Court Reporters, Transcriptionists – Tips for Transcribing Audio Files

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From the beginning of time, the world has been in need of transcripts. Cavemen drew on cave walls trying to capture the events of their time. Egyptian Pharos had scribes that wrote on papyrus their thoughts, edicts, and ideas. Today we have stenographers and typists creating transcripts. When it comes to speed in getting a tape transcribed, accuracy, and certification, a court reporter is often asked to transcribe an audio file. As a person who has transcribed hours and hours of audio in my career, I have developed some what I consider to be best practices and ways to be efficient in the quest to transcribe audio.

  1. When asked to transcribe audio, the first question to ask is how long is the file and when does the person need the final transcript. I have found that the majority of the time audio file transcript requests are expedites. You need to calculate how much time it is going to take to get the transcript out.
  2. Be ready to give an estimate of the cost for transcribing the audio file. This is incredibly difficult to do because there are so many factors to weigh in, for instance, quality of audio and how fast people speak.
  3. Most people don’t seem to have FTP sites and will choose to physically deliver the medium rather than upload.
  4. Ask for pleadings, spellings, agendas, meeting minutes, anything the client can send you to help you know who might be talking and what the subject matter of the audio file will be.
  5. Buy a foot pedal from Stenograph or any third-party vendor that allows you to speed up, stop, or slow down a wav file.
  6. I like the audio to be very loud when I am transcribing. I don’t want to use head phones that are plugged into my laptop or where the audio is being played from, because then my audio sync won’t pick up any audio. Therefore, I use an external speaker to play the audio file. The external speaker allows me to turn the volume up very loud.
  7. The majority of the time I will write the file straight through the first time and not stop and start it during inaudible moments. I have a brief for (inaudible) that I stroke when I can’t understand.
  8. For speaker identification, if I don’t have any information about speakers, I use FEMALE SPEAKER and MALE SPEAKER to differentiate different speakers.
  9. The second time I go through I use the audio sync. My general rule is, if I cannot understand a phrase or word after listening three times, I write (inaudible). I don’t listen and listen and listen and listen and listen…
  10. Upon request, I will send my “final” file to the client to listen through and help with speaker identification or inaudible phrases and words. I always re-listen to the portion that has any suggested edits to ensure I agree with the edit.
  11. At the end of the transcript I will certify that I personally transcribed the file to the best of my ability to hear and understand the audio file provided and that I am not an interested party.

I don’t believe any court reporter or person would prefer to transcribe an audio file as opposed to being at the live proceeding. Because of inaudibles, difficult speaker identification, rustling paper near microphones, and a myriad of uncontrolled problems, audio transcription can be a nightmare, but as professionals court reporters do an amazing job when transcribing audio files.

Topics:  Audio Recording, Court Reporters, Law Practice Management, Stenographers, Transcripts

Published In: Professional Practice Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Kramm Court Reporting | Attorney Advertising

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