5 Tips for Improving Transcription Quality
Updated: June 3, 2019
More video content is uploaded to the web in 1 month than TV has created in 3 decades – that’s a lot of online video content. All of this content should be transcribed. Why? Several major benefits of providing transcripts include: accessibility, comprehension, easy translation and creation of derivative content, user experience, and search engine optimization (SEO). Adding any old transcript to your video, however, is not going to cut it. Imagine adding a transcript with the wrong information! That might be worse than no transcript at all. That’s why we are offering five tips for improving transcription quality so you can make your transcripts count.
1. Consider Audio Quality
The best way to improve transcription quality is to consider audio quality from the very start of the process – in this case from recording. Even the most experienced and skilled professional transcriptionist is going to have a difficult time creating a high quality output from poor audio. Be sure you are recording in an environment with minimal background noise, echoes, or other ambient sounds that could easily be avoided. Some things you might naturally tune out in day-to-day life that will be picked up by a good microphone include trains, airplanes, dogs barking, lawn mowers, neighbors, etc. In addition to avoiding the wrong noises, make sure the audio you are trying to capture for transcription is at a consistent and clear level throughout the duration of the recording. If audio files are recorded poorly, even the best transcriptionist may have a difficult time producing an accurate transcript.
2. Utilize the Right Equipment
As you can tell, good audio quality is critical in producing a high quality transcript. One way to improve audio quality is by utilizing the right equipment. The right microphone, setup, and software can take your video from amateur to pro and ensure a correct and useful transcript.
Microphone: Different microphones are ideal for different environments and types of recording. For instance, you might consider different microphones depending on whether you want to capture just one speaker talking, or prefer to capture all the sound in a room. The three main types of microphone are dynamic, condenser, and ribbon. Each of these specializes in a different type of sound. In addition to the these, there are microphones that can be mounted to a camera, hung from above, attached to clothing, and more. With so many options, it’s important to consider what you are recording, how many speakers, where you will be recording, what the background noise level will be, and what direction the audio is coming from when selecting the type of microphone to use. Answering these questions will help you determine the best option for recording and allow you to get a high quality transcript from crisp and clear audio.
Studio setup: In addition to the microphone, the studio or recording space and setup is essential to producing a quality output. If you have access to a large room with high ceilings, soundproof walls, and concrete floors, this is the ideal environment to record in. However, if you do not have access to this type of space you are not alone, and there are plenty of ways to improvise and do-it-yourself.
Simply find a quiet space that is not too echo-y. To make the space more optimal for recording, you can hang blankets or place a sound booth around your microphone to reduce the sound entering the room or bouncing off the walls.
Software: No matter how good your microphone and setup, you will likely want to make edits before finalizing your recording. While there are several paid softwares, there are also free software programs to utilize including Avid’s Pro Tools First or Audacity and Garage Band if you are using a Mac. These programs can be downloaded right from your computer and can be used to tweak your audio.
3. Use a Professional Transcriptionist
Even though it may be hard to recall the days before Siri and Alexa walked into our lives, we all know that technology is just not the same as humans. (Not that we are suggesting you boss your human friends around the way you might an AI!) When it comes to transcription, there are definite pros to using a professional and knowledgeable human transcriber over automation. A human transcriptionist will will provide a high quality transcript that is consistent with grammar, non speech sounds, speaker ids, spellings, and abbreviations. For example, a human will be wise enough to ensure that the required capitalization is applied on proper names, titles and locations.
Typically, professional transcriptionists will have excellent knowledge in the specific area of transcription, which helps them to understand the audio at the first attempt and avoid any kind of wrong interpretation. A human will also be able to proofread the transcript and provide a final spell check to eliminate any errors and ensure maximum accuracy.
4. Be Prepared
Taking time to prepare and plan prior to recording can help save you time, and result in a higher quality final product. If you are recording something like a presentation, speech, or talking head type of video having a script prepared can help to make sure that you are using clear and understandable language. This can also help the transcriptionist know what to expect and have something to refer back to in order to ensure accuracy.
5. Follow Legal Requirements and Industry Guidelines
In addition to several federal accessibility laws that require transcripts be provided, there are best practices and guidelines for providing high quality and accurate transcripts. When investing time, resources, and money into providing transcripts, you want to be sure that you are complying with the appropriate standards for the best results and to prevent any legal complications
WCAG: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the international standard for web accessibility, aiming to make digital content accessible for all users, including those with disabilities. WCAG 2.0 has three levels of compliance. At the lowest level – Level A – transcripts are a recommendation for audio-only content. The Level A standard of WCAG 2.0 states that “an alternative for time-based media is provided that presents equivalent information for pre-recorded audio-only content”. This requires that transcripts be provided for audio content in order to accommodate d/Deaf or hard of hearing users.
DCMP: The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) provides a set of guidelines for transcripts so that they can be accessible and readily available to those who want or need them. One major takeaway from the DCMP is the importance that the transcripts provided be equivalent information to the audio content itself.
Note: 3Play Media bases our transcription guidelines off of the recommendations and guidelines from the DCMP.
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