February 2007 and ran for 5 seasons. The original show followed members of A.R.C. (the Anomaly Research Center) investigating the appearance of strange portals through Time known as Anomalies which have a nasty habit of bringing with them various beasts from the Past and Future including dinosaurs.
Tim Haines who co-created the original show (with Adrian Hodges) is no stranger to prehistoric life, he was also the producer of the multi-award winning series Walking With Dinosaurs and is also part of Primeval – New World. Partnering with Tim’s company Impossible Pictures are Canadian company Omni Film Productions whom we’ve had the pleasure of working with many times before describing shows such as Arctic Air, Defying Gravity and Robson Arms .
Primeval – New World will be introducing an entirely new group of characters to audiences and we’re delighted to report that the series, unlike many others, is not only shot in Vancouver where our DV studios are based, but is shooting Vancouver as Vancouver. It’s great to see our beautiful city being showcased as itself rather than as a stunt double for everywhere else in North America and it certainly makes identifying locations easier for our staff writing the audio description. Besides, who doesn’t want to see T-Rexes and Raptors rampaging through Stanley Park and Granville Island?!
Like it’s British inspiration, the new series will follow a team of dedicated scientists as they try to understand and contain the sudden appearance of strange portals in Time that often bring with them terrifying monsters from the Past and Future. Leading the team is software genius Evan Cross played by Niall Matter (Eureka). Rounding out the cast are Sara Canning (Vampire Diaries), Danny Rahim (Young James Herriot), Crystal Lowe (Smallville), Miranda Frigon (Heartland) and Geoff Gustafson (Hot Tub Time Machine). There will also be one or two surprise guest stars that anyone who has seen the original Primeval will appreciate but you’ll have to tune in when the show airs to find out who.
Primeval – New World premieres on SPACE on Monday, October 29 at 10pm ET.