Tag Archives: TV for the blind

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.

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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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Descriptive Video Works Wins ACB Audio Description Achievement Award!

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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!

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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!

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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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It’s Job Swap Time At Descriptive Video Works!

Over the many years we’ve been providing quality described video services we have maintained our position as one of the best in the business by not being afraid to learn and adapt. It is from our continued relationships with organizations in the blind community, producers, production companies and broadcasters that we have been able to see approaching trends and in some cases, even influence them! However, for any company wanting continued success, one cannot underestimate what can be learned from those already in one’s organization.

This past week Descriptive Video Works threw down the gauntlet for its staff to experience what each others jobs entail and the results provided us all with a fun evening of socializing but more importantly, an excellent learning experience and appreciation for what each of us brings to every audio description project that comes through our door.

DVW Narrators unite! Voice talent Arran Henn, Paula Hoffmann and Russ Froese try their hand with the writing side of the process

DVW Narrators unite! Voice talent Arran Henn, Paula Hoffmann and Russ Froese try their hand with the writing side of the process

Descriptive Video Works President and CEO, Diane Johnson, didn’t quite go as far as letting the staff run the company for a week (that’s work best left to the experts…) but she did have the team job-swap on two crucial elements of the video description process – the writing and the narration. With so many laptops spread out, our studio began to look like an Apple Store as our voice talent were tasked with writing a section of audio description for the TV show “The Liquidator“. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the studio, our writing staff took turns in the sound booth attempting to record perfect descriptive video for a segment of the TV drama series “Arctic Air“.

DVW staff Jamie Murrary and Shana Selwyn stretch their writing muscles on "The Liquidator"

DVW staff Jamie Murrary and Dianne Newman stretch their writing muscles on “The Liquidator”

For our professional voice talent faced with writing description, there were a couple of surprises. It goes without saying that significant writing talent is required in order to bring to life the visual elements of a TV program or movie when describing it for the blind but it also requires meticulous attention to detail, consistency and economy of language. This, even for a show with a lot of dialogue such as “The Liquidator”, can take a lot of time and patience and this was the biggest surprise for our narrators in their role-swapping experience.

DVW Head Writer and Trainer, Miranda Mackelworth, gets a taste of what its like in the sound booth for our professional voice talent

DVW Head Writer and Trainer, Miranda Mackelworth, exercises her vocal chords recording a segment of “Arctic Air”

Next door, our writers got to see what our voice talent go through when recording the completed described video scripts in our sound booth. The first thing one is struck by is the isolation of being in a sound proof environment and the awkwardness that comes from “performing” and having ones voice recorded. In terms of the specific process that we go through with descriptive video, our writers were particularly taken aback at the multi-tasking side of things – when recording, our narrators have both the script and the program itself in front of them and must split their vision between the two all the while speaking clearly and succinctly without missing a beat. For our writers, understanding first-hand how their written choices can affect the job of our narrators was an invaluable experience.

Following the writing and recording sessions the team re-convened and asked questions, shared their impressions and even a few trade secrets (several of our narrators sing on their way to the studio!). In attendance was Rosamund Van Leeuwen who has been blind since the age of two and who heads up Descriptive Video Works’ research and development team. Our job-swap experience was given a wonderful context as Rosamund shared her insights on the process as an end-user, the audience our work is focused on.

Rosamund van Leeuwen (right) giving our staff invaluable feedback

Rosamund van Leeuwen (right) giving our staff invaluable feedback

A great team-building exercise, our job-swap evening also highlighted for all of us at Descriptive Video Works how much time and dedication goes into describing movies and TV for the blind. Closed Captioning is mandatory on all programming whereas only a small percentage of descriptive video is mandatory. Whereas Closed Captioning can be produced at a rapid rate, descriptive video requires a very different set of skills and a lot more time and dedication. Since it takes more to produce, does this mean it should be any less important when there are more than 30 million people in North America alone who can benefit from described video? We think not. If you’d like to see more programming available for the blind, you can help by introducing to your friends to what we do at Descriptive Video Works because as we discovered with our job-swap this week, there’s a lot to gain from sharing one another’s experiences.

Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter to learn more or visit our website.

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Descriptive Video Works on The Simi Sara Show with Shawn Marsolais of Blind Beginnings

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Recently, Diane Johnson, Descriptive Video Works President and CEO was a guest on The Simi Sara Show on Vancouver radio station CKNW. Joining Diane was Blind Beginnings founder and Paralympian, Shawn Marsolais.

In the interview, Diane and Shawn talk about the importance of making television and movies accessible to the blind, the work that we do at Descriptive Video Works and the need to raise awareness of the massive non-sighted audience that is being ignored by TV networks, movie studios and broadcasters around the world.

Here’s the interview:

 

We’d like to extend our thanks to Simi Sara and CKNW for having us on the show and highlighting the need for greater media accessibility and described video services. The Simi Sara Show can be found on CKNW AM980 Monday to Friday from noon to 3pm.

About Blind Beginnings

Founded by in 2008, Blind Beginnings offer British Columbia children and youth who are visually impaired opportunities to develop skills, confidence and independence. A family-centered organisation, Blind Beginnings promotes a ‘no limits’ philosophy which challenges pervasive misconceptions about blindness by demonstrating that there is no limit to what children and youth who blind or visually impaired can accomplish.

Here’s a terrific video about the organisation:

 

As founder of Blind Beginnings, Shawn Marsolais truly embodies the ‘no limits’ philosophy of the organization. Born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare eye condition that caused her vision to deteriorate through her childhood, Shawn has had less than two percent of her vision since the age of 18 but this has not stopped her from leading an exceptionally active life. A former competitive swimmer who still holds three Canadian records, Shawn represented Canada at the Paralympic Games in Athens in tandem cycling and has won several medals in Goalball, a team sport designed specifically for blind athletes. Over the years she has worked for CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), the Western Association for Persons With Vision Impairment, Canadian Blind Sports Association & Recreation Association and Access for Sight Impaired Consumers.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Motive

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”).

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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.

W5

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”).

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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).

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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.

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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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