Voice Spotlight: Mark Rios
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Mark is one of our incredible Dwell voices, we’re so blessed to have him. An actor and voice artist, Mark brings warmth and life to the Scripture-listening experience. We asked him a few questions so you can get to know him a little more. 

1. Tell us about your audition with Dwell; how you heard about it and the process of becoming a voice.

My audition with Dwell was a very comfortable one indeed. I had heard about the casting through Craigslist believe it or not, and thought It would be a great fit if I booked it. The initial audition all the way through the final "Call-back" was a very laid back process, where Jon/Josh made me feel at home. Initially I declined their offer for different reasons, but God brought us back together again after many months. 

2. Do you have something you do before you begin recording to get into a certain mindset?

Before each recording session I say a prayer, and try to get into my "Brother Andrew" character. He is a character that I envision to be sitting in a quiet cabin reading through a copy of the part of the Bible he finished copying. This character helps me to get into the right mode and pace of reading.

3. What is the biggest challenge of reading the entire Bible?

The biggest challenge in reading the Bible in its entirety, is staying in character with the same vocal tones, rythyms, etc. 

4. What do you do aside from being one of the voices of Dwell?

My regular job is an actor/voice actor.

5. Have you ever done voice work before?

I have done voice work many times throughout my career. I've done everything from voice acting for an animated film, to voice acting for Japanese anime. 

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Mark's Favorites

Snack: Nut butter filled Clif Bars

Band: Coldplay

Book of the Bible: Love Psalms, Revelation, Micah

Superhero movie: Wolverine

Hobby: Reading about different speculative subjects

8. What drew you to join Dwell?

What drew me to join the Dwell team was the goal of showcasing the Scriptures vocally in a whole different light. Using original art/music etc. with the different styles of voices was incredible to me. 

What is one thing you’ve learned since you started recording the Scriptures?

The one thing I'm learning since starting the recording sessions is to always be patient with myself. This is a huge deal for me. As an actor, I have a hard time with that, believe me!

9. Has being involved with this project changed your outlook of the Bible?

Being involved with this project has made me more attune to the Scriptures in general. There are some passages I've recorded that I never had heard before believe it or not. 

Carol Michael
Director of Technology: Jeff McFadden
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Jeff is at the helm of Dwell's incredible development team, and we’re so blessed to have him. We asked him a few questions so you can get to know him a little more.

1. Take us behind the scenes, how do you get from the concept to live app?

Typically we start by creating a mockup in Photoshop or a UI prototyping tool like Invision. We spend some time discussing the various UI components and working through any complications that might arise from our desired implementations. 

From there I like to get a prototype of the basic features working so that we can start to get an idea of how well the various concepts are working together. At that point it’s a matter of continuous iteration and refinement, slowly smoothing the rough edges and polishing the surface until it’s finally ready.

2. What is the biggest challenge of creating Dwell from a developer’s standpoint?

Probably optimizing the app for slow/poor network conditions. It’s easy to get an app to work when you have a strong and fast wifi connection, but we want Dwell to work for people on the slowest, jankiest 3G networks out there. That’s going to require a lot of optimization, caching, and resiliency.

3. What part of the app are you most excited about?

Probably the audio pipeline. It’s started out simply enough, but we've been implementing some fun and challenging things that are making the app stand out and provide a truly fantastic aural experience for our listeners.

4. What kinds of projects were you involved in before Dwell?

I’ve worked with the Lightstock team in since 2012. I’ve also worked on quite a few apps, including the initial versions of the Ask Pastor JohnSolid Joys, and Sermon of the Day apps for Desiring God, among others. And I co-founded Sermons.io

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Jeff's Favorites

Snack: Skittles

Band: Slow Dancing Society

Book of the Bible: Ecclesiastes

Superhero movie: Iron Man

Hobby: Stargazing

5. What made you want to join the Dwell team?

I didn’t really have a choice. 😉 Seriously though, Dwell is an amazing idea with an opportunity to have a massive impact for good in the world. Who wouldn’t want to work on Dwell?

6. How do you envision Dwell in the future? More features? Different uses?

I’m looking forward to the day when Dwell is in the hands of listeners all across the globe, in myriad languages, transforming lives through the joy of Christ.

Carol Michael
Design & Beauty
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One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
— Psalm 27:4

Dwell's Senior Front End Designer/Developer, Jordan Koschei, discusses design and beauty.

 One of the required classes at my small Christian liberal arts college was Civilization and the Arts. CivArts was the subject of much grumbling — what else did they expect, forcing a bunch of science and business majors to take an art appreciation class? And yet, almost eight years later, it's one of the classes I find myself thinking the most about.

CivArts was about art appreciation, but it was also about prompting loftier questions that you don't necessarily find in a class on engineering or political science. What is beauty? How do aesthetics relate to our experience with God?

Fast forward to the present day. I work as a designer, helping startups build websites and apps that are both functional and attractive. It's a practical job, but it also calls for some introspection on those same lofty questions. What is beauty? What makes a website or an app beautiful? Why does the mind respond well to some things and not to others?

I started at Dwell just over a month ago. Since then, I've been getting to know the team and the product, and have been thoroughly impressed by the focus on quality and beauty, both visible to the user and "under the hood." I've seen well-considered designs, elegantly-written code, and lovingly-recorded audio. Throughout all that, I've seen an unwavering focus on helping more people integrate the Gospel into their daily lives.

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As a designer, it's my job to think from the user's perspective:
- How will a user be able to interact with plans, playlists, and stories?
- How can we make Dwell beautiful for users with visual impairments?
- How can we make the Dwell experience simple and delightful?

There's a well-known saying in design circles: "Good design is as little design as possible." Ideally, you'll never have to think about the mechanics of using Dwell — the app should get out of the way so you can focus on Scripture.

A few blog posts ago, the artists at Prixel Creative who are working on Dwell said this: "God is the master artist, that's for sure."

I love that quote. God is an artist and a master craftsman, and He's made a beautiful Creation for us to occupy. Even better, in His infinite grace, He's seen fit to allow us to be participants in the creative process with Him. The world is unfinished — it has ground to be plowed and fields to be tilled, cities to be built, words to be written. We're made in God's image, and just as God loves to create and delight in His creation, we find joy in building things too.

Design is an opportunity to impose order on disorder, and to make abstract concepts feel tangible and within reach. That's about as pure an expression of that creative impulse as I know.

My sincere hope is that Dwell will be a beautiful product, not for its own sake, but because God is beautiful and we should seek to make things that reflect God. And if that's something you value too, I think you'll be delighted when you open up the app for the first time.

 

Jeff McFadden
Voice Spotlight: Felix Wanyoike
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Felix is one of our incredible Dwell voices, we’re so blessed to have him. From Kenya, Felix's warm and expressive voice keep you engaged as you listen to Scriptures. We asked him a few questions so you can get to know him a little more.

 

1. Tell us about your audition with Dwell; how you heard about it and the process of becoming a voice.

I found an ad on craigslist, and I got excited because it was a Bible App and it was something concerning the gospel. So many people had discouraged me because of my accent because I’m from Africa. But I love the Bible so much and I would read it out loud in church and people were really excited because I read with a lot of passion, so when I saw the ad I knew I had to audition. After that, everything changed. I met Jon and Josh and they were so welcoming and excited about my voice; I don’t think I’ve ever met two people who have such a passion for spreading the gospel.

2. Do you have something you do before you begin recording to get into a certain mindset?

I always have to get myself ready to travel through both the new and old testament. I feel as though I'm preparing my reading for the listener.

3. What is the biggest challenge of reading the entire Bible?

I get so excited about it, but it’s such a big book and it takes a long time, and I am looking forward to getting it out there for the listeners to begin to experience and change the world.

4. What do you do aside from one of the voices of Dwell?

I work at in a packing and shipping warehouse.

5. Have you ever done voice work before?

No, just reading in church.

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Felix's Favorites

Snack: Cake

Band: Hillsong United

Book of the Bible: John

Superhero movie: Superman

 Hobby: Photography

8. What is one thing you’ve learned since you started recording the Scriptures?

That the Scriptures are the Living Word. It applies to all parts of our lives, past present and future. 

9. Has being involved with this project changed your outlook of the Bible?

Yes, I have learned to understand more about the Bible and I feel so excited that we are going to make a difference and spread the Word of Jesus Christ.

Carol Michael
Behind the Scenes of Our Kickstarter Video
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This is Sammy, he is Dwell's incredible Storyteller. We asked him to write a bit about the Kickstarter video and how it came to be. Read on to hear about the process and experience of creating the video.

 

We've known from the beginning that Dwell would be introduced to the world via Kickstarter. We've also always known how significant the video would be to our campaign. 

The video had to 1. tell the world that we exist, 2. capture the essence of what we wanted Dwell to become, and 3. communicate our need for support to accomplish the massive task of making the app a reality. Done properly, the video would allow our backers to see the value that Dwell could provide before we even began development. We began the journey by analyzing a lot of the most successful campaigns on Kickstarter – watching their videos over and over until we found some sort of pattern we could replicate. From there, we used a similar formula to outline our video-to-be.

After our outline was made, the daydreaming began. We had a grand vision of an epic video with a ton of surreal locations. It wasn't too long after that we bought tickets to visit Chad Lawson – Dwell's composer – in North Carolina for an interview, and road-tripped up the East Coast for the rest of the video. Our two largest shoots were in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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Filming on the Brooklyn Bridge

Our entire campaign was thoughtfully designed to foster a deeper connection to God through beauty and simplicity. They weren’t an afterthought, they were a choice from the beginning.

We captured hundreds of gigabytes worth of footage to ensure we had everything we'd need when we returned to Texas for our edit. Sifting through over 300gbs of footage proved to be one of my greatest challenges. We felt a responsibility to use our screen time wisely and still be able to communicate the weight of what we're trying to do here. It went through many, MANY iterations before it became the final product you see today. There were too many extra shoots, cuts, and re-cuts to even count.

I've been learning a lot recently about how beauty can allow us to discover God in new ways. Colossians 3:23 serves as a constant reminder that I am called to glorify Him in every piece of work that I create. This campaign was Dwell's "first handshake" to the world. Knowing this, I felt the conviction that this project was to be done in all excellence. 

I think the end result captures the heart of Dwell. Our entire campaign was thoughtfully designed to foster a deeper connection to God through beauty and simplicity. They weren't an afterthought, they were a choice from the beginning.

On a different note, we have quite a few crazy stories from this project. Most notably, while we were filming in Brooklyn, one of the guys on the crew ended up getting REALLY sick with a fever of 103 degrees. Somehow, though, he decided that the show had to go on. He stayed with us until we completed the shoot, after which he crashed in the hotel room with some major fever shivers. #Dedication

Any obstacles we faced in the process of making the video quickly subsided due to the amount of fun and joy we had while making it, as well as seeing the final product. It was awesome to have a hand in the campaign. I am so excited for what the future holds for Dwell! It's incredible that we are only a few weeks away from launching the iOS version. Get ready for something big!

 

Sammy Lopez
Voice Spotlight: Greg McPeat
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Greg is one of our incredible Dwell voices, we're so blessed to have him. As our resident storyteller his dramatized reads bring the Scriptures to life and really engage the listener. We asked him a few questions so you can get to know him a little better. 

 

1. Tell us about your audition with Dwell; how you heard about it and the process of becoming a voice.

My audition with Dwell was a very pleasant experience. Jon and Josh are very direct in their focus and vision, and have a heart for making listening to the Bible easy to understand. Of course in today's world convenience is everything, so making the Bible easily accessible is now possible.

As a former radio guy, it is a pleasure to work with them to lend sort of a different storytelling voice to the exceptional list of narrators that are currently listed with Dwell.

2. Do you have something you do before you begin recording to get into a certain mindset?
Before I begin reading, I practice the text the night before to add a bit of passion and enhance the listening experience, and give the listener a closer, more personal listen. I try to read as if the listener were right there experiencing the situation firsthand.

 

God used regular, ordinary people to do extraordinary things and I think that is just how God works.

3. What is the biggest challenge of reading the entire Bible?

The biggest challenge to me is to paint a picture or create an impact on the listener as he or she follows along. So much of the Bible is a story within a story. The triumphs and failures of regular people, like you and me, who simply by trusting God's word, can be victorious through Jesus Christ. God used regular, ordinary people to do extraordinary things and I think that is just how God works. He chooses those that come to Him with a humble and contrite spirit.

4. What do you do aside from one of the voices of Dwell?

I have my hobbies and everything... They're mostly voice and communication related. I'm trying to get into other types of things like getting more into the engineering side of producing. I'm also trying to improve my writing skills.

More than that, I'm trying to get better with narration and voiceover. That's the main thing. I'm doing that by studying on my craft, following the Holy Spirit as it leads, and to be a more impactful, influential narrator. 

Also, I really want to expand the use of voice for the sake of experience. Different dialects, publishing/narrating/writing faith-based children's books are some things I'd like to get into eventually. I think thats what's next for me.

5. Have you ever done voice work before?

Well, I was a howling, screaming, top 40 radio voice back in the mid-to-late 80's. Then transitioned into a smooth Jazz RnB voice. I even did Country music as well at one point and that was a lot of fun. There was always something radio-oriented. Radio has changed a lot since then, though.

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6. What is your favorite Bible story?

My mom used to read the story of David and Goliath to me when I was about 4 years old. Back in those days you could go to a store and get all of your favorite Bible stories. That's still my favorite story. It kind of lit up a young boy, so unlikely and so unassuming, but with his steadfast and unwavering faith, he killed Goliath the giant and became the champion and king of Israel. Of course as I grew older I learned of David's frailties and how, even though he fell short so many times, he learned to quickly acknowledge his guilt, understood that he could do nothing without the Lord's help, and repented and received God's grace and mercy, just as you and I would today.

In fact, to me, its the whole premise of why Jesus Christ came and died for us.

7. Has being involved with this project changed your outlook of the Bible?

Being involved with Dwell has helped bring all of the stories of the Bible together for me, full circle. We all have our favorite Scriptures and stories. Now its easier for me to tie all of those stories together because I sort of narrate the Bible in a storytelling form. It helped me tie them all together, full circle. I realized that the Bible is the greatest story, rather the collection of stories, ever told.

Carol Michael
Quick Production Update
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By now you're probably well aware of how huge the task of recording Dwell's content is. We've been hard at work to make sure that we're ready to launch with 34 completed books for each of our four voices. With our launch date approaching, we've kicked our process into overdrive! Things are moving crazy fast here at Dwell HQ. Here's where we're at:

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Rosie: 62% fully mastered
Felix: 56% fully mastered
Mark: 35% fully mastered
Greg: 85% fully mastered

This graph represents our fully recorded, edited, and mastered launch content. This includes the entire New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, Genesis, Exodus, 1st & 2nd Samuel, and Ecclesiastes. 
We're having so much fun creating the content for Dwell, and we're so excited to get it in your hands next month!

Carol Michael
Dwell Artists: Prixel Creative
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Prixel Creative is the talented design team tasked with creating masterpieces that encapsulate the spirit of each book and passage for Dwell. Their team is comprised of a husband and wife dynamic duo, Kendra and Justin Skinner, along with the newest member, Travis Gann. Prixel’s studio is located in the historic district of Springfield, MO. Get to know them:  

 

1. How did you first hear about Dwell?

Josh and Jon first spoke with us about Dwell towards the end of the 2016. They talked about it with such passion and enthusiasm that we couldn't help but get excited about the project.

2. What made you want to join this project?

We wanted to join this project because we loved the idea of making listening to the Bible more accessible. We also knew that we'd love using the app. It was also a no brainer with Josh and Jon at the helm. They do such great work with anything and everything they are a part of. 

 

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He gives us all creativity and we realize that anything we create comes from Him. Our desire is that the artwork will help people relate to the scriptures in a way they hadn’t thought of before. 

3. What are you most excited about in the app?

We are really excited to hear the beautiful voices and be able to switch between them within the app. We've heard snippets along the way and it's going to be so neat to have full access when it launches

4. What has been the biggest challenge of taking on such a big/multi-faceted project?

Portraying the stories of the Bible is kind of a daunting task and probably the most difficult part of our process. We take that seriously and want the pieces of artwork to be as good as they can be. Some are literal and some are abstract. We want the artwork to be inspiring and not distracting to the listener.  

 

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5. Walk us through your process of coming up with a design for a Bible book or playlist, where do you get your inspiration, how does the design evolve into the final product?

We first read through the verse or story and then jot down key ideas for the artwork. Once we have that base, we research ideas and techniques and then it's on to implementation. We gather multiple images from places like Designspiration and Pinterest, and then form mood boards. We like to create our own textures and painted backgrounds to use throughout. Sometimes we get it right on the first try and other times it takes us many iterations to get it looking and feeling right for that story. Jon is also a huge help in giving valuable feedback and direction when needed. 

6. Beauty is one of the routes of access to God; how do you think this ties into your designs for Dwell?

God is the master artist, that's for sure. Trying to capture the beauty of the verses in the Bible is humbling. The process of creating is something that we love doing and the responsibility we feel is great. He gives us all creativity and we realize that anything we create comes from Him. Our desire is that the artwork will help people relate to the scriptures in a way they hadn't thought of before. 

 

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7. Which of the designs are your personal favorites and why?

We have many favorites, but so far our favorites are Colossians 3 (the butterfly), Proverbs 31, Pslams of David, Institution of the Lord's Supper, and The Epistles - The Prayer of Faith. It's actually really difficult to think back through all the designs we've created so far. Can't wait to create more! 

 

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Carol Michael
A Head Start: Caching and Prefetching
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At Dwell we’re working to ensure that you can access the Bible as quickly as possible. We’ve already talked about about why that’s difficult, and we’ve covered a few of the ways we’re tackling the problem. Today, I’d like to talk about two more tools in our arsenal that I’ve been working on lately: Caching, and Prefetching.

Caching

In the context of computing, caching is the process of locally storing data that is hard to get, so that the next time you need it, it’s close by. It’s sort of like carrying a pen in your pocket or purse while you’re at home. Sure, you could go all the way to the junk drawer in the kitchen every time you need to write something down, but it’s a lot easier if you already have one with you.

At the same time, you probably don’t also keep a sharpie, dry erase marker, and colored pencils in your pocket, because you’re much less likely to need those on a regular basis. In the same way, we only cache some data, because we don’t have room to cache all data.

One key piece of data that we cache in the app is the album artwork for each track. When you first load a track, we have to go out to the internet and download that album artwork, because we wouldn’t have room to store all of them on your phone (and, we’re making new ones all the time).

Once we’ve downloaded that album artwork, however, we can keep it around so that the next time we need to show it to you, we don’t have to go out to the internet to download it, we can just grab the locally stored copy, which loads hundreds or thousands of times more quickly than downloading a copy again. And if a cached file starts to get stale (because it’s old and unused) we can just delete that local copy to free up some space.

We also apply caching to our audio files, both scripture readings and music tracks. By keeping things close by, we can take advantage of the speed boost whenever we need to play a track again.

This all works great for content that you’ve already asked for, like album artwork or tracks that you’ve played. But what if we could get tracks that you’ll want in the future, even before you need them? This is where prefetching comes in.

Prefetching

Prefetching is just like caching, but we’re attempting to get data that you’ll need in the future, not just keeping data around once you’ve used it. A great example of this is Listening Plan tracks.

When you first start a Listening Plan we won’t have any of the tracks stored on your phone, so we’ll have to go get the first one and download (or stream) it. But, if you listen to track 1 of a plan, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll listen to track 2. So, we’ll go ahead and download track 2 in the background for you. That way, when you go to play track 2 the next morning, it will already be downloaded, waiting to play. It can start instantly, and won’t be subject to your cell phone connection dropping out while you pull out of your driveway.

Is this Offline Mode?

Not quite. While Prefetching and Caching are two important pieces, they don’t comprise a true offline mode. For that, we’ll need to have even more data available on the phone, and even more tools built to allow you to decide what gets stored, and for how long. Caching, for example, doesn’t guarantee that any file will stay on the phone; we purge those as necessary to save space on your device. In an offline mode, you’ll want unplayed files to stay until you’ve been able to listen, and you’d be pretty disappointed if your files disappeared before you could play them.

Still, Prefetching and Caching are important milestones on our way to a true offline mode (which we’re committed to building, though we won’t have it ready until well after launch). And, in the mean time, they help all our listeners spend less time waiting to download and more time with the most important book of all: the Bible.

Jeff McFadden
Voice Spotlight: Rosie De La Cruz
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Rosie is one of our incredible Dwell voices, we're so blessed to have her. From Northern England, Rosie's soft and relaxed voice lends itself nicely to a contemplative Scripture-listening experience. We asked her a few questions so you can get to know her a little more. 

 

1. Tell us about your audition with Dwell; how you heard about it and the process of becoming a voice.

I heard about the Dwell audition through a friend who worked for Lightstock. I had honestly forgot about it for a month or so and then one night I had been praying for discipline with reading the bible. The next day my friend called me and reminded me of the app audition and it felt like God was giving me a nudge in the right direction. I recorded some scripture at home and sent it in and everyone seemed to like it! So I was brought in a week later to the studio for a second audition and offered a job soon after.

 

2. Do you have something you do before you begin recording to get into a certain mindset?

I try and be mindful of the responsibility I have before reading. I just like to sit in the quiet and read through what I’m about to start with and try to tune out any distractions from regular life.

I feel like I have a responsibility through my voice to create a connection to the listener and God through the verse.

3. What is the biggest challenge of reading the entire Bible?

Conveying the tone that, I believe, the authors were. Sometimes it takes me a few minutes to realize the underlying message of a verse or chapter before I can hear it clearly in my head and how it should be spoken aloud. I feel like I have a responsibility through my voice to create a connection to the listener and God through the verse; I don’t want to be using the wrong tone and turn the listener away!

 

4. What do you do aside from one of the voices of Dwell?

I work on a communications team for an organization called Greater Europe Mission – they send missionaries across Europe to spread the Gospel. I also volunteer with an anti-trafficking organization called Treasured Vessels Foundation on their communications team. I am also married and have a tiny puppy! 

 

5. Have you ever done voice work before?

I have done podcasts for the missions organization but never voice work professionally.  

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Rosie's Favorites

Snack: Sushi

Band: Mumford & Sons

Book of the Bible: Psalms

Marvel movie: Black Panther

 Hobby: Photography

6. What drew you to join Dwell?

It was an idea I instantly believed in. When I heard the other voices I realized the potential for the app to reach people across the world and to connect people to the word in an important, new way. 

 

7. What is one thing you’ve learned since you started recording the Scriptures?

 To be patient with myself and lean on God more. Sometimes it can be frustrating rereading the same verse again and again due to my own error, but I have learned that it’s ok to make mistakes, even when reading the bible, and that ultimately God has got me where I’m meant to be. 

 

8. Has being involved with this project changed your outlook of the Bible?

Absolutely. Personally I am impatient and can scan through the bible too quickly and not let it really sink in. But reading it aloud multiple times has allowed me to soak it in and find a deep meaning behind each chapter – I love it! 

Carol Michael
Top 10 Questions People Are Asking About the App
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Hello, Dwellers! Over the last few months, we've noticed a lot of the same questions coming in through social media and email. We thought it made sense to create a Top 10 list and share those questions and answers with you. Here they are! 

Can the background music be turned off?

Yes. We're excited that so many supporters are excited about the background music that’s being created exclusively for Dwell, but we're often asked if the music can be turned off. The answer is absolutely. The background music has always been meant to draw you into the text. If it does that for you, great. If it doesn’t, turn it off. Another fun fact: You’ll also be able to adjust the volume of the music and the voices separately.

 

Can you listen to the audio at faster or slower speeds?

Yes, listening speed can be adjusted on the fly. Here are the listening speeds we’re thinking about making available at launch: .75x, 1x, 1.25x, 1.5x, and 2x.

Variable speeds are great, and interestingly, they can do more than simply speed up or slow down the text. For example, speeding up Rosie’s voice to 1.25x has the effect of making her sound more casual and less meditative.

 

Will you be able to rewind or fast-forward when listening?

Yes. Our rewind and fast-forward buttons will move you back or forward one verse at a time. So, if you want to re-listen to a particular verse you just heard just tap the rewind button once and, voila, it's back.

 

Will the app include voice medleys like the previews you’ve been sending out?

Yes. You can hear all four voices in a medley when listening to many of our Playlists within the app. We won’t, however, have a voice-shuffling feature at launch available for other sorts of audio (like Plans, or a particular book of the Bible). Still, you can always change the voice you’re listening to during playback, even mid-chapter.

 

In regard to background music, how many tracks are available to choose from?

48 tracks. For launch, we’ve commissioned 4 albums worth of background music, each in a different genre. The album titles and genres are: 

Stillness : Intimate Piano
Linger : Expressive Ambient
Gathering : Peaceful Guitar
Moments : Gentle Cello & Piano

Also, we'll be releasing a brand new Dwell music album every quarter. That means you’ll always have fresh background music to enjoy. You’ll also be able to stream Dwell music through Spotify and Apple Music if you want to listen to it outside of the app (coming soon)!

 

Will there be a memorization or Scripture ‘repeat’ feature?

Not at launch, but we are really passionate about building a robust and comprehensive Scripture memorization feature for Dwell soon. Right now, we’re laser-focused on getting Dwell’s core product — Scripture listening — built in the most thoughtful and engaging way possible. After launch, memorization will be a strong focus for us.

 

Will there be a Free version of Dwell available at launch?

Yes. Right now, the plan is to offer one voice (Mark only) for free use. Our heart is (and has always been) to help people build a habit of listening to Scripture regularly, so we want to make sure that everybody can do so, even if they can’t afford to pay. The Free version will also include audio commercials for Dwell Unlimited every 7 to 15 minutes. Why not make the entire app free? Right now, Dwell employs 10 people in either a full or part-time capacity. These people are not only incredibly skilled, but they have a heart to see Bible engagement increase and are willing to direct their efforts toward that end. We echo what Paul said in his letter to Timothy, that workers are worthy of their wages. Plus, our team will continually be working on new translations, features, and even languages to add to the app.

 

Will offline listening be available at launch?

Unfortunately, no. Offline playback is more challenging than it might appear. To support offline playback we need to consider a lot of new functionality including pausing/resuming file downloads, managing device storage properly, storing playback positions and other settings locally and then properly syncing them when you come back online, and more. It’s a challenge, but it’s one we’re excited to tackle in the future.

 

Will the actual words of Scripture be on the screen as I listen?

No. It’s our contention that there are many, many pockets of “listening time” that can be redeemed for the Lord. Dwell’s top priority has always been to create a world-class listening experience for the Bible. We want people to be able to easily tune in on their commute, while exercising, doing chores, and during other activities that do not lend themselves to reading. Our hope is that Dwell won’t diminish your reading time, but instead will increase your overall engagement with the Bible.

With that said, many of our supporters have expressed interest in having a ‘read-along’ feature. This is something we’re actively exploring, although it may not look exactly like what you’re used to on a normal reading app.

 

What about accessibility for the blind?

As we build out Dwell we’re committed to ensuring that everyone who can use a smartphone can listen to God’s word from Day one. Apple provides two main technologies to help the visually impaired: Dynamic Type and Voiceover. We will be leveraging both throughout the app. Doing so will help the millions who struggle with visual impairment engage with Scripture more easily. This is important to us, and something we’re excited about offering at launch.

 

So that's the answers to the Top 10 questions people are asking about Dwell. We hope it was helpful! Are there other questions we missed? Just email carol@dwellapp.io and I'd be happy to do my best to answer them! We can't wait to get the app into your hands. 

Warm wishes,
Carol

Carol Michael
Hybrid: The Turbo Button of Development
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Building a mobile-app based service like Dwell is a lot of work. We need two native apps (iOS and Android), a mobile-web version, a desktop-web version, and an API to power all of that1 (and I’m sure we’ll think of even more platforms in the future). That’s a lot for any team, but our team is tiny compared to a lot of modern app teams. A lot of major apps have dozens or even hundreds of app developers working on their apps2. We have 2, and we’re trying to release Dwell in only a few months’ time.

How can we pull this off? What’s our secret? Hybrid Development. By leveraging a mix of native and web-based content we are able to share work across all of our major platforms without sacrificing the user experience.

Since I know you didn’t click that link above, here’s the tl;dr on Hybrid Development: Native Controls use code that will only run on that platform (iOS-only or Android-only, for example). We have to write that code from the ground up for each platform we want to run on. For some features in the app this is our only option, or clearly the best option for our listeners. Web Based Controls, on the other hand, are like little mini websites within the app. They run on code we can (mostly) write once and share across all our platforms.

In practice, this means that some of our content is loaded and displayed directly from the web (and shared among platforms), while other features are implemented directly in programming languages like Swift, Objective-C, Kotlin, etc.

With this development approach we can build Dwell in the timeframe we need (i.e. quickly), with the features we need, on the platforms we need, without needing a development team of hundreds. And, we’re doing it all without 100-hour-week death marches. It’s kind of like riding on afterburners. 🚀

For example, we can design our home screen once to provide a consistent UI across all of Dwell, including delivering custom content for each user (if necessary), and we can update that content as often as we need, all without having to spend months inventing our own custom UI for each and every platform3.

And, at the same time, we can develop a custom native audio player for iOS that’s tailored to fit the iPhone and takes advantage of all the native functionality iOS can offer us. (And of course, we’ll build another one for Android)

The best part, of course, is that our listeners don’t have to worry about any of this. For you, it’s just a seamless, simple, beautiful interface for listening to the most important book in history: the Bible.


1: Desktop Web and Mobile Web versions don’t have a release date at this time.

2: And tens of millions of dollars of venture capital.

3: Stay tuned for more examples in the future.

 Shhhh! Enjoy this sneak peek of the audio player as we continue to refine the design.

Shhhh! Enjoy this sneak peek of the audio player as we continue to refine the design.

Jeff McFadden
Audio Master: Nathan De La Cruz
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As the Director of Audio Engineers Nate keeps us organized by setting deadlines, keeps us going by fixing sound issues, ordering gear, creating recording schedules, and juggling many moving parts, all fueled by sushi and dried mango. We sat down with Nate and picked his brain so you could get to know him and get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to record the entire Bible four times (once for each of our voices, and more to come)!

 

1. Take us behind the scenes of your process of organizing/recording/mastering.

We do all of our recording in Logic Pro X. We have a recording booth in one of our offices that is totally soundproof, and we have 2 recording techs/producers that are doing all the recording. Their primary job is to make sure that the voices are delivering the best performance possible, as well as making sure everything is read correctly.

Once a book is recorded, it goes to the editing phase.  We want to eliminate any distractions that get in the way of people receiving The Word, so we try and edit out any mouth clicks, smacking lips, big breaths, and any other noises that would start to wear on the listener after a while.  We are also checking for mistakes-making sure the text and the reading match word for word.  If there are any mistakes, the parts are re-recorded, and then the tracks are mastered.

During the mastering phase, we are checking one more time for mistakes, and making sure that the volume/tone of the recording is consistent from voice to voice and book to book.  Once this is done, we export everything and upload it to the app so that verse markers can be placed.

 

2. Has this process changed over time?

Our workflow looks a lot different now than it did when we first started.  Every time we reached a new step, our process adapted to be more efficient.  We have had to redo work a few times, but I feel like our end product has benefited from it, and if we had to do it all again (and when we record new translation or add a new voice), we will be able to hit the ground running and move through it really quickly since we have learned so much from trial and error this first time around.

Dwell will make listening to the Bible as easy as turning on the radio or opening Spotify, and that really excites me.

3. What’s the biggest challenge of tackling such a big project from an audio standpoint?

The biggest challenge for me is keeping everything organized and leaving clear notes so that we know exactly where we are in each book.  Between our editing and mastering engineers and our recording techs, the audio changes hands a few times before the book is finished, so clear communication is key.  Setting goals in the project is also really helpful!  Since this is such a massive project, I like to set milestones that are easy to accomplish (for example, the current project is to finish The Gospel of Mark and 1 & 2 Corinthians).  This helps us see the finish line, keeps everyone motivated, and helps push us on to the next goal.

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4. What did you do before joining the Dwell team?

Before I started at Dwell, I worked at a private Christian school as the department head of worship and media arts, and I taught guitar and piano lessons on the side.  

 

5. How does it feel to work within a team to make this project come to life?

It’s been great!  I’m really blessed to work with an awesome audio team of really knowledgeable people.  The voices make things really easy as well, and are great to work with.  There is no way one person could get something like this done, and I’m just grateful everyone works incredibly hard to meet the goals that we have set so that we can get the app out as soon as possible.  

Nate at Work

Nate's Favorites

Snack: Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

Band: John Mayer

Book of the Bible: I just finished up the book of Acts, I love the stories in that one.

Marvel movie: Doctor Strange

 Hobby: Playing and Writing Music

 

6. How has working on this project changed your outlook of the Bible?

I tell people this a lot, but it’s always really interesting the things that you learn if you sit down to listen.  I grew up in a Christian family and so was exposed to the Bible early and often, and I had read all of the Bible stories plenty of times, but it is crazy how different it is to experience them in an audible way.  During editing, I’ve gotten a chance to listen to the Bible every day for the last 9 months, and I’m excited for people to get the same experience that I have had as the stories and the teachings really start to come alive.  

 

7. What excites you most about the app?

 I really love how accessible Dwell makes the Bible.  So many of us live on the move, and it is difficult for people to have extended time to sit down and read the Bible.  Dwell will make listening to the Bible as easy as turning on the radio or opening Spotify, and that really excites me.  

Carol Michael
Accessibility First

Our mission in building Dwell is to help others cultivate a habit of listening to the most important book in history: the Bible.

For most of us, the idea of listening to scripture is a new one. Christianity is a reading-centric culture, and for good reason. The ability to read and study the word of God for yourself is a priceless gift. We’re working to augment the experience of seeing God’s word, not replace it.

But, what if you can’t see God’s word?

All across the globe tens of millions of people struggle with visual impairment. If the US alone 8,000,000 people fight with limited or no vision, including nearly 700,000 children. For these brothers and sisters, listening to God’s word is not a preference, it’s all there is.

For these brothers and sisters, listening to God’s word is not a preference, it’s all there is.

As we build Dwell, we’re committed to ensuring that everyone who can use a smartphone can listen to God’s word from Day one.

That’s nice, you might think, but if you’re blind how can you use a smartphone at all?

Well, thanks to the engineers at Apple, it’s not only possible to use an iPhone while blind, it’s possible to thrive on an iPhone.

Apple provides two main technologies to help the visually impaired: Dynamic Type and Voiceover.

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Dynamic Type allows a user to set the base font-size across the entire phone. By taking this setting into account, 3rd party apps like Dwell can adjust the font sizes in their apps to be larger (or smaller), easing the struggle for those with aging eyes, among other ailments. We’re designing Dwell’s UI to support Dynamic Type in as many areas as possible. It might seem like a small thing, but to someone who struggles to read small text it can be the difference between being able to use an app or having to set it down and move on.

Voiceover allows even those with no vision at all to navigate through apps.

If you’ve never seen voiceover in use, let me encourage you to watch this video demonstration. It really is amazing to see how proficient the visually impaired can be with an iPhone, and how life-changing the experience can be.

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By leveraging the tools that Apple has built we are able to provide descriptions and hints to the various controls across the Dwell app, enabling Voiceover users to hear the descriptions as they move through the app. It’s a limited amount of extra work for us, and it opens up the entirety of God’s word to our listeners.

With Dwell, accessibility isn’t “Coming Soon,” it’s here now. We’re building for Accessibility First.

Jeff McFadden
Slicing and Dicing

As we covered last time, the Bible is a big book. Once we’ve recorded all of our audio, we’ll still need to get those 177+ gigabytes of data onto a smart phone, and potentially all delivered over a slow 3G network. How on earth will we be able to do that?

The solution is to slice up the audio into the pieces we need, stitch them together, and send just that little chunk of data to the phone.

Let’s take a hypothetical listening plan as an example. We’ll call it Nuggets of Wisdom. Each day will include a few verses on a related topic, pulled from across scripture. Here’s what Day 1 looks like:

Day 1: “Faith”. Hebrews 11:1, Romans 1:17, Mark 9:24, Mark 5:36, 2 Timothy 4:7

(A listening plan that was actually this scattershot would probably be terrible, but it’s a helpful example, so let’s go with it.)

Looking at the verses for this day of the plan, we’ll need some of the audio from five chapters: Hebrews 1, Romans 1, Mark 9, Mark 5, and 2 Timothy 4. We have the recordings for each of those, but how will we extract only the verses we need? We’re going to need to know where each verse starts and ends within the audio of the full chapter. For that, we’re going to need another tool.

Enter the Verse Offset Marker Editor

Using this tool we are able to create a marker for each verse boundary in a chapter, and save that data to our growing database.

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This means we have to set these markers for every chapter in the Bible, read by every voice artist. It’s a lot of work, but it makes our entire platform possible.

Once we have that data saved for the chapters we need, we can then use our audio toolchain to extract just the portion that we need from each Master Recording, then stitch them all together into a single file. We use a tool called sox to do this.

So now we have just one big wav file with all of our audio slices spliced together. But it’s still too big. We need to make it smaller. This is where our old friend mp3 comes into play. We convert the audio file from wav to mp3, and store it on our servers.

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Now, when a listener is ready to hear the listening plan for Day 1, all they have to download is a small audio snippet for that morning, easily downloadable on even a slow 3G network.

Just like the old proverb, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Jeff McFadden
That's a lot of Audio

The Bible is a big book. With 1,189 chapters, it takes 4,200 minutes to read it aloud. At Dwell, we're recording each of these 4,200 minutes four times, once with each of our talented voice artists (with more to come)!

Once these raw recordings have been created our talented editors and producers clean up the audio, pulling together the best parts of each take, and mix it down into one single Master Recording.

Each Master Recording is one chapter of the Bible. With 1,189 chapters and four voice artists, we have 4,756 Master Recording files that we need to store and manipulate.

This isn't just a lot of files, it's a huge amount of data. Our Master Recordings are mixed down to 24bit stereo wav files (44.1 kHz sampling rate). An audio file in this format takes up about 950 megabytes of data per hour. All told, that ends up at about 44.5 gigabytes per artist, or 177.8 gigabytes total (with a lot more to come).

The problem that we are faced with is this: How do we upload, store, manage, and deliver 180 GB of audio data to listeners all over the world?

Like any large problem, the solution is to break it up into smaller problems, and solve each of those.

Each Master Recording represents a single chapter of the Bible, which means that the average file is about 75MB. While still large, these are files of a size we can handle.

We take each Master Recording, and upload it to our API server (we'll talk more about our API server in future articles). The API server handles marshalling the data to S3, Amazon's data hosting service, where our files are stored with 99.999999999% durability (this means we should expect to lose a file once every 10,000,000 years; hopefully that's good enough).

By breaking 44.5 GB per artist down into 1,189 individual recordings, and taking each of those and hosting them with a data service provider like Amazon, we start to have the pieces in place to deliver audio to our listeners using our app.

The next problem we need to solve is how to take a Master Recording that's 75MB per chapter and break it up into the smaller chunks (of smaller file size) so that we can deliver it to listeners with even the slowest internet connections.

How do we do that? Stay tuned, as that's what we'll cover next time.

Jeff McFaddenAudio, Development
This Listening Life

Israel grew up listening to Scripture. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”(Deuteronomy 6:4) Hear. Listen. Allow the words to enter your soul through your ears. Before any of Israel’s great stories of faith and formation were put on paper, they were spoken and heard in the form of narratives, parables, and sayings. Their’s was a listening life. We’ve lost that I think. Those moments where we hear God’s word read over us, where the words ring out in the sky or around the sanctuary or through the miniature speakers aimed at our eardrum. This listening life, a life committed to soaking in Scripture, is what we ought to recover. The spiritual practice of Scripture listening is not just significant because our Christian ancestors did it, it’s significant because Scripture listening forms us in ways that Scripture reading can’t. Listening should not make us diminish the practice of reading Scripture one bit – it’s crucial. It’s absolutely essential for us to understand what the Bible means. I like the way Martin Luther put it, “If you picture the Bible to be a mighty tree and every word a little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant.” Gaining Biblical understanding through reading is foundational, but what I want to draw our attention to is the lost art of listening to Scripture.

The Uniqueness of Reading and Listening

So how do reading and listening shape us in different ways. Let’s take them one at a time. When we read, our default tendency is to study, we want to pull the text apart and piece it back together, we draw conclusions, make decisions, we put the text to work. We’re seeking comprehension. This means we’re searching to grasp with the mind, to sharpen our thinking, to gather, to learn, and above all, to understand. When we read, we want to get something out of it. When we listen, we have to leave all that behind. We lose our ability to be precise, there’s no underlining, cross-referencing, consulting commentaries, starring, or highlighting. Listening is more leisurely. When we listen, our default tendency is to marinate. Instead of reading the words, we steep in them. When we listen we’re gaining apprehension. That means we’re laying hold of something, or better said, something is laying hold of us. We’re seized, captured, engaged and engrossed. It’s similar to what happens to us when we listen to music. We get lost, we’re caught up in it. Scripture listening seeks to put our hearts in a position to simply soak in the Word. In essence, when we listen to Scripture, we’re not trying to get something out of it, we’re trying to get into it. To inhabit it, and ultimately to be inhabited by it.

Listening and Doing

One of the most important qualities of listening to Scripture is that we can listen while we’re doing something else, things like driving a car, lifting weights, folding laundry, or taking a walk. Our heart dwells on the Word while our body processes a routine. We’re hearing God and acting at the same time. There’s a wonderful phrase of Charles Spurgeon’s, he says, “Be walking Bibles.” I like that because it forms a kind of picture in my mind, a picture that represents what I want my life with Christ to be about. I want to live in a state of ongoing communion with God, while I’m getting on with the business of living. When I listen to Scripture, it’s as if I’m in two places at once, I’m with Him and with the world. I’m in it, but not of it. There are few activities that are more restorative than moving through our outside world, while at the same time nourishing our inner one. Listening to Scripture accomplishes that. It deepens and strengthens our experience in the present moment. Spurgeon again points the way forward, “Visit many good books,” he writes, “but live in the Bible.” Listening to Scripture, right in the middle of our ordinary life is a powerful way we can live in it.

To sum things up, Israel grew up in a culture devoted to hearing the Scriptures. They used their ears to hear God’s Word. And we should to. This doesn’t mean we read less, far from it, but what it does mean is that we work to recover and cultivate the listening life, a life that’s committed to listening to Scripture, a life that experiences fresh growth and grace as we keep God’s Word in our ears. May we all become the kinds of people who can say with the young Samuel, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”