Tag Archives: CBC

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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Twin Life: Sharing Mind and Body

Descriptive Video Works provides audio description for all kinds of TV and Film projects but every once in awhile a project comes our way that is truly remarkable. “Twin Life: Sharing Mind and Body” is one such project.

Filmed over the course of 2013, “Twin Life: Sharing Mind and Body” is a one hour documentary that follows a year in the remarkable lives of Tatiana and Krista Hogan, conjoined twin sisters who live in Vernon, British Columbia. As craniopagus twins, joined by the head, the Hogan sisters are truly unique, being the only people in the world known to share a neural bridge between the thalamus. Situated between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain, the thalamus regulates consciousness and relays sensory and motor signals to the cerebral cortex. What this means for Tatiana and Krista is that they share a sensory bond that doctors suspect is a medical first – they can quite literally see, feel and taste what the other feels.

Born on October 25, 2006, Tatiana and Krista Hogan were given a 20% chance of survival but every day since then they have defied medical science, confounded and amazed their doctors in equal measure and inspired the world with their courage and spirit. “Twin Life: Sharing Mind and Body” follows the twins and their family as through several events during the course of 2013 including a stressful trip to Vancouver for continuing medical tests, their first ever visit to a waterslide park, the beginning of Grade Two, Halloween and Tatiana and Krista’s seventh birthday party.

For Descriptive Video Works, making this particular documentary accessible to vision restricted audiences required a sensitivity to the material as well as a deft hand in bringing to life a story that is both cinematic and deeply moving. It was a privilege and an honor to be a part of this remarkable story.

Produced by Margaret O’Brien and Judith Pyke (who also wrote and directed the film), “Twin Life: Sharing Mind and Body” is narrated by Ann-Marie MacDonald and produced in association with Entertainment One in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Company. The film debuts on CBC Television’s Doc Zone on Thursday March 13th at 7pm.


Tatiana and Krista Hogan

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Descriptive Video Works Congratulates Canadian Screen Award Nominees

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.

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Christmas Comes To Descriptive Video Works

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.

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Descriptive Video Works takes on a Titanic task!

All of us at Descriptive Video Works are proud to be working with CBC and providing the audio description for their new TV series Titanic: Blood & Steel.

Now before you exclaim, “What?! Yet another Titanic story?!” this particular story is very different than those seen previously involving an iceberg and the sinking of what is arguably the most famous ship in the world.

Titanic: Blood & Steel tells a story most will not know very much about – namely the events surrounding the construction of the ship. Though there are a number of fictional characters included for the sake of great television drama, the show is still a history buffs dream.  It features such historical figures as JP Morgan (played by Sex and the City hunk, Chris Noth), Joseph Bruce Ismay (Gray O’Brien), the former Chairman of White Star Lines, survivor of the the Titanic sinking and once named “the most cowardly man alive” and William James Pirrie (Derek Jacobi), a Canadian who became one of the most highly regarded shipbuilders of the time.

We take great pride in the work we do providing audio descriptions for television and movies and a show such as Titanic: Blood & Steel provides us with a terrific platform to showcase the quality of our work. We are among the top companies that deliver descriptive video services and our level of excellence comes from over a decade of experience in the industry, a close working relationship with our vision impaired audience and our attention to detail in the descriptive writing, narration recording and final audio mix.

In the case of Titanic: Blood & Steel there are a number of descriptive challenges. Firstly, the show has a large cast of characters, all of whom must be correctly identified in order to assist our vision impaired viewers in following the story. Secondly, there are many period details that are an intrinsic element of the world of the story from settings (various shipyards, poverty-stricken streets as well as grand, elegant mansions), costumes and props.  In order to describe these details our writers go to great lengths to ensure accuracy. For example, in one scene from the show two characters take a walk in a park passing by an ornate structure and from a Google image search our writers were able to identify it specifically as the Royal Belfast Botanical Gardens.

Finally, a central element of the show is the construction of the Titanic herself. In order to describe these details we try to avoid generic terms and instead use the correct nautical terms. An audio description that describes specific elements (such as the keel, the bulkhead, the starboard-side hull, etc.) complements the efforts made by the show’s filmmakers and, more importantly, adds to the richness of the experience for our vision impaired audience.

This is what the actual construction site looked like.

And this is how the Titanic: Blood & Steel crew were able to recreate it with amazing set design and special effects from Windmill Lane VFX. Lots of details to be described!

With a wonderful cast led by Kevin Zegers, the aforementioned Derek JacobiNeve CampbellOphelia Lovibond as well as Italian stars Alessandra Mastronardi and Massimo Ghini, Titanic: Blood & Steel offers something for everyone. Set in Belfast in 1909 there was a lot happening at this point in history: The beginnings of workers fighting for their rights and the establishment of Trade Unions, the rise of of The Women’s Suffrage movement, the beginnings of the Irish Republican Army. All of this in addition to Class struggles and religious intolerance between the predominantly poor, Catholic, work force and their wealthy, Protestant masters. For the romantics among you the show even has several cross-class love stories, something we all come to expect from such epically sumptuous, big-budget period TV series.

All of us at Descriptive Video Works are grateful to the filmmakers and to CBC for providing us with such wonderful material to make accessible to the vision impaired.

Neve Campbell as Joanne Yeagher, Chris Noth as JP Morgan and Kevin Zegers as Dr. Mark Muir

Catch the big premiere on CBC at 9pm on Wednesday, September 19th.

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Coming Soon: “InSecurity” Season 2

After a successful introductory season of the CBC action-comedy TV series, InSecurity, we were delighted to hear that the show had been picked up for Season 2. Especially since we described all 13 episodes of Season 1 and will be providing video description for all of the up-coming episodes of Season 2.

InSecurity follows a team of CSIS-like super-spys working for N.I.S.A. (the National Intelligence Security Agency) who are quite often not as super as one might expect. In fact, the team is often completely inept… and yet they always manage to bungle their way through dire situations that threaten national security and save the day. Fear not Canada, you’re in safe hands – well, kind of…!

InSecurity was Created and is Executive Produced by Kevin White of Company Name Here Productions and Robert de Lint and Virginia Thompson of Verite Films, the same team behind the hit show Corner Gas (all 107 episodes of Corner Gas were described by Descriptive Video Works).

InSecurity stars Natalie Lisinska as sassy team leader Alex Cranston, William deVry as the smooth-talking NISA director Peter McNeill, Richard Yearwood as former Ligerian Secret Service agent Benjamin N’Udu, Remy Girard as French-Canadian agent Claude Lesage, Matthew MacFadzean as naive agent Burt Wilson and Grace Lynn Kung as cold as ice agent Jojo Kwan.

Described by one of the show’s writers as “24 without Jack Bauer, C.S.I. minus the science and James Bond if James Bond were Mr. Bean,” Season 2 of InSecurity premieres this Fall on CBC.

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