Tag Archives: Disney

New Movie Tech for the Blind and Deaf, Actiview, Launches with Disney’s Cars 3

If you’re blind or visually impaired, you know that going to the movies isn’t as simple as smothering your popcorn in butter and leaning back in a cushy chair. While you wait thirty minutes for the manager to locate and set up assistive devices, you’ve already missed the beginning of the movie — if the device even functions properly.

But over the last year, LightHouse partner Actiview designed and prototyped a mobile solution to this problem within the walls of the LightHouse headquarters, and even 3D printed their streaming devices in our Toyota Innovation Tech Lab as part of our startup accelerator. They have since moved their base to our Berkeley satellite location.

On June 16, Actiview launched in the App Store to offer widespread accessibility for the summer Pixar release of Cars 3.

The team and their direction were influenced by many hours of feedback from LightHouse blind staff. We supported Actiview through their beta version because we think it is a huge step in the right direction towards accessibility for all moviegoers.

There is a strong buzz about this new technology as the wider community understands that Actiview will be able to provide affordable access to thousands of movie screens. Last week, industry reporter TechCrunch wrote a fascinating feature on this LightHouse-supported technology. You can read the whole story here. 

The newest release from Disney•Pixar, Cars 3, will be fully supported by the Actiview app, delivering both amplified audio and audio description, free of charge, to anyone who downloads the app and shows up at the theater. Audio description is for blind users, with a voiceover track describing what is happening on screen. Amplified audio takes the audio of the movie and makes the dialogue clearer and louder, for hard of hearing attendees.

Here’s what to know:

  • Available on the App Store (http://appstore.com/activiewempoweredentertainment)
  • Audio Description for Blind and Low Vision
  • Amplified audio for Hard of Hearing
  • Captions and Languages coming soon
  • Works with Cars 3 in all US theaters
  • Assistive services are free

How to use Actiview:

  1. Download the Actiview App from the App Store.
  2. On June 16, Cars 3 assistive audio (assistive tracks will be available to for download in advance. Download over Wi-Fi before getting to the theater if you want to save on data use)
  3. Go to the Cars 3 screening of your choice, open the app, and choose either Audio Description, Amplified Audio or the two tracks combined.
  4. Give us your feedback by emailing comments to team@actiview.co or by calling our hotline at 1(844)-399-2789 to sound off!

Please note: The first time a user opens the app, there is a 30-second tutorial helping the user to understand how to navigate the app which requires headphones to go through.

Disney•Pixar Unveils Mobile Audio Description for ‘Finding Dory’

After lots of collaboration, tweaking and testing, the LightHouse is proud to announce that this week, blind people will be able get audio description for one of the summer’s biggest movies, on their own device, without asking for help.

That’s right! Starting on Friday, June 17, blind and visually impaired audiences will be able to get free, mobile audio description to accompany the release of Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory.

The past year has seen lots of technological advancement in audio description technology, with Disney•Pixar leading the way for film studios with their app, Disney Movies Anywhere. The app was first demonstrated at the White Canes Red Carpet event in December, released at home with The Good Dinosaur, and discussed at length at our SXSW panel in March. Between these events, focus groups, and enthusiastic collaboration with Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Blind Babies Foundation, and other blindness organizations, this has grown much bigger than just one app: it’s a statement of purpose.

Disney•Pixar’s smart-syncing audio description, native to the mainstream app, represents thoughtful design that works for everybody.  When activated, it provides an add-on experience which levels the playing field for audiences who are blind or have low vision.

Paired with any Disney•Pixar film using headphones or earbuds, the app delivers an extra audio track which elegantly narrates important on-screen action for those who can’t always follow along visually. Now tested and available to use with Pixar’s 16 other feature films, the app’s functionality will work for its first new release when Finding Dory hits theaters this week.

Accolades for DMA

Earlier this week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler honored Disney Movies Anywhere with the FCC’s Advancement in Accessibility Award, which recognizes achievements in communications technology for those with disabilities. Alongside other innovators in the accessibility field, Disney•Pixar is proud to guarantee audio description to its fans when it comes to both new and classic films.

How to get Audio Description, anywhere:

1. Download DMA: Disney Movies Anywhere app from the App Store.

2. Make sure the iOS accessibility features are in use, or switch accessibility mode to ON in the DMA settings section.

3. Find the movie you’re watching in the “Audio Description” section of the Featured tab.

4. Hit “sync and play audio” button while the movie is playing. (You need to “Allow” to use your microphone for sync).

5. Sit back and enjoy!

Note: Please be considerate of others – makes sure headphones are connected and always use screen curtain (three-finger triple tap in VoiceOver) at any theater! We recommend using the app to download the audio description track before you go to the movie for best results.

More audio description, please!

The rollout of empowered audio description technology is no small task, and Disney•Pixar needs all the encouragement it can get in continuing its mission to serve blind and visually impaired audiences. Let’s face it, not everyone is totally tech savvy, and theaters are understandably wary of cell phone use in theaters. Not only do we want to show studios, cinemas and distributors that we take theater etiquette seriously, but we need to show them that equal access to movies is a mandate from our community.

Disney•Pixar has set up an open line for your stories, and it’s crucial that you weigh in to tell them how much this matters. Send your audio description testimonials and experiences to dmaappfeedback@pixar.com.

 

Every Pixar Film Is Now Accessible with Mobile Audio Description from Disney

Sixteen Disney Pixar titles now available with mobile audio description for the blind

Audio Description — the extra audio track that narrates film action for people who are blind or have low vision — has been around for decades, but even if you’re blind, you might not use it. Why? Ironically, often the problem with audio description is not really the audio description. The problem is in how AD is delivered — or rather, not delivered. For years, the LightHouse has heard and advocated for blind filmgoers who simply aren’t able to pay for their movie and enjoy it in the format of their choice. If you’re blind at the movies, you know about the broken receivers, the strange formats, poor public education and training, and the many other intervening factors that have continually stymied AD availability across movie theaters and in-home systems, ultimately stonewalling the blind film-watching experience.

Starting today, that’s changing. With a new, major update to the Disney Movies Anywhere app, you can now take control of your own personal audio descriptive track, on your own smartphone, on your own terms.

This brand new, free, mobile audio description from Disney Movies Anywhere is smart and user-friendly; it listens and syncs automatically with their films (starting with the sixteen classic Disney•Pixar titles), including today’s home release of The Good Dinosaur. In accomplishing this, Disney•Pixar is leading the way for accessible films; and soon, we at the LightHouse are confident that this mobile Audio Description experience will be possible for all movies, everywhere.

Disney Movies Anywhere - click to download from iTunesA project that originated at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville and was taken on by the engineers at Disney, this new accessibility system using an app and a smartphone to access audio description is not only a passion project for the good folks at these companies, but Pixar and Disney have seen to it that key members of the blindness community have been given a chance to provide early and influential developmental feedback every step of the way. In this regard, the LightHouse has contributed feedback, tested for quality assurance, and now we’re proud to help spread the word.

At an event at Pixar in December, part of an unprecedented and ongoing collaboration between LightHouse for the Blind, the Blind Babies Foundation and Guide Dogs for the Blind, we invited nearly 200 blind people from organizations all around the Bay Area to download the app to their iPhones and iPads and test out the technology at a private, red carpet screening of The Good Dinosaur. The response was universal acclaim. The app’s beta version worked seamlessly. People both blind and sighted left the event joyously; celebrating the idea of being able to go back to the movie theater or watch a movie in their homes exactly the way they want.

How Does It Work?

It’s incredibly simple. If you already have a Pixar film that you’d like to watch with audio description, all you have to do is go to the app store and download the Disney Movies Anywhere app. When your movie starts playing (on a separate device or television), open up the app and locate the film. Then click “sync and play audio,” and the rest is done for you. Note that currently this works only for those running iOS 7 or later, with more platforms to come.

For more detailed instructions, visit Disney’s website, or download this special fact sheet to get you started.

What’s Next

More access audio description! This not only means Disney•Pixar is making their movies more personally accessible, but will require the participation of other film studios and distributors to help the blindness community promote accessible movie systems that work and are controlled by the user.

Just because Disney is the first movie studio to take the delivery method of audio description seriously, doesn’t mean it’ll be the only one. There are 285 million visually impaired people in the world — that’s 285 million people who, if given an accessible way to enjoy great movies, would be fans and customers for life.

This spring, we’ll be introducing mainstream audiences to this and other great new accessible technologies at a number of conferences, starting with a special LightHouse panel at SXSW on March 15. More on that soon, so stay tuned.

How Can I Help?

The best thing you can do is spread the word and send us feedback. There are lots of blind people out there who don’t think audio description is for them, many because they’ve never had a positive, easy experience getting it set up and calibrated. With these barriers gone, Pixar’s sixteen world-class titles are now accessible in a whole new way.

The LightHouse knows that nothing comes out perfectly the first time, and we’re already hard at work identifying new kinks and challenges in this brand new technology to make sure that the next version of the app is even better. To this tune, our friends at Pixar have set up a special feedback email address so that you can sound off with your comments, observations and helpful feedback. Just send an email to dmaappfeedback@pixar.com.

To contact us for inquiries about this or any of LightHouse for the Blind’s many technology initiatives, email press@lighthouse-sf.org.

250 Blind People Celebrate the Latest in Audio Description at Pixar Red Carpet Event

dozens of blind people stand in the atrium of Pixar Animation Studios
(all photos courtesy Morry Angell/Guide Dogs for the Blind)

On Thursday, December 10, 250 blind people and their pals gathered together at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville for a very special evening.

two men in navy suits with canes walk down the red carpet, one wearing a fedora

The event, which both celebrated audio description and showed the enthusiastic audience a sneak preview of a new mobile technology for delivering perfect, uninterrupted audio description in theaters and at home, was also an unprecedented gathering of blindness organizations from around the Bay Area. Dressed to impress, in cocktail attire and rolling down the 150-foot red carpet through the atrium of Pixar, we couldn’t have been more proud to see all the white canes, dogs and, most of all, a blind community dedicated to improving video description throughout mainstream culture.

A special thanks to the Blind Babies Foundation and Guide Dogs for the Blind for collaborating with the LightHouse on this first-ever gala video description event. Here’s to many more great movie-going experiences to come. Look for more details about the new technology in a future issue of the LightHouse eNews.

Check out some highlights below and check out all the photos from the event here.
several prominent female members of the blidnness community pose for the cameraa little girl hugs a dinosaur plush doll next to the red carpeta woman and her dog inspect a dinosaur plush dolla well-dressed boy with a white cane walks with his friends and family

Pixar is Throwing a Red Carpet Screening for the Blindness Community — Win Tickets Here

White Canes, Red Carpet - glamorous evening of audio description, tech, and access for all

In October, we wrote about the work we’ve been doing with Disney-Pixar to make their movies more accessible for the blind. Today, we’re thrilled to announce that next week, we’re throwing a party at Pixar Animation Studios, offering a sneak preview of their new technology at an accessible screening of their new film, The Good Dinosaur.

little caveman boy rests, eyes closed, on the Good DinosaurWe conceived “White Canes, Red Carpet” as a celebration — of audio description and technology, but moreover, inclusion and access for all. We believe that not having to contend and litigate for good accessible technology is not just a luxury, but a civil right, and seeing such an influential studio as Disney-Pixar take on the challenge wholeheartedly is truly something worth celebrating. What’s more, this will be an unprecedented gathering of blindness organizations across the Bay Area — and we’ve been working closely with the Blind Babies Foundation, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and several other agencies to ensure that as many groups as possible are represented.

So on the evening of December 10, the red carpet will stretch through the atrium at Pixar Animation Studios, and the majority of the hundreds of attendees will be blind or have low vision. The evening will culminate with a very special screening of The Good Dinosaur, and representatives from Disney and Pixar will speak and seek feedback from attendees on their new technology. It will be a grand evening, and the LightHouse is very proud to be a part of it.

HOW TO WIN TICKETS

If you love the magic of a premiere and the glitz of a new film — and especially if you’re blind or have low vision — enter our raffle by Friday, December 4th. In order to win tickets, you must answer the following, and email to lighthouseblind@gmail.com.

1. Full Name:
2. Number of tickets desired (including adult, teen, child):
3. Do you have an an up-to-date iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad?
4. Are you blind, have low vision, or affiliated with a blindness or accessibility organization?
5. Phone contact:

We will notify all ticket recipients by Monday, December 7. Unfortunately we do not have resources to notify all those who are not picked.

Press: please send any media requests to wbutler@lighthouse-sf.org.

Disney – Pixar is Making Movies Better for Blind People

concept art: a landscape from Pixar's new film, 'The Good Dinosaur'

On a warm, sunny morning last month, a group of LightHouse employees piled into a van and drove north to Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas’ historic outpost in the rolling hills of Marin County. But we weren’t there to talk Wookies and Ewoks; we were being hosted, along with a handful of other blindness organizations, by Pixar Animation Studios

Some might be surprised to hear that Pixar and Disney (which now owns the Emeryville-based animation studio) would be seeking out blind and low vision individuals to test animated movies, but that’s exactly what was happening last month. In Lucas’ private theater, a group of almost thirty sat for a test screening of Pixar’s summer hit, Inside Out, each with a light set of headphones and a specially-loaded iPad on their lap. A small group of some of Pixar and Disney’s greatest movers and shakers waited patiently for feedback of a brand new technology they’ve been working on for some time now. Specifically, they’re on a mission to figure out two things: What is good audio description, and how can it best be delivered.

Many blind moviegoers and television fans don’t use audio description (also called Descriptive Video Service or DVS). Due to a combination of factors, including a range of DVS standards and practices, there are lots of blind and visually impaired folks who feel like it’s just not for them. Personally, I was one of those people — I had never watched a full film with audio description, and I’m told that about half of the group gathered at Skywalker was in the same boat.

And yet, once the narration kicked in and we got the levels right, the audio described Inside Out was a ball. We laughed, we (well, some of us) cried. Most of all, there wasn’t one person in the theater that felt left out of the experience. None of us needed to whisper back and forth quizzically about what was happening onscreen; none of of us sat silently spacing out during action sequences; and most importantly, we all smiled at the same time.

Paul Cichocki, the post-production supervisor at Pixar who oversees foreign language and audio described soundtracks, has been running these kind of focus groups for years, but this year they’re trying a few, exciting new things. “All studios make an effort to do this descriptive audio track,” he told me, “but we wanted to place the same kind of attention to the quality of audio narration as we do to the films themselves.” Disney’s aim, under the guidance of Paul and others, is to innovate rather than placate, to find an elegant solution to the seemingly daunting challenge of helping blind folks enjoy the movies as much as anyone else.

After the film, I sat at a table with Inside Out’s producer Jonas Rivera (who also produced Up) and a few other blind elementary and high school students and talked about our experience. We had all found the audio description satisfactory, useful, and even pleasurable — even those of us who had never used the tool before — but Rivera was nonetheless eager to improve the experience in any way possible.

“Did you understand what memories looked like?” He asked about clarity of action, about the choice of narrator, about how to properly introduce all the characters without overloading the listener. As the kids and adults responded, he took studious notes. “If this was me, when Joy sees Bing Bong disappear, I would amplify that maybe — but maybe that’s not right. Does it feel like the narrator is too robotic maybe? A little too literal, in some ways?” Jonas scribbled on a notepad as the kids talked. Simultaneously, at six other tables, a different Disney or Pixar employee did the same with other groups.

a voice actress works on the audio description for "The Good Dinosaur"When I spoke to Paul again this week, he had just gotten back from LA, where he was working with the voice actor recording audio description for Pixar’s new film, The Good Dinosaur. Usually the narrator’s script for an audio described film is contracted out to a specialized agency — in Pixar’s case it’s WGBH in Burbank, which handles most broadcast and film audio description on the west coast. Even with contractors like WGBH, Paul is totally hands-on. “I don’t know of any other studio that sits down and reviews the script for the narration track,” he told me this week. “We have the producer, the director, the writer, the film editor and myself comb through that script and make changes. I sent 3-4 rounds of changes to WGBH for The Good Dinosaur. And it’s about helping them, too — they don’t get direct feedback very often about what’s good and bad about their script.  We want to up that standard for the whole community — so that blind people can feel like they really saw the movie.”

Check back on the LightHouse blog again soon for more exciting news from Disney•Pixar.

article by Will Butler

Disney•Pixar is Making Movies Better for Blind People

concept art: a landscape from Pixar's new film, 'The Good Dinosaur'

On a warm, sunny morning last month, a group of LightHouse employees piled into a van and drove north to Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas’ historic outpost in the rolling hills of Marin County. But we weren’t there to talk Wookies and Ewoks; we were being hosted, along with a handful of other blindness organizations, by Pixar Animation Studios

Some might be surprised to hear that Pixar and Disney (which now owns the Emeryville-based animation studio) would be seeking out blind and low vision individuals to test animated movies, but that’s exactly what was happening last month. In Lucas’ private theater, a group of almost thirty sat for a test screening of Pixar’s summer hit, Inside Out, each with a light set of headphones and a specially-loaded iPad on their lap. A small group of some of Pixar and Disney’s greatest movers and shakers waited patiently for feedback of a brand new technology they’ve been working on for some time now. Specifically, they’re on a mission to figure out two things: What is good audio description, and how can it best be delivered.

Many blind moviegoers and television fans don’t use audio description (also called Descriptive Video Service or DVS). Due to a combination of factors, including a range of DVS standards and practices, there are lots of blind and visually impaired folks who feel like it’s just not for them. Personally, I was one of those people — I had never watched a full film with audio description, and I’m told that about half of the group gathered at Skywalker was in the same boat.

And yet, once the narration kicked in and we got the levels right, the audio described Inside Out was a ball. We laughed, we (well, some of us) cried. Most of all, there wasn’t one person in the theater that felt left out of the experience. None of us needed to whisper back and forth quizzically about what was happening onscreen; none of of us sat silently spacing out during action sequences; and most importantly, we all smiled at the same time.

Paul Cichocki, the post-production supervisor at Pixar who oversees foreign language and audio described soundtracks, has been running these kind of focus groups for years, but this year they’re trying a few, exciting new things. “All studios make an effort to do this descriptive audio track,” he told me, “but we wanted to place the same kind of attention to the quality of audio narration as we do to the films themselves.” Disney’s aim, under the guidance of Paul and others, is to innovate rather than placate, to find an elegant solution to the seemingly daunting challenge of helping blind folks enjoy the movies as much as anyone else.

After the film, I sat at a table with Inside Out’s producer Jonas Rivera (who also produced Up) and a few other blind elementary and high school students and talked about our experience. We had all found the audio description satisfactory, useful, and even pleasurable — even those of us who had never used the tool before — but Rivera was nonetheless eager to improve the experience in any way possible.

“Did you understand what memories looked like?” He asked about clarity of action, about the choice of narrator, about how to properly introduce all the characters without overloading the listener. As the kids and adults responded, he took studious notes. “If this was me, when Joy sees Bing Bong disappear, I would amplify that maybe — but maybe that’s not right. Does it feel like the narrator is too robotic maybe? A little too literal, in some ways?” Jonas scribbled on a notepad as the kids talked. Simultaneously, at six other tables, a different Disney or Pixar employee did the same with other groups.

a voice actress works on the audio description for "The Good Dinosaur"When I spoke to Paul again this week, he had just gotten back from LA, where he was working with the voice actor recording audio description for Pixar’s new film, The Good Dinosaur. Usually the narrator’s script for an audio described film is contracted out to a specialized agency — in Pixar’s case it’s WGBH in Burbank, which handles most broadcast and film audio description on the west coast. Even with contractors like WGBH, Paul is totally hands-on. “I don’t know of any other studio that sits down and reviews the script for the narration track,” he told me this week. “We have the producer, the director, the writer, the film editor and myself comb through that script and make changes. I sent 3-4 rounds of changes to WGBH for The Good Dinosaur. And it’s about helping them, too — they don’t get direct feedback very often about what’s good and bad about their script.  We want to up that standard for the whole community — so that blind people can feel like they really saw the movie.”

Check back on the LightHouse blog again soon for more exciting news from Disney•Pixar.

article by Will Butler