Empire Theatre Kanata 1st Theatre in Ottawa to offer Described Video (DV) Capability For Blind Patrons In All Rooms In The Movie Theatre!

by Jeffrey Stark

May 17th, 2013

When Empire Theatre took over the 24 Cinema AMC facilities in Kanata, the whole theatre got a huge upgrade. The equipment is brand new and man does it shine. The level of accessibility for people with disabilities of the theatre offerings is truly impressive. I had the opportunity to give this system a run through this month and it is fantastic.

Empire Theatre Kanata have just launched Doremi Labs’s new Fidelio System. The Fidelio is a wireless audio system that delivers descriptive narration for people who are blind or have low vision (V I) soundtrack), and amplified sound for people with hearing loss (H I soundtrack) in theaters. The same unit can be programmed for either V I, H I or H I V I. V I contains just the descriptive narration from the movie, HI contains the regular audio track (perfect for someone to plug in their hearing aid or earphones and increase the clarity and volume) and H I V I contains one track in each ear (for someone who might have hearing loss and vision loss). There is also a separate wireless text captioning unit that can be picked up, for those requiring captions. Unlike the other theatres in Ottawa, you don’t have Audio Narration available in just 1 room of the theatre but this is available in all rooms. This means you don’t have to hope the movie you are interested in is playing in theatre 13 on the week that you want to go to the movies because it’s the only room with audio narration capability. I applaud Empire Theatre for installing this capability in all rooms of the 24 room Kanata empire theatre and not just as a single “special room”.

You can pick up these units at Customer Service in the Theatre. In the Kanata theatre, it is located just on the left as you go through the 2nd set of doors after the box office. You will need to bring your own earphones in order to make use of the unit. The unit itself needs to be programmed prior to leaving customer service. Make sure you ask them to program the unit for V I and not H I V I, unless you want descriptive narration and amplified audio tracks. Once the unit is programmed, it acts independently from that point onward and wirelessly receives the audio tracks from any spot inside the theatre. You may not hear descriptive narration or any audio until the previews and other advertisements are finished and the main feature starts playing.

The audio unit is about the size of a pager with a belt clip, which is significantly smaller than and more portable than other systems I have seen. The unit has an audio jack & power button on the top and a volume rocker on the side. The one thing I would like to see improved is the wireless unit should make a noise when it’s turned on to indicate it is working properly. At present the power state of the unit is indicated solely by a bright green LED. This is a minor issue but should be considered by Doremi for future improvements.

I brought my standard set of ear buds with me and had no trouble hearing both the surrounding theatre audio track and the descriptive narration coming from my ear buds. You may have to adjust the volume on the Fidelio when the volume of the cinema tracks changes.

For those that have never experience what is sometimes referred to as Describe Video, Audio Narrations or Audio Description:
Like a narrator telling a story, audio description (AD) is an additional commentary describing body language, expressions and movements. AD gives you information about the things you might not be able to see, meaning that you can keep up with the action. It is for anyone who has a little trouble seeing the screen and will describe important visuals going on in the movie. Once you have enjoyed a movie with AD you will likely wonder how you lived without it for so long.

Now that all the rooms in the theatre can support Audio description, the only hurdle present is that the movie itself has to be made with the DV track. Some movie studios have been slow to move to providing this; however, at present around 75% of the movies released have the required tracks.

It is my hope that Empire Theatre will add an icon indicating the availability of (V I / H I) beside each movie listed on their website so that patrons can know in advance if the movie they are interested in seeing will be available with the required audio tracks. At present, I don’t believe Empire Theatre has made any official announcements of the system, as their staff is just being trained and marketing group is just figuring out what they are going to do to promote the system; however, the system is fully functional and any patrons can pick up the units from customer service. Currently, anyone wanting to know what movies is available with (H I V I) can call the main customer service number for Empire Theatre Kanata at (613) 599-5500.

Happy Movie Going…

One Comment

  1. Angele Charlebois
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Hey Jeff… too bad your blogs can’t be shared on Facebook!!

    I have yet to try out the Empire Theatre in Kanata.  I am anxious to see what their Fidelio System works when it comes to amplified sounds.  My daughter and I went to see the movie The Heat with Sandra Bullock but there was no CC available.  I missed parts of what was being said during the movie which made it difficult to keep up with the jist of the movie.  

    Wish CC services was offered at all times, which ever movie and at what ever time. 


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