Susan Layton

Film Producer - ASL Performer - Life Learner

Tag: American Sign Language

Taking “Glorious” from script to video …

“Glorious” – one of my favorite songs, still to this day!  When “Glorious”, written and originally sung by Stephanie Mabey, came out in all its David Archuleta amazingness, I thought, “Oh!  If could get my hands on the license or an opportunity ever came up, I would LOVE to perform this and perhaps record it!” Archuleta1 I didn’t have a translation yet but I just knew I loved the message!

Not long after Glorious was released, the big announcement came! David Archuleta and “Meet the Mormons” invited everyone and anyone to submit videos performing  “Glorious” for a chance to take part in a Fan Supercut video!  Here was my opportunity!  There was little sleep for me that night.  ALL night I was dissecting, thinking, translating, and then running it by Ryan and then more of it all.

Practice Pix5For me, most of my song translations and dissections take a good amount of time.  It’s not just the words but its the musicality, the timing, the expressions, the thoughts behind my choices, and more.  Some songs take more time than others – and “Glorious” was no exception!  The lyrics are amazing but the challenge came from the meaning behind the words, for example the analogy between “symphony” and “life”.  I had to figure out what I thought they meant and how I could convey them.  I still had to consider creating something beautiful and meaningful, musically and visually, while still making sense in ASL.  Of course, there really is no one-and-only right translation or interpretation, because the end result would come from the eyes of the beholder, and each of us have different thoughts of what it would mean and how we’d want to convey that.  Pix12
But for me it wasn’t about a “symphony” or musical melodies- it’s not about using your ears to hear anything – it is about this grander thing we called life and realizing that we all play a great part in it individually but yet all together.  And through it all, we are discovering who we really are.  As we dig deep, we realize that there is greatness there!  There is power!  There is a divine glory!  That’s what I needed to convey — somehow!

Lyrics Glorious InterpretationWhen it came to the verses, I initially thought they were pretty cut and dry.  I had a basic know-how of what I wanted to convey.   It wasn’t until near the end of filming that my “cut and dry” idea really evolved into more. However, it was the chorus that I spent the most time on from start to end. There was a lot of prayer and thought and pen marks on paper, deep research with the dictionary, thesaurus and Google. (The photo of my lyric breakdown – scribbles and scratches – was taken at the beginning of the dissection period.)

For people who don’t understand the language of ASL, it’s hard to just give you even a rough “gloss” (meaning what it is I signed – sign for sign, expression, etc) and have you walk away and understand what I really meant by it. %22Glorious%22 BreakdownSo, I typed out a very rough gloss, if you will, really more like a very rough translation.  It’s hard to put on paper what is meant in this visual language – ASL – because so much is incorporated – it’s not just a sign = a word.  You can interpret ASL and include so much more because of the things you can use your voice to create… anyways,  keep that in mind while you are reading it. This is just to give you an idea of what I meant by my performance.  (I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. Ha) … Anyways, you can click on the picture and once enlarged, you can read the “Glorious” lyrics on the left and on the right are the English verbiage of my final translations.  I’d encourage you to read that and watch my final video at the same time, so you can see how each part came together.  Sure, as you read what is written, you’ll see that the lyrics and my meanings come out to mean the same thing (that’s of course what my goal was) but it comes down to what it is I conveyed and how I decided to do it – because if I signed “symphony” that is not what was intended and the purpose of the message would have been lost.

Once I have a pretty good idea of what it is I want to sign and how to convey it, I begin recording myself.  For this piece, I recorded several times and then I watched it back – sometimes after a bulk number of recordings, sometimes after each time. Practice Pix4Tweaking was almost constant – sometimes I’d end up changing out whole entire parts.  This process of tweaking and rerecording went on for quite some time.  The next day I got dressed up and makeup on and I was ready to record.  I practiced some more and then went to the studio.  At that point, I still didn’t feel my translation was final.  Counting up the number of times I recorded in the studio that day, meaning stop and start, was a whopping 24 times!  One of those clips lasted 10 seconds and another lasted 38 minutes and 43 seconds (no stopping just letting the camera roll through each take).  I looked over a few of those videos and I could feel the desperation I was experiencing to get it right.  I remember there was one part that I would forget how I wanted to set it up and each time it came to that part, I would mess up and have to start all over.  Pix6During the time I was waiting for the music to begin again I would rehearse it over and over.   It had only been one day since the announcement but I wanted to get it done as quick as I could, and at the same time, I didn’t want to deviate from the translation that I came up with – unless it just didn’t work, then I would change it.  To you it may seem like I’m a perfectionist for the number of takes I did.  To me, not so.  But I’m sure you can relate — when you’re in your element, and it’s something you feel deeply about, you’ll only settle for your best, especially when you know you can do it.  That was me.  That’s what I wanted.  Desperately.  I wanted my translation right, I wanted it to flow, I wanted the expressions and feelings there, I wanted my timing right.  I kept on going.

Practice Pix9Green Screen Diversion: I decided to use a green screen in the shot and not change out the background for a couple of reasons.  The first reason: The night of the announcement, after I finally decided to go to sleep, I had a dream.  In my dream I was filming “Glorious” — that’s how it goes when you’re so consumed, right?! Ha. Well, in my final video I had used a green screen and left it as is.  Cool, eh?  Ha.  Some of you are probably thinking what I was thinking … you don’t have to always do what your dreams tell you.  Well, the next day as I was recording, I really felt that leaving the background green, albeit wrinkled, was what I needed to do.  Let the message pop with the brightness, yet simplicity of the color, regardless of how imperfect it is. That’s what I decided to do.  I still somewhat cringe at my wrinkled background, but then I let it go.  I am not perfect.  I am on a journey, just like the rest of the world.  I am here to find my purpose.  So are you.  Let the little things go – and for me, that day, it was my green screen.

Although I was recording over and over again, I was still tweaking as I was going along.  For example, the part in the chorus: “Everyone plays a piece, And there are melodies.”   (For reference sake: A melody in musical terms is the principle part of the music in a harmonic composition. Meaning, there may be a lot going on but through it all, there is an underlying part that most of us, if not all, can recognize.) There are two pictures below.  In the picture with my hair up, I was recording during practice.  In the picture with my hair down, I was filming in studio – the final day.  If you’ll notice in the practice shot how my hands are placed almost directly over one another.  In the final they are not – they are overlapping only two fingers.  To me, that slight change of hands was very important.  Here is why: Many of us share similar experiences or backgrounds with others, while others have gone through the same exact experience as another person – but regardless of our experiences and who we shared them with, we do not experience life the same way. It is true that we can have empathy for others or share experiences in which we can say “been there done that” but none of us have lives that play out exactly like each other.  That is the melody, or underlying part, that most of us (if not all) can recognize, while the rest of life plays on around us.  (Full hand – experience all the same regardless of our lives; Two fingers – experience our own life but still share in many experiences). So, this slight difference in my hands is how I decided to portray that meaning in  my translation.  (Are you following me? … I do hope so.  Smile)Practice Pix7
Practice Pix11


By the end of the first full day, I still did not have the recording I wanted to put out.  I decided to rest and let it be for the night. I prayed all night.  The next day I got back up and went to the studio.  I was still praying for help!  I began recording, and again, looking back at those videos, I can see the hope, plead and desperation between takes.  Between the last two takes, with the camera still rolling, a prayer was offered.  And then I just paused and regrouped myself.  There was a big breath and then I moved forward to start the music again.  That last take was the video that I decided to release.  I believe in this message.  I believe that we all, everyone, whether we understand or not quite all the way, learning or are there, are in a journey of discovery.  Discovering the purpose of life.  Discovering our purpose in life.

Practice Pix12

What I learned most from this experience was that we just gotta keep going.  It’s not easy sometimes.  It can be frustrating, to say the least, but on the flip, it can and will be absolutely beautiful and glorious!  Discovering who we are is the quest at hand.  Keep going.  That goes for you, and that goes for me!

I hope you know that there is a loving Heavenly Father who loves and cares deeply for you.  Discovering and rediscovering that simple truth is one of the most profound things we will ever experience.  That is what makes life so absolutely glorious and beautiful.   We were born with that divine glory – finding it is all part of the journey.

Practice Pix8Sweet peace and happiness to you always!




P.S. Did I make it to the Final Fan Supercut video?  I sure did!  Check it out!  CLICK HERE Pix11

P.P.S. If you haven’t watched “Meet the Mormons” yet – perhaps you are not Mormon (LDS) yourself, I’d like to invite you to watch it.  It’s not about converting anyone.  It’s about showing that each of us are in the same boat.  We’re here on this glorious creation we call Earth, learning to discover who we are.  I cried.  I laughed.  I thought long and hard.  It is a beautiful movie! (The pictures below, along with two in the body of this post, were taken from the official “Glorious” music video/”Meet the Mormons” movie.) 




“iZombie” – My Version of Alex Boye’s “African Zombie”




 An ASL Music Video With a Moral to the Story.

The first time I heard the song “African Zombie” by Alex Boye’, I knew I wanted to use it in an ASL music video  — with the focus on our now-a-day obsession of electronics and such devices!  But for whatever reason, I could not get it done.Zombie 1 The next year came and I told my family, let’s do it!  And then again, I just couldn’t get it done!  I think my biggest hangup is the daunting task to film it myself, while I’m trying to be in the shot at the same time, and not use a tripod (cuz I prefer movement than still shots for some videos and this video needed movement).  So, this year rolled around and I got on my fix again and said, “Let’s do it!” but timing was yet again difficult.  The evening before Halloween, I thought to myself, “If I don’t do it this year, the same thing will happen next year and the next.  So either I do it now or I don’ t do it at all!”  And when I have a strong vision for a video, I can’t just leave it by the wayside.  I told my family, “Get your makeup on, hair done, change your clothes, we’re doing “African Zombie”!!!”   Actually, Ryan, my hubby, was at the store and I texted him to say, “Oh by the way, we’re filming tonight”.  He’s always a good sport.  😀 Phew!

Although I knew what I wanted as the bones of the story, we still had to figure out some things as the video developed.  Since Ryan wasn’t home yet, we began with a couple of the opening and closing scenes.

Pix12Once Ryan got home, dinner was ready, we ate and filmed at the same time.  I told him to tell some funny jokes so I could get everyone smiling (haha) … so out came the “Knock, Knock” Halloween jokes.  They were pretty funny!  But of course, he found the jokes on the internet using his iPad, and the iPad was on the table – so I had to remind him what this video was about.  Smile.

I do have to put in a little plug, since I kind of brought the subject up. 😀  I am not anti-electronic device or anti-technology.  I do believe there is a purpose in having this awesome technology that we all use today and some enjoyment using it is always nice, too!  Of course, I filmed this using an electronic device and I’m typing this blog post using an electronic device.  My husband’s job is performed solely using electronic devices. Pix14 We really can’t live without electronics and technology these days!  I get that!  I guess what I have seen in the world today, and even in my own life, is that living life becomes more about what we are doing electronically than actually living and being present with the other living beings on this earth.  That’s where my vision in this song came from.  I’ll be honest, if my kids are on any electronic – iPad, computer, or TV for too long, they become little Zombies.  In the ASL world, I would add the comment, “True business!”  That means that I’m not kidding! (I chuckle inside when I call them little Zombies – but I’m sure you can see what I mean by that).  I do have great kids, I must say!  But I do put a timer on electronic anything.  I’ll end my little plug here.  Hope you get what I’m saying and understand the purpose behind my vision – smile!

Back to the making.  Pix7There is a part in the video where I have one of my girls on the floor with a remote control in her hand and other remotes and movies and an empty bag of chips and tons or candy wrappers and other candies laying beside her.  She played that part perfectly! It makes me smile each time I watch it.  But what I didn’t get in the final shot was the book that was lying next to the pile of movies.  That was her contribution to the creation of the scene.  As we were setting it up, I asked her why her book was lying there and she said, “To make it look like reading is second rate.”  Oh, so clever!  But I couldn’t get it in with the timing we had.  Drats!

My little boy is not a redo kind of guy.  I can get him to Pix15redo a shot two times, three if I’m really lucky.  So if I don’t get what I want, I have to use what I have. The cool thing about filming him is that I rarely tell him what to do, because he is just so young and innocent,Pix10 he does what comes natural and doesn’t think about the steps, which is almost always SO perfect in filming! He has one of the funniest zombie faces. I wanted to use it but told him he had to drool out his Cookies and Scream ice cream dessert so I PIx11could use it at the end of the video.  Ha. Then soon after dinner, my little girl fell asleep, so I thought, let’s just film her to look like she fell asleep playing a game on the iPad and have little guy be sneaky and get the iPad from her.  One time he came up so sneaky and then turned away from the camera.  So we shot it again and he turned with a huge grin, as if to say “Nana Nana Boo Boo, I got the iPad!”  It was bed time after that so I told him no iPad.  He didn’t think too fondly of that idea.  Haha.

Pix2My two older girls really helped me a lot in this video.  They shared the camera duties and helped me with several scene placement ideas.  As I shared earlier, we started this whole thing in the evening.  After my two littlest people were fast asleep, my two older stayed up filming.  These two good sports stayed up ’til almost one o’clock in the morning.  Then the next day, we still had to shoot a few more parts. They didn’t complain once. Of course, they got to wear makeup and so that was Pix9kind of payment enough for them.  Ha. The scene at the table was fun.  Well, the floor too, and the couch.  They were just a great help throughout! We shot most parts several times with some feedback along the way but overall I had a lot of good shots to choose from.  Of course, if you know editing, that’s good and bad – but more good than bad.  😀 …  The one with the shorter hair helps to keep me balanced and thinking straight. I need that when I’m under stress for sure!  She is almost always the one behind the camera when I am not.  Thank goodness I have her! The one with the long hair is a hair guru, seriously!Zombie  And on Halloween (ha- her one day a year to be awesome at it) she is a makeup extraordinaire!  Her artistry is quite amazing too!  Anyways, our friend said to her after she saw the video, “I can’t believe you let someone mess up your hair like that and have a dirty face!”  To which she responded, “I did that!”  The friend said, “Well, then you did a mighty fine job!” … To film this in 6 hours total, including eating dinner and everything that comes with that, I really could not have done it without them!

One of my most favorite parts of the video, and I laugh every time, is where I have my youngest daughter stand at the island in the kitchen playing the iPad.  Pix1I wanted to show the idea that when we are so engrossed in our electronic-whatevers, that we become oblivious to life around us.  The drops of ketchup on the counter was what I saw in my original vision!  The part we didn’t include was where she was “so engrossed in her iPad game that she put her hand in the ketchup like she was grabbing a nugget and then proceeded to eat it, at the same time I was directly above her eating the nugget.”  Of course, I thought the nugget was just as disgusting as she thought the ketchup was.  Haha.  Again, timing didn’t allow that I add that part.  But the ketchup on the counter was what I loved the most!   I’m thrilled that it came out so well!

If timing allowed, I was going to add one last shot before you saw the family Pix8at the table eating dinner together.  That shot was going to be seeing all the electronic devices left on the couch.  Spending family time together or time with those around you or sharing a conversation with a loved one far away is far more valuable than sitting on a computer or playing a video game or anything else like that.  My hubby and I remind my kids, himself and myself of that all the time.  It’s easy and fun to sit on Facebook or play games or watch “Halloween Cupcake Wars” or do work on-the-go, but it’s funner (not a word, but using it anyhow) to be in the present with those in the living.

That’s my “iZombie” story.  And I’m stickin’ to it!


Sincerely, Susan


I’d love to read how electronic stuff has made your life more easy and more valuable.  I’d also love to know how you keep your life in balance when it comes to life with technology.  Share with me your thoughts below!

To watch this video: “iZombie” (my version of Alex Boye’s “African Zombie”) click here!

(Don’t miss the couple of blooper scenes at the end of the video.)

Thank you Alex Boye’ for an amazing, fun song! – “African Zombie”




Apple Watch Reveal (ASL)

Have you seen Apple’s newest family member yet … Yes, the very cool, crisp and shiny Apple Watch! …


Who better to share the news, the ins and outs, and how the new Apple Watch compares to the very first Smartwatch “Pebble”, than this die-hard Apple techie guru guy, Ryan Layton.  In this video, Ryan will reveal the big anticipated Apple Watch!

YT Photo 1 Apple Watch


If you like this video, be sure to SUBSCRIBE to!  (Don’t miss out on all the videos coming your way!)

IMG_7795Please consider supporting me and the making of these videos through making your purchases to places like Amazon (and others listed on my Support page) or any ads/links on

The Official Trailer for ‘Apple Watch Reveal (ASL)’
AW YT Trailer Pix
‘Apple Watch Reveal (ASL)’ full video
YT Photo 1 Apple Watch


I *heart* ASL Stories! (Apps)

App of the Week: VL2 Storybooks

(4 ASL Storybook Apps that are pretty awesome!)

I love a good story and when it’s done right in ASL, it’s absolutely beautiful! I thought I’d share one of my favorite apps (actually there are 4 apps but all are from the same place).

IMG_7306The Baobab – Gallaudet University,

The Boy Who Cried Wolf VL2 Storybook – Gallaudet University,

The Blue Lobster – Gallaudet University,

The Solar System VL2 Storybook – Gallaudet University

These storybook apps were created by VL2 (Visual Language and Visual Learning), a Science and Learning Center based at Gallaudet University, ‘the world’s only university with programs and services specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students’.* IMG_7312

These apps are interactive, using content based ASL signs (which is very important! One sign doesn’t fit every meaning for the same English word); include a comprehensive glossary of words used within the story; and are rich with color! Not only that, these apps are designed based on proven research in bilingualism and visual learning.  I love them!  (My kids love them too!)

The Baobab – Gallaudet University,

The Boy Who Cried Wolf VL2 Storybook – Gallaudet University,

The Blue Lobster – Gallaudet University,IMG_7300

The Solar System VL2 Storybook – Gallaudet University

Each of these 4 apps include the option to watch the story (narrator on the story background), have the story text at the bottom with narrator on screen, and include ASL vocabulary used in the story (and beautiful expansions of those words).

Now, for those in more advanced stages of learning sign or even working to become an interpreter, I think these videos could be of great value to you, as well.  IMG_7320You will find their use of classifiers, facial expressions, use of space and many other ASL components are amazing to watch and would be useful in mirroring and expounding on in your own practice.  Not only that, the ‘Watch’ section of the apps give you a beautiful opportunity to practice voicing.

Anyways, check out these 4 beautiful storybook apps!  ….

In ASL, “I *heart* ASL Stories” would look like this: “ASL Stories Kiss-Fist!” … That means I REALLY love ASL stories!  … SMILES!



*Gallaudet description: Quoted from their website.

**P.S. My opinion/warning regarding ASL apps: It really is tough to find ASL apps that I would trust my family to.  Sure, there are some ASL apps out there (and I’ll share some other ones at a later time) that I believe use (or teach signs) with accuracy and effectively, four of which are these VL2 apps.   But there are several apps that are very poor, that I believe either do not sign with accuracy or teach ASL poorly.  That’s the unfortunate part of having anything at your fingertips.  No one has to be ‘qualified’ just money to fork the app costs.  And then those who buy the app suffer.  Even more so, the Deaf suffer by having to try and piece together the inaccurate ASL, which man not necessarily be at the fault of the user! You just have to know which apps are good and trustworthy and go with those! So, there you have it.  ….Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now.  Ha.

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