The other day I was listening to 1010WINS for news examples to play for my Journalism class when suddenly this bit of noise spewed out of the radio:
Before you could say “What the —,” it was followed by a truly annoying ad for Fiat of Manhattan. Something about a new Fiat 500 for “only $99 a month.” So that burst of gobbledygook was actually what I refer to as the fine print — but placed before the ad this time, rather than at the end.
In a previous post I’ve ranted about this egregious type of audio deception: legalese that’s been sped up digitally to squeeze the maximum number of words into the minimum amount of time. It’s deceptive and it’s insulting. It’s the advertiser saying to the FCC, “Screw you. You want these words in the ad? Here they are. Nyah-nyah-nyah.”
Subtle (and not so subtle) digital time compression happens a lot more often than you’d think. Radio commercials that run, say, a second or two long when they’re produced are routinely put through an algorithm on the DAW that brings them to exactly 30 or 60 seconds (or :29, or :59) without altering the pitch of the voices or music.
The longer the source material, the more undetectable this trickery becomes. Back in the days when audiobooks were mastered in analog and released on cassette, the maximum tape length a duplicator would allow might be 47:30 (this varied from company to company). So if your Side One ran 47:55 you could either go through the whole thing and cut out a gazillion little pauses … or load your master onto a workstation, run it through the Sonic Solutions TimeTwist® software, speed it up by three to five per cent, and record it back onto tape. If you were lucky, no little digital artifacts would result and your editor would be none the wiser.
Now comes an age when “undetectable” doesn’t matter. It’s more like, “let’s just get this over with.”
But the feds require the advertisers to put this language into their ads for a reason. It’s information the consumer needs to know to make an informed choice. When it’s not possible to understand that information, the spirit (if not the letter) of the law is being violated.
Hello? FCC? FTC?
Anyway, back to Fiat of Manhattan. Since I happened to be recording 1010WINS I had a copy of the disclaimer … all 4.6 seconds of it. I loaded it onto my ProTools workstation and ran it through Avid’s TCE (time compression/expansion) plug-in. It required a bit of trial and error to make sense of it but I finally produced this:
That’s twice the length of the “original”! Despite the many digital glitches, this is what it appears to say:
“Tax, tags, and MV fees additional. Thirty-nine month, ten thousand mile lease for qualified buyers includes zero security deposit and all incentives. See dealer for details. DCA number 1177856.”
DCA number 1177856. Hmm…