Tag Archives: Film and Television

How I Got My Own Personal Audio Describer for  the Lion King

A lion head with a huge shaggy mane

While I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last month it was announced  the Lion King  was celebrating 25 years of its theatrical production. I recalled the first time I saw the Lion King. It was the animated version and I was totally sighted. I remember the incredible music and visual affects. A friend even purchased the original soundtrack and we would listen to it  during our car rides around town.

Missed First Production But Went to Second

Of course, this was many years ago and I am blind today. But my vision loss didn’t stop me. When I heard the theatrical production was coming to my local theater I had to go. The first time the production came I missed it waiting on a friend. By the time we got  to ordering the tickets it was sold out. I was very disappointed.

I promised myself next time to grab a ticket immediately and not wait around. So, when they came back again that is exactly what I did. Lesson learned. I was sitting on my sofa watching TV and the commercial came on announcing the Lion King was coming back to Atlanta. WooHoo! I ran to the phone and got out my credit card to buy a ticket. I didn’t even tell anyone, I just did it.

Excited About Live Audio Description

When I was purchasing my ticket the representative told me the production was available in audio description. I was elated. I was already familiar with how it brought movies and TV to life. I had also used audio description for plays  and musicals so I was aware of live audio description. It is very similar  to TV and movies but you get to engage with the audio describer right there in the theater. I would wear a headset to hear the description and the describer would be located nearby in the theater  giving me info on what was happening on stage. I was even more motivated to go. To see this wonderful production and then to have it audio described! Well, it just beat all.

Confusion About Audio Description

Two women have a sign language conversation at a table.

ON the day of the performance an usher guided me over to the deaf and hard of hearing section. I was confused because I am not deaf nor hard of hearing. Unfortunately, things like this happen all the time to me and my community. People lump the blind and deaf together as if we have the same disability. I have had friends  tell me of times people thought they needed a sign language interpreter. Or people talking really loud  to us as if we have  hearing loss. I mean it goes on and on. So, although I was confused I was not totally surprised.

I asked the usher about audio description and  now they were the one confused. I explained what audio description was and how it worked for the blind. The usher  didn’t know what to do so got a manager. While I waited I talked to the real time captioner for the deaf. I knew her from disability events where she  would do captioning. This type of technology reduces the need for multiple sign language interpreters  because the captioner would use a device to type and the words would appear on the screen for several deaf people to read at one time.

Got Personal  Describer

While we were chatting and catching up the manager came over to apologize. He told me there was a mistake and I was told wrong. There would be no audio description after all. He was deeply sorry for the misunderstanding and embarrassment. As I was processing this news another man came over to introduce himself. He told me he was a professional audio describer  and was here to observe the captioning process. He said he would be happy to audio describe the production for me. So, I went from major displeasure to major  happiness in a matter of a few minutes.

Described All the Sights and sounds

audience of people facing a stage watching a play. There is one person on stage surrounded by furniture.

We decided to move away from the crowd and sit closer to the corner of the room. It was a good spot for him to see everything  and to also talk in my ear without disturbing people around us. The production began with the animals coming down the aisle  moving toward the stage. It was just like in the movie  where all the animals  travel to Pride Rock for the ceremony of Simba. He described the vibrant and colorful costumes. He described the fluent body movements of the dancers  as animals. He described all the sights and sounds. It was amazing! Who knew I would have my own personal audio describer sitting right next to me.

He even described the dancers who pretended to be  grass and water. They were dressed in green. They had these fan-like objects in their hands also in green. This was to simulate the tall moving grass from the movie. It was the same set up for water. The dancers were in blue and moved their bodies simulating water flowing. He described other dancers dressed in animal costumes and how they moved around the stage just like the animal  they  mimicked.

A giraffe with an extended long neck

I was truly captivated by the creativity  of the production and talent of the dancers and actors. It was literally just like in the animated version. Since I was sighted when I saw the movie  I use my visual memories. Along with those memories and an excellent audio describer, I had a wonderful time. What started out as a disappointment turned into  an exciting moment for me.

Watched Movie on Disney+

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

This past week, to honor the 25th anniversary, I watched the movie again. It was available through Disney+ in audio description. Of course, it was different from the live theatrical production with my own personal describer. Who could match that? However, it was enjoyable all the same. Hakuna Matata!

Watching Audio Described Holiday Movies Will Put Some Ho Ho in Your Christmas

Christmas tree fully decorated with presents underneath

Watching Movies Are Part of Holiday Season

What is a perfect way to get into the holiday spirit? My answer is cuddling up with a mug of hot cocoa or the classic holiday three flavor popcorn tin  and laying on the sofa to watch a slew of Christmas movies. Everyone knows that watching a heartwarming holiday flick is one of the merriest parts of the season along with decorating the tree and baking grandma’s legendary cookie or brownie recipe.

Bowl of multi flavored popcorn sitting on a table. There is butter, cheddar and caramel flavors in the bowl.

Whether you’re in the mood for a traditional family holiday classic or a romantic Hallmark Christmas movie, there is something for everyone including the kids. View holiday romcoms, funny Christmas comedies and even Christmas horrors from the comfort of your home.

Christmas Movies Available in Audio Description

As a blind person how do I join in on the holiday spirit? How do I enjoy this merry tradition? Audio described movies and films are the ones I watch this season.

An audio described movie is when images, scenes, actions and descriptions of the actor’s appearance are described during natural pauses in the film. It allows me to know what is happening and enjoy the film along with everyone else. Audio description is available in a variety of mediums such as analog TV, streaming services, DVDs, cable, satellite and movie theaters.

Additionally, you can find audio description available at live theatrical performances and museums. The National Library Services for the Blind and Print Impaired offers a detailed resource guide on  audio description.

Audio Description at Home

Now, it’s time to make that Christmas movie list and don’t forget to check it twice. The Audio Description Project has created a  Christmas theme movie list. On their site they catalog the movie and streaming service such as Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, iTunes and Amazon Prime. They also list the traditional TV guide  for movies and films  that will air on TV and cable stations.

As the holidays approach this info will update, so check often for new movie titles. There is something for everyone regardless  of being naughty or nice.

Audio Description at the Movie Theater

Empish wearing audio description headset at movie theater

Don’t want to watch Christmas movies home alone? Rather have a jolly good time and watch a holiday flick at the theater? Audio description is available  at your local movie cinema. National chains such as AMC Theatres and Regal Cinema offer audio description for most blockbuster films. They will indicate that information on their website or app next to the title of the movie so you know in advance if it is audio described or not.

Once you arrive request the audio description headset at customer service. Be sure it is the one for people with vision loss because theaters do provide equipment for the deaf and hard of hearing as well. You should hear the audio description at the beginning of the film. If not contact a theater representative to assist you to correct the problem with your device.

Star shaped powder sugar cookies on a plate with cup of coco

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to watch an audio described movie. Each year more and more movies and films are available to the blind community. Don’t let the Grinch steal your holiday cheer. Throw on your ugly Christmas sweater, grab some snacks and enjoy the movies!

Audio Description Helps Me Keep a Thanksgiving Day Tradition

An orange background with the words “Happy Thanksgiving Day” in block script

This time of year we celebrate the holidays and  its traditions. Thanksgiving brings on lots of food, family and fun. One major Thanksgiving  tradition is watching the Macy’s Day parade.

A Thanksgiving Day Tradition From Childhood

Since I was a small child,  this TV event was a regular part of my Thanksgiving Day  celebration. .  I would get up early in the morning still in my pjs, grab a bowl of cereal  and park myself right in front of the TV. For the next few hours my eyes were glued to the screen  watching the huge helium balloons, colorful and beautiful floats  and listening to the many marching bands.

Each year  something new and exciting happened with the parade . It could be new helium balloon cartoon characters and a list of popular musicians  and entertainers. The marching bands held a special place for me. My mother was in a collegiate marching band and later I attended Florida A&M University, famous for the infamous Marching 100.

A marching band performing with conductor in a parade. The ban is wearing red with white stripes on their pants and caps playing instruments

While I was captivated by all the sights and sounds of the parade my parents were busy in the kitchen preparing our Thanksgiving meal. My dad would do the major cooking of smoked turkey, ham with pineapples, collard greens, mac and cheese and sweet potato pie. While my mother  cooked and prepared the cornbread dressing  with giblet gravy. Sometimes they would call me in to do a taste test  otherwise I was barred from the kitchen until they were done. Of course, I had no problem with that command because the Macy’s Day Parade was on and I didn’t want to miss a minute.

View of the inside of a basket filled with root vegetables like squash, pumpkin, potatoes, carrots and onions

Tried to Continue After Blindness

Years later, as an adult I still continued this Thanksgiving day tradition. Dawning my pjs  and holding my cereal bowl I sat on my sofa and watched the proceedings again. It was just like old times. After vision loss I made attempts to watch it but after a couple of tries I knew it was not going to work.

The Macy’s Day Parade was too visual. Too many things to figure out.  Too many things I couldn’t enjoy anymore. So, for years I let this tradition go and just kept my memories.

What is Audio Description

But about 3 years ago I noticed audio description  became available for this parade. An audio described TV show or movie is when images, scenes, actions and descriptions of the actor’s appearance are described during natural pauses in the production. It allows the blind or visually impaired viewer to know what is happening and enjoy the film along with their sighted peers.

Audio description is available in a variety of mediums such as analog TV, streaming services, DVDs, cable, satellite and movie theaters. Additionally, you can find audio description available at live theatrical performances and museums. The Macy’s Day Parade was audio described live by Descriptive Video Works, Where I sit as an advisory  committee member.

Audio Description Brought Tradition Back

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

I was so excited to reintroduce this Thanksgiving Day tradition  into my life again. Even during the pandemic, The parade aired. Although condensed with a shorter route  and no live audience on the street, it was still great. I got to hear one of my favorite entertainers, Patti LaBelle, sing. Woohoo! This year  was the 96th anniversary. There was  a performance from the Lion King, more balloons, floats and several marching bands. Then a finale of Santa Claus and Mariah Carey singing her famous song, “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Like the Thanksgiving meal, it just wouldn’t be the same without  watching this parade. I am just so glad and grateful audio description  lets me keep this Thanksgiving tradition. And hopefully for many more years to come.

I’m Still Not Back in the Movie Theater and Here’s Why

Empish wearing audio description headset at movie theater

National Cinema Day

Two years ago, I wrote a post about my reluctance  to watch movies at my local movie theater, AMC. Although, they had put COVID protocols  in place I was still not comfortable. The pandemic  was still raging and our numbers here in Georgia were still high. Well, that was some time ago  and since today, Sept 3, is National cinema Day it is appropriate to give an update.

Haven’t Return to Movie Theater

I have to be honest with you and say I have still not entered a movie theater. Things with the pandemic are slowing down. People are getting back out and about. Things are  getting back to some kind of normalcy  we experienced before. So, if this is the case, what gives? What’s my issue? Movie theaters are doing all kinds of promotions to get people back in. While researching this post I saw  online  $3  movie tickets  for today. What a steal! But that is still not enough to coax me out of the house. Even the  bankrupted company, Movie Pass, for which I was a loyal member, is back  and up and running.

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

My initial  reasons were the pandemic but two years later I am in a different place in my life. Trudging all the way to the movie theater  on public transportation is not in the cards for me anymore. Now, it is about time management. Do I have the availability  to travel and watch a movie? The answer is no, not anymore. Especially when I can  just easily  turn on my firestick  or smartphone  and watch a film in my home. Also, as an introvert I don’t feel the need to be around people to enjoy my entertainment. Here’s one last reason. I am job hunting  and spend my days  looking for new freelance jobs and/or polishing my  work skills.

Attending Live Theatre

Now,  you might say, “Empish, you just shared about attending live theatre, so what’s the problem?” Good question. It is true, I have recently  gone back to see live performances  but that is a different animal. A live production  is not like watching an actor on  a movie screen. The excitement and thrill of being  up close and personal  is a feeling that doesn’t compare to the cinema. Besides, I go see a live production about  once a month or so. Something like that. It is not very often, whereas  new films come out every weekend or so.

Decision Not Forever

popcorn in a movie theater style square package with movie tickets in the background

So, even though this is the day to nationally celebrate the movie theater, I’m still staying home. I don’t think this decision is forever. No, not at all, because I got to see the sequel of Black Panther. Just like the first one, this is a movie  you gotta see in the theater with a large soda and bucket of buttery popcorn.

Have you been back in the theater since the pandemic? If so, what has been your experience? Or are you like me and staying put at home?

Representation Matters: Excellent Audio Description of The Harder They Fall

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

Grew Up Watching Westerns

While growing up in Texas watching westerns were a big part of my childhood, especially on Saturdays. There was Big Valley, Bonanza and The Lone Ranger. In the evenings, my favorite western was  Gunsmoke, starring James Arness as Matt Dillon. I even enjoyed Little House on the Prairie and later as an adult, watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

But rarely have I ever seen a western with Black folks. Maybe a token  character or two. But definitely not a full cast. So, it was to my delight to view the movie The Harder They Fall  with audio description. Although, the movie premiered on Netflix  some months ago, I am just getting around to watching it. But better late than never, right? And boy was it well worth it. The film  has a cast of characters loosely based on real cowboys, lawmen and outlaws of the 19th century American West. It is about revenge, love and redemption. The film stars Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Lakeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi, and Deon Cole.

Popcorn in a red bowl and a mug of a warm beverage on the table with a fireplace in the background.

Representation Really Does Matter

Now when it comes to representation it really does matter. What I am talking about goes beyond race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. It is providing equal access  to information in a film, movie or TV show for those with vision loss. It is the way information is described  and given to me as I engage with the film. Since I am blind watching films with excellent audio description is important to me. I watch  a lot of audio described movies  and I have to tell you  this one was done exceptionally well. Let me tell you why.

Race and Skin Tone Described

From the very beginning of the movie race is communicated. In the opening scene  we view a Black family sitting down to dinner. They are dressed in clothing of the time period. One of the men is described having  dark Black skin with a salt and pepper beard. Too many times I have watched films with people of color in them never knowing that fact. There are times I don’t discover it until the character  self-identifies  by saying in one of their lines they are Black, Asian, Latino, etc. Then I have to  reprocess the scene because  if race is not communicated the thought process is to assume the dominate race which is white.

The audio description didn’t shy away from identifying variations of skin tone. In the Black community we are a rainbow of skin tones-from light skin to medium to dark-and variations in between. Throughout the whole movie skin tone variations were given which I greatly appreciated. For example, a character  was described as a copper skinned man. It gave me context and understanding as to what the person really looked like especially since I had eyesight before. Other movies I have watch stop short and just describe hair and eye color. Some have stepped a little closer and have mentioned  terms like olive  skin tone or just use the generic word brown.

Clothing and Movie Title Described

Detail description of clothing. I was very impressed  because too many times in the movies I watch there is little to no description of what people are wearing. In one scene  a male character was wearing a poncho and black pants. While a female character wore a felt bowler hat. Yet, another male character wore  a Crimson velvet coat. This information is specific and helpful to understanding the time period of the movie  and also giving more equal access to what my sighted peers are getting too.

I Loved the description of the title of the movie, as one of the main male characters shot another character, the words  to the title appeared on the screen one bullet shot at a time. That was clever and creative.

Black Hair Described

Unique description of Black hair. Very rarely do I watch a movie where Black hair is audio described. Every so often I will hear a word like dreadlocks or afro letting me know the character is probably  Black. But in the Harder They Fall I was so pleased by the description of hair. For example, Stagecoach Mary had fluffy shoulder length natural hair and Treacherous Trudy Smith had micro braids.

Final Thoughts

My last observation of the audio description in this movie was how it  was timed well with the music. This is a tricky thing to accomplish because it depends on the type of music  and the scene in the film. Sometimes the audio description can be distracting  or hard to follow because the music overpowers  the scene. But in this movie I found both worked very well together.

The audio description was provided by International digital center  with writer, Liz Gutman, and voicer, Bill Larson. I have noticed their name numerous times in the credits of movies  I have seen. I am very appreciative of their work  and hope to see more of this kind of audio description in the future not only from them but other companies that audio describe as well.

You Butter Believe It, I’m Celebrating National Popcorn Day

Container of Movie Popcorn in a Colorful Cardboard Box

My Childhood Popcorn Memories

Popcorn has been one of my most favorite snacks since I was a little kid. I remember growing up and my mom popping kernels of it over the stove. She would dawn oven mittens and shake the covered pot from left to right. I could hear the kernels rattling in the bottom of the pot. I could smell the aroma of the corn popping. Ah, yes, the sweet anticipation! She had a serous knack or maybe a maternal instinct of knowing just when to remove the popcorn from the stove so that it didn’t burn. She knew exactly how much oil, salt and popcorn kernels to place in the pot. Most times it came out perfect. It was our Saturday afternoon treat along with watermelon slices. We would munch on popcorn watching episodes of Soul Train trying to figure out the scramble board and the latest dance moves.

Microwave Popcorn

Empish getting ready to use microwave

Then the 80s came and microwaves were all the rage. We slowly migrated to microwave popcorn instead of stovetop. This was a new invention and not bad tasting. Sometimes the challenge was getting the timing exact and it was different for different brands of popcorn. The worse thing in the world was the smell of burnt microwave popcorn wafting out of the kitchen. But the cool thing was there was little clean up. Microwave popcorn was self-contained so once the bag was empty just throw in the trash. There was no pots or bowls to wash afterward. And, of course, this new popcorn innovation didn’t stop us from our Saturday afternoon ritual of watching Soul Train. That continued on business as usual.

These days I don’t watch Soul Train anymore but still eat popcorn. Sometimes with my mom. Sometimes with friends. Sometimes by myself. I usually have a bag full at my local movie theater. But since COVID I have stayed home and had my popcorn while watching an audio describe movie.

Other Popcorn Options

I have had popcorn during the holidays. You know those Christmas canisters with the three sections. One for butter, one for cheddar, and one for Carmel. During my Christmas visits home, my family would enjoy one of those canisters while watching TV and sharing family stories and gossip. When my mom and I weren’t eating regular popcorn we enjoyed Cracker Jacks and Fiddle Faddle. I remember Cracker Jacks would come in these little boxes. Along with the caramel coated popcorn were peanuts and a little surprise inside. Not sure if Cracker Jacks is still around anymore. I am sure someone reading this post will let me know. As I got older I moved away from Cracker Jacks and ate Fiddle Faddle which is similar but no surprise inside. Then some years ago a friend introduce me to Poppycock. This one is the best as it is a gourmet caramel glazed popcorn with a variety of nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts and peanuts. OMG, it is to die for!

Celebrate National Popcorn Day

All of these memories and thoughts of popcorn were prompted by the fact that today, Jan. 19, is National Popcorn Day. There is a National Popcorn Board. Yeah, who knew a board like this existed? Well, they decided to create this delicious day of celebration and I’m all in. I will be popping my bag of homestyle flavored popcorn. But what about you? Do you enjoy popcorn? If so, how will you celebrate this popular snack?