The 95th annual Oscars celebration took place on March 12th, and this year Hollywood’s biggest night was more accessible than ever, with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, custom design for the event including ramp access for all attendees, an access guide for press and attendees, captioning, and Audio Description (AD).

Descriptive Video Works (DVW) was very proud to provide the live audio description for this prestigious event. It was a team effort with blind and sighted team members, Nefertiti Matos Olivares, Erin Muroski, Joseph V. Amodio and Scott Blanks, working collaboratively to ensure that blind and low vision audiences had the best viewing experience possible.

“The blind perspective must be represented,” said Matos Olivares. “Placing blind professionals in roles critical to the audio description creation process will only enhance the overall quality of this art form.” Descriptive Video Works had two blind professionals on the team, including voice talent Nefertiti Matos Olivares and Quality Control specialist Scott Blanks, who also coordinated the event for DVW. 

Live audio description has its own unique challenges, as there is limited time and restricted access to content, so the describers need to work quickly to provide rich narration about the visuals without stepping on dialogue or other important audio. Live events can be particularly challenging for describers as there can be unexpected changes with the order, presenters, and audio cues.

Joseph V. Amodio partnered with Scott Blanks for the Oscars red carpet, with Amodio providing the live audio description and Blanks offering feedback and suggestions during rehearsals and commercial breaks. The red carpet can be very challenging, according to Amodio: “the hosts are talking almost the entire time, so we have to identify the celebrity, take in the outfit, and figure out how to describe the key visual elements within seconds.” 

As a QC Specialist, Scott Blanks generally works with pre-recorded content, vetting scripts and recorded content for word choice, pronunciation and tone. This year’s ceremony was Blanks’ first experience with live audio description and he provided Quality Control for both the red carpet and the main event. His biggest takeaway: “Don’t let the unpredictability of live entertainment rule over you. Have fun with it.”

The description process for the Oscars main ceremony was different from the red carpet, with Erin Muroski and Nefertiti Matos Olivares working in tandem to describe the event. Muroski wrote scripts for  the pre-recorded visuals, and Matos Olivares reviewed the information, made suggestions and edits as necessary and narrated these segments live on the broadcast – while Muroski narrated the live elements of the event. Muroski said that working alongside Matos Olivares has made her a better describer: “Nefertiti has given me such valuable insight into exactly what our audience wants to know.” 

Live audio description is a very different process from audio description, and live events can be dynamic and uncertain, as well as stressful. “Sometimes the team will attend rehearsals or get pre-taped packages to review, but there are often changes so research and flexibility are key.” Muroski went on to add: “It can also be very rewarding, knowing our team has served the audience well.”

As the team reflected on the experience, Matos Olivares said, “My hope is that blind and sighted audio description partnerships become the norm, not the exception.” Rhys Lloyd, Studio Head of Descriptive Video Works agreed: “In order to have an inclusive and collaborative audio description experience, we need more blind and low vision professionals in key positions. Our team has shown what is possible, and how it can be successfully achieved.” Lloyd went on: “I have no doubt the success of this event will change the direction of live audio description moving forward.”

If you would like more information about live audio description, please contact us at [email protected]

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