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Podcast With A Blindness Perspective.

Nov 30, 2018

Show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

ROY SAMUELSON is one of Hollywood’s leading voiceover talents in film and television. Currently Roy is leading the way in the area of DESCRIPTIVE NARRATION / AUDIO DESCRIPTION, an aspect of television and filmmaking that allows Blind/Visually Impaired viewers to get audio description during a show without interruption and fills in the void as the action is not always obvious. For example, the movie Castaway is nearly silent during the first half of the movie.  This is where Roy steps in with his descriptions.

Roy Samuelson is a professional Audio Describer for some of the latest Hollywood productions. Movies like First Man, Venom, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Spiderman: Homecoming, Jason Bourne, The Magnificent Seven, Get Out, Skyscraper, Atomic Blonde and television shows like Lethal Weapon, NCIS, Blue Bloods and Criminal Minds.

 

Join Roy and Jeff in the Blind Abilities Studio and find out how Roy got involved in Audio Description and how his voice makes it to your TV and Movie Screens across the world.

 

Contact:

You can Follow Roy on Twitter @RoySamuelsonand be sure to check out his latest works and send in some feedback. Roy is always happy to hear from you.

 

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Full Transcript:

Audio Describer and Voice Artist for Hollywood Movies and TV Shows: Meet Roy Samuelson

Jeff Thompson:
Blind Abilities welcomes Roy Samuelson, one of Hollywood's leading voiceover, audio description, and voice narrative artists.

Jeff Thompson:
A sharp dressed man steps from the train, pulls out a cane, and proceeds to go towards a building.

Jeff Thompson:
Including films First Man, Venom, Jurassic World, Spiderman: Homecoming, Jason Bourne, The Magnificent Seven, and TV shows Criminal Minds, CIS, Blue Bloods, and Lethal Weapon.

Jeff Thompson:
He enters a door where the sign says Blind Abilities Studios. A young lady looks up from the desk.

Speaker 2:

Good morning.

Jeff Thompson:
Good morning.

Speaker 2:

You've got Roy Samuelson, Studio Three.

Jeff Thompson:
Okay, thanks. I'm going in.

Speaker 2:

All right. Blind Abilities Studios. Uh-huh.

Jeff Thompson:
He proceeds down a hallway. He stops at a door and reads the Braille. It's door number three. He enters and sits comfortably in his chair, reaches over, flicks a few switches, pulls his boom microphone down. He pulls on his headphones, and then reaches for the big red switch and flicks it up. From the hallway, the sign above the door now glows brightly, On The Air.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson, and today in the studio, we have Roy Samuelson, who is out in Hollywood leading the way in voiceover, audio description, and descriptive narrative. How are you doing, Roy?

Roy Samuelson:
Hey, I'm doing great, Jeff. It's good to be on your show.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, thank you very much. I'm sure our listeners are excited to hear from someone who does voiceover, audio description for movies and television shows.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, I'm really passionate about it. This is really wonderful work. I really, I like it a lot, and I'm going to stop using the word really.

Jeff Thompson:
Now you've got me thinking about it. I'll probably be using it. Let's first tell the people what kind of movies you have been doing and television shows.

Roy Samuelson:
Oh sure. There's a few series that are on right now. On CBS, there's NCIS and Criminal Minds, and on Fox, I'm doing description for Lethal Weapon.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, you're busy.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, it's a great season this year. There's a bunch of movies and there's another one that's coming out next month, and right now there's two movies that are out in the theaters, and they're really fun on the descriptive narration side.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I saw the likes of, what was it, Spiderman?

Roy Samuelson:
That's right. Yeah, the more recent one. I was on Spiderman: Homecoming.

Jeff Thompson:
Wow. You even did Jurassic World.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, the most recent one, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff Thompson:
So what do you do in your spare time?

Roy Samuelson:
That's a great question. The things that I love about audio description have kind of started to spill into my own personal life. Some of the connections that I'm making through social media are turning out I'm getting some more friends on that side, so it's been fun to correspond with them and some people that have been listening to audio description. As far as other things, I really enjoy hanging out with friends. There's nothing like a night out, cooking some dinner at home, and having some fun, laughs, and conversations. I'm pretty low key when it comes to that.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Well, when it comes to audio description, there's so many different areas that people can receive their movies or television shows now that some people are cutting the cables and all that or in theaters, and now they're starting to hear your voice. What got you into giving audio description to movies?

Roy Samuelson:
That was a long ... I can trace it backwards. I can say from where I'm at now, I can look back and say all these steps led back to one person who introduced me to someone who introduced me to someone, and I did an audition, and I'm hesitating, because it's hard to say how it exactly happened. I think a whole bunch of things happened to come together at the right point and at the right time, and a lot of the work that I do in voiceover has certainly carried over into what I do with audio description, so I think I was kind of ready for it.

Jeff Thompson:
So you took to the microphone.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah. My first paid job was down at Walt Disney World for the Great Movie Ride, which is no longer around, but they had a gangster take over the ride, and the ride was maybe 60 people looking at different movie scenes kind of going through the movies on a ride, so with all the distractions going on, I was on mic as a gangster, so trying to figure out what's the best way to say what I needed to say, but not get in the way of what the audience members are trying to appreciate, but still getting the message across. The more that I thought about the comparison between audio description and that first job, there's so many overlaps. It's really amazing to think about it that way.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah. That was one of the questions I was going to ask is how do you find the space? Like you were just saying, that gap, that space, that little pocket where you can describe something without taking away from the audio itself.

Roy Samuelson:
That's a great question. There's a script that's given to me. I don't write it. There's some really talented describers who look at the movie sometimes four or five times or even a TV show, and what they do is use a special program that gives me the words that I say as a narrator in between audio cues and between dialogue, sometimes in between visual cues. They give me a script with any one of those things, whether it's a time code where I'm looking at a screen that shows kind of like a timer countdown or a stop watch that shows all the time code, and that time code is a cue for me to say the next line. And sometimes they'll say this line needs to be brisk. You'll hear narrators talk a little faster than they normally do just to try to get it in.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah. You have to nail it between those two points.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
And so by doing that, you do that in your own studio?

Roy Samuelson:
For the jobs that I mentioned, those are done at a studio. I guess it is possible that I could remotely do it. However, there's a few things that it's kind of to my advantage to do it in studio. First of all is having the time there at the office. I get to interact with the people there. It's not just going in and doing the job. I'm not socializing and hanging out at the water cooler, but a friendly hello to someone, these are the people that I work with, and that's pretty special. The other thing is there's a lot of legal requirements. I think with the internet, it's easy for things like content to get lost in the internet and get into some hands that might not use it for the intentions needed, not that I'd do it, but the studios as well as the networks are pretty protective of their content.

Jeff Thompson:
Plus they're pretty much isolated there. You've got all the equipment, the room, the booth, there you go. You're at work and you don't have the phone going off or someone knocking at the door at home.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, exactly. It's very focused. People talk about being in the flow, and I appreciate that so much, being able to go in and do my job while experiencing the movie, and it taps a lot of really good synapses in my brain.

Jeff Thompson:
So I have a question, and this is kind of personal for me, I guess, but I'm sure listeners might be curious too. As you're taking in the script and the movie, you are a narrator. You do a narrative to it, the audio description, but do you, like you said, you get brisk or do you go with the flow of the movie?

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah. I'm given the script, and then two minutes later we start recording, so there's no time to really look at what is about to happen, so it is ice cold. I can watch a trailer for a movie ahead of time or some of the series that I'm on, I get a sense of what the characters are and the kinds of things that they would normally do, but when it comes to ... let me make sure I'm answering your question correctly too.

Roy Samuelson:
I think when I'm doing the narration, my goal is to not be the spotlight. I don't want people who listen to audio description think, oh wow, that narrator sounded so good. If anyone thinks that, I'm not doing a good job because the attention should be on the storyline, the content that I'm sharing, whether it's the TV show or the movie. I don't want to get in the way of that. I think I want to enhance it. I don't want it to be all about me, so I try really hard to be within the tone or the genre of the film or TV show, and as that changes try to go with it so that it's not jarring or unexpected.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that makes sense. Now that I think about listening back to movies, the narrative or the audio description just wants to fill in those gaps, so you get the script and you hit the marks.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah. I want to be part of the story. I don't want to be the story.

Jeff Thompson:
So Roy, when you're doing voiceover and work like that, did you see yourself doing audio description some day?

Roy Samuelson:
Maybe five or 10 years ago, I was unaware it existed. There are so many great opportunities for voiceover. There's narration for instructional videos. There's what they call voice of God where at a special event someone announces someone who's next on the stage. There's commercials, promos, all sorts of experiences, and I've done my best to enjoy those, but when I found out about descriptive narration, I've never felt so laser focused. Everything about it just rang so true to me in my experience and what I was excited about.

Jeff Thompson:
So what is it that you found in your voice that made you a talent? I mean, I don't know if that sounds bad or something like, but someone must have recognized something that you got the voice for doing what you're doing.

Roy Samuelson:
I can't speak to how I get chosen, but I will say that prior to doing descriptive narration, I spent about 10 years almost every week going to a script writing group as an actor. In this group, it was a really special group of maybe about two dozen writers, and they would bring in 25 pages of their script, and these are all produced writers, so the quality was really high. As an actor, I would go in and we'd been given a script ice cold, and I'd read 25 pages of it, and afterward the feedback would be given to the writer and not the actor.

Roy Samuelson:
My experience with that was the first few times I was like, oh, I need to do the best I can. I need to be an actor, and then I realized that the story was what people were focused on, so what I tried to do was when I was doing my acting, I was still acting, but I was trying to bring the story into it because I saw that that's what the writers were focused on, and I think that the combination of ... how many hundreds of times of doing scripts through the years every week, there definitely was a skill of cold reading, there was the attention to the story, the writing ... I'm sorry, I keep talking about the story, I get so excited about, story, story, story, but with all these things, I think it kind of paved the way for a nice foundation so that when the opportunity came to do descriptive narration, there's definitely a lot of nuance. There's still a lot of things that I needed to learn, but I really took to it pretty quickly.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, that's great because the blindness community really appreciates all the audio description that they are employing today in today's movies. It's getting to the point like when there's not one, it's like hey, hey.

Roy Samuelson:
Oh, that's great to hear. I saw on some website, I posted on Twitter the link, I can't recall the exact address, but I think there's 2200 titles available right now for audio description, and that's just unique descriptions. That's not overlaps. I thought wow, that's great, let's keep that number going up.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah. I hope it does keep going up, especially with all these rules about the ADA and making things accessible, and it just shows that a Hollywood production that puts out a movie and takes the extra measure to put in the audio description, it just is more inclusive. It just makes people feel like hey, we matter, and I really appreciate what you're doing to bring that to light.

Roy Samuelson:
Ah, thanks for saying so. It's been great to be a part of that. The studios and the networks and even the streaming services are aware that yeah, this is audience. It's in everybody's ... it's such a win-win-win situation that I can't stand it. Everybody wins.

Jeff Thompson:
So Roy, if a movie's coming out, how soon do you get notified about working on the movie for the audio description piece, and when you're done with it, how soon does the movie get released after that?

Roy Samuelson:
Ah, great questions. My experience is pretty limited, so they give me sometimes a week's notice, sometimes a day or two's notice for a film that's coming out. It's usually about maybe three to five days. We set aside a day for it. It usually takes about maybe ... I can do a movie in about four hours. Sometimes it takes the full day depending on how they need to do it, and then once I'm done with it, it's pretty close to release date. The audio description is one of the last things to get done in post-production sound. Everything else is pretty much locked as far as the picture's locked and the sound is pretty much locked. Everything is kind of good to go to the theater, and then audio description is a special track that kind of lives above and beyond the whole movie. For my work to match up with what they do, as far as the dominoes falling, I think audio description has to be one of the last. And I guess the second part of your question, a movie can come out sometimes within a week of the work I do-

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, really?

Roy Samuelson:
And sometimes a few weeks to a month.

Jeff Thompson:
So you're one of the last guys on that assembly line.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and they do take it seriously. The quality control, at least the company I work for, and I'm sure all the other companies, they really do take it seriously. They want to make sure all the characters are consistent and that there's not mistakes in the story. They genuinely care about what they're doing.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's great, and who would have thought that 10 years of cold reading scripts and something of passion that you love to do, obviously you did it for 10 years, would lend into doing something like this?

Roy Samuelson:
Isn't it funny? I think about other people that have talked about the things that they've I'm going to say invested in for the joy of doing it. I had no intention of oh, I'm going to spend the next 10 years working on this so that I could be an audio descriptive narrator. It did happen in parallel in some ways, but for the most part, it's great to see how that seems pretty common with a lot of different businesses. I really like looking at that.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, it's really nice when you have a passion for doing something and then all of a sudden, it just leads into something else that someone wants you to do, and you find yourself doing it, and who would have thought?

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, yeah. I think, if I could jump on that a little bit, Jeff, there's an openness, almost like a growth mindset that I think comes along. I do my best to keep a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. I think if I had the fixed mindset, I'd think oh no, I need to make sure I stay focused on just one thing, and when some opportunity like audio description would come up, I'd think oh no, that's outside of my wheelhouse. I've never done that before. I don't know enough about it. I haven't heard about that, so it could almost be dismissed, and here's this great opportunity that can come up, and I use this example. I'm kind of digging my own pit here and my point. I think what my point is that having an almost curious eye and looking at things maybe not necessarily from the most familiar way, seeing things a little differently can open up a whole bunch of new opportunities.

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, that's great. So I'm curious. Since your tool is the microphone and your voice, do you have your own microphone, your own recording, or a preference?

Roy Samuelson:
Oh yeah. I've got a whole studio set up in my house. It's called a Whisper Room, just basically a four foot by six foot building, and it's moved along with me a few times. Inside there, there's one side where I can sit down and I do audiobooks on that, because those are usually long form, and then the other side is a stand-up thing, so I've got the mic almost coming from the ceiling, and I read along either auditions on an iPad or if I need to call in for a project that I'm recording remotely, I can do an ISDN connection or even a file, FTP upload. It kind of gives me the freedom to stand and kind of play around with moving my arms around and kind of get into the story a little bit more.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, I suppose, especially with the audiobook, yeah.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff Thompson:
So what's your go-to microphone?

Roy Samuelson:
You know, at the studio where I work, they have a Neumann, and it's one of those condenser microphones. I think it's the 102. I'm trying to think. I'm pretty sure it's the ... anyway, it's a nice Neumann.

Jeff Thompson:
Typical thousand dollar-plus Neumann.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and then for my home studio, I really like the Bluebird by Blue. It's just got a nice, for my purposes for auditioning, it's got a nice kind of warm open sound, and yeah, I still get a lot of sibilance though, so I have to kind of process that out a little bit.

Jeff Thompson:
Now when you say sibilance, can you tell our listeners what that is?

Roy Samuelson:
Sure. Sometimes S's can come across really hard. It's almost like the microphone is picking up a little too much on the letter S. It just makes it-

Jeff Thompson:
Kind of like that whistle sound.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and the microphone just loves it, and it's like a magnet. It just sucks it right up, and so it makes it a lot louder and the experience on mic is a little too much, so that's one example of sibilance.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Well, that's great. Yeah, the Whisper Room. I've got to remember to use that. I've got to tell my wife about making myself a Whisper Room.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, it's a brand from, if it's not Kentucky, I think it's Tennessee. They specialize in that for a lot of musicians and such, but there's other kinds of quiet rooms and all sorts of, especially in Los Angeles, a lot of voiceover actors like to have custom-made ones.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah, I follow the Booth Junkie, and he's always building his little booth and going inside it and coming out. So the Whisper Room, you can actually break that down and move it with you.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and there was one time, Jeff, I did it myself, and I probably need to remember to have a friend come along. That's definitely not a one-person job.

Jeff Thompson:
So Roy, with all the work that the studios are doing to make audio description available to them, what suggestions would you have for our listeners that appreciate the audio description that they're receiving?

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, so a lot of the studios and the networks, they've got so many things on their plate. They're advertising, they're trying to put things together. It's easier for them to not gloss over, but kind of, I guess the best thing to say is if you're watching movies and TV shows and you appreciate the audio description, let the studios know and let the networks know and let the streaming services know that this is something that's really valuable, and that you want more of, and I think that kind of message will help everybody out. It gives more content to viewers who appreciate audio description.

Roy Samuelson:
In Los Angeles, we get a lot of traffic, and audio description is great for commuters who want to catch up on their TV shows or enjoy a movie when they're trying to fight traffic on the 405. It is kind of like an audiobook that's fully produced, so by trying to get commuters into the audio description game, that can only help audience members who also appreciate it for audio description. It's kind of a win-win for everybody, but I really think letting the studios and the networks and streaming services know how much this service is appreciated and liked, that helps everybody.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, for sure, for sure. It's available to us. We use Comcast, and we have that on our phones, and it has audio description so my wife can use her phone to watch a TV show, but she has audio description so she considers it watching TV, and it's like a book like you said.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah. Oh, very good, and that's the Comcast cable?

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, Xfinity, Prime Video. There's [crosstalk 00:18:43].

Roy Samuelson:
Oh, excuse me for the product placement there.

Jeff Thompson:
No, it's great. I like people to know that because it's available and it's working, and just turn it on, but everybody's a different individual here, and some people like a lot of description, some people like a little, but it's getting better, and as you said, there's what, over 2000 available titles out there with audio description.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and that's just based on that one website I found, and who knows. There's probably some other options there too. Good to know.

Jeff Thompson:
You mentioned earlier when we were talking, I think this was before we started recording, your mother went to a show, a movie that just came out, and was trying to use the audio description in the theater.

Roy Samuelson:
Oh yeah, and it turned out great. The manager gave her and her guests a movie credit for it, but the opportunity for her was to try out the headset for audio description at the movie, and it just so happened that that morning there was an electrical glitch in the theater, so all the power went out and turned back on, and that audio description somehow got reset, and it was important for her to step out and let a manager know, but she was enjoying the movie and she didn't want to stop and interrupt her experience, but as theaters get more and more accessible, particularly with audio description, the more they understand how the ropes work, so to speak.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. It's kind of interesting that she wanted to hear her son. Not too many people get-

Roy Samuelson:
[inaudible] there.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, not too many people get that opportunity, but that's great.

Roy Samuelson:
So hopefully the next time she goes to the theater, she'll be able to hear it.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, that happens with technology, especially when you have like theaters that the workers are going to college or doing other things and stuff like that, and they have this device, and when they work, they work great. It's getting more and more available to people. I love that the entertainment industry is making audio description more available to people and I really want to thank you for what you're doing, creating the voice that people are listening to without interrupting the show.

Roy Samuelson:
Well, that's the goal, and I always strive for that. Thanks for saying so.

Jeff Thompson:
Sometimes being in the background is just as important as being in the limelight.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, it's definitely ... I feel like part of the team.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, great. I want to thank you for what you're doing and for taking the time and coming on the Blind Abilities and sharing this with our listeners.

Roy Samuelson:
Jeff, it's a real pleasure talking with you. Thanks for having me on.

Jeff Thompson:
You bet.

Jeff Thompson:
It was really nice to learn from Roy Samuelson what he does, how he does it, and his interest in it, and he's really motivated. Like he said, contact the studios that are putting out audio description. If you like it, let them know. Let's give them feedback, and you can follow Roy on Twitter  @RoySamuelson. That's R-O-Y-S-A-M-U-E-L-S-O-N on Twitter.

Jeff Thompson:
So as always, thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed, and until next time, bye-bye.

Jeff Thompson:
Jeff removes his headphones, turns off his mixer, pushes his boom microphone up towards the ceiling. He sits back in his studio chair, looking satisfied. He reaches towards the red switch and flicks it down. The On the Air sign outside Studio Three fades to black.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at Blind Abilities. Download our app from the App Store, Blind Abilities. That's two words. Or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening.