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What is DVX?

A while ago, questions were raised on the ADP Discussion List (see The ADP Discussion List to access) about amateurs or others providing audio description for DVDs separately from the otherwise undescribed DVD itself.  Joshua Miele, Director of the The Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center, has addressed this topic in an entry posted on the list.  Here is is post, along with links for more information.  You can also read our own web page describing work at the VDRC.

Dear ADP Listers:

I wanted to follow up on Paulo's thread and explain a little more about DVX. I would like to assure everyone that it can be used by both professionals and volunteers.

First, DVX (the Descriptive Video Exchange) is an online database that stores audio description recordings, along with information about the video that the descriptions are associated with. It was developed in our lab at Smith-Kettlewell and is free and open to anyone who wants to use it. A video player that knows what video it is playing can connect to DVX and play the descriptions along with the video -- provided the descriptions have been saved on DVX. The system does not store the original video, but only the descriptions. We have quite a robust system now and are interested in working with anyone who would like to develop their own video players that will work with DVX.

We have developed a very cool web site that uses DVX to let anyone describe YouTube videos. This website can be found at

In fact, the special DVD player that Paulo is wishing for has already been invented in our lab at Smith-Kettlewell. Unfortunately, there are some significant issues related to DVD formats and digital rights management that make DVDs a surprisingly difficult medium to work with in this context. If folks are interested in knowing more about DVD specifics, I would be happy to elaborate. For the moment, let's just say that it is much easier for DVX to work with streamed video than with DVDs.

Second, DVX is by no means limited to use by amateurs. It can absolutely be used by professionals as well to distribute description that has been professionally produced. Of course, as Joel points out, many of the professionals are unable to share their material because of copyright restrictions, but much material that has been produced through public funding could be made available through DVX.

On the other hand, we are excited about the potential for crowd-sourced description because of the incredible amounts of video being produced these days. There is simply no way that the description industry could keep up, even if there were funding for it. Just as blind people have long benefited from volunteer readers and braille transcribers, we can use the power of the crowd to recruit and train a whole new generation of volunteer describers. This is possible now because of the availability of cloud-based tools like DVX. There is even excellent research showing that amateurs can quickly learn to produce good description. Actually, with feedback provided via comments and ratings, cloud-based describers have a better connection to their consumers than most professionals currently enjoy.

In short, DVX is the online database part of the description service that Paulo is asking about. We have demonstrated its potential with, and are excited about its use by professionals and volunteers alike. We look forward to working with anyone who would like to help us make it easier to produce, obtain, and listen to described video of any kind.

You can learn more about the work of our lab and DVX in this recent Access World article:

If you have questions about DVX, YouDescribe, or any of our other work, please feel free to contact me off list.


Joshua A. Miele, Ph.D., Director
The Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center
2318 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94115

Phone: 415/345-2113
E-Mail: [email protected]