08 February 2010

How long does transcription take?

I'm going to talk about factors that can influence transcription turnaround times and primarily the factors that can increase the time it takes to transcribe an audio file.

The quality of a recording can have a big influence on how long a transcription will take. A noisy environment with lots of background noises can play havoc with the transcription process.

For instance I had an interview transcription that had been recorded in a fairly busy cafĂ© or restaurant. The microphone picked up all the other customers, their children and the coffee machine that hissed and popped every few minutes. At first this was amusing to listen to in a ‘fly on the wall’ sort of way but it almost completely obscured the voices of the participants and soon had me losing my sanity. This added to the transcription time and to the amount of inaudible words in the final transcript.

The speed of transcription can also depend on the speakers themselves and whether they speak clearly and at an audible rate. Some people are fast speakers and this coupled with say stumbling over words can make a transcription more difficult.

A good rate of volume on a recording is important. A good quality recording with a low volume that cannot be increased can be as troublesome to a transcriber as a poor quality recording.

Bear in mind that your transcription services provider may not be familiar with the subject matter of your recording and it would therefore be very useful to give them as much information as you can about the contents of the recording, i.e. names of speakers and URLs of websites that relate to the subject matter.

If your recording contains more than two speakers who do not introduce themselves then give your transcriber the order in which they first speak so the transcriber can try to recognise the voices of the individuals.

Here’s a quick checklist to save your transcriber’s sanity and get you the best transcription turnaround:

Avoid noisy environments
Encourage your participants to speak clearly and at an audible level
Check out the quality and volume of your recording by recording a 2 minute test file and listening back through headphones
Provide ancillary information to your transcription service provider


Check out King Audio Transcription & Typing Services interview tips page for more information.

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