How They Radio Hit the Airwaves
You don’t have to go to band camp to appreciate good organic music. We didn’t. Well maybe Brian did, but that’s another story. This story is about the birth of our wicked radio station ‘they radio’ that hit the airwaves last week. We think it’s pretty cool and since we know that you’re cool people, we know you’ll think it’s cool too. And don’t worry, Brian made sure that no country hee haw two-stepped its way on air despite Sarah’s efforts. But as talented as we are, and as much as we’d like to snap our fingers and there’s our kick ass radio station, this was a process and we'd like to share that process with you. So turn up your volume and tune in while we show you how they radio was born.
We really wanted the freedom and ability to quickly change up the music depending on what we felt like playing and since the idea behind it all was to take what we were listening to in the office and make it public through a complete in house job, we decided that using our itunes was the best way to go about it. We searched the web for a tool that would help us easily transform our itunes into a stream and that’s how we found Nicecast from Rogue Amoeba. This application literally hijacks your itunes and turns it into a stream giving us the freedom and simplicity we were looking for.
Once we had transformed our itunes we realized we needed something to jazz it up and make it sound a little more authentic, so we came up with some original one-liners to be randomly streamed between songs. Not only do the one liners jazz it up, but they add one more extension of our office personality. That’s right, a little piece of they is jiving right into your home or office.
Since we were doing everything in house and wanted the freedom to change things up quickly and easily, we opted to use text-to-speech technology for the voices in our radio tags. Here is an example of text-to-speech.
One of the biggest challenges using TTS was getting it to sound natural. Sometimes you have to swap in letters, add abnormal punctuation, use homonyms, and generally just mess around to get the best effect. For instance, one of the one-liners we have says, "It's like viagra for your ears, except it lasts for ever. You're listening to they radio."
In order to make this sound natural in the TTS application we used, we actually had to enter it as "It's like vi-agra for your ears. Accept, this lasts four ever. Your lisening two they, radio."
Swapping in homonyms, or words that sounded like what you are trying to say was particularly effective (two=to, four=for, your=you're) because the TTS engine would place completely different emphasis on these words, even though spoken by themselves, they would sounds almost the same. Adding punctuation could also change emphasis. For instance, if we had just used "they radio" without the comma, most of the TTS voices would not put enough emphasis on ‘they’ and it would almost sound like one word instead of two. Adding the comma completely changed how it sounded. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to get it right, and sometimes you just can't make it sound right and have to change the script entirely to make it work. Other times, you could get it close, and then rely on a sound editing tool (which comes next) to make small tweaks.
The main sound editor program we used is called Audacity, which is free, open source, and available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux. This is where we got creative with layering in sound effects, but it's important to keep things subtle and not too cheesy (although we do like a little fromage here and there). After the TTS phase, with some minor editing in Audacity, the file sounds like this,
Then for added impact we thought it would be cool to support the "crap kicking" with some relevant sound, so we checked "the googles" for some free/royalty-free sound effects and picked up some crowd noise that sounded like this:
and a boxing bell sound that sounded like this:
and pulled them into Audacity. Once in, we mixed them down to the right volume levels, timed them right, shortened the crowd noise and added some fades. The final result looked like this:
and sounded like this:
Each of the one liners took about 20 minutes depending on how much fiddling had to be done with the TTS to get them to sound right. In the future we’re hoping to refine the process a little more as we find better sources to improve the quality. Here's what we've come up with so far:
Viagara for your ears
Spinning tunes for the hell of it
Radio without the BS
Broadcasting to the free world and beyond
Doing it in front of an auidence
Commercial free (female)
Commerical free (male)
We sent out a beta version to a select few people to check out and received some great comments and useful feedback that we took into consideration when making our final tweaks. And after being in beta for a few weeks, it’s finally live on our site. Check out the top right hand corner of this page to tune in.
Our great selection of music will get your creative juices flowin’ and your dance moves goin’! And if you’re still craving more, you can tune into our theyinspire and staff DJ channels on Blip.fm. Turn up your volume and tune in to they radio. Why? Because it kicks the crap out of other stations!
- Tagged in: twitter, social media, blogging, they integrated
- Category: Advertising