by Adam Gregory
Have you heard about audio description? Watched the many videos of describers talking about their craft, but you still don’t really know what goes into the day-in-a-life of an audio describer? Our Adam Gregory is here to tell you all about what’s it’s like to work as a CaptionMax audio describer.
Do you support all our description and our highly trained team? Click here to help us get more funding for description!
7:00am: I arrive at work and check my email. The night before, Kate edited a script I wrote for a documentary about Alaska’s rail infrastructure. She recommends changing “sleepers” to “ties” because “ties” is the more common American term. She’s made a few other minor changes and sent the script to the booth computer for recording later today.
7:10 – 8:00am: I finish up a script for a formulaic show consisting of on location interviews and a host in the studio. These shows are easy because the content is delivered almost entirely through narration and interviews, rather than visuals. My descriptions relay any onscreen graphics and the occasional shot of a city skyline or pedestrian-packed street.
8:00 – 9:30am: I edit a children’s show Annie scripted the day before, checking each description for accuracy, timing, and levels. The writing needs to describe what’s happening on screen clearly and quickly, and because this is a children’s show, the language and sentence structure need to be age appropriate. The descriptions must fit snugly between the program dialogue and properly fade out the background audio. Annie has written a great script, so I make a few minor timing tweaks and send it to the booth for recording.
9:30 – 11:30am: I’ve spent the morning guzzling a mix of coffee and water and avoiding food to wake up my voice for recording the Alaska program I scripted the day before. The show is visuals-heavy, so there are nearly 300 descriptions to record. Most will be recorded more than once to get the proper emphasis and a clean recording free of spits and clicks and pops and all the other things the microphone picks up in the dead-quiet booth.
11:30 – 1:00pm: I start scripting a new program. This one is full of fast-paced action and lots of dialogue that I absolutely cannot cover, so I spend a lot of time writing and rewriting and rewriting short descriptions to pack as much detail as possible into spans of 1, 2, or 3 seconds (and some odd frames).
1:00 – 1:30pm: Jeremy finished tech proofing my Alaska voice work, so I’m back in the booth re-recording descriptions he marked as spoken inaccurately, with odd emphasis or weird mouth sounds.
1:30 – 2:00pm: Lunch. I spend it avoiding TV. When I eat is often determined by when I’ve completed my voice work for the day. It’s hard to speak quickly and clearly with residual burrito goo in your mouth.
2:30 – 3:30pm: I continue writing the script I started late morning. By 3:30, I’m about half way through the 22 minute-long program and have written about 60 descriptions. Writing a script for a half hour program requires about four hours. It will take one of my coworkers about an hour and a half to watch the program and proof my writing. Jeremy will need about 30 minutes to do the voice work, and one of us will spend another 15 minutes to a half hour listening to his recordings and marking any we want re-voiced before we send it to the machine room for encoding.
Switching between tasks and in and out of projects all day makes for a fast 8.5 hours. I like the constant barrage of random information from the varied programming. And after nearly four years, I still enjoy the challenge of writing within the confines of what often seem like impossibly small snippets of time. I find that most days I enjoy the mental strain that comes with the job, and I have no interest in television when I get home, which keeps me off the couch.