Mills James creates automated voice-over system for Ohio Lottery drawings

By Scott Lanum, VP – Teleproduction Services

When you’re watching the Ohio Lottery midday drawings for the Pick 3, Pick 4 and Pick 5 games, you might be surprised to learn that the voice-over announcer that reads the numbers isn’t a flesh-and-blood human, but an automated announcer run by a computer in a robotic voice-over system engineered by Mills James.

Mills James has been producing the daily drawings for the Ohio Lottery in our downtown Cleveland studios since August 2013. Drawings are held midday and again in the evening. Until recently, the midday drawing was recorded only to be archived for posterity purposes. The Mills James crew in that studio read a scripted voice-over and announced the numbers when they appeared on screen, recording live-to-disk. But the Lottery wanted to make a change and post the midday drawing on their website along with their evening drawings. However, due to talent union rules, we would need a union talent to voice those number drawings. The evening drawings have an on-camera union talent that reads from a teleprompter, then announces the numbers live to 10 stations across the state of Ohio as the numbers are drawn on set.

The Ohio Lottery midday drawings are voiced by an Automated Drawing Announce Machine [ADAM] engineered by Mills James.

The Ohio Lottery midday drawings are voiced by an Automated Drawing Announce Machine [ADAM] engineered by Mills James.

Our challenge was to figure out how to produce and upload the midday drawings and stay within the union regulations while keeping the talent fees reasonable. We knew it was within the talent union’s code to pre-record a voice-over and play it back daily for a quarterly fee, not per instance as with the evening drawings. In the case of the midday drawings, the numbers obviously change every day. We needed to create a system that would recognize the numbers as they were drawn and trigger a voice-over file that matched the number voiced by a union talent.

Chief Engineer Dave King created an automated voice-over playback system utilizing Ross Video’s XPression motion graphics system. That graphics system, which provides the motion graphics for the daily drawings, also has extensive audio capabilities along with a data linking feature and an IP controllable interface. We call this solution ADAM, the Automatic Drawing Announce Machine.

We pre-recorded a standard in-and-out script in addition to every conceivable number combination that could be drawn from the machines, in several vocal inflections. We placed these voice files in specific folders and created a program using the XPpression’s data linking feature to pick a certain file to play at the appropriate time. As the production starts, the system plays the first voice over file with music under. When a ball appears on the screen, a technician types that number in, and the number voice-over files are triggered. The system is programmed in such a way that it knows when the last number in a drawing is selected and pulls a file from the folder with the right closing inflection. The “date” voice-over information is harvested from the system date on the XPpression’s operating system.

Here is a link to a sample drawing.