Vocal Local is a technology used by The Weather Channel as part of the Local on the 8s segments on various Star units. The technology consists of individually recorded weather conditions and phrases, read out systematically to mirror the on screen forecast. The technology works as both an enhancement to the local forecast and as an accessibility tool to the visually impaired. It has gone through several revisions and narrators since its inception. Across all versions, the system generally works the same way. As part of the data sent over satellite, specific data codes are sent down to the Star unit, which are then referenced against an internal list. This list determines which narrations that the Star plays out, and what order they are played in.
Weather Star XL
Vocal Local officially premiered on the Weather Star XL. This first edition featured TWC's in-house voice-over artist, Allen Jackson. Due to limited resources and disk space, the selection on this unit is very sparse. While generic narrations were used for the 36 hour forecast, descriptive narrations were used for the current conditions and extended forecast segments. The current conditions segment features the current temperature and sky condition. Meanwhile on the extended forecast, a short narration consisting of the overall highs or lows for the next week, and general conditions.
In early 2003, TWC released the IntelliStar (IS1) to be used on Weatherscan. With this change, comes new narrations voiced by Amy Bargeron. For Weatherscan, only generic narrations are used for current conditions and forecasts. Other specialized narrations are used to introduce the allergy report, airport conditions, and traffic report segments.
The only exception to these narrations is a traffic sponsor tag for the Traffic segment. This narration is provided by TrafficPulse as an advertisement for Traffic.com.
With the domestic launch of the IntelliStar in 2004, more vocal local narrations were needed. For this to happen, TWC once again used Allen Jackson for a new expanded set of narrations in high fidelity. In an effort to make the unit a better replacement for any current Weatherstar systems, the IntelliStar's vocal local was able to narrate all segments descriptively. Severe alert crawls now gained generic narrations, and other segments, such as the 36 hour forecast gained highly descriptive narrations. Generic narrations were always used for the radar and 7 day forecast. As a fallback, generic narrations are saved for current conditions and the 36 hour forecast for when the Star can't process the audio codes.
For the 36 hour forecast, the vocal local on the unit is able to almost exactly match the text based forecast sent down by The Weather Channel. This is thanks to the hundreds of different variations of any possible forecasted condition that can be created by TWC's forecast engine. Specific narrations include the main events expected (rain turning to snow, sleet, sun and clouds, etc.), the wind speed and direction, chance of precipitation, plus any extra specific information (localized flooding possible, near record low temperatures, etc.) .
As with the IntelliStar 1, the launch of the IntelliStar 2 HD in 2008 called for a new set of vocal local narrations. Instead of using Allen Jackson again as with the IS1, TWC turned to popular on-air meteorologist Jim Cantore to voice the new generation of IntelliStar. These units kept the same level of narration as the IS1. The usage continues to this day as part of the IntelliStar 2 Jr and IntelliStar 2 XD. Community reception since the launch of this version of vocal local has been mixed.