Beauty Buzz/Blog Biz | Fall Interns Interview Roy Samuelson | Podcast Episode 11
- Editor’s Note
- YouTube Video
- Thanksgiving & An Audio Description (AD) Challenge
- AD Awards Impact & People On The Blindness Spectrum
- Introduction To AD
- Hollywood’s Take On AD
- Providing Good AD
- First AD Experience As A Consumer
- How Can People Access AD
- The AD Gala
- Connecting With Roy
- Connecting With Bold Blind Beauty
- Image Descriptions
Our friend Roy Samuelson is back and this time he’s talking all things Audio Description on the podcast with our fall interns Marta DiVito and Ilian Mejia. Without giving away too much, among the topics discussed are the AD Awards Gala, how to access AD, and Roy’s personal experience with AD as an audience member.
Here are a two of Roy’s previous features on Bold Blind Beauty to review at you leisure:
As with all of our podcast episodes we’ve included access to the YouTube version and it’s accompanying transcript. Enjoy! ~Steph
Stephanae: Welcome back to another episode of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. is clearing the air for more A.I.R. (accessibility, inclusion, and representation). I’m Stephanae McCoy.
Nasreen: I’m Nasreen Bhutta.
Sylvia: And I’m Sylvia Stinson-Perez
Steph: And we are your co-hosts.
Thanksgiving & An Audio Description (AD) Challenge
Nasreen: Hey, Sylvia and Steph how was your guys’ Thanksgiving? How’d you guys celebrate it Steph?
Steph: Yeah, Nasreen, thank you so much for asking. It was really fun this year, I did what I call Thanksgiving in a box. I absolutely did not want to do any cooking and I was wracking my brains on what to do. So a friend of mine told me that she was doing Honeybaked. And I thought, Wow, that’s a great idea.
So I immediately got online, looked up some of their meals that they had, and I found one that suited my family. My son took me up there. We picked out everything we want it we got turkey, ham, we had four different sides and it was great. I mean, we just it was really fun.
This year, without the pressure of having to prepare a whole lot of food. I went and visited my mom and then my aunt, both of whom are in nursing homes, came home threw everything in the oven. The kids came over and it was just a really nice time.
How about you Sylvia? What did you do?
Sylvia: So it’s really funny to me Steph that for you relaxing is not cooking. For me, I have to say that I look forward every year to cooking the Thanksgiving meal.
So I create all kinds of new fun desserts and make all the casseroles. My husband is in charge of the turkey and he can make a stellar turkey but I do all the sides and desserts and had quite a bit of family over. Spent a few days decorating my house. I have two trees up so I love to cook. And so if I had to have the cooking in a box that would just make me sad. So I love the holidays and cooking.
Nasreen: Sylvia, what was your dessert this time?
Sylvia: Okay, well, Nasreen you said what was your dessert? Girl? There’s no one dessert at Thanksgiving at my house. Now kicks off the holidays, it’s all about desserts. I made some pumpkin fudge lining up to make all kinds of other fudge coming up homemade pecan pie. We are about some dessert making around here. So.
Nasreen: Pumpkin fudge that’s a new one. Wow.
Steph: Yeah, I don’t believe I’ve heard of that either.
Sylvia: Well, I just googled it because it seemed like a good idea.
Steph: Well, I know you like to cook too. So and that’s absolutely wonderful. I used to love to make Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. But these days I just you know, I’m just not feeling it. So exhausted after the workweek. It’s like seriously, I just can’t do it. So yeah, for me this year cooking was off the table. It was all about Thanksgiving in a box.
Nasreen: Ladies I like to eat so I’ll come to either one of your tables any time.
Sylvia: You’re welcome to.
Steph: Well, how about afterward? Do you guys ever take in like some of the specials that are on TV like the holiday specials?
Nasreen: I love those Hallmark movies. Oh my goodness.
Sylvia: I love the cartoons. The holiday cartoons that are gonna be starting any day now. But did you know they also had the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with audio description this year?
Nasreen: Get out, really? The Macy’s parade?
Steph: Interesting. You know what would be really cool. You mentioned cartoons, my all-time favorite holiday cartoon is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and I’m not talking about the movie, I’m talking about the original cartoon.
Sylvia: You know what would be really cool Steph? I know that because it’s a classic that’s it’s probably not audio described, but wouldn’t it be fun if a bunch of our listeners sent in some videos to us with their versions of audio described the Grinch That Stole Christmas?
Steph: Oh my, that would…
Sylvia: It’s on, the challenge is on.
Nasreen: Oh my goodness, that is awesome.
Steph: That would totally push me over the edge. Remember when Max was hanging over that cliff when the Grinch was egging him on to pull the sleigh down the hill. That would be so cool to have that audio described. I wonder, well, you know what? It’s possible because the Seinfeld series, was recently audio described, all the archived episodes of Seinfeld have been audio described. Isn’t that cool?
Nasreen: Mm-hmm. That’s excellent.
Steph: So if they could do it with Seinfeld, I’m sure they could do it for
Sylvia: With the Grinch.
Nasreen: And what about Rudolph, remember that with Red-Nosed Reindeer? And all of that could be described.
Steph: Charlie Brown another favorite? Yeah. Classic. Yeah, that would be so cool. We have to get that done. But like you said, until that happens, the challenge is for our listeners to send in their versions of what the Grinch their favorite scene would be like, audio described. Is that the challenge? Is that what I’m understanding?
Sylvia: Yes, that’s so much fun.
Nasreen: Yeah. you know, what else that they have audio described? If you like the Big Bang Theory, that’s also audio described. I was watching that and I was just so taken aback because there’s some scenes in there that I didn’t know, their facial expressions to people slithering and sliding out of the room or, or just seems that they were describing in the background that you would never notice, besides a comedy that they were doing verbally. And that was really helpful. So there’s another next to Seinfeld is Big Bang Theory.
Sylvia: I think too often people give up on TV, like me. I gave up on TV so many years ago when I couldn’t see it. And having audio description is a great option that more people need to know about and need to give a try out too. And the thing is, is that audio description doesn’t interfere with the viewing of those who can see, a lot of people say they really even enjoy that.
Steph: They actually do Sylvia, because I can tell you from firsthand experience, I really don’t watch much TV because I can’t enjoy watching my TV obviously. I stream anything that I want to watch either on my phone or on my tablet. And I do with audio description, but I have it turned on on Netflix. But since my Netflix account is also accessed on my TV, whenever anyone is here, and they want to watch something on TV on Netflix, they hear the audio description.
And it’s so cool, how they just accept it. And nobody has complained about it. Because, as you said, is just describing the visual elements in between lines of dialogue, so it doesn’t interfere with whatever you’re watching on the screen. It actually, in my opinion, I think enhances it, because it even will provide the sort of like the secrets that you may not even know that’s happening even for someone who has sight because it’ll explain that for those of us who don’t. So I think that’s kind of cool, but my family likes it. They really do.
Sylvia: And the cool thing is they can be in the other room cooking Yes. and still enjoy the show. Yes. Even now with the holidays coming with winter, winter, the cold winter. Now I’m down here in Florida. But you know, Nasreen’s up there in Toronto, and you’re over there in Pittsburgh, I know it’s cold where y’all are. So a lot of time. That means more TV watching more family get-togethers around the TV. So great time to check that out and enjoy it together.
Nasreen: Steph. I love that what you said it helps enhance the TV viewing experience because it’s so true. Those subtle cues, just that sort of, you know, scene act that’s happening, that maybe we didn’t know what the full impact of the scene is supposed to give me now get that through audio description and it’s just…
I’m a newbie when it comes to audio description but our current guest on our podcast is not. Our interns Marta and Iliana will be interviewing Roy Samuelson, Award-winning Voiceover Actor, Audio Description Narrator, Podcaster, and Advocate.
Iliana Mejia: Hi, everyone. I’m so excited to be here with the lovely Marta Divito.
Marta DiVito: Hi, it’s great to be here. We definitely have a treat for you all today.
Iliana: So as the Audio Description Award Show approaches, we decided that we would get someone who’s very knowledgeable in the craft of audio description.
Marta: But today we will be interviewing a voice actor Roy Samuelson. Hello, Roy.
Roy Samuelson: I’m so excited to join you, I just am thrilled to be called a treat. So I’m doing super well.
AD Awards Impact & People On The Blindness Spectrum
Iliana: We’re super excited to have you. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna start off just kind of, with what do the audio description awards? What do you feel like these mean to those who are blind and visually impaired? What impact do you think this will have?
Roy: Oh, that’s a great question. I think there’s a, there’s a tremendous amount of changes that are happening in audio description and the Audio Description Awards Gala. That is one of many, I feel like as more people are exposed to audio description, whether they’re sighted or blind, it’s going to do some changes for for the good.
There’s a lot of really great companies out there that provide audio description. But I’ve noticed over the past few years that a lot of audio description is it’s almost like they’re valuing how cheap it can be made. And I feel like when you think about audio description, if you just ask yourself, well, does this…? Let’s just talk about movies and TVs, and TV shows.
If the movie has it, then it’s got audio description. If the movie doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t. And what I’m noticing is that the audiences really are demanding a lot more than just that yes or no. That audiences care about what the writing is like, audiences care about not having to fiddle with the volume and turning it up and turning it down, depending on whether there’s a bunch of loud explosions or really quiet moments that audiences really care about consistency of quality. And then maybe the character is correctly named throughout the entire series. And they also care about the casting decision. So who’s voicing it, and they care about how that voice is portraying the writing.
So I mean, those are just a handful of the very many different variables that can go into audio description. And as more blind audiences are aware of it, more blind professionals are included in this work. And that’s what really gets me excited.
Introduction To AD
Marta: That’s very interesting. How did you get involved with doing audio description?
Roy: That’s a great question. So I started off as a voice actor primarily. So I’ve done different work as a voice talent, whether it’s you hear me in a commercial or a video game, or maybe some background voice in a movie or a TV show, that’s I’ve used a lot of the, those experiences that led me to audio descriptions.
So when the opportunity came to do audio description, I found it combined a lot of different elements of voiceover that I really love, and being able to do it all together, and being able to be a part of a movie in this way where I can kind of disappear into it, and just be able to share the elements of the visuals of the story and kind of stay out of the way and make sure that the audience stays immersed in it. That’s what really got me excited.
And, you know, since then, in addition to the Audio Description Awards, there’s been a lot of other initiatives.
- Bold Blind Beauty has been involved in what will be soon the 3rd Annual Audio Description Awareness Day, which has a tremendous amount of social media engagement.
- There’s an Audio Description Discussion Group on Facebook that my friend Kevin and I started a few years ago, and now it’s got over 1,800 different contributors that are sharing the different elements of what’s important to them, both creators of audio description as well as the audience.
- And the Television Academy now includes audio description narrators like myself to be able to qualify to join to be able to vote for the Primetime Emmys.
There’s a bunch of other things that are happening like that. And all of those I think are leading towards the right direction.
Hollywood’s Take On AD
Iliana: That’s wonderful. You’ve given some great insight into audio description and its role in the world. Do you have any ideas of what Hollywood’s take on audio description seems to be?
Roy: One of the cool things about being a part of the Television Academy is being able to do this is before the pandemic. And pretty soon, I hope, being able to talk with the creators of content for television series and be able to talk to the showrunners or the producers or even the sound engineers or the sound mixers that work on these projects. And when they ask what I do, it’s pretty inevitable that they kind of lean in and say, “wait, what you mean my show has audio description? Do you mean the what 30 million blind and low vision Americans and however many internationally can access this, this service?”
It’s like, there’s a welcomed interest and curiosity that I sense. A lot of them that do know about it, also, are distanced from it. In other words, it’s almost a handoff like they complete the film, and then they hand it off to another company that creates it. And so what I find really interesting is that this creative contribution to their own film is now starting to become a part of what they do.
So there’s no one Hollywood take. I think there’s a lot of companies that are aware of audio description and that bring their best and make sure that they hire the best companies that are creating audio description. And then there’s a lot that aren’t even aware of it at all and everywhere in between.
So I think this is a really exciting time right now in Hollywood for feature films, as well as television series to be able to, to be able to have the best audio description possible. And the interest there is really starting to bubble.
Providing Good AD
Marta: Yeah, until now, I never really thought about Hollywood’s take on how to adapt the script to others that might need it. It’s great to hear other people’s perspectives. How do you provide a good audio description?
Roy: Well, I’m part of a bunch of different people that my contribution is just on the voice side. So I’m basically given a script, and then I start talking into a mic. I don’t want to diminish the work that audio description people do. But I do want to emphasize that there’s a lot of things that go into the creation of this really unique script and what eventually ends up being an audio track for a TV show or a movie.
That there’s some incredibly talented writers that take the film, and they adapt it into a script that someone like me reads. And what they’re doing is turning all the visuals into words that are usually in between lines of dialogue, or in between, you know, sound effects, or whatever, so that our audiences can fully experience what’s happening visually. And I give so much credit to the writers that do this work, because there’s so many choices that they have to make, and be able to make sure that they do their best with such a limited time.
I think it’s really interesting that some companies are including pre-description, or extra description that’s outside of the length of the film, or the TV show to really give audiences that extra little access that I think is really important. And then when it comes time for me to record it, in most cases, I’m usually directed by a director, and there’s an engineer that’s recording me. So if I make a mistake, we stop and we do it again.
And for the most part, the director’s job is to make sure that I’m delivering what she needs and making sure that she’s getting what, kind of nuance of performance from me. If there’s a case where I’m giving a read, that doesn’t really sound true, or it sounds like I need to do a little better she’ll, she’ll say, can you read that again, and do it this way, or she’ll give a direction.
If the engineer hears that my chair is squeaking or that I turned a page, they’ll make sure that that’s edited out or they’ll ask me to redo it. And then after I’m all done recording, then there’s a quality control person. And the quality control person goes through to make sure that the consistency is there that all the characters are identified in a way that’s appropriate to the script.
And then eventually, it gets handed off to the distributor so that our audiences can enjoy it. But one of the things that’s really important about every aspect of all of these different roles, is that whether someone’s sighted or blind, if they’re a professional, and they know what they’re doing, there’s a space for them. And that includes the writing too.
First AD Experience As A Consumer
Iliana: That’s wonderful. I’m actually very curious to learn. When did you first hear about what audio his description was? And how did it how what did it? What did you think of it when you first kind of learned about it?
Roy: Oh, great question. Iliana. So audio description’s been around for more than 30 years, and I just found out about it maybe 10 years ago? I’m guessing I’d have to double-check. It’s, um, you know, over the course of 30 years, I’m relatively new to it. But when I first actually heard about it, it was in that professional environment of being hired.
But when I first experienced audio description as an audience member, I’m a sighted guy. And the first two or three minutes, I was really taken aback, because two things were happening. First of all, one thing that was happening was, because I’m sighted I was seeing things that I was hearing, and it felt like it was too much. It felt like, Oh, this is so overwhelming, I’m hearing it and seeing it at the same time what’s happening.
But after just a few minutes, Iliana as a sighted person, I totally was able to get into the story. Once I got over that, that leap. Once I got used to what it was doing, what audio description was doing, it really made me access, what was happening in the story even better. And that was really exciting.
Now, of course, the other aspect of it is making sure that I’m able to have conversations with friends of mine that are able to we’re just able to talk that there’s not these speed bumps on the freeway of the conversation. So for example, if we’re talking about a show, we’re laughing about that funny scene that happened or when we dropped our jaw when some really exciting thing happened or something really special happened between one character and another.
We’re able to talk about that in a way where we don’t have to stop and say, wait, here’s what happened on the screen. And it’s not that interruption that gets in the way of the flow of the conversation. So that kind of access, that kind of connection that I’m able to have with other people and just being able to talk about these, these stories that are being told is really important to me, too.
I think one of my favorite parts is that when I’m watching the audio description with a friend of mine, we’re laughing at the same time. We’re crying at the same time, there’s no gap, in the experience, it’s not like they’re laughing before I am or they’re laughing after me that we’re experiencing this together.
Marta: Yeah, that’s what’s so beautiful about comedy like laughter, just brings people together and can share that one experience and kind of forget about the real world for a while and just feel okay, in the moment.
Roy: It’s a great point, Marta, I mean, you think about I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but I think I’ve got a little example, when it comes to audio description and comedy, that there’s this thing that’s like, if you have to explain the joke, then it’s probably not funny.
And it’s like, in the sense of audio description, it’s the job of the film to make sure that those elements, those visual elements are accessible. So that it’s there that the audience has doesn’t have to explain it to the other audience member it’s already a part of it.
I will take a little bit of a pause and say that if I ever make a joke to Steph, the owner of Bold Blind Beauty, I usually do have to explain it because it’s so esoteric, and so out there that it’s like, I have to explain it. So it’s probably not funny.
Iliana: Well, as a blind woman, I think that it’s great that we finally have this equal access that you’re talking about that we are on the same playing field as someone like you who is sighted, and we can share in the joke and the tears and whatever it is that the show is trying to portray, or the movie is trying to portray. So we thank you for being one of the reasons that this is possible.
Roy: Oh, thanks, Iliana. And one of the things that also excites me is that blind professionals do this work. And they, they just excel, they make it what it needs to be because as consumers, they understand what audio description’s needed. And they’ve put in the time, and they’ve put in the energy, and they put in the focus to be able to deliver what they do professionally. And that’s something that obviously is so important.
Audio description was created by blind people for blind people, and blind people need to be included in it. And when I say blind people, I mean, the blind professionals who really understand how this work can be delivered. And that’s really exciting.
How Can People Access AD
Marta: For viewers who haven’t heard of audio description until today, can you tell us a little bit about how to access audio descriptions for movies or TV shows?
Roy: Oh, sure, Marta, that’s a great question. And, you know, it’s kind of like the wild west right now that a lot of streaming services have audio description as a special place to turn on. If you start playing a movie or a TV show on a streaming service, you can usually either tap on the screen or swiped down or do something to the screen to access the different whether it’s a different language dub, or closed captioning, or even audio description, that’s one way.
Broadcasts, particularly the main TV channels are required by the FCC to have audio description. And most TVs have accessibility or most cable boxes have accessibility that you can turn on. I know with one of my mom’s cable access buttons, she’s got a little microphone button on her remote. And it’s just like a CB radio, she holds it down and she says “turn on audio description” and it does it.
I think there’s at the movie theater, you can ask for special headset and make sure it’s not the amplified headset because there’s a lot of people that might not understand what audio description is even at the movie theater. But the idea is that you can get a headset that and that gets old. It’s like how many times do you get a credit to see a movie because the audio description didn’t work? You know, it’s like that’s not why people go to the movies is to collect gift certificates to go to more movies.
There’s also an app that’s called Spectrum Access and it’s for Android or iOS, the iPhone, and you can download the movie’s audio description, or the TV show’s audio description, and your device listens to the audio and syncs up the audio description so you can experience it with your own headphones.
Those are just a few examples. And if you go to the Audio Description Project, which is at adp.acb.org there’s a great resource there adp.acb.org. And there’s also a Facebook group called Audio Description Discussion where you can ask questions too. But those are two really good resources if you’re looking to turn on audio description.
Marta: That’s a lot of information I had no idea about because I’m brand new to the audio description world. So thank you so much for sharing you definitely just taught me some brand new things that I didn’t know existed.
Iliana: Even for me who uses audio description, there are a few things I didn’t even know existed. I didn’t I had no idea about that spectrum plus Spectrum Access.
Roy: Well, there’s so much going on. And it seems like it changes all the time. I think the biggest hope that I have is that technology and also cultural norms are changing to have inclusion. And I think as more companies recognize, and are listening to the audiences who are demanding this and demanding it of the quality that our audiences deserve, that’s really going to make a big difference.
The AD Gala
Iliana: So before we run out of time, because I just realized, when is the Audio Description Gala that is coming up soon? And is it something that our viewers would be able to access?
Roy: Sure. So right now, anyone with the Peacock television app, Peacock App, it’s available through the rest of this year in 2021. So through December, you can see the AD Awards Gala or Audio Description Awards Gala. I think you might have to search for it. And it’s also available on adawardsgala.org. I believe I might have to double-check the web address and that’s available right now to watch.
Iliana: We really enjoyed getting to meet you. Thank you for being here with us. Both Marta and I are super excited that we got to speak to you.
Roy: I’m super excited to speak with both of you, too. Thanks so much for having me on your podcast.
Nasreen: Thank you, Marta and Iliana, for such a great interview. And thank you Roy on behalf of Sylvia, Steph, and I for being our guest here today. There are several ways to connect with Roy. You can catch him on Facebook @RoySamuelsonBiz. And he’s also found on LinkedIn @RoySamuelson. He also has a website, RoySamuelson.com, and you can also find him at TheADNA.org. Thanks again Roy, for being here with us today.
Please share this and ask your friends to subscribe and follow us and join us for our next podcast Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. Thanks for listening everyone.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Connecting With Roy
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- Garnished citrus glazed roasted turkey on a holiday table decorated with pumpkins, flowers and white wine.
- White podium on red carpet VIP way chrome silver stanchions with red velvet ropes on a white background. Text reads: “The 2021 Audio Description Awards Gala Presented by The American Council of the Blind.”
- A male actor doing voice over in a sound studio.
- The Hollywood sign, built in 1923, is a world famous landmark and American cultural icon on Mount Lee.
- Collaboration image of paper cutouts of humans holding hands in a semi circle on a white background.
- Rear view facing the huge white movie screen of a modern movie theater.
- Padlock and key representing access.
- White podium on red carpet VIP way chrome silver stanchions with red velvet ropes on a white background. Text reads: “The 2021 Audio Description Awards Gala Presented by The American Council of the Blind.”