10 Movies You Should Watch with Audio Description

August 6, 2018 BY ELISA EDELBERG
Updated: November 2, 2018

Visual effects are so critical to cinema and film, that there is an Oscar category dedicated to this art. Not only are these visual effects utterly impressive, they also enhance the video content and provide a great deal of information and context to the audience. But for blind and low vision audiences, these visual effects are often left a mystery at best unless there is audio description.

sound wave in thought cloudAudio description is an audio track that narrates the relevant visual information in a video or performance. Standard audio description is typically dispersed throughout the natural pauses in the source audio, while extended description pauses the source video to make room for description. Audio description helps to provide the crucial information of the visual content in a cinematic way. Even sighted people can enjoy the detailed descriptions, especially when multi-tasking and not looking at the screen. We’ve made a list of 10 movies you can (and should!) watch with audio description. Want to see more audio described titles? Check out this full list of audio description movies!

1. Avatar

Soon after hitting theaters in 2009, Avatar became one of the highest grossing movies of all time. Using the newly invented (at that time) motion capture technique, 3-D viewing and the use of stereoscopic filmmaking, it’s no surprise that the film won an Academy Award, in addition to several other awards for its visual effects. This film is available with audio description, and we highly suggest you take the time to listen to it!

Avatar

Photo:  Avatar

2. Avengers: Infinity War

With an estimated budget of $300 – $400 million, Marvel’s Infinity War is one of the most expensive movies ever created. Wondering why it cost so much? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but those elaborate costumes and scenery were actually created digitally. It took 13 visual effects companies to create the incredibly detailed characters and scenes in this movie. Missing out on the astonishing visual effects in this movie is not only missing a huge part of what’s happening, but also missing out on brilliant works of art. The comparisons below show you what it actually looked like when filming, compared with what it looks like on screen. In many scenes, the footage was shot with green screens and minimal costuming, only to be digitally created later on.

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

For any Star Wars fans, I probably don’t have to give you reasons to check this one out with audio description (and in any other format you can think of, for that matter.) But if you’re looking for another reason, consider the visuals.

The Star Wars opening crawl is the signature of every Star Wars movie, and has become an iconic symbol that even non Star Wars fans recognize. The opening crawl begins with the static blue text, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”. None of the text is spoken out loud, so for those with vision loss, this iconic on-screen text which provides crucial information to viewers is missed if it is not audio described.
star wars opening crawl: "in a galaxy far far away"

Star Wars Opening Crawl

4. Frozen

I don’t know about you, but hearing Olaf described as “a carrot nosed snowman shuffling up to a purple flower” is enough of a reason for me to watch Frozen with audio description. Thanks to Pixar’s Disney Movies Anywhere App, which allows users to watch most Pixar films with audio description, you can watch this all-time favorite with incredible descriptions. It really doesn’t get much cuter!

Olaf sniffs a purple flower peeping up out of snow

Photo: Frozen

5. Inception

“I’ll say no more, except that Inception rewards the attention it demands.” – Rolling Stone
This unique and complex film follows a thief with the rare ability to enter people’s dreams and steal their secrets from their subconscious. As you might imagine, this leads to a pretty interesting storyline. If you think you would be able to follow this sci-fi/thriller without description that makes one of us.
The stark, beautiful Limbo City is one of Inception's memorable dreamscapes.

Photo: Inception

6. Finding Nemo

This one is right up there with Frozen. (You’re likely starting to get a good sense of my movie taste.) Listening to Finding Nemo with audio description can take you on a wonderful deep sea dive through the Great Barrier Reef that you’ll enjoy even if you don’t like to swim. This Academy Award-winning animated film takes us on a journey below the sea. Without audio description, you’ll miss out on the vibrant aquatic life and sea creatures met along the way.

 

7. The Shape of Water

With a merman as this film’s romantic lead, who falls in love with the mute protagonist, you won’t want to miss The Share of Water with audio description. Don’t believe us? Watch the trailer. Trey Harrell, Visual Effects Supervisor, explained that “Every single shot in the film where the amphibian-man is on-screen is digital in some capacity — at least his eyes.” “For a small handful of shots in the film, he’s entirely digital.” Anything that is that complex to create should definitely be described. Plus, aren’t you curious how one describes a romantic merman?

8. The Hunger Games

Adapted from books which rely on internal monologue, The Hunger Games movie uses dialogue as well as visuals and cutaways to create a similar feel. In addition, although fewer than the number in the book there are several memory-laden flashbacks and a hallucination scene that would be difficult to understand without audio description. Compared to some of the others on this list, The Hunger Games may seem limited in its visual effects, but audio description is just as crucial to explain the context, for example in the scene depicted below where there is no dialogue as Katniss crosses a barbed wire fence with a sign on it that reads, “District Boundary No Access Beyond This Point” indicating possible danger ahead.

9. La La Land

One of the most striking things about La La Land is the colors used in the movie. You don’t have to be a student of art to know that color choices are critical to evoking different emotions, and setting the scene. But it’s not just color that makes La La Land a highly visual film – there are many other details that are carefully thought out, including the juxtaposition of the types of cars Sebastian and Mia drive, the shoes Mia wears (tap shoes during a twilight dance, rather than her previous heels.) These are the details that take La La Land to the next level, and if it weren’t for audio description they would be lost for blind and low vision viewers, and taken for granted by many sighted viewers.

10. The Jungle Book

A new take on an old classic, this version of The Jungle Book certainly caught up with the times from a technological standpoint.

The new rendition of The Jungle Book was widely praised for its effective use of “virtual production.” The film was lensed entirely on a bluescreen stage in Los Angeles. The only live action in the film is the boy, Mowgli, and the small piece of set on which he stood or climbed. We’re sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the rest of the film (including all of the animals and the jungle itself)  was computer generated.

Robert Legato, the visual effects supervisor, phrased it best, “Each shot was its own science project.”

 

 

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