Around 49:44, Joel Snyder introduces me to this call in conference. This entire conversation shares a lot of valuable feedback from audiences and professionals.
It’s an audio description extravaganza on the Life After Blindness Podcast! First, I speak with audio description narrarator and voiceover artist, Roy Samuelson about the creation process and the current state of audio described content. Then, I show you how to turn on the audio described track within 5 of the top video streaming services. And finally, I share my thoughts on the availability of audio description, accessibility and the future of AD.
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A Conversation about audio description.
Roy Samuelson is a voiceover artist and audio description narrarator who has lent his voice to well over 500 national network episodes and blockbuster films. This includes NCIS, Lethal Weapon, Star Trek Picard, 1917, Spiderman Far from Home and Spiderman Homecoming, . Roy is also known for his voiceover work on many popular video games and television commercials.
Roy begins our conversation by talking about what audio description is by comparing it to color commentating on a live sports event. He then describes the process of creating an audio description track beginning with the writing, the recording and editing. He explains the maticulous planning and creativity that goes into producing an audio described track.
Roy discusses his excitement over how much audio description has grown in recent years. He is particularly excited about new streaming services as well as work behind the scenes that will continue the growth of and access to audio description.
Roy is a big believer in advocacy. We talk about consumers asking for audio description for The Dark Crystal series and Daredevil on Netflix. In each case, the community spoke up and they got results.
Next, Roy tells me about how he got started doing voiceover work and how that has affected how he narrators an audio description track. Roy played a gangster in the former Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World where he was really able to sharpen his acting and narration skills.
Roy has a passion for storytelling and connecting to an audience. In this interview, Roy definitely demonstrates that passion and the dedication that it takes to create an audio description track.
He continues to learn as well as teach, conducting occasional workshops for other narrators.
I am so grateful that Roy took some time to speak with me for this interview. He tells so many great behind-the-scenes tidbits and anecdotes. It was such a joy to speak with him!
If you would like more information about Roy Samuelson, you can visit his website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Additional resources for audio description that we discussed are:
The Audio Description Project from the American Council of the Blind. (ACB)
Audio Description Discussion Facebook Group
On Twitter, follow the hash tags #AudioDescription #KnowYourNarrator and #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs
Todays Tech Tip
Continuing the audio description extravaganza, I show you how to activate the AD track within 5 of the top video streaming services.
You will hear me navigate through the player controls of Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, Netflix, Disney+ and CBS All Access. I demonstrate this on my iPhone 7 using iOS 13.3.1.
As a little bonus, I show how accessible most of these apps are and how one in particular is not so accessible.
Just my two cents about AD
To close out the show, I spend a few minutes talking about the current state of audio description and where I hope it will progress to in the future. I also share my displeasure with the way that AD tracks are licensed and distributed.
Overall, I think that the future of audio description looks good. It’s just that the road to get there might be a bit rocky. But as long as we keep advocating for accessibility and inclusion, we will hopefully get there faster and together.
If you have any comments or questions, please send your emails to: tim@LifeAfterBlindness.com. You can also leave me a voice mail by calling, 201-855-5221.
Please join me again next time as we continue our journey together to find that there truly can be a life after blindness.
Roy Samuelson is a leading voice over artist in film, television, radio and internet. His smooth as silk tones have been heard in campaigns for major U.S. brands like McDonald’s, Target and Ford. Angelenos are familiar with him from listening to his promos on LA’s KCRW/PBS Radio. Currently, he is a major force as an Audio Description narrator, enabling the blind and sight impaired the ability to enjoy films and television programs. For those who are unfamiliar with Audio Description; a special track is placed over the finished film track, containing the narrator’s voice who then describes that which can’t be see on screen. Samuelson has lent his voice in this way for such blockbusters as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Spiderman: Homecoming, Get Out, First Man, Atomic Blonde and many more top films.
You’ve worked as a voice over artist on many film, tv, internet and radio projects. What is one of the last one or two projects that you can tell us about?
I had the opportunity to record Audio Description for the upcoming Pierre Cardin documentary “House of Cardin”. It’s filled with subtitles (which also needs Audio Description) and fashion and design. It’s one of the more challenging Audio Description narrations I’ve recorded, and I am proud to produce it!
How did your career start?
I started my career on mic many years ago at Walt Disney World in Florida at the Great Movie Ride, spieling and performing on mic. It was real world training with audiences, and I trained myself to adjust my performances based on the audiences’ reactions (or lack of reactions!). It’s also one of the first times I learned about disability and how the Company trained people like me, which took away some of my assumptions of disability in a good way. My interest in voice over came from my acting background. I have performed in plays, taken improv classes, hundreds of voice over workouts and studied with voice over and acting and improv coaches – it all helps!
Do you do any special vocal exercises to prepare or train your voice on a typical work day?
I like to prepare in a few ways! Daily, I do breathing techniques and some enunciation games (OK, fine – “tongue twisters”). In addition to auditions and bookings, I like to do voice over workouts, and study with coaches. My acting training comes from acting and improv classes, in addition to specific kinds of voice over coaches.
Are there any curious or interesting experiences that happened to you professionally during your career that helped to shape or influence your overall career?
I’ve met a lot of great performers who’ve shared their experiences with me. Their openness, willingness, and kindness are unmatched. There is so much I don’t know, and when I said things that they may be offended by, I was so humbled by their understanding of my perspective of not knowing, and helping me see some different perspectives I’ve not considered before. These thoughtful and kind gestures of sharing have helped pass down some valuable info to me, and it’s great to see on social media these kinds of good messages. Additionally, I’ve found that when I’ve “lost” a job that was important to me, I could look back at that time and see that there was an even better opportunity that came soon after (or because of what I learned from), that “lost” job.
Many voice over artists have also trained as actors. Do you also have an acting background?
Acting is an essential part of voice over! Even with narration work, I consider the narrator a character who is telling a story. Characters in animation, even voice over in commercials, all have intentions to be played out. I personally feel it’s all acting!
Voice over work can often be difficult with so many words and pronunciations. Have you ever had a hard time as a voice over artist in terms of pronouncing words or perhaps maneuvering difficult, long sentences?
It’s sometimes the one word that trips me up! I’ve found that, once I fall through the cracks, it’s sometimes hard to interrupt the fall. A great example is in House of Cardin. I had to say a word with the French pronunciation but it came out with the English pronunciation. Reading the English, hearing French, and saying one French word, while also watching the timecode, and following the inflections of the French speaker, I guess I had to give up something… and that something just happened to be pronouncing that one word. It happened about 3 times throughout the movie. I couldn’t see the engineer roll his eyes, but I could ALMOST hear the eye rolls — there’s no way to learn every word and every pronunciation. I do my best to be open and flexible when I am in a session. If I don’t know…I’ll ask, and that helps save a lot of hassle down the road.