Hey kids! It’s time to give some (most? all?) of you a quick and dirty HOW-TO on making your own Public Service Announcements, Station IDs, Inane Commercials, whatever.
Firstly, this HOW-TO applies to Windows 7 and later versions of operating systems (there are RUMORS it works for XP and Vista, I have no direct knowledge of this). I have no idea if this stuff will work with Windows 98SE or Unix or Cheetah or any of that Apple Crapple. Also, I don’t care if it works for these operating systems. Ask your minister or therapist for guidance in this area.
You will need a free application called Balabolka. “Balabolka” (bal-ah-bowl-ka) is Russian for someone who likes to chat constantly. Balabolka is a 32 bit application, and that will be important later on in this thrilling saga.
Balabolka works with any installed Microsoft TTS voices already on your system. (Okay, let’s take a short detour here. There are a LOT of handicap accessibility features already built into Windows. You probably have no idea they are there because you can see, you can hear, you can talk, etc. TTS is short for Text To Speech. Windows has a built in capacity to read the contents of numerous types of files to a user who may have difficulty reading or even seeing the screen. In other words, you already have at least one TTS voice on your machine. Poke around in the Accessibility Features of Windows one rainy afternoon; you will be very impressed at what is built right in to the operating system to help people with sight and hearing issues use a PC) If you have further questions about the ins and outs of how Balaboka hooks into the TTS voices and what sort of options you have, go here.
At some point, you may want to add a different voice to the voice library. This is easily done by searching the web for something along the lines of “free text to speech voices windows I am too cheap to buy shit” or something similar. Be SURE to use 32 bit compatible voices (see? I told you that 32 bit business would be important).
The Balabolka interface is pretty straight forward. Open the application and you will see the usual menu bars and assorted means of sorcery in the top part of the window. The bottom half of the window is a big open space just begging you to write something witty, inspirational, incisive and provocative. Balabolka has a bunch of BUTTONS, knobs, sliders and valves for controlling the speed, volume, and pitch of the TTS voice in use, it gives you the ability to alter pronunciation of particular words, it will also let you preview all or part of any Balabolka script you are creating from scratch.
After you have your Balabolka script typed up the way you like it and you are fairly happy with how the TTS voice reads it aloud, record it using an audio editor. A really really really good audio editor that is free is called Audacity. Audacity has been around forever. It is well supported and under constant development (that means someone fixes shit that is broken), it also has a broad user base (that means you can generally ask a question in most any random gathering about how to do something in Audacity and someone will actually have the right answer). Audacity will allow you to get rid of annoying stuff like large pauses between spoken phrases. It also allows you to further refine the TTS voice by applying filters (reverb, echo, vocal enhancement, faux stereo, equalizer…. the list of things you can do with Audacity is quite lengthy, BUT (and this is important) you do not have to use any of that stuff. You can play around with the effects to your heart’s content and as long as you don’t save the file, you can always go back to the original starting point.
Any audio editor will suffice (Adobe Audition aka Cool Edit, Sound Forge, GoldWave, etc). I used Audacity as the example because it is free, it is proven, and it is well supported.
Once you have finished your audio editing, save the file as .mp3, .flac, .wav, whatever your audio player likes to stream. Name the file something that you can identify by looking at the name. PSA1, PSA2, PSA3, etc are not too good because after you get to PSA64, you may not remember what the hell PSA14 actually says. Name them something along the lines of “Dumbass Fake Commercial for Long Life Dildo Batteries” – a file name that actually has bearing on the content of the file. You will then want to listen to your project via your regular audio player software and normalize the volume if needed.
That’s it. All done. Now you are truly dangerous.