S1E10: The Importance of Audio Production and Consumption for the Sight Impaired

Todays episode focuses on the importance of audio production and how it is on the rise. The episode discusses the different aspects of audio production for both podcasts, audiobooks and how it all ties in with vision loss.
Published On: August 18, 20210 CommentsTags:

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In this episode…

The episode opens with Dawn Prall and Audivita Studios founder, and MyMacDLife production partner, David Wolf. They discuss the relationship between Audivita Studios and MyMacDLife as well as exchange views on the rise and importance of audio production and consumption. David shares his journey in the creative field; his love of audio shines throughout, specifically creating visual experiences in the mind of the listener. They then introduce the speakers for the next segment.

Voiceover actors Kim Monti and Steve Corona join the conversation and explain audiobook narration. They begin by providing a brief background on their paths to voice acting and answer questions about the challenges, techniques, and physicality of their work. Kim then tells a story about the freedom and independence audiobooks offer to those with vision loss. Audiobooks allow you to listen on your own time, removing the need for someone to read to you. There is a vast range of audiobooks; you can explore almost any subject in the world.

The conversation continues as Kim and Steve share their experiences with character development and how they keep multiple character personalities organized while recording. The interview transitions to David, Dawn, Kim, and Steve verbalizing the importance of stories and the innate nature of storytelling. This entertaining conversation concludes with lightening round questions for Kim and Steve.

The episode finishes with Bill Kilroy, Vispero’s Senior Sales Director for the Northeast and Mike Woods, Strategic Accounts Manager for Education, discussing the DaVinci Pro, a larger desktop unit by Enhanced Vision. This high-performance desktop video magnifier has a 3-in-1 high definition 1080p camera, ensuring a crisp, clean, high quality image on the 24-inch monitor. This device has two levels, the DaVinci HD and the DaVinci HD Pro. While both have OCR functions, the functional difference lies in the OCR capability. You can go online www.enchanedvision.com to see videos on the device and learn more about the product.

What We Discuss in This Episode

This tenth episode covers the following featured topics:

We’re freeing people from screens, pages, anything visual. We’re giving them a choice in how they consume content, for the sighted population. But for those that are visually impaired, or can’t read it all, audiobooks are amazing in that they’re an inclusive medium. (10:59)

There needs to be vocal separation, you need to be able to tell the characters apart. So that’s everything from gender to accent, pitch, pacing, tone, all of it. We spent a lot of time going through and developing the characters. There’s also the more daunting part, for me anyway, is putting the list together of all the words that we need to make sure we’re saying correctly. (18:50)

I just always try to make every story that I tell, every book that I voice, be so vividly expressed through my voice that you can see it anyway in your mind’s eye, whether you have vision or not. You should be able to, if you have good vision, and you close your eyes, you should be able to see that picture just as vividly. I always aim to bring that mentally visual picture telling, with my narration. I go very deep in my in my visualization, Kim knows this. I’ll do exercises where I close my eyes, and I become these characters. I can see and feel and smell and taste and hear everything that’s going on in their world before I jump into it. Then I start narrating, and I’m there. So hopefully I can pull you in with me. That’s always my goal. (35:40)

I don’t know if people understand how deep storytelling goes. Storytelling, vocal storytelling, is the first media of communication. If you ever want a classic example, listen to a two-year-old tell you how they stub their toe or got their booboo. (36:58)

If you’ve got a page of text that you want to have this product scan in, the DaVinci Pro can scan that and then read it out loud to you in multiple voices. You can customize the voices, whether you want male or female, you can change the speed of that, really customizable. When you’re magnifying, you’ve got a 24-inch monitor. It’s widescreen 24-inch magnification, which allows you to get up to 77 times magnification, that’s pretty high-powered. You can use that to do your magnification, change the color contrasts. You’ve got 28 different viewing colors, so if you want to use black on white, white on black, you know, yellow, one black, you name it, there’s 28 different color combinations that you can use. (49:16)

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Transcription excerpts from this episode

Hello everyone and welcome to MyMacDLife. I’m your co-host, Shawn Doyle, professional speaker, trainer, and book author, and I’m here today with my co-host the lovely and talented, the amazing, the incredible, the irreplaceable, Dawn Prall, the founder and Executive Director of The SupportSight Foundation, and a visionary.

We’re happy you’ve joined us. We’re excited to bring you some great information, education, and inspiration. We really want to make a difference in the life of people who are suffering with MacD, and we call it MyMacDLife.

In this episode of MyMacDLife, we’re going to explore the process and importance of audio production, audiobooks, and podcasts, and how they impact the lives of those who are sight impaired, visually impaired, or are living with MacD.

Support for today’s MyMacDLife podcast comes from Healthy Vision Association, Novartis, Prospero, Centric Bank, and Heiko Stein and Associates.

You know, I’ve done a lot of things in my production career, in my life. I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m a musician. I’m a composer and producer for film, radio, and TV. But I started this company without really understanding and knowing how deeply I can affect the lives of people who are visually impaired or living with MacD through the work we do at Audivita Studios. It’s just been profoundly, profoundly, satisfying to meet you, Dawn, and to learn about this whole other aspect of what we were already doing. I’m grateful to you for guiding us into this world where we’re now serving this population, not only with the podcast, but also with the work we do in audiobooks.

Folks, that’s my wonderful, dear friend David Wolf. David Wolf is principal at Audivita. David and his team are our true-blue partners in creating MyMacDLife. You’ve heard it from him, this is part of a journey, that came to an intersection, we just kind of landed on each other. And all of a sudden, the idea of doing a podcast about macular degeneration popped into your life and you were crazy about it from the beginning.

Yes, it was love at first sight. I mean, listen, everything we do is audio. I mean, we are audio. That’s what we do. We are all about creating experiences for listeners. I talk about it all the time, the listener experience. We’re about creating visual elements in the theater of the mind, in the mind’s eye. For those who can’t see, the mind’s eye is where it’s all happening. You’ll learn in this episode, the actors we work with, when we do audiobooks, it’s all in the mind’s eye, the stories that are told, and through the interviews or the other experiences we produce on podcasts for a variety of clients are all about a very intimate, focused, listening experience.

You and your team, I just want to do a shout out, are like part of the family. They’re the best. Everyone cares very much about what they do and what they add to the experience and MyMacDLife and I couldn’t be more grateful or proud or honored to be working with you guys. You who have helped us launched this brand-new idea, award winning podcast, in a very incredible way. I just want to thank you and let our listeners know that you’re the guy behind it and your team. I think one of the things that I’d love you to tell our listeners is your passion comes out. You have passion for this. You’re crazy about it. You I talk on the weekends, at night. Why? Where at this point in your life do you get that?

Well, you know, as you get to a certain age, right, what becomes important changes. So, for me personally, at one point, I was writing music, for radio, TV, film, this and that the other and creative generation is largely, it’s an artistic endeavor. And that is, by nature, kind of a self-centered idea. You’re alone, you’re writing, satisfying your own creative intuition. You’re hearing it played by musicians, in my particular case. It was very, very gratifying and satisfying but it is all about me if that level. There’s a narcissistic kind of context of that. Here, now, as I’m moving into my 60s, and I’m building a team that cares, as you said and thank you for that, and I feel that too from them all the time. A project like yours, just takes it to another level because we’ve got the team and we all love and care, but now we’re really serving a population with meaningful content, to really get the word out about MacD and to help educate. To be a part of facilitating that is very gratifying for this particular chapter in my life, you would have been at any chapter, but this is my experience with you now working on it.

David, here’s where we’re going with this conversation today, because it is about macular degeneration as everyone who’s listening knows, or if you’re listening, and you haven’t figured that out, now, you know. David, we met because you are an expert in what you do. And that is…

I founded a company that is dedicated to audio production. Everything we do is with sound in some way or another. This so closely aligns with the world, the population, the project that you brought to me when we got together to do MyMacDLife, right?

Yeah, so it’s, it’s a confluence of dedicated to sound and dedicated to vision. Then where we come together, because when you lose your vision, the number one thing that happens is that you have difficulty reading, you’re challenged by that. And because macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease, and again, everyone’s different, your capacity or ability to read, most likely will diminish over time. So people who’ve been living with macular degeneration for let’s say, 10 years, are in a very different place in terms of reading, then people who maybe were just recently diagnosed and have early stages, but it really depends on the individual. It’s a central vision disease, it blocks your central vision. So, your brain’s ability to fill in letters, it lessens, your brain can’t do it. So, the topic at hand and the industry that you’re in bringing in the audio is huge for people who are visually impaired.

No, it’s amazing, you know, and until I met you, I have to say that I wasn’t fully aware of the impact that we’re having on people that are visually impaired. I mean, and that’s really what this particular episode is about. Largely, it’s about saying, “Well, look, you know, for the sighted population, we know we’re doing things like helping people really get free from screens, pages, listen, while you drive that nasty commute.” They can multitask, they don’t have to be tied to a chair and reading that it may be that sense that they have time scarcity, and this helps them multitask, because you’ve said, but there are so many powerful elements about the work we do that deeply and powerfully impacts the lives of the population you’re serving.

That’s right. So, people are losing their vision have been listening to books, whether they’ve been read to by a caregiver or a loved one, or whether they’ve got the books on tape from the Library for the Blind, you know, the cassette players, and they’ve been doing this for a long time. So fast forward, when did this industry really start?

Well, it’s funny you should ask. I did have a few notes here to just share with those that are listening because it’s quite powerful. The audio consumption market is growing exponentially across all the genres in audio, it’s outpacing eBooks. As we sit together, it’s a $1.2 billion billion with a B, billion with a B. It’s growing more than 25% year over year since 2013.

Wow, that’s incredible. What do you what do you attribute that to?

Most of the activity we do is relating to the shift from sitting and reading which we were talking about a moment ago. People have a perceived that they have less time to sit and read, so there’s a perceived scarcity of time that may be driving the market. The other thing is, that the technology, the hyper mobile and this, of everything with cell phones is just made this a very portable industry where you don’t have to sit in a living room with a stereo, but you can be on the go while you consume content. Some people process information, I’m talking about sighted population, where they have a choice or more of a choice. They process information more readily or easily with audio than they do visually. It’s fascinating.

It is fascinating, you know, we need to bring somebody on. Wait, wait, I think we have a few people on this show. We have some more experts going talk about this. Let’s roll this up in a way that segues to our listeners to explain why did we think that this might be an interesting topic? For our visually impaired listeners as well as our listeners who are sighted.

We’re freeing people from screens, pages, anything visual. We’re giving them a choice in how they consume content, for the sighted population. But for those that are visually impaired, or can’t read it all, audiobooks are amazing in that they’re an inclusive medium. Now the visually impaired, that population, can use these audiobooks quite easily. And quote, ‘read’ any book they like that’s in audio, and so many of them are. I would say that most are released in both audio and in eBook and in print. There’s also, and I’ve observed this as a producer, there’s an intimacy about audio, it’s a very primal thing to have stories read to you, it’s the first thing your mother did, for example. It’s a very primal kind of way to experience story and narrative. The other thing that I think is quite fascinating about audio, and my whole team is really excited about this, including Steve and Kim, who will be joining us shortly. With audio, you’re able to create a visual image in your mind’s eye from the work we do, telling the story, acting the parts of the characters, narrating the action sequences, painting that picture in the mind’s eye. That’s a very powerful aspect of this. And certainly, for population of those living with MacD, it allows them to visualize it. Yeah, they’re doing it already. It’s interesting.

So here we go. Let’s bring our very, very special guests on.

We have with us today, Kim Monti and Steve Corona. Both are actors, casting directors, dialect coaches, they teach people how to do audiobook narration, and they do a lot of audiobook narration themselves. They’re here to kind of share, from their point of view, how all this works, what it means, what they bring to it, how they think about it, behind the scenes look at producing audiobooks, and narrating them and acting in audiobooks. So welcome to you both.

Hi, Steve and Kim. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today on MyMacDLife. We think this is going to be a really cool segment because, I’ve thought about it while I’m listening to my audiobook, like how do they do that? What does that what does that voice look like? How are they changed? Characters, you know, all those kinds of magic. It’s magic, just like story. I want to start by piggybacking off of something that our wonderful David said, storytelling, because in the end of the day life is about stories. Of course, we encourage the millions of people out there who live with macular degeneration and their caregivers to tell their stories. It creates a fabric, a tapestry, of sharing. So, let’s start with that. When you are telling the story as the voice actor Steve let’s start with you give us a little snippet on how you become a voice actor.

Well, I trained in theater, I have a background in theater. Then I got into film, I started doing some film acting. I just always really enjoyed all the things that you could do with your voice. I studied dialects in college and became a dialect coach, actually. I learned how to teach other people, for example, how to speak in different dialects, right? So, because I really enjoyed doing that, I thought, “Well maybe I could use that as an actor and lay multiple characters in a story and just act with my voice.” I started looking into voiceover; I started back in 2006. I’ve been doing it for a while and I’m really enjoying it.

Give us one more. This is fun. So, you can go in and out of dialect all through the interview. It’ll add some real texture to it, how about that?

Kim, tell us your story, how you get started.

There’s two pieces to it. One is, I’m one of those kids that when they’re growing up, they take the book and the flashlight under the covers. And then about midnight, my parents come in and go, “What are you doing!?”

Was it Nancy Drew?

Oh, among many the Jungle Books. Rudyard Kipling, you know, you name it, all kinds of things. They actually took my books away from me, that’s my addiction. I also had a grandmother, my maternal grandmother, who had been the Head Librarian of the Case Western Reserve Library. This woman was amazing. She knit, she did textiles, she did all kinds of things. She had macular degeneration. She would still continue to knit from patterns she’d memorized. She would listen to audiobooks. And she had a cassette recorder that, you know, was definitely bigger than a breadbox. Yeah, it could fit in the garage, probably, it could fit comfortably or a little tightly depending on your garage. And she would get these boxes of tapes. She actually got a phone call from them, because they said, “How in the heck are you going through all these tapes?” She goes, “I used to run a library.” And they’re like, “No problem. How many do you need?”

So, I got exposed to this when I was very, very small. I always thought it was very cool. The thing I like about audiobooks is, whoever you are, you can create what the character looks like. You get the basic description from the author, but you decide how tall the palm trees are. You decide how green the grass is, or if you live out in the southwest, not green the grass is. You paint these pictures. That’s why some of the classic novels like Lord of the Rings, everyone was filled with fear, trepidation, angst? What if they don’t look like what I see them as? As we know, that came up pretty well. But you get to paint the picture. And then to have to give someone access to knowledge. I’m a geek. I’m a research chemist by training and degree and to be able to open up knowledge and experience to people and give people an independence. It’s one thing to have somebody sit and read to you, but you’re tying up both your times. But now, you can learn anything you want. You can go anywhere in the world you want. You want to listen to a book about Hawaii, you want to listen to a book about the Antarctica? It’s there. The collections are getting bigger and deeper, which is just marvelous.

Absolutely. Well, thank you. The story about your grandmother is incredible. I knew when we were deciding to do this segment, there had to be a connection to macular degeneration somewhere between all of us, besides me and David, right. So, thank you for that. What a great role model your grandmother was. David, do you want to throw a question out to one of our guests here?

Thank you, Dawn. There’s so much to think about when you’re doing voicing of a book, what is the most challenging aspect of it that you do? You both are doing a wide range of work, but what’s the most challenging piece as you crawl into a project as a single voice narrator on a book?

Sure, yeah. Well, obviously, if there’s multiple characters, the creation of the characters. There needs to be vocal separation, you need to be able to tell the characters apart. So that’s everything from gender to accent, pitch, pacing, tone, all of it. We spent a lot of time going through and developing the characters. There’s also the more daunting part, for me anyway, is putting the list together of all the words that we need to make sure we’re saying correctly.

Oh, give us an example of that.

Oh, my gosh, well, Kim can speak better to that she had a book that was…she had a list as long as her arm of all the different words that she needed pronounced for her. It’s very important that we get that up front to save us a lot of time on the back end. So, Kim, do you want to segue into talking about making sure we have our pronunciation guides?

Yep, because pronunciation can be regionally specific. It can be country specific. But then you have the genre of sci fi, and then you have entire, if anybody’s knows about Star Trek and the Klingon language, you’ve got entirely made-up languages and made-up words so we have to go back to the author. One of the things we’ve done, for sanity’s sake, purely, is ask the authors to give us an audio recording. There’s all kinds of ways to diagram out how to pronounce something. Whether it is potato potato. But when we get the recording from the actor, because often it’s in a particular locality, and it may be as simple as where the author grew up, they know what these words should sound like. Then being auditory sensitive, which most voiceover actors are, you can pick that up far faster than trying to translate, you know, diagrammatic hieroglyphs, hieroglyphics, on how to pronounce something. It makes a difference, it has to flow smoothly, because you can’t stop and sound it out. You don’t want to hiccup over it. Both Steve and I happen to know this, we will go through the sentences over and over and over again so that comes out smooth. So, you would never know we don’t speak that terminology.

You’re not just reading; you’re not just reading the book and recording it. You actually read it first. How do you prepare? Which is what I think you’re going to. I think my impression was you just opened up the book and started talking not quite.

Not quite. I mean, sometimes I do that a little bit. I’ll do more of a cursory skim, I guess more than other narrators do. But that’s just because I’ve been doing it long enough, I’m comfortable with that. I still like to know, what are my words that I have no idea how to pronounce. Let’s get those down.

Give us an example.

Okay, so I just did a book where there’s a lot of Hebrew words, and names, locations that I was not familiar with. I had to make sure that I got those from the author. And you could do some amount of looking it up on your own, you know, Google Translate things like that. But you can’t always rely on that, because sometimes that’s not going to pronounce it the correct way.

Sometimes there are three to seven acceptable pronunciations, which one does the author prefer?

How engaged are the authors? Do they listen to the whole thing while you’re taping it or what do they do?

I can jump in on that one. So yeah, typically, they are not a part of the recording session process itself. What we do is we have checkpoints so that the author can check and make sure we’ve got things dialed in. It’s the right pace, the characters are dialed in well, in terms of how the author envision that they may sound. Sometimes we have situations where, I think we’re working on a project now, where the author has told us boldly that he’s been hearing these voices of these characters for many, many years. Then we’re challenged with trying to essentially satisfy what they’ve been hearing in their head, but still bring it to life in a whole new way with the particular actors that we’re casting for the project. There are some challenges around the difference between the author’s auditory vision of what it ought to be, if you will, and what we actually bring to life in the recording process. But typically, we do it in a clean room, and then we show them where we are, and we allow them to get some input, Steve.

Yeah and if I could jump on that. So typically, right, there’s a lot more space between when we record and when the author listens, and we get feedback and do another round. What I loved was a slightly different process. We did a book last year, with David’s good friend Irv, First Dog on Earth, amazing books, so well written. What I loved about that process was it was a lot closer, working back and forth with Irv as the author. I could send him a chapter he would listen and give me immediate feedback so that I could make sure that I was on track all throughout and I was satisfying what he wanted from me. A real fun story with that if I could. Irv, I loved this, speaking about a minute ago, you were talking about why audiobooks are becoming a huge thing. I think part of it too, is it’s sort of harkening back to that golden age of radio, and I love, this was probably the best compliment I ever got as an audiobook narrator, Irv told me that he loved hearing the chapters as I was sending them out. He said he felt like a kid sitting in his treehouse, listening to the radio waiting for the next chapter to come. The next episode of the story, even though he wrote the story, he knew what was coming. He couldn’t wait to hear my interpretation, my performance of it.

I’ll say that Irv, was a, he recently deceased, he was an advertising guy on Madison Avenue. He was used to production and used to writing a script and then taking it into a studio. Many authors are not used to that process and try it a few times and learn that there’s a difference between what they’ve put on the page and what will actually be brought to life. I wanted to dig into a little something that might be really interesting, Dawn, for those listening, when you’re an actor, and you do have to differentiate character from character, what are some of the techniques you use to create that differentiation? There’s a scope of things you can do with your voice. Part of it, it’s talking about how you do it and we want to hear some examples, if you don’t mind.

Sometimes you just have to put some time on the job. You just have to really, um, what’s, what’s the word organize your thoughts? I have a little problem with that sometimes. You just pull it together. You read; you take all of the bits that the author gives you. Because sometimes, that’s all you got to go on is a couple sentences, or maybe the age of the character. Some kids just, they’ve got, they’ve just got to get on it and get going. Because there’s a deadline. There’s always deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, and asked David, he knows all about deadlines. I don’t know, you take, you do what you do, you get all this information from the author. As Steve mentioned earlier, it’s pitch, it’s pace, it’s tone. It’s, what are you doing with your mouth? Where do you talk with your mouth? Are you talking to your lips? Are you talking back in your throat? Because if you go back in your throat –

don’t forget about dialects and accents, you know?

No, no, no, no, no, no, my friend, it is so good to have the dialects.

I’m talking over here. Okay, so Kim and David know about this, I just did a book with I don’t know, Kim, what 35 plus characters in it. They were from all over the world. That took a long time. Creating different little sample tracks that I can come back to and listen to like, “Wait a minute, I haven’t heard this guy for three chapters. What does he sound like again? Oh, yeah, that’s right. He’s this guy over or? Oh, no, wait, you got to bring him down now. Okay, he’s this guy. Yeah.”

You’re really creating your own glossary, you’re creating a character, maybe you’re getting it approved by the producer or the author. You’ve got to be consistent throughout, right?

Now, usually, you do the one I did last year, which was a big challenge, because not only were there 40 some different characters that weren’t all on the same chapter, thank God. They had seven main characters that were all women between the age of 16 and 21. I had to come up with seven voices in the same age range. I had personality traits that the author gave me. One of the girls was rather just very self-assured. Because just ask her, she knew about it. Everything she said, there was nothing she didn’t know. You get that, but when you’re dealing with seven characters in that age range, that’s how you make the difference. We do keep an audio glossary so that you can go back and go, “Oh, my gosh, what was that? Was how fast did youoh, okay, got it.” And you play it, and you got it.

Are there physical things you do outside of the oral? Right. Let’s talk a little bit about that to kind of get that sound.

That’s one of the things I don’t think people realize is how incredibly physical audiobooks are, and any type of voiceover work. Because if you’re running, you’ve got to get moving because you’ve got to have those voices. And “Oh my gosh, that monster was chasing me.” And you do that and you’re in there. And if you’re if you got a guy that’s pumping iron, you know, Steve, give us your pumping iron.

Right, you got to make all those effort noises. But also, there’s those physical characteristics. It’s not just when you’re doing action, but also just taking on the physical characteristics of the character. I remember one of the characters, okay, so like the hero of the story, I kind of picture him heroic, he’s standing upright, he’s got a good posture, chest wide open. Then there’s this older guy and he’s a little more hunched in and he’s got, I’m not even doing the accent let’s see what he was like in Eastern European and they were like, “very sort of like this,” and so that that physical posture affects the voice and it helps you get into mentally also the character too. So that helps when you’re going back and forth having a conversation between multiple people, you’re like, “I take on this characteristic. Now I’m standing upright and I’m this character.” Then you can drop back into neutral be the narrator.

That’s great, because we’re, you know, for folks, we’re no podcast recording. You can see each other work. I’m watching Steve changed his body and Kim, they’re changing their body as they’re telling this, as they given us the answers here and you look very different. I mean, somebody emailed me the other day and said, “I really love you on the podcast because I can hear you smile.”

That is the number one biggest emotion that comes out is a smile, no joke. If you have somebody that says, “I love you,” versus “I love you.” That is the one that transfers all across the world. It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, and whether English is your first or your seventh or eighth language. The smiles come across. That’s one of the things we’re taught from day one as an actor, let alone a voice actor.

You are both stage and screen experienced actors, because it’s not visual in terms of what you’re delivering to the performance. There’s no stage. Do you find that you need to exaggerate the vocal aspects, or do you just play it as naturally as though you were on stage or in film anyway?

I tend to make it depend on the character. I think it depends. It depends on the genre, depends on the specific character speaking, definitely. But I think overall, I do exaggerate a little bit physically, because that helps me express it a little more clearly vocally, whatever I’m doing. So that’s just me, I tend to push it a little bit bigger. I’m a little bigger personality as it is to start with. Coming from stage, you know, everything’s big. Everything’s huge, everything’s over the top.

If you stop and think about it, when you have a visual medium in front of you being a podcast, movie, whatever. You have your body, you have your facial expressions, you have your voice, you have your hands. When I was growing up, my teachers would say, “Kim, stop talking so much sit on your hands, please.” It worked every time, it was very disappointing. When you’re doing a voiceover, you have to find a way that you have to move all of your voice, your body movements, all of your feelings, all your facial expressions. It’s kind of fearful. But you have to kind of just, bring it all together and talk about, “I think there’s a monster behind me. And I really should look, but I don’t want to look at it. There’s nobody there. Oh, my gosh, I’m okay.” And you have all of that.

Yeah, it’s like, I know David, you’ve said this before and I know you’ve heard it somewhere else too, but it’s like the theater of the mind because you’re visualizing everything that you can’t see because it is only audio.

I want to wrap around our topic here a little more. Did you ever, obviously, Kim, your grandmother had macular degeneration, but did you ever think about the impact that you have, what you do for a living, has on people who can’t see and how much they need you, and how much joy you bring them?

I’ve actually talked to some friends of mine, who have been losing their eyesight. And they said, one of the things that they love about audiobooks and the actors who bring them to life, and there’s, as in any industry, there’s good, bad and indifferent. But what they adore is those who put everything in it, they said they can hear it, they can tell it, and it gives them back a sense of freedom and independence. Those being two very different things. But the independence they don’t have to wait for someone to read to them. Many of the websites now you can go in and listen to clips where you try before you buy. I advise that by the way. There’s nothing worse than getting a great book with a not-so-great voice actor. They’re out there it happens. Try before you buy. But this freedom and then this, this ability to go anywhere in the world on any topic. Whether you want to talk about swarm behavior in robots, or why daffodils are different colors. There’s just any manner of things. They said that it is so freeing, and they don’t feel like they are dumbed down. People sometimes feel, and I had a friend tell me this, that when her eyesight went away, and hers one way very abruptly, there was no gradual it was lights on lights off. She said she felt like she had to stop learning because she didn’t know how else to get the information.

So that saved it. We get that feedback all the time. Because it’s really, it’s devastating to lose your vision, vision loss is scary. You have to rely on others to do things like read, it’s limiting. So, Steve, what about you, if you’ve ever thought about the impact that you have on people who can’t see because they can hear you and the stories that you’re telling?

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever given it much thought to be specific about impacting visually impaired audiences. I just always try to make every story that I tell, every book that I voice, be so vividly expressed through my voice that you can see it anyway in your mind’s eye, whether you have vision or not. You should be able to, if you have good vision, and you close your eyes, you should be able to see that picture just as vividly. I always aim to bring that mentally visual picture telling, with my narration. I go very deep in my in my visualization, Kim knows this. I’ll do exercises where I close my eyes, and I become these characters. I can see and feel and smell and taste and hear everything that’s going on in their world before I jump into it. Then I start narrating, and I’m there. So hopefully I can pull you in with me. That’s always my goal.

You’re almost like a transmitter.

I think you have to be.

You said it yourself, though. You close your eyes to do that. You have shut your eyes and then, therefore you’re not seeing. That’s very interesting. Because people who can’t see are doing that. That’s what’s happening to them. That’s kind of that that’s pretty deep, actually. It’s good.

I don’t know if people understand how deep storytelling goes. Storytelling, vocal storytelling, is the first media of communication. If you ever want a classic example, listen to a two-year-old tell you how they stub their toe or got their booboo. They can take a three second event and tell it to you for hours. It gets bigger each time. Think of that two-year-old running and going, “It’s a booboo. I fell.” But then it gets bigger. This is storytelling. This is, “Bobby pushed.” This is storytelling at its finest, it is that innate. You have a two-year-old that will give you strong storytelling. It was only after storytelling that they start painting pictures on the cave walls. Storytelling came first. This is why it grabs people. Kim’s philosophy, Kim’s theory.

Well, that’s really cool, but we’ve talked about the complexities of doing this. But there’s actually an underlying fundamental simplicity to storytelling that has to be folded into the details of what you think about to crawl into character to do the narration, right?

We don’t stop them as adults, we continue, right. You know, “Yeah, man, you shouldn’t say I was standing there. And there was this monster fish, man. And it came out of nowhere, and I reel it in, I was working on it for hours. And I needed three extra beers.”

What’s the point of telling somebody something if you don’t have a good story?

I’ve been accused of telling too long and too detailed of stories. I know I do that but the details matter to me. That’s part of the story. If you’re not telling the story, if you say, “This guy came over and knocked on my door, and then I got scared and he left.” That’s not a story. That’s just reporting what happened.
Right, on this very high level. Details bring it alive.

Kim, what questions, like, what would you say, do you get feedback from the listening audience? How’s that work? I listened to a lot of audiobooks and things over the years, whether it’s DVDs or CDs or whatever, in my car. I’d read them for the library. How do you get feedback from the audience because you’re recording these books? And so, what happens?

It is a lonely thing, isn’t it? Being alone with you and the microphone. You know there’s someone’s ear out there in the future, but you’re really doing it alone. Tell us about that.

On most of the platforms where you can buy, download, or library loan, there’s a feedback link. I suggest you always use it. You know, was this good? Were the characters clear? Could you understand them? The most fun one I read for somebody else was, “Oh my god, this voice actor had a mush mouth.” The visual image of that was so clear. But then others are like, “Oh my god, they brought the character to life. You know, this was really great.” We get that feedback. Trust me, we all go in and read them. It’s not an egotistical thing. It’s like, was I truthful in acting? Were you truthful? That’s good. I like the truth. Were we truthful to the character? Were we truthful to the story? Did we bring it alive for the audience? Those are things we look for. We get feedback.

Do you get critiqued? Are there critics out there for audiobooks?

Did you know that everybody’s born with a red pen, and a highlighter?

I thought it was only my college professor.

But no, we’ll get, and in the days of social media, we get pinged and it’s like, “Oh, I just listened to your book. That was amazing. It was wonderful. Why did you record it that way?”

How do you answer a question like that, right? In fact, Kim and I are working with a publisher right now in Berlin, where they actually loop in crowdsourcing for the casting process, and for the performances themselves at an early stage. They’re constantly listening for that feedback to improve quote ‘the product’, which is fascinating.

Interesting. Can you do something off the cuff about losing your vision or reading or ‘my grandmother’s got macular degeneration’, or something like that? Give it a shot.

Hey, yeah, can you pass me that thing over that? Can’t see very good. You know, I’m losing my sight over here. I’m getting old. My eyes ain’t what they used to be.

Of course, old chap, but you know, first I need to get my bifocals on wherever I put them. Oh, here they are, they’re in my hand, I’ve been holding them all along. Yes. Let me put my glasses on. What’s the thing? What do you want me to get?

You know, it’s, it’s like a deck of cards, but it’s it’s more like, it’s a thing you play music on?

Oh, you mean like an iPad?

Or whatever. You know, iPod iPad, iPoodle, whatever.

Oh, yes. Okay. So I’ve got an iPhone. I’ve got an iPad. I’ve got an iPod. You’ve got to be more specific, chap. And, you know, why don’t we ask him, Joe. Joe, which one of these do you think plays music?

Well, you know, fellas, and I don’t listen to a whole lot of music out there on the range. I’m always on my horse. I just listened to the sound of the wind whistling through the breeze of the trees out there with the cattle. So y’all find whatever you need, but you’re welcome to hang out just as long as you need to.

That’s good. That’s good.

I’m making up a story out of thin air.

I love it. Lightning round Steve, and then Kim, lightning round. Favorite book you have recorded?

Probably First Dog on Earth. It was different than everything else I’ve ever done. Just so beautifully written.

First book you recorded, lightning round.

Let’s see actually did a small series of abridged audiobooks. Classic titles that were an hour or less like Black Beauty, Red Badge of Courage, some Oscar Wilde children’s stories. So that was my first audiobooks, some very short ones.
Mine was a rather long one called Yoginis Dilemma.

Favorite book of yours? Not necessarily that you’ve recorded but your favorite book, lightning round.

Probably the Harry Potter series. I read it all the time with my kids.

Harry Potter as recorded by Jim Dale, that is my goal for performances Jim Dale.

Awesome. Awesome. And one more in the lightning round. What makes you happy?

My kids and reading to them.

Acting and bringing things to life.

We can’t thank you enough. This has been incredible. I’ve learned a lot. We hope the folks listening have learned a lot and kind of understand the behind the scenes, the people’s voices you hear, and what it takes to get it out there. What do you think?

Yeah, the work you guys are doing are amazing. You’re really helping a lot of people experience story and books that they couldn’t otherwise do. Thanks so much for joining us.

This program is empowered by The SupportSight Foundation. The SupportSight Foundation mission is to save sight for millions of people who suffer from age related macular degeneration, AMD, and lose their process vision. As a 501c3 public charity, our goal is to provide patient education and access to low vision resources to help individuals, families, and caregivers whose lives are severely impacted by AMD. We place a high priority on connecting with people, their families, and loved ones who live with the daily struggle of impaired vision. The SupportSight Foundation funds innovative research projects conducted by the top scientists in the field who are on a path to discover effective new tools, technology, and treatments for people like you with vision loss. The SupportSight Foundation, www.supportsight.org, or call us at 888-681-8773 and connect with us on social media. Thank you.

Well, good afternoon. My name is Bill Kilroy. I’m Vispero’s Senior Sales Director for the Northeast, and I’m joined by my colleague, Mike Woods, Strategic Accounts Manager for Education for Vispero. Mike and I are very pleased to be on this podcast, MyMacDLife, and we hope to tell you a little bit more about our organization and the types of tools we produce. Vispero is the world’s largest Assistive Technology for the visually impaired. Our field of specialty is Assistive Technology. In our world, for Vispero, that means serving people with our products who are blind or low vision. Throughout this podcast, we hope to highlight key products in our line that can enhance people’s lives and we look forward to speaking with you.

So today, Bill and I are going to chat with you about one of our larger desktop units. This unit is portable but not as portable as some of the other products we’ve talked about in the past here. This product is the DaVinci Pro by Enhanced Vision. And you know, the DaVinci Pro is a really high-performance desktop video magnifier. Many of you out there may know of video magnifiers or desktop video magnifiers as CCTVs, right. So, kind of interchangeable there. The cool thing with this unit is that it’s got a 3-in-1 camera that can do distance, close up, self-facing, and reading as well. It’s got a full High Definition 1080p camera. The cool thing with these is those 1080p cameras, and Bill I’m sure you know, you’re out there using these at conferences or you’re showing these in a home with somebody. One of the things, you get the oohs and ahhs like the fireworks, right, when you show them how far this can zoom out to look at the distance? It’s amazing.

Yeah, I used one of these actually, now coming up on about a year for the spring. I had some Eagles nesting in a tree and my yard. I used one of these to zoom in and get up close. I was watching them making the nest and I mean, these are one of those things where it’s like alright, here you can use it for reading. But you can use these for so many other things. It’s great for applying makeup, which I’m not wearing. But shaving, which I also didn’t do this morning reading, writing. For me working with students, these are great in the classroom. You can view the smartboard, the whiteboard, the chalkboard, depending on what school you’re at. You can also use this to kind of pan around the room and see. If you’re in a meeting, you can look at your colleagues in the meeting, or your classmates in class. Another thing that the DaVinci Pro adds in is the capability of OCR. Many of you have heard us talk about OCR in the past, right, it’s optical character recognition. More simply stated, it’s scanning and reading. If you’ve got a page of text that you want to have this product scan in, the DaVinci Pro can scan that and then read it out loud to you in multiple voices. You can customize the voices, whether you want male or female, you can change the speed of that, really customizable. When you’re magnifying, you’ve got a 24-inch monitor. It’s widescreen 24-inch magnification, which allows you to get up to 77 times magnification, that’s pretty high-powered. You can use that to do your magnification, change the color contrasts. You’ve got 28 different viewing colors, so if you want to use black on white, white on black, you know, yellow, one black, you name it, there’s 28 different color combinations that you can use.

One of the things you’re touching on is, this thing is chock full of tons and tons of features and specifications. It’s it is the top of the line; it has every feature that you’d want in a traditional desktop video magnifier. It uses that that 3-in-1 camera as the platform, which gives you some great versatility: traditional desktop, CCTV camera, looking down, lighting system, xy table, moving your print material, your print object, in and out, left and right to pan through reading material. But what I love about this, Mike, you nailed it, with the personal viewing and the distance viewing. Also think about that 3-in-1 camera, in the distance it provides, from the bottom of the camera to the, let’s say, the top of the XY table where it also swings out to the side, too. So, for you hobbyists out there, we’ve all taken these types of products into companies that are doing manufacturing for inspection level type of stuff, circuit boards, welds on medical devices, removing burrs, those types of things to make sure that something’s perfectly smooth. I mean, the quality of the image is that good. So again, a lot of people will still do the hobby type of things, whether it’s stamp collecting, or repairing computers, we talked about crocheting, knitting, doing a lot of stuff that where you have one a lot of work area under that camera, this is that type of device that can be versatile in all of those types of situations.

That’s a great point. I know I’ve worked with some people that were tying fly fishing lures underneath this, so you can do all sorts of that stuff. Then, as easy as something as viewing photos of your grandchildren, of family, right? I know around the holidays, you’re sending our holiday cards, and people were loving the fact you can put that under these units, and zoom right in and get a crisp, clean picture. For those of you out there that are really tech savvy, you can also connect your computer to this unit, and toggle between the CCTV and the computer, or you can connect it to your iPad as well. This is a like your, I think you’d said top of the line product, right. This is the top-notch product. You know, well-built, going to give you a lot of flexibility, it’s going to grow with you. As you learn more and more about it, you can do more and more with it. It does come with a two-year warranty as well, which is always nice. I know we get a lot of questions from people, “What’s the warranty on this?” You’ve got a two-year warranty from the manufacturer.

There are two levels of this device. Let’s distinguish, they both do OCR, they’re both 24-inch monitors. They both use the high definition 1080p camera, but really the functional difference is the OCR capabilities that you have. You have a base model that’s the DaVinci HD, full-page OCR and that will do some basic OCR, basic full-page OCR. The DaVinci Pro HD full OCR will give you a lot more flexibility in capturing a page, capturing a portion of a page, navigating the page, flipping back and forth between reading, meaning listening to what you are reading. Then to flip visually to view what you are reading. There are two different models that you can choose from, and I think, let’s see the prices, for the DaVinci HD with full-page OCR, it’s $3,295.00. If you wanted the DaVinci Pro HD with the OCR and with all that the bells and whistles for the OCR, you’re at $3,995.00. Nobody enters into these types of procurements easily. We have partners around the country that we contract with. If you want to go online and check out the product, we have videos on these devices that you can see, you can download and read all the user’s guides that come with this before you make a purchase. But also, it’s key that we have channel partners that you can reach out to, that you can set up a demonstration with, will come to your home. Now in this environment of COVID, we’ve taken precautions. All of our channel partners we’ve made sure that they have the proper PPE, follow protocols to keep them safe to keep you safe. If you’re comfortable having them in, we can make that happen.

You can go to Vispero.com and from there, you’ll find links to all of the brands that we had mentioned earlier. So, again, today we talked about the DaVinci Pro, and that is an Enhanced Vision product. You can also link to Freedom Scientific, Optelec, and the Paciello group. I would definitely highly recommend check out MyMacDLife.org.

There’s a lot of tools out there. I think we’ve got a great set so reach out to us and we’ll connect you with the right partners that can you know, understand your needs and hopefully show you the tools that can improve your life.

MyMacDLife was created by The SupportSight Foundation to serve the macular degeneration community. This award-winning educational podcast is one of a kind and is an innovative way to strengthen and empower people who are living with MacD. MyMacDLife is made possible by generous tax-deductible donations from people like you. To donate today visit MyMacDLife.org\donate.

Hey everyone, thank you so much for spending time with us today. We’re really glad you’re here. Please come back.

It’s definitely a privilege and a pleasure. Remember, for more information please go to MyMacDLife.org we have all sorts of resources and info there for patients who have MacD and their families and remember to join us next time on MyMacDLife.

Thanks for being with us on MyMacDLife the podcast with a vision to bring hope, optimism perspective, and education to our listeners. For more information and many great incredible resources, visit MyMacDLife.org this program is supported by amazing listeners like you. During the season of giving, please consider a donation to keep on mission moving forward. Remember to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. Until next time, keep living with hope.

* Note: All listed transcript timings and wording are approximations.