CountDown is a program for generating :
- mp3 files containing recorded
announcements and talking-clock type messages at regular intervals.
- a schedule and sound files for the "startrobot" autonomous announcement software for Raspberry Pi (see below).
This is useful for time-trial sports like orienteering with
competitors starting at regular intervals over a long period. Instead
of a volunteer announcing each start time and any instructions and then starting each group
of starters, an mp3 recording can be played with the same information
on it, or the autonomous sound clock can be used.
CountDown can be downloaded from here
latest version is 0.8.5 (19th August 2014). Start robot voice updated 27/12/2016.
The startrobot software can be downloaded from here.
This file has all the source files and an executable file built for the Raspbian operating system (Raspberry Pi). To use this software you ideally need a device with a real-time clock and configure it to run the program at start-up. When the program runs it will examine any mounts on devices named /dev/sd*. This is where Raspbian normally mounts USB sticks. If there is such a mount, it examines the top level directories in the mounted location to see if any of them contain an export folder from CountDown. If they do, the program starts playing the schedule on a real time basis.
The advantage of using the autonomous approach over the MP3 player version is that nobody has to fart-arse around with the player to position the playback, the robot does it in real-time.
CountDown itself will only run on the Microsoft Windows platforms at the
moment. The "startrobot" software is only built for Raspberry Pi, but feel free to recompile. It requires C++ with some C++11 features.
The help included with the product is incomplete, but since release 0.8, the software has been made fairly simple to use.
This Windows software is currently free (as in beer), rather than free (as in
See the licensing information at the foot of this page if all that stuff worries you.
The best way to figure out whether CountDown has the functionality you
want is to try it. You can click on the picture below to see the main
- Generate clock-dependent announcements (such as the time)
at regular intervals
- Create custom announcements (a microphone is required)
- Combine custom and clock dependent announcements
- Re-record clock voice in local accent (rather than
Microsoft Mary's voice)
- Time announcements to start at or finish at a specific time
Help & SamplesGetting Started - Help on recording messages and re-recording the clock voice
Sample 1 - Five minutes of
start time announcements using built-in clock voice
Sample 2 - Five minutes of
start time announcements using custom clock voice
If you have some sound that you want to use in a CountDown recording,
then you will need to follow these instructions (some technical skill required):
There is a recording of a 5-second countdown (with beeps) of the style used for orienteering and downhill skiing here.
- Convert recording to a mono WAV file format with sampling frequency 22050Hz - you can use
something like audacity to do this.
- Enter folder name "%APPDATA%\Undy\CountDown\Custom" in the Windows files explorer.
- Copy your recording to the folder Custom. When you restart CountDown, it should show up in your list of recordings.
Using the Recordings
To actually use the recordings that you create you will need something
to play the mp3 file on and something to amplify the sound (depending
on what your chosen mp3 playing device is).
Playing recordings on a PC
The created recordings have a lot of blanks in them (when nothing
is being said), the MP3 format compresses these away to virtually
nothing and PC-based players, particularly Microsoft Media Player have
a lot of difficulty in repositioning within such a file if you want to
cue the recording up to a specific point.
Playing recordings on an MP3 player
If you don't already have an mp3 player, then
you should be able to buy a 128MB mp3 player for about $20
ebay. The features that you should look out for are:
- A good cue/review system, so that you can position to a specific
point in a recording with the (time) position within the recording
- The player should keep good time. This is pretty hard to check out in the shop, but anything costing over $30 should be fine. Before
you use it for real, check that it keeps good time, or your
pre-recorded announcements will get out of sync with reality. Using a
"MEGA 533" player from that well known brand "MSI" we have no problems
at all, similarly with various Sony devices.
Pump up the volume
If you don't want to lend everyone your headphones, then you will need some
battery powered speakers - the louder the better if you are using them
outdoors. We'd recommend as many watts as you can afford - the very
cheap 0.75 watt speaker we initially bought just wasn't up to the job.
As a rough guide, if the speaker(s) use less than 6 AA batteries, they probably won't be up to the job.
Use NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) rechargeable batteries for the player
and the speaker. If you are worried that they will run out, take
spares. Check how many mAh each battery stores - the bigger the
number the better (and more expensive) - aim for 2000mAh minimum for AA
batteries. AAA batteries usually come in much smaller capacities, but
go for the largest you can get.
The program is free for you to download and use.
CountDown uses MP3 encoders from the LAME project
under the Lesser
Gnu Public License