If you’re new to transcription services, the choice of options can be somewhat bewildering. The pricing is all over the place, and some even appear to be free. A hard truth is that you get what you pay for. But, few people realise that there are things you can do on your end to help ensure a high-quality outcome and accelerate the process — even opening up the possibility of saving money.
When it comes to the big divide, the big difference in quality is between human transcription services and automated ones. Many of the factors that will improve your automated services will also improve human alternatives, but they are absolutely essential if you are going down the automated route. Allow us to explain.
How to Get Good Results out of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) Software: Automated Transcription Services
Baseline results for automated transcription services have poor accuracy rates. Even under ideal circumstances, ASR struggles to exceed 80% accuracy. That may sound bad, but with a few complicating factors, that number can shrink to the single digits — basically unintelligible.
When using ASR for transcriptions, audio quality is critical to your happiness with the final results. It is critical to a final result that you can even use. For the best chance at success, use a dedicated speech recorder (a dictaphone or microphone augmented smartphone and industry app), and ensure you are getting people to speak slowly. You should also be wary of more than one person talking at any given time, and record in person with as little background noise as you can.
Of course, the reality of modern life is that this will not always be possible. But, the closer you get to silence in the background, the better the automated transcription services will work — it’s not as simple as it sounds, but it is well worth trying.
So what sort of things can you do? Start by closing your windows and keeping doors shut. You will be amazed at how much external noise we are used to these days. But, just because you don’t notice, it doesn’t mean your recording software or app will do the same.
Whenever possible, record in a well-insulated room — ideally one designed specifically for sound recording. Reverb and echo can distort quality and diminish the quality of recordings. If you do not have access to a sound studio, look for smaller rooms with tick carpets — both factors will contribute to less acoustic interference and a softer audio tone.
The truth, however, is that ASR is never going to be perfect. The technology simply has not progressed to that point. If you take precautions and put in the effort while making a recording, you may be able to create a workable transcript using automated transcription services. However, under all circumstances, be ready to put in some of your own time reviewing and editing the final product.
Human Transcription Services: Quality and Price
High-quality audio will make a huge difference to any transcription service automated or human. However, the human ear and its understanding of language is a lot more forgiving than a piece of software. There is a certain threshold at which even the best transcriptionist will fail to decipher sections of an audio file. However, under most reasonable circumstances, poor audio quality can be overcome by human transcription service.
That said, it’s important to remember that you are paying for that person's time. Poor audio quality can sometimes lead to price increases. This, however, depends on the service. A few make quality control guarantees untethered to cost. Others disingenuously advertise low prices that are immediately raised for very minor audio problems.
If you see a human transcription service for less than around £0.75-per minute, the chances are you may get a little shock if you hand in a poor quality recording. Always check the terms and conditions to ensure that you understand exactly what you are paying for, and the terms under which that price will change. Sometimes it is best to call and ask.
Human Transcription Services: Know You Options
There are a few options you need to understand to improve the transcription process. First, know what you want. Human transcription services offer options around various levels of abridged transcripts. These range from strict verbatim transcripts (even those that include notes on laughter and tone), ‘intelligent verbatim’ transcripts that remove false starts and stutters, and summaries that just focus on capturing meaning.
Knowing what you want and selecting the right options will make sure that you get the transcript you need at the price that fits. These different options generally scale up in cost as they become more detailed. If you have a long recording, those per minute cost savings can have a dramatic impact.
Also, understand your own time frames. Human transcription services often allow you to pick turnaround deadlines. By allowing the transcription service to slot in your project when it is easiest for them, they will give you a price break — improving the outcome for both parties. This, however, is only possible if you plan ahead, can accept waiting a week or more for your transcript and remember to select flexible deadline options.
Lastly, look to see if your transcription service provider will allow you to submit a glossary. If your recording covers a technical field, is very industry specific, involves the discussion of a lot of brands, or is otherwise filled with jargon, submitting a glossary will ensure that those words are transcribed properly.
Summary: By Understanding The Options Within Transcription Services, You Will Be Able to Improve the Process and Ensure a Positive Outcome
While the number of transcription services appears to be rising by the month these days, it’s vital to be in a position where you can pick the right service. However, the quality of that service can often be up to you as much as it is with the professionalism or experience of the human transcriber or automated service you are using.
Of course, it can be incredibly tempting to choose the cheapest option. But, the cheapest option is not always the easiest, and it certainly won't be the best. Using ASR services will require the most input on your behalf to achieve a quality outcome. Only if you are able to secure a high-quality recording of people speaking slowly and one at a time are you likely to get a transcript that you can even use. Even then, expect to put in some of your own time editing the final product. However, if you succeed, you will be able to access a much cheaper alternative to human transcription services.
Most of the inputs required by human transcription services are optional. It can be important to submit a glossary when covering highly technical subjects. Otherwise, most of the things you can do to improve the service are really just ways to save you money and make sure that you get the exact transcript that you want and need. Ultimately, options deliver power to you. But, only if you know your choices. Good luck with choosing your next transcription service!