5 Considerations when Choosing an Audio Transcription Provider (Updated)

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It seems straightforward. You have audio you need transcribed. There are companies providing audio transcription. You pick one. Right? Well, you could do it just like that, but really you want to pick the right audio transcription provider. To figure out which that is, you should ask yourself five questions before making your selection. Only the company with satisfactory answers to all five questions should receive your audio file to turn into a certified transcript.

Is the transcription being performed by a person or by a program that computer generates a transcript?

Sure, it sounds easy enough to simply load your audio file into a computer program that quickly generates a transcript, but the final product may not be what you expected. The human ear can pick up on words and nuances that software cannot, e.g., the difference between an affirmative “uh-huh” and a negative “uh-uh.” A human can more accurately ascribe names of speakers to their voices, as well as more accurately transcribe heavy accents, low-volume speakers, inarticulate speakers, and so on. The error rate for computer-generated transcripts is going to be higher as well, due to many different factors, including random noises on the audio, loud background noise, or software malfunctions.

If the transcription is being done by a person, is it being done by a court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist?

There are many benefits to having a court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist transcribe your audio. They are a truly neutral party. They are versed in legal jargon and court proceedings. They are familiar with transcript formatting/rules by jurisdiction. These qualities mean they produce a professional, easy to read, certified transcript.

In addition, having your transcription done by a court reporting agency ensures they are equipped to provide you with the transcript files you expect to see. This means you can request your usual files, including ASCII, PDF, E-tran (.PTX), LiveNote (.LEF), TextMap (.XMEF), CaseNotebook (.PTZ), Summation (.SBF), and trial software such as Sanction (.MDB) and Trial Director (.CMS).

Can the transcription provider work with the kind of audio file I have?

A quality transcription provider should be able to! Make sure they can handle audio types ranging from standard .MP3 and .WAV files to commonly used courtroom software such as CourtSmart and other proprietary surveillance or video software. Additionally, they should be able to access audio from various forms of media submitted, including discs and cassette tapes.

How quick a turnaround do I need?

Those in the transcription industry generally estimate that the audio length times three is the time it will take to effectively transcribe that audio. Thus, a 4-hour audio will take 12 hours to transcribe, roughly a workday and a half. This estimate accounts for time spent proofreading, re-listening to some spots, and researching terms and spellings. Make sure the vendor you choose has the resources to get your transcripts finished on time.

Will my transcript be accurate?

The court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist will always try their best to make the transcript as accurate and complete as possible. Any words they cannot 100% hear or quite make out, they will mark in the transcript as “inaudible” or “indiscernible.” Any speakers they cannot identify will be referred to a “Male Speaker 1,” “Female Speaker 2,” etc. To aid the transcriptionist in providing an accurate transcript, consider sending a list of speaker names, as well as a list of special terms or acronyms likely to appear.

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