How 3Play Media Guarantees Quality & Meets Deadlines
As a captioning company that guarantees over 99% accuracy (and averages 99.6%), we’re often asked how we can consistently maintain quality, standards, and deadlines.
Much of the credit for that consistency comes from our amazing operations team! They manage our 1,000+ editors as well as the thousands of files a day that come in for transcription and captioning.
I sat down with two members of our team, Claudia and Sharon, for more insight:
You’re in charge of ensuring consistency & quality for thousands of customers. How do you do it?Claudia RochaSharon TomasuloSHARON: Quality is easier than consistency, believe it or not. We put a lot of work into making sure our editors are doing good work; QA makes changes and sends feedback, and random files are audited. And editors really want feedback for the most part; they go over our changes even where it’s not required and often ask questions if a change was made that they didn’t expect. If an editor is struggling, we know right away and can give them as much guidance as they need.
Consistency is more of a challenge. There are just so many ways to correctly transcribe most spoken text, and standard grammatical rules that you learn for writing don’t always apply when you can’t change the words that your speaker used. We have house standards that editors are responsible for knowing and that they’re tested on, and we try to keep our standards consistent across all our clients to the extent that we can, because it makes it much easier to coordinate the work of so many people to have the same style.
But I’d say our main tool is communication. Editors have a message board where they can write to us while they’re working. And the best part is that every time we give feedback, we give an editor the tools to make the same decision that we’d make in house. It shapes their future editing for more consistency across the board.
How do you make sure you meet deadlines?CLAUDIA: We process thousands of files a day. In order to manage deadlines, we use a combination of automated reminders for files that may be in danger of missing deadlines and personalized messages to contractors.
What do you love about 3Play’s editors?~“I love how much the editors seem to enjoy their work. They like all the things you can learn from this job, and that’s what I love about it, too, so I love that feeling of reaching out to someone so far away with a moment of, ‘Yes! Isn’t this cool?'”~SHARON: I love the editors because of their enthusiasm. When someone says thanks for an explanation or even a helpful critique, or sends me a funny phrase that our automatic speech recognition misunderstood, or writes to tell us how a documentary that they were transcribing really moved them–I love how much the editors seem to enjoy their work. They like all the things you can learn from this job, and that’s what I love about it, too, so I love that feeling of reaching out to someone so far away with a moment of, “Yes! Isn’t this cool?”
What’s the difference between verbatim and clean read, and when should you use each style?SHARON: Clean read is your standard transcript–it captures everything, but in a smooth format. Verbatim includes everything–every um, er, or stammer. Verbatim is really not appropriate in very many situations; clean read is what you think of when you think of a good transcript.
I think some people expect clean read to be as though we took the content of your talk and turned it into an essay form, with better word choice and structure, as an editor would do for a newspaper. But if you listen to a standard person talking and really catch everything, you’ll find there tends to be a lot of hesitation and filler that you don’t even notice until you go to write it down. “So, um, we’re going to talk about the, like, the first prin– principles today, I, I hope.” Verbatim looks like that. Clean read looks like “So we’re going to talk about the first principles today, I hope.” A newspaper editor would remove the “so” and might take out “I hope.” We’d leave them in, but we’d take out the “um,” the “like,” and the stammer. You have the same sentence, but much easier to read.
“So, um, we’re going to talk about the, like, the first prin– principles today, I, I hope.”
“So we’re going to talk about the first principles today, I hope.”
What’s the best practice for including grammar and punctuation?SHARON: The trick with punctuation is to look for clarity. We start with what’s textbook correct–one of the perks of this job is actually an online subscription to the Chicago Manual of Style, which tells you just what kind of dork I am–but you have to acknowledge that most people don’t speak the way they write, at all. Our goal is not to edit what they say, but to make it something that you can read and easily understand, and from which you get the same understanding that a listener would.
So, for example, we try to minimize the use of exclamation points, because it’s so easy to use them for any really expressive voice. But we try to let the video do some of that work and save the exclamation points for things like shouting and real audible urgency.
Another important thing is to understand the rules of comma usage really well. Most people couldn’t talk to you about the difference between a compound sentence and a comma splice, but they’ve read enough text that follows those rules that they have an instinctive sense when they’re used wrong. So the editor needs to understand the correct usage, even though sometimes the speaker is going to use a comma splice and you’re going to have to transcribe it that way and find a really readable way to punctuate it. Knowing the rules well lets us use them to make even awkward text easier to read quickly and comprehend.
What’s the best captioned sound effect you’ve ever seen?SHARON: Well, the funniest sound effect captions are usually the mistakes that other vendors make! I’m a complete sucker for Caption Fail blogs, though fortunately I don’t think I’ve ever seen our work on them! I do remember working on an animated kid’s show that had the tag [PIG CHORTLING] in it and finding that phrase delightful. Like, when in life do you get to say “pig chortling” except in this job?