Tag Archives: descriptive videos

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 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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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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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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