Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Blind Professionals in AD

Prior to this live chat, we polled the AD Twitter Community to see which one of three pre-selected topics most interested the people… The winner… Blind professionals in the audio description business. Whether we’re talking about narration, quality control, audio editing and writing, many want to know how they can get started. During this conversation we hear about the importance of having a foundational skill set and exactly how that goes beyond audio description.

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The BCAD Live Chats can take place on a variety of platforms including Twitter and Linked In.

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* Cheryl Green
* Thomas Reid

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Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

Music begins
THOMAS: Welcome to the Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats. These are the edited recordings of the Blind-Centered Audio Description Live Chats!
CHERYL: The live is the most fun part! We get together, we start with a question, and then we invite up anybody from the audience who wants to come and chat with us, agree, disagree, shed light on something that we hadn’t thought about before, which is Nefertiti’s favorite. [electric whoosh]
NEFERTITI: I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I’m a bilingual professional voiceover artist who specializes in audio description narration! I’m also a fervent cultural access advocate and a community organizer.
CHERYL: I’m Cheryl Green, an access artist, audio describer and captioner.
THOMAS: And I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer Reid My Mind Radio, voice artist, audio description narrator, consultant, and advocate.
SCOTT B: Hi, I’m Scott Blanks. I’m a passionate advocate for the highest quality audio description in all of the arts. I’m the co-founder of the LinkedIn Audio Description Group and the Twitter AD community.
SCOTT N: Scott Nixon here. I’m an audio description consumer and advocate, hoping to be an audio description narrator very, very soon. [electronic whoosh]
THOMAS: Hey, Nef, why don’t you tell people how they could join the live recording?
NEFERTITI: That’s really simple. Just follow us on social media to keep up with important details, such as dates, times, and what platform will be using. On Twitter, I’m @NefMatOli. Cheryl?
CHERYL: I’m @WhoAmIToStopIt.
THOMAS: I’m @TSRied, you know, R to the E I D.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Scott?
SCOTT B: I’m @BlindConfucius. That’s Blind Confucius.
SCOTT N: And you can catch me on my social media, Twitter only. That’s @MisterBrokenEyes, Capital M r Capital Broken Capital E y e s.
[smartphone selection beeps]
CHERYL: Recording now!

NEFERTITI: So, everybody, hello. I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. And this is the Audio Description Twitter Space all about what? Audio description! Yes. And we are so glad you are here. We wanna welcome you tweeps, and so glad for those of you who are with us live. And if you’re listening to the replay, that’s cool too. I am honored to be your MC this evening, and I’m joined by my capable, classy, and at least in one case, curly haired co-host. That’s Cheryl, ’cause Thomas got that smooth, bald head thing going on, right, Thomas?
THOMAS: Yeah, but if I let it grow back it’s curly. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Okay. Me too! My natural hair is curly too.
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: You know what? We’re all curly hairs here. But you know what? I’m getting into self-description. So, before I get too get ahead of myself and start describing people, always remember that this is a space that prides itself in centering blind people. Audio description was made for and by blind people. By blind people for blind people. And so, our focus will always be blind people. That’s, of course, not to say that sighted folks aren’t welcome. Absolutely. We love our sighted allies and colleagues, but always the center will be blind excellence. So, with that, Thomas, would you like to reiterate our question for tonight?
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it was posed, you know, it was posed to the people. The people had options, and the people have elected [chuckles] and selected. And what they came up with is what we wanna talk about today is specific to blind professionals. And the specific question is what is the outlook for blind professionals in this audio description industry? Yeah, that was pretty much what it is if I recall correctly. So, we could start there, and then we can get into some, see where that conversation goes. So, I don’t know if we wanna- Nef, you said you don’t wanna talk too much, but you know, you can start it off if you want. Like, if you wanna mention some of the what you think the outlook for blind professionals in this industry is and we go from there.) And since we’re gonna use our words to end our statements, I’m gonna take it back because I like the throwbacks. So, I’m gonna take it back to Audi 5000. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Huh. What’s that?!
THOMAS: One of my favorites. Oh, yeah, you a young’un. You don’t remember the old slang. That’s the old slang. Audi 5000!
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
SCOTT B: I remember it.
THOMAS: So, what do you think about the, or if anyone else wants to jump in, yeah, what do you think about in terms of the outlook for blind professionals in this industry? Let’s talk about it.
NEFERTITI: Sure. I’ll be happy to get us started. I’ll keep it nice and short. I think that it is bright. There’s definitely work that needs to be done as far as folks already in this space, whether they be established narrators or writers making room for blind professionals in that we are capable, we do have skill sets, we have lots to contribute, and who better than us to do this for us? So, there are some folks who still need to sort of come around to that and be more open to that. But I do think that there are people, and especially companies, a couple of companies, who are very forward thinking in that regard and are open to and making strides towards allowing blind professionals to enter this space and be successful in this space. We need more allies, and we need more opportunities, to be sure. And I think that’s a really big part as to why we’ve started these Spaces, so that we can come together and speak truth, right? The truth is that there are blind professionals in this space, but there needs to continue to have room being made for us. So, yes! The outlook is bright, but we need to fight. There you go. That’s the logo.
THOMAS: MC to the fullest right there. You actually rhymin’.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
THOMAS: Yeah, nice. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Droppin’ bars, man. [laughs]
THOMAS: Very nice. Very nice.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Cheryl? Do you have anything to share?
CHERYL: I do wanna hear folks in this group, especially blind and low vision people here in this group talk about what you already raised, Nefertiti. Yeah.
THOMAS: Very cool.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
CHERYL: Audi 6000! [laughs]
THOMAS: Oh, my gosh! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh my gosh! Listen. That might be the, “I’m out, I’m done, I’m complete” phrase of the night. I did not say it. I’m sorry. I’m not following my own rules.
THOMAS: Yeah. It’s really fine. Cheryl just changed it ’cause it’s 5000. I don’t think Audi made a 6000, but whatever. [laughs]
CHERYL: Well, but, so whoever goes next can close with Audio 7000.
NEFERTITI: I’ll be 7000. [giggles]
THOMAS: Oh, okay. We’re gonna, let’s see where we end. That’ll be the thing. What number will we end on tonight? [laughs]
NEFERTITI: There you go! [chuckles]
THOMAS: You know, at some point, though, I wanna come back around. Not yet, but ’cause Nef, you mentioned we need more allies.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: And I wanna talk about what do allies really look like? What should we expect from allies? What do we wanna see from allies? So. But for now, let’s hear from the people. We got anybody who wants to speak?
SCOTT B: My experience with audio description has until recently been as a fan, as a consumer, and only in the past few months has it sort of developed into a little bit more of the getting to know the professional side. The AD field sort of breaks down into a few different things. We’ve got, we talked about this last time too. You’ve got these different phases, right? You’ve got writing, you’ve got the narration, you’ve got the mixing, QC, the recording. And I only know about a couple of those relatively in depth. And what it seems to me is looking at each of those phases, each of those pieces on its own is one way that we might sort of start feeling like we can get our arms around this thing that might otherwise feel kind of big.
The question of allies is important too, but for example, the work that someone does to handle the QC phase of audio description, it seems like that work is often conducted in various online platforms. And those are the kind of the power behind the QC is a lot of online platforms, some of which are navigable and accessible and a number of which are not. So, unfortunately, we’re dealing with much the same thing that many industries are where we have inaccessible tools. And so, to me, to the question of allyship, what it looks like to me is we need allies in positions of power who can have influence to say to developers, “This matters to us that blind people be able to exist in this profession. And in order to do that, we need to develop these tools in a way that allows screen reading technology, magnification, Braille displays, whatever technology you might be using to interact with and move through those workflows without being blocked.” I’m done speaking. Audio 5000. I’m staying old-school because I remember it. I remember it, Thomas!
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Thank you, Scott. Thank you. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Excellent points. Thank you. And how about you, Scott N.? Would you like to speak?
SCOTT N: Certainly! It’s…. I see the audio description space for blind professionals at the moment kind of like a cookie, okay? You’ve got all the different ingredients that have to come in to make the perfect cookie. You’ve got your base, you’ve got your flour, your sugar, your chocolate chips if that’s your jam, whatever. And all these things need to come together to make the perfect recipe. And at the moment, we don’t have all the ingredients quite the way we wanted to have, particularly in regards to scripting, making sure that scripts are accessible to people, making sure that if a blind professional wishes to do some editing and stuff like that, making sure that the editing software is all accessible. Quality control, once again, is a huge thing, making sure that that is a streamlined process, like Scott Blanks said, on platforms that are fully accessible to people. And, you know, with the, it’s really just a top to bottom thing. And I’m really, really encouraged at the moment. I’m working with, I’m in preliminary stages of working with one of the big audio description providers possibly to set up a branch of their organization here in Australia because there is a desperate need for audio description here in Aus. And we’re currently working on it, and I’m gonna make sure that blind professionals are fully centered and fully catered for and fully looked after in this space when we open the branch here in Australia because-big announcement, people-duh duh duh duh duh duh! I am going to become an audio describer.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: Oh. Oh, yes. Model-T Ford. I go really old-school.
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
THOMAS: Well, I think you can get a [imitates air horn blasting].
NEFERTITI: Heck, yeah!
CHERYL and NEFERTITI: [imitate air horn]
THOMAS: Yeah. For your entry into audio description. That’s awesome.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
SCOTT N: Thank you.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. Cool. I wanna hear more on that as it progresses.
SCOTT N: Oh, absolutely. I’m gonna be doing a sort of diary thing through the community with Scott and Nef’s permission, and I’ll be letting people know how the journey goes as it goes.
THOMAS: Very good.
NEFERTITI: Excellent! I’m sure there are plenty of people who will love to be on that journey with you.
SCOTT N: [chuckles] Thank you.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Okay. Well, Thomas, we haven’t heard from you yet.
THOMAS: Well, I’m just really gonna echo everything all of y’all are saying, but also, I wanna throw in that, you know, we mentioned the accessibility to all of these things, a lot of software. And it also, it should be noted that just like in other industries, when accessibility, when access is an issue, there’s accommodations. And there are lots of available accommodations in this space, but not everyone considers them. Not everyone employs them. And so, that’s a part of, again, that whole allyship, right? So, making, you know, yeah. Okay. “Currently, this is the process that we use.” “All right. Well, this process that you’re using is a roadblock. There’s a roadblock in this in the way for blind folks to get involved in here.” “Okay. Well, how can we work with that,” right? That’s what we need to hear. And like you said, Nef, there are some people in some companies who follow that, and that, to me, that makes them true allies. Absolutely. Because, they want us in the mix, and we wanna be in the mix, so.
NEFERTITI: Thomas, I’ll say that, yeah, there are companies and entities who have a vested interest and a proven record of giving blind people opportunities. But there are also those who, like in the example you posed, “Well, how can we make this happen?” Really, what we hear is, or what I have heard, I’ll speak from personal experience, “Oh, we just don’t have the necessary software or the know-how to change our set-up to make it accessible for you, but we’re working on it. We’re working on it.” And then you never hear from these companies or these entities, these people again. When you check in, they’re still working on it. It’s a perpetual working on it when it’s really quite simple, you know. Send us a script in Word format or Excel format.
THOMAS: Right.
NEFERTITI: We don’t need any specialized software beyond Word in a lot of these cases. But they are, they’re resistant. It’s one of those mentalities of, “This is how we’ve always done it, so this is how we’re gonna continue to do it. And it’s nice that you blind folk wanna come in and do this, but, you know, we’re resistant to change.” And that can definitely be a roadblock for our success as blind people who really don’t need much in this space to have room made for us.
THOMAS: Absolutely not.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely not. And I beat around the bush, but I feel like I don’t think there’s anything wrong with naming names, especially when they’re positive. I won’t necessarily name the name, I’m not gonna ask you who that company is or anything like that. But I do wanna name the names of folks who are being allies, folks who, because I think it’s important for anyone here or anyone listening later on, if you’re looking for opportunities, you should know where to go. It’s not something that I wanna keep a secret. And I think most people who are looking for that information, it’s pretty easy to find it. So, the number one, in terms of the big industry that I’m gonna shout out is IDC. I’m gonna shout out Eric Wickstrom and IDC because-
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn]
SCOTT N: [sings] Hallelujah!
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
THOMAS: Because right now, I mean, for real, when people ask me, “Okay, what’s the outlook? What are the opportunities?” You know, there’s a lot of talk about QC and certification and pursuing a career or opportunity, whatever sort of opportunity. It may not, you know, it could be a career. Absolutely, it could be. It takes a lot, but what I tell folks is, “Yeah, contact Eric Wickstrom.” Because number one, he’s asking you to contact him. He’s looking for that, right? He wants to hear that. So, he’s the one who grew their particular, their roster. They have a roster of probably like over 15 blind narrators that they use. They use folks, blind folks, QC.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Limited opportunity. So, there’s a lotta talk about certification for QC “jobs,” but I don’t know where you gon go. [laughs] I really, I really don’t. I’m really not sure. I will also shout out DVW because they also give opportunities.
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn]
THOMAS: Go ahead! Yeah. Is there a Canadian version of that? [imitates air horn] Eh?
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: Yes!!!
SCOTT N: [imitates Canadian accent] Sorry, they don’t have one, eh?
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Yeah, Yeah.
NEFERTITI: I love that, though! [imitates air horn] Eh? [giggles]
THOMAS: Yeah, there you go. They get that one. That’s right. Shout out to Canada, because I mean, they also hire blind narrators. They also hire blind QC folks. So, I think that’s all of them.
NEFERTITI: Yes. And DVW also has an advisory council made up of very accomplished blind people. And it’s a consistent meeting and always tapping into the community: “What do you think about this? What are your thoughts on that? Are you willing to join us for this focus group or that consulting opportunity?” So, they are the real deal as well.
SCOTT N: And Nef, you might be hearing my name a little bit more in those consulting meetings, because they’re the people I’m gonna be working with to branch out into Australia, so.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Excellent! I had a feeling it might be DVW, but of course, you know, didn’t wanna jump the gun. But I’m so happy to hear that. And I 100% agree with you, Thomas. I think that we need to absolutely call people out on their BS, but also, just as hard, if not harder, shout out the positives and the people who are putting their money where their mouth is. Literally, because this is all paid, everybody. This is not volunteer, as beautiful as volunteering is. These are legitimate jobs where your skill set is put to the test, and you are being paid, you know, that money you use to eat, that you need to eat, that you need to put that roof over your head. This is happening. So, definitely International Digital Center, Descriptive Video Works. Do we have any others?
THOMAS: Now, let me, so, let me just say it like this, right? I’m judging this based on numbers, based on people, not person.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Because I think there are folks who might think they should be included because they have a person on their roster or a person they work with. I don’t necessarily agree with that because one isn’t, one is about that one person, and that’s fine. That’s nice. That’s great. But if you’re really going to be about this, right, meaning you’re supporting blind professionals, you have to make that a plural, right? So, there has to be more than one. And so, those are the ones that I can definitely. There are some others maybe. I’m not sure of their numbers, but I can speak to these two specifically.
CHERYL: Thomas, do you wanna name any particular cars?
THOMAS: Oh. Oh, yes. Audi 5000.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
CHERYL: Oh, my god. Okay. I wanna jump in about narrative because…and going back to the training. There seems to be, in some audio description training-I have not taken all, so I don’t know how they all work-but I do see this overarching story of, “Hello, sighted people. We will train you to help the blind.” And then there’s a lotta statistics about like, vision loss and how many people in this country have this and that. And this is the narrative, at least that I was trained on is, you get to earn money helping this community that needs your help. And when I hear Thomas Reid talk about the origins of audio description, it is the same as what Nefertiti said in opening today’s Space, which is this is a practice, a line of work that was created by and for the blind community. And so, when you have the companies that are like, “Sorry, this, you know, our scripting software, we haven’t made it accessible yet. We still have to sort that out,” you can sit and talk about accessibility all day long. We all know if that software exists in one place, it could exist in all the places. So, that is not the barrier. Getting the technology is not the barrier. I think it comes from attitude and this mistaken narrative that the non-blind people are here to help and serve. And so, I want to hear more people in the community accepting the narrative of audio description as by and for and be an ally in that way of helping to share that narrative because that is part of the foundation that the other changes will be built on. [sighs] I had a Dodge Grand Caravan SE.
THOMAS: [laughs]
CHERYL: That is the only car I’ve ever had. So, I’m gonna wrap up with that fun fact.
NEFERTITI: I love it!
CHERYL: Yes, it’s a minivan!
NEFERTITI: I love it. We can all fit. That’s great. This is Nefertiti. And Cheryl, I could not agree more. Audio description as an art form, as a science, as a way for folks to keep up with their favorite shows when they have a migraine or they’re driving or doing dishes, as a means to learn a language better, as a means to understand the emotional context of what’s going on maybe a little better. I mean, I’ve heard all sorts of ways that audio description is used and will hopefully continue to be used. But it’s never been thought of, or at least by me, as a charity. It’s not a charity. I hear you, like what you were saying about this is to help. You know, this is to serve. And that’s great. But can’t that be said about everything that we do for one another? And audio description is not…it’s not, you know, it’s not the Lord’s work, shall we say.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: It’s not a charity. And I agree with you 100%. The narrative definitely needs to shift. And I think through conversations like this, it will shift into audio description is an artform, a science. And I know I’m repeating myself, but it bears repeating. It is not a charity.
SCOTT N: Absolutely, Nef. Scott Nixon, if I could just add.
NEFERTITI: Please.
SCOTT N: With regards to allyship, explaining that to people and showing them that audio description is serious business. I was talking to someone a couple days ago, and I brought up audio description. They asked me what it was, so I gave them a brief description. And they just stood there and went, “Aw! That’s cute!” And I’m like, “No, it’s not cute. It’s vital. It’s important. It’s how I engage in fandom. It’s how I talk to my friends, you know, the way I talk to my friends and engage with my community, stuff like that. It’s not cute. It’s what we need.” And being able to explain that to people and show them that it is such a vital service, I think, is the really important thing that we need to keep pushing towards as time goes on. Michael Keaton’s Batmobile.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Love it! Love it. My out is gonna have to be no car. No car. That’s my, ’cause I don’t drive, obviously. I know how to, believe it or not, but I don’t. So, yes, thank you, Scott. I think that’s absolutely essential. Yeah.
THOMAS: Yeah. I just wanted to mention, to Cheryl’s point that I think was really fantastic, like, we really do need to change the narrative. Like, if you look just within the community specifically, it’s us in the community who do a lot of harm sometimes in the way we talk about audio description. We do. I’m saying “we.” I don’t necessarily do that, but I’m just talking about in terms of the community. We do speak about it in a charitable sense because we show so much extra gratitude around it.
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh.
THOMAS: And I think you’re absolutely right, Cheryl. If we started to just refer to it as in a way that was like, acknowledge that foundation, right, so that history as well as the current, what’s happening right now. I’m trying to see a renaissance happening right now. You know what I’m saying? Like a blind renaissance within audio description of folks getting involved. But if we talked about that more and we expected it, I think that would make a really big difference. I don’t know what it is. You know, I’m thinking of maybe we should throw out this hashtag, but I really do think it’s like ADFUBU. I don’t kinda wanna bite FUBU because that was used, a whole clothing line and where that comes from. But it’s for us by us, right? And that’s sort of how we need to talk about this. I really do like that because yeah, that shows the support, that shows what we’re thinking about, that shows support within the community, which we don’t necessarily always see. I think that’s another piece of this whole conversation of where we go from here. Because the companies that we mentioned, well, there’s a bunch of other companies. What if-what if-the community actually got together and was like, “Hey, let’s write to these other companies and say, ‘Yeah, we want more blind narrators. We want more blind QC. We want that’.”
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: What would that do?
NEFERTITI: And not just the providers, but the folks who issue the contracts to these providers.
THOMAS: Yes!
NEFERTITI: The HBOs, the Amazons.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Netflix is at the forefront of all of this. But even Netflix continue to reinforce that they’re doing a great job. But even, again, even Netflix hires the less-than-stellar companies, less-than-stellar in the audio description that is produced, but also in hiring blind people as part of the workflow, even QC. And I am a big believer in quality control being done by blind people.
SCOTT N: Mm!
NEFERTITI: Big into that. QC folks or QA: quality control, quality assurance. This is the step of the process that comes in after a script is written and a blind person, in my perfect world of audio description structure, would come in and make absolutely sure that everything that’s written makes sense to them in addition to choosing the proper wordage and all that stuff. But QC, absolutely essential that it be done by a blind person or blind people, and a lot of these companies don’t even have that. It really has devolved. The more audio description has become part of the general, “Oh, there’s money to be made here.” It’s cheap and fast, or good but fast, so not cheap. You know, we all know that whole you have to pick two out of the three, right? You either want it cheap or fast or good. And no matter what combination you do of those three options, something’s gonna be left out. It’s inevitable. So, yeah, advocating to the big boys, the big guns that contract out to these companies, letting them know en masse we are out here, and we don’t like this. Or we love this, we want more of it, and we wanna be a part of it. I think that would be a huge sea change for this community and would bring about employment and involvement and all sorts of good things. Nefertiti…red Lamborghini.
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT B: Oh, look at you.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: Mmhmm. Fancy! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, baby! [laughs]
So, anybody is welcome to come up, and let us know where you are in this process of AD. If you’re a blind professional trying to get into this field or are already in it, be you blind or sighted, what your ideas are insofar as improving the AD workflow to be more inviting to blind professionals, allyship. We’ve touched base on narrative and sort of the change we wanna see in the community. ‘Cause I, man, Thomas, that is the dream, right? That we come together en masse…
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: …for something and develop communication strategies for letting our collective voice be heard and make a difference that way and make things better.
THOMAS: Absolutely. And we don’t really have roadblocks for that. There’s no real access issues that are keeping us from doing that. The only thing that’s keeping us from doing that is us.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
SCOTT N: And also the thing is, yes, on our end, we have got the drive and the capability and the accessibility to be able to do that. But at the other side of things, you come up against these huge conglomerate companies that just don’t wanna listen or just wanna give you lip service. And in this case, I will call out a substandard system. The Paramount+ streaming service are absolutely 100% hopeless at dealing with any sort of request, concern, or complaint from a vision impaired audience member. I have sent them many emails over the past few months complaining about their service, everything from quality control to the standard of the app and so on and so forth. And all I get in return is these pro-forma emails, “We listen to your concerns,” yadda, yadda, yadda. And the most action I’ve ever had from them is them writing back to me and asking me to catalog the problems and send them to them, in other words, doing their job for them. So, I just went [chuckles] uh…no. And let’s see. Flintstones pedal car.
THOMAS: But you see, Scott, you did the thing that you can do. After you did that, it was out of your control, right?
SCOTT N: Yeah.
THOMAS: And so, we can’t control what the response is gonna be. But I can tell you that if there’s enough complaint, enough action there, it’ll move it. It will move it. So, if it was more than you writing to Paramount, if there’s a bunch of people who are doing that and/or making it public. Make it public. You know, @ them right there on Twitter or whatever the case may be. Folks doing that, yeah, they will change their tune. They will change their tune.
SCOTT N: Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I did, Thomas. Every time I come up against these roadblocks from Paramount+ or content isn’t passed through to the Australian audience and is readily available to a US or Canadian audience, I always make mention of it on their website and personally on my Twitter feed and with the simple, but I think quite effective hashtag, #ParamountDoesntCare. Because at the moment, they don’t care about their blind audience.
THOMAS: Well, no, they don’t care about you right now! I don’t mean that in a bad way. But it’s you, right? Not personally you. Meaning it’s just one person. And what I’m saying is that what you did is absolutely what you should be doing and what more of us should be doing. I’m just trying to say that that result should not stop anyone. And I’m not saying it’s stopping you because it’s not stopping you, right?
SCOTT N: Aw, no.
THOMAS: Right. It’s making you go harder. We need other people to do the same. And so, when we have the conversation about us taking action, yeah, the conversation is about us taking action specifically, not what the end result is going to be. We don’t know what the end result is gonna be, but we know that if we take a lot of action, right, isn’t that like sort of a, isn’t there some sort of Einstein theory about this, you know? Like the amount of pressure you put or whatever the hell it is, you know?
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: But y’all know what I’m talking about, right? So, if we continue to put pressure, or if we put pressure-I don’t wanna say continue-but if we, we, the community, lots of us put pressure, We’re gonna see a response. We’re gonna see a response that is in our benefit.
SCOTT B: They need those numbers, yeah.
THOMAS: I know that for a fact. I know that.
SCOTT B: They need it in big numbers, and that’s exactly right, though.
THOMAS: They need it [unclear]. Yes.
SCOTT B: They need it at a scale that’s going to matter to them, which means they get enough of those tweets-sorry, this is Scott B.-enough of those emails, and they will, their customer service people will start to notice it, and it will be taking up more of their time. That’ll get pushed up, and I think that we’ll see it may be incremental, and may take longer than we want it to, but it is. We see this in so many aspects of advocating for something, whether it’s related to blindness or not.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
SCOTT B: And it’s, it is true here, just as it is in many of those other things. Scott B. Big Wheel. I’m done.
THOMAS: Ha!
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Big Wheel, yes! [laughs] Aw, man.
NEFERTITI: Yes. Now, I just check. Do we have anyone from the audience who wishes to speak?
THOMAS: I want a Big Wheel again.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
SCOTT B: We did get a reply in the chat from Bruce Cameron, who says, “Good evening. First time listening in. I’m a sign language interpreter and always wanting to learn.” So, welcome, Bruce.
NEFERTITI: Welcome, Rebecca!
REBECCA: I am loving that you guys are talking all about quality control, because that is what I am trying to get into in this industry. And I am about to do my second training course with Colleen of Audio Description Training Retreats, and I just wanna say that it’s hard getting into this field! It’s been a challenge. And I wish that it was easier.
THOMAS: Rebecca, this is Thomas. Hello, first of all.
REBECCA: Hi.
THOMAS: Nice to meet you. What was your first course? You said this is your second. What was your first?
REBECCA: Yeah, my first course was with someone named Bonnie. Yeah.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay. And so, were these courses specific to quality control?
REBECCA: No.
THOMAS: Or were these general- Okay.
REBECCA: They’re audio description. I would love to take a quality control course for audio description.
THOMAS: Okay. So, you’re a consumer?
REBECCA: Yes. Trying to get into quality control.
THOMAS: Okay. So, you’re already quality controlling, I’m assuming.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: Yes. Tell me about what you’re doing right now when you watch content with audio description. How do you sort of pick things out, identify issues, or whatever?
REBECCA: I really, I’m an author, so I’m used to critiquing written word. And I really listen to the script, and I also listen to the amount of audio description that is in a TV show or movie. I recently watched a show on Disney+. And it was one of those shows that has 12, like, they’re two episodes in one, so each was like 12 minutes. And the first 12-minute segment had two lines of audio description. Two. And I counted about 20 different spots there that could have had it that needed it.
THOMAS: Hmm. Okay. And so, you’re a author. You’re a writer.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: You already are doing audio quality control on your own in a way, because that’s what you’re doing. ‘Cause you’re interested in it.
REBECCA: Yes! Yes.
THOMAS: But what do you think someone can teach you that you probably don’t know already?
REBECCA: Well, I recently took a quality control test.
THOMAS: Uh-huh.
REBECCA: And from one of the companies that you guys were talking about.
THOMAS: Okay.
REBECCA: And…I did not pass.
THOMAS: Okay. Do you recall the issues that were-
REBECCA: Yes. They said that I needed to be more detailed.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: And I went into this kinda knowing what I was doing, and I caught most of the mistakes. But I didn’t know to listen for some stuff because I wasn’t told. Like, I didn’t know that I need to really pay attention to the beginning credits. I didn’t know that the names in the beginning credits were said wrong. Because when I watch a film or a TV show….
THOMAS: You don’t pay attention to credits.
REBECCA: I did not know that I was supposed to be listening for the credits. Like, no one told me. And then when I did another, they sent me another test. But this one was, it was a movie trailer. And it was without the recorded, you know, without the narration. And they sent me the script, and they wanted me to just see what stood out to me. So, I gave them notes, and they never said anything about….
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: They never said anything about it. And then they emailed me and said that I needed to be more detailed and that I needed more training. So, yeah.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: So, that’s…. Yeah. So, it was just really confusing because I wasn’t really told what I was, like, I mean, I knew what to do, but I didn’t in a way.
THOMAS: I got you. I totally understand. So, it sounds like what you’re looking for from the training is very, very specific to QC.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: And so, yeah, and I don’t know if there are any QC trainings that exist, but-
REBECCA: There isn’t.
THOMAS: Okay. So, that’s why I’m, yeah. So, I would be sort of reluctant. And I’m not trying to dissuade you from taking any sort of training, but if your real goal is that. But what I would, I wanna go back to Nefertiti or anyone else who sort of. Scott, I know you do QC as well. What could you say about that?
SCOTT N: [sighs] It’s a very sticky wicket. Sorry, I’m going all Australian on you again. It’s a very difficult thing. Rebecca, I’m very sorry that the people giving you these scripts didn’t properly or correctly explain to you what they wanted or were expecting and then didn’t give you the feedback before failing you. really giving you the scope of what they wanted is a really sucky way to do things.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT N: Yeah. Because-
REBECCA: Yeah, they gave me notes on the first part. Sorry.
SCOTT B: Mm. No, go ahead.
REBECCA: I did get notes on the first part, the first part of the QC test, just not the second. And I’d never, up until I did this test, I’d never seen an audio description script.
SCOTT N: Right.
REBECCA: This was my first time ever seeing an audio description script! And then the template that they sent me to write my notes in wasn’t accessible. So-
SCOTT N: Ugh.
REBECCA: [chuckles] Yeah. So, it was in a table in Word, which is not accessible when you’re using a screen reader. You don’t know where you are on the page. [laughs]
SCOTT N: Yeah.
REBECCA: So, I had to get them, [laughs] so, I had to get them to send me it again in a different format that I could actually do.
SCOTT N: Mm. Yeah. You see, this is a thing. And this actually warrens us back just a little bit in the conversation to something Thomas was saying. And with all due respect to Thomas, one of the kings in the biz, not everyone is as computer literate or as fluent in certain programs like Word or Excel that as other folk.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT N: So, a little bit of extra training in those areas and being able to make the people applying for these training courses comfortable enough to be able to put their hand up and say, “Yo, I don’t exactly know 100% what I’m doing here. Can I get a little bit of extra support?”
REBECCA: Yeah!
SCOTT N: You know, making people comfortable to be able to come in at, for lack of a better term, Level 1 and giving them a base level, which is actually, “Okay. Do you know this? Do you know this? Do you know this? It’s okay if you don’t. We will show you. We will give you a little extra time. We can maybe set up a training module or something like that to give you that little bit of extra support to give you.” ‘Cause really, one of the biggest discouragement-and I personally, I don’t mean to steal your thunder here, Rebecca, at all-but one of the big things I have, one of my concerns coming into the audio description space is am I actually going to be able to do it and from a technical point of view? And it is a really big source of anxiety for me, and it sometimes makes me think maybe I shouldn’t, you know? But then I keep, just keep pushing myself. But yeah.
THOMAS: So, Scott-
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti. Oh. May I just quickly say? I think the two of you, Rebecca and Scott N., are talking about something very real in the blindness community in general.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: As somebody who has quite an extensive background in assistive technology, teaching it to folks, I spent years teaching people who came from all walks of life, whether they be congenitally blind or went blind later in life. And the aptitude in technology varies so much that yeah, maybe a table in a Word document is something seemingly insurmountable for someone. And another person might come in and be like, “Oh no, this is a breeze. I got this.”
REBECCA: Yeah, yeah!
NEFERTITI: “This is no problem at all.” So, I happen to know-and I don’t think I’m at liberty to name names yet-but I know that there is a company who is diligent-blah, excuse me-diligently working on creating an area for QC for blind people, and training is definitely part of the getting ready for employment with this company. Because not only is it they’re gonna send you scripts in Word and Excel, and you need to know those, but you also need to know the platforms you’ll be using for, say, QC for Netflix. It’s different from Amazon. It’s different from Disney.
REBECCA: Yeah!
NEFERTITI: So, all of these things require some type of training, not necessarily hand-holding. So, I do wanna make that clear to people. You do need to come into this with some basic knowledge of your screen reading technology, of your magnification software. Whatever your access technology needs are, you do need to have that base. So, if that’s something you’re a little wobbly on, work on it because it’s only going to benefit you.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: These companies are there to train you on audio description and QC, narration, whatever it is. They’re not necessarily there to teach you your technology. That is up to you. That is up to you.
SCOTT N: Mm.
THOMAS: Nef, that was exactly what I wanted to point out. And so, to get back, and again, I’m just using your case, Rebecca, to help others.
REBECCA: Yes.
THOMAS: But at some point we need to sort of reflect and say, okay, what is the training that I can do right now that is going to help me in the long run, right? And so, if your intention is to do QC, okay. Then, now maybe, maybe-and I’m not saying this directly at you-but maybe it is, “Okay, let me get more familiar with Word. Let me get more familiar with my screen. Let me get more familiar with the tools that I’m going to need to be really comfortable in order to do whatever it is in the thing.” Because when I’m approached by folks who wanna know, in terms of doing narration, I tell them this exact same thing, like, “Look. You’re going to get, you might get things in Excel.”
REBECCA: Yes!
THOMAS: “So, you should be very comfortable in Excel. And if you’re not comfortable in Excel, well, then you should be comfortable in taking, in exporting from Excel to a format that you’re comfortable with.”
REBECCA: Right.
THOMAS: Because every time that we ask for-not that it’s wrong-but every time that we ask for some accommodation, even if the accommodation is not a burden, we know that that is looked upon as a possible nother reason to not utilize us.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: And we do not want to give these folks any more ammunition!
REBECCA: No!
SCOTT B: Right.
REBECCA: No.
SCOTT B: Scott B. real quick. So, I, like Nefertiti, I used to be an access technology specialist trainer. And I equate this to I used to teach a bunch of people going into training at Social Security and IRS here in the States, two federal government agencies, right? They had very in-depth training programs that taught people about how to be customer service reps or claims reps or whatever the jobs were. That stuff was part of the job, but people had to come in with a certain amount of aptitude in the basic office applications that they were using. But the challenge with audio description right now is we don’t have that yet, but it is coming, where there will be more sound and built out training programs that people can take part in.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT B: And the good news, too, is that there are resources if you need support on, if anybody needs support on, let’s say, just operating in Windows or the Mac or using office productivity tools. There are a lot of resources out there, both online, in your local area, and even textbooks and things like that, that can help give you that stronger baseline for entering into this or any other industry, really.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT B: I’m done speaking.
THOMAS: I think this is a great place to end because it puts the power back in our side of the court, right?
SCOTT N: Mm.
THOMAS: We do have power, but we have to make sure that when we, you know, when we walk into this building, that we’re ready, that we’re equipped.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
THOMAS: So, do what you can right now. Don’t necessarily run out there and sign up for this and for that. Think about all the things that you can do. I always tell folks, “Hey, you can start doing audio description right now.” You can take an existing film or a show, whatever it is that you like and note the audio description. This is for folks who wanna do narration. And then go record it on your own, right? Just record those same lines. It doesn’t even matter what you record. It really doesn’t. Are you comfortable recording? Are you comfortable speaking those lines? How do you think it sounds when you compare it to what the other person did, right? How did that feel to record it? You can do all of this stuff. You can get yourself prepared. Because the worst thing to happen is when you get the opportunity and you’re not really prepared for it.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
THOMAS: That sucks. That sucks. It’s a awful feeling. So, do all of those things, you know? Do all of those things, and then you go for it. Then you go for it.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. I wanna tell folks that Thomas has been my mentor in all of this. This is Nefertiti speaking. And he gave me that same advice when I was exploring, is this something that I want to dedicate myself to? Do I have the skill set necessary? And one of the things he told me was to get very comfortable with, my DAWs, the digital audio workstation, which for me as somebody who is not technical at all, if it were up to me, I’d do the writing, the QCing, I’d be the voice, and that would be that. But as a voice actor now with a little home studio and the like, it’s so much more than that, you know. It’s learning that digital audio workstation so that I can record myself, so that I can make myself sound good enough for auditions or a studio quality recording that I’m sending in for these narrations, right? Same for QC, as an example of what we were talking about, you have to make sure that not only do you know the mechanics of writing and the like, but also that you know audio description. But that you literally know your screen reader well enough or your technology well enough to get in there and be able to edit those scripts, make notations, etc.
So, there is definitely some preparation that goes into this beyond just sort of honing up on the skills of what you ultimately want to do. There is some prep work that needs to go into it, and I agree with Thomas 100%. When you get that audition, when you get that role or that opportunity to QC or to write a script, you gotta be ready. ‘Cause like it or not, we all represent one another, and again, we don’t need to give these folks any more ammunition. They try it with one of us and we flub it, like it or not, they’ll think that we will all flub it. So, if that’s a little pressure on folks, I’m sorry. That’s just the reality of things. I think we all walking in this space of disability know that we are out there being ambassadors, like it or not, advocates, like it or not. And so, yeah, my advice, and I guess in closing for me-everybody will have a chance to close out too if you’d like-is get ready so, you know…. I guess stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready kinda thing, right?
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah.
NEFERTITI: Hone your skills and make sure you’re on top of your game, and then go for it. Rolls Royce. [laughs]
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: I’m a bougie.
THOMAS: Apparently!
SCOTT N and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: I said I’m a bougie bitch, okay? Okay. [laughs] Anyone else have anything to say before I say our little closing?
SCOTT N: I just thought with all the Spaces we do within the community just at the very end as we’re all signing off and so forth, we all just mention one audio described title that we have watched this week or are planning to watch this week just as a way of promoting the business and just showing that we’re all engaged in the community. So, just before I throw mine in there, I just wanna thank Thomas and Nef there for the advice about building up the skill sets and getting the fundamentals down before you go headlong into it. It has given me a fair bit to think about, and it’s something that I am going to have to go and assess and make sure that I do have everything sorted out before I take my next step. And that’s on me. That’s something that I have to do. But I really wanna thank both of you for reminding me of that. And just a big thanks for Rebecca for putting her hand up. She was absolutely . And thanks to everyone for coming today. I am off to watch the second half of this season of Cobra Kai on Netflix.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: So, that’s me, guys. And let’s send off [trills lips like a big raspberry].
SCOTT B: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: With a sound effect and everything! Thank you, Scott N. Thank you so much. I love this prompt. Anybody wanna say something they’re watching with audio description or maybe working on if they’re willing to say.
SCOTT B: If you’re allowed. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, we know there’s a lot of NDAs and such.
THOMAS: [chuckles] Yeah, definitely not saying what I’m working on. I’m actually not even watching anything this week, but I do wanna shout out, Year of the Tiger by Alice Wong.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!!!
THOMAS: Y’all need to get that.
SCOTT B: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Go ahead and get that book. Yeah, I’m reading that on Audible right now. Although-
SCOTT B: Is she reading it, Thomas?
NEFERTITI: Is she reading it? Yeah.
THOMAS: No, no, no.
SCOTT B: Okay. I wasn’t sure.
THOMAS: Oh, I did start watching, it’s a old thing. I’m actually going back to like, I’m looking for series that I can get into. So, I’m watching Silicon Valley on HBO Max, I think it is.
SCOTT B: Yes.
THOMAS: That series. And I missed it when it first came out ’cause it was not described. So, it’s like, oh, I’m gonna go back and catch all of these things that I missed back maybe ten years ago now [laughs] that they came out.
SCOTT B: Right.
THOMAS: So, I’m watching that. It’s kinda funny.
NEFERTITI: Funny you should say that, Thomas, because Scott and I are currently working on something which was not described when it was first released back when was it, Scott, 2010?
SCOTT B: Yeah, that’s when it started.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. It’s a show called Tremé.
THOMAS: Oh! On HBO!
SCOTT B: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: On HBO with one of our favorite writers.
THOMAS: Oh, excellent, ’cause I wanted to watch that. Oh, I can’t wait.
NEFERTITI: He wrote The Wire, one of my all-time favorite shows.
THOMAS: Yes! Yes!
NEFERTITI: What is it, David Simon?
SCOTT B: Yeah, that’s the one.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
SCOTT B: It’s got, you’ll recognize some of the voices. You’ve got, like Clark Peters, who was in The Wire, a couple of other people. Yeah, and it’s about New Orleans, post-Katrina.
THOMAS: Yes.
SCOTT B: All of the music and the beauty and the sadness and the rebuilding. And it is a beautiful show. We’re only through the first season. But I also have to give a shoutout to the description, though we can’t say who it is because we don’t know. There is no attribution on HBO, which was a little bit of a surprise. Most of the HBO content I’ve encountered there is, there has been attribution, but not this one. The narration is fabulous. And the script is really a top-notch script.
THOMAS: Really? And there’s no attribution? Huh.
SCOTT B: None. None at all.
NEFERTITI: No.
SCOTT B: I know. You would expect [laughs] something else.
NEFERTITI: We think, you know? But we don’t wanna say incorrectly.
THOMAS: Okay. Do you know who the narrator is?
NEFERTITI: No. No.
SCOTT B: No. We haven’t determined that either.
NEFERTITI: We think that we know the company. We’re not sure.
THOMAS: POC? POC?
SCOTT B: I don’t think so.
THOMAS: Agh! All right. Got a problem! [laughs] Okay. Go ahead.
NEFERTITI: No, no.
SCOTT B: Yeah, I agree with you. I think it’s a problem on this one. I mean, New Orleans is a diverse city, so you’ve got folks all over the place there. But yeah, the cast-
THOMAS: The cast, yeah.
SCOTT B: -being predominantly people of color.
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT B: I don’t, you know, we could be wrong. That’s the other thing, too, is there’s really no way of knowing. First impressions? I don’t think that the narrator is a person of color. But again, how could we know?
THOMAS: Okay. Right, right, right, right, right.
SCOTT B: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: Interesting. Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s being described, so.
NEFERTITI: Yes. And well, which is of the utmost importance. Cheryl, anything to share?
CHERYL: Well, sure. Nefertiti, you and Thomas and I have been working on audio description in various roles for three films for Superfest International Disabilities Film Festival.
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: Whoo!
CHERYL: So, we have been working on three titles for that. Tickets went on sale today. They are sliding scale all the way down to zero for anybody who wants to attend but doesn’t have the funds. But they are a non-profit, so if you’ve got the funds, please pay for a ticket if you want to. SuperfestFilm.com. All of the films have captions and audio description, and we are super excited about the three that we worked on.
THOMAS: If you’re not going to Superfest, you need to do something about your life. Okay?
CHERYL: Thank you. [laughs]
SCOTT N: [laughs]
THOMAS: If you’re not going to Superfest, check your life. I’m just sayin’.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
CHERYL: Because it’s in-person and online. [laughs]
THOMAS: And online. You have no excuse except check your life.
NEFERTITI: That’s right. SuperfestFilm.com. And that was done through the Social Audio Description Collective that we three are a part of!
CHERYL: [imitates tiny air horn]
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn] Shameless, not so shameless plug.
CHERYL: [imitates more enthusiastic air horn]
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Well, listen, everyone who has listened and who will catch this on the replay, thank you so, so much for joining in the conversation even if that’s just through listening. Please spread the word that we’re here. Remember, we are considering doing a cross-platform type of situation. So, the next time we get together, it might be on some other platform that isn’t Twitter. So, stay tuned for that. We also want to again remind you audio description was made by blind people for blind people. Let’s make room for blind people in all aspects of audio description. And yeah, stay tuned for the next time, likely in two weeks with your three co-hosts and hopefully the two moderators, Scott B. and Scott N. from the Audio Description Twitter Community. And about the Audio Description Twitter Community, if you haven’t joined us, what are you waiting for? Communities. Communities. Audio Description. We are there, and we’d love to have you join us if you haven’t already.
THOMAS: Right. Get your life in order. [cracking up] Join the Audio Description Community.
NEFERTITI: Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughs] Love it. All righty, everybody. Thank you so much.
THOMAS: All right, y’all. Thank you.
NEFERTITI: We’ll talk again soon.
SCOTT N: [imitates the cartoon Bugs Bunny] B-deep, b-deep, b-deep. That’s all, folks!
NEFERTITI: Hang on. Hang on. I’m so sorry. One last thing. I do wanna let folks know tonight, because of the interest, we did focus on blind people being professionals in audio description, and we talked about the workflow and all of that. But we had two other conversation topics, and we want to assure you that we will cover everything that we put out there to folks. It’s just a matter of priorities and what’s most important to the community. But next time we might talk about training opportunities or self-description or something else entirely. So, stay tuned to the community and to our individual Twitter handles, and we will continue to engage with you all. #ADFUBU, I love that. And now I am done. Uh…I don’t know…uh. Mercedes Benz.
THOMAS: Nef, Audi 20,000.
NEFERTITI: Audio 2,000.
THOMAS: 20,000! We got up to 20,000.
NEFERTITI: 20,000!
THOMAS: Come on. [laughs]
SCOTT B: [singing] Bugatti. Bugatti.
NEFERTITI: I’m not fast at this. Sorry!
THOMAS: Oh, Bugatti.
THOMAS and SCOTT B: [laugh]
THOMAS: All right, y’all.
NEFERTITI: All right, you guys. Have a great weekend, everybody. Till next time.
SCOTT B: Take care, y’all.
SCOTT N: Hasta la vista.
NEFERTITI: Bye-bye.

THOMAS: Cool. Well, that concludes this week’s conversation. Why don’t y’all keep the conversation going on social media.
CHERYL: Use #ADFUBU, for us by us, #DescribeEverything, and #AudioDescription.
NEFERTITI: And hey, you know we’re out here, right? Mmhmm! Gathered and galvanized y’all. If you haven’t joined us yet, what are you waiting for?! You can find us in the LinkedIn Audio Description group and the AD Twitter community. We know that your participation will only make these spaces better.
Music fades out!

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