Transcribing With Intelligence


The better the quality of the recording, the better the transcripts will be. While this is stating the obvious, Purple Shark is happy to provide the following suggestions to help make it happen:

1. Get a digital recorder

2. Get a digital recorder

3. Get a digital recorder

4. If you must use audio tapes, choose standard over microcassettes. Record on full speed, not half speed. Half speed stretches the already ultra-thin tape, lowering its quality even further, which will likely result in very poor-quality transcription

5. This also applies for digital recording, as it turns out. If your recorder gives you a choice of long-playing, our advice is not to choose this setting unless you have tested the recorder in a number of situations and are satisfied that the audio quality is good or better. While some are reasonably good and we can work with them, many times the recording has distortion and white noise clouding the voices that we're being asked to transcribe. We can do these, but we will probably charge extra. (See "Poor audio fees" on the Rates page.) And the transcripts won't have quite the high quality that we like to deliver

6. And while you're checking the speed on the recorder (whether digital or tape), make sure that voice activation is off, otherwise words get clipped off every time there is a significant pause. Writer/client Art Kleiner says that he actually tapes the voice activation button to the "off" position as soon as he buys a new recorder

7. Whether you use the recorder's built-in microphone or an external mike, keep it as close to the speaker(s) as possible. It'll be easier for you to fill in what you said than to try to recreate what they said if we can't hear them

8. Check the volume on-site at the beginning of any interview or meeting and adjust accordingly (either by raising the volume, moving the mike closer and/or adjusting for background noise). Talk with your subject for a minute or two before you start recording to get an idea of their speech level. Try to be aware when/if the ambience in the room changes

9. Record in as quiet a place as possible. Avoid sitting near the Muzak speakers in restaurants, for instance. (Ironically, however, if the restaurant is *very* loud, people tend to raise their voices in order for the other person to hear them and we can hear them over the din.)

10. Once you've placed your recorder/microphone, leave it there. Digital recorders have surprisingly good range; moving them while recording just adds a level of (frequently deafening) sound that obscures what's being said. And we're not the only ones to say this.

The 13th Tip:
When you're conducting a panel or roundtable discussion, it's important to help us identify who's speaking. You'll want to ask each participant to introduce themselves at the beginning, of course, but it also helps if you address people by name as you go along or find some way to finagle them into your comments, such as "So, Bob, do you agree with what Ann just said?" Or, "Can you add anything to Steve's comments, Alan?" Or even just, "Thanks, Margaret. Dan?"

11. If your interviewee is speaking very, very softly, you might try raising your own voice just a bit; this may encourage her or him to do the same (that's the subtle version). Or ask them to repeat themselves every once in a while (that's the less subtle version).

12. Test your equipment beforehand. Take extra batteries (even if you plan to plug in your recorder)

Finally: Give Purple Shark Transcriptions any available back-up material. It can help the transcriber understand what's being said, particularly if there's jargon, and can lead to a more accurate transcript. Give us the correct spelling of the names of the people on the tape

And always call Purple Shark Transcriptions for the best quality transcripts!