How to Ensure a Quality Recording for an Accurate Transcript

How to Ensure a Quality Recording for an Accurate Transcript

One of my objectives when I transcribe is to have as few [inaudible] *00:00:34 or [over talk] *00:00:35 time stamps, or [I cannot quite understand what the speaker is saying] *00:00:37 throughout the document. Sometimes these are simply unavoidable, but can be quite easily prevented when recording your audio.

Choose a Quiet Environment  Avoid fans, air conditioners, music and any other background sounds that may interfere with a clear recording. Outdoor recordings can be fine, provided it is not too windy at the time, and the interview is held away from traffic. A sparsely furnished large room that creates an echo should also be avoided.  Two people sitting at a table in a busy café or restaurant may be able to hear each other just fine at the time, but it can drastically interfere with the resulting recording. The poorer the audio quality, the more likely you are to be charged at a higher rate and receive a document spattered with [inaudible] *00:02:02 or misinterpreted words.

Avoid typing notes near the recorder  Many interviewers or assistants like to take notes using a laptop during the interview.  Note taking can be very helpful for the interviewer and the transcriber, but the clickety-clack of the keyboard can quite often record louder than the voices, especially if the interview is being held over the phone or online.  Try to keep the keyboard away from the recording device.

Don’t Invite Smart Devices  A mobile phone set to silent and left on a table may create only a slight sound to those in the room, but when placed on the same table as the audio device, the vibration from the phone can, and generally does, drown out the speakers in the room. Ask all participants to place their mobile phones elsewhere, and not on the table.

Leave the Recorder in One Place  Many of my clients like the speakers identified throughout the transcript. I do this by identifying the differences in voices of the speakers, such as the pitch, tone, tempo, gruffness as well as any accents of the speakers. Most importantly, however, is the position of the speaker in the room. Establishing the direction of the voice of the speaker from the position of the recorder is my first step to identifying the speakers. Once the recording has started, it is best to leave the recording device in the same position until finished.

Reduce Overtalk  I transcribe recordings with ten or more people in the room. Things generally start off well, particularly if the participants are not terribly familiar with one another. Quite often the facilitator will point out at the beginning of the discussion that speaking while another person is speaking can prevent the audio recorder from accurately recording all speakers, but this is quickly forgotten as time goes by. By the end of the discussion, participants can be yelling at each other across the room and over the top of one another just to be heard.  It can be impossible to determine particular words of any one speaker and also often not possible to determine the speaker. Sometimes a reminder throughout the discussion may be of assistance, or a baton or some other inanimate object to be passed to each speaker so only one person is speaking at a time can be most helpful.

Spell and Explain  Your recording does not need to be perfect word for word. I quite often complete ‘clean’ transcriptions, leaving out word fillers such as ‘like’, ‘you know’ and ‘sort of’, and instructions and directions, depending on the client’s needs. To take the time to spell proper nouns can mean fewer corrections on receipt of the typed transcription. For technical terms or words that may not be easily understood by the typist, if unfamiliar with a particular industry, the spelling of a word or an explanation of a term can certainly make for a more efficient process.

Slow the gushers and unjumble the mumblers  Most of us face the battle of too little time during our day and interviews are quite often rushed due to time constraints. Those who speak quite quickly can be recorded as jumbled, and tripping over words and quite difficult to understand. Then there are those of us who are quite nervous and may mumble during the recording. Encourage your speakers to speak clearly and do not be afraid to ask a speaker to repeat what has been said if you feel it may not have been adequately captured.

Save the Nibblies  You would be amazed at how many people talk with food in their mouths, especially when they are excited. A participant close to the recording device consuming crunchy crackers or food can drown out a speaker who may be further away from the device.Encourage your speakers to eat before the recording is started. This can serve well as an ice breaker for those who may not know each other. If this is not possible, serve the food after the discussion or interview to allow participants to debrief and to allow for discussion that may not have been appropriate for the interview.

Tame the Wildlife  Many researchers and interviewers work from home or other people’s homes, making for some unexpected interruptions. A barking dog in another room may not interrupt or interfere with the speech of those present in the room at the time, but once recorded it can be impossible to differentiate the speakers from the barkers. If possible, try to ensure dogs have no reason to bark during the recording. Snoring dogs, however, can add quite an interesting overtone to the discussion.

Jo Collins