On April 26, I presented a webinar about Express Scribe, a free transcription program I've been using to transcribe content for clients who need their audio recordings time coded and translated. This webinar session, "Express Scribe: Free Audio Transcription Software," was offered through Proz.com. A video recording of the live presentation is now available for purchase here.
We covered the following topics during the live session:
- What is Express Scribe
- Technical Specifications
- System Requirements
- Compatible Hardware
- Formats Supported
- Let's Get to Work!
- Loading Audio Files
- Using hot keys to...
- ...control audio playback
- ...add time stamps
- Transcribing Original Audio
- Time to Translate it!
- Ideas on Project Negotiation
Below you'll find questions that were asked during the webinar, as well as some other comments that were sent to me by email. If you purchase access to the video, have questions after watching the material, and don't see your concerns addressed here, feel free to contact me and contribute to this Q&A list.
How can I start looking for transcription clients?
Just as you would go about finding translation clients, you'd also need to look for people who need transcription services. Think about the areas that would have a good demand. Brainstorm where there is a need for your services. Put your resume together, start practicing, and do the legwork of actually researching your potential client base. You can also pay attention to job boards, like Proz.com or other freelancing websites where people can post information on their project and connect with professionals offering their services.
Three main fields come to mind: Medical, Legal, and Academic. There can be doctors and nurses who recorded information about a patient, instead of putting pen to paper, and they'll need that content transcribed. There are lawyers who have recorded their conversation with their client, or have recordings about an actual court case. There are professors who record their lectures and will need them in text format.
What happens when the audio quality is bad?
It is definitely a challenge! What I can tell you is, make sure you listen to the audio BEFORE you accept the assignment. You can use some resources available on Express Scribe, such as volume control and increase/decrease speed to try to make it easier to understand and transcribe the content. However, sometimes it's just not worth it, because you won't be able to hear what is being said and you won't be able to provide a good transcription and translation service if you can't tell what people are saying...
Do you know of any software that could help improve audio quality?
Yes, there are programs that you can use to apply filters to audio files and try to minimize background noise or make voices sound more clear. Still, it will all depend on the original quality of the recording, and some filters may nevertheless result in garbled audio. In other words, the more you mess with a audio file, the higher the potential of I actually use one called Audacity, and I've taught a webinar about it, which was more geared towards offering voice over services, but has interesting information on how this piece of software can help you edit audio files.
Can you set a delay for time coding as you can do with subtitling?
You can definitely do that if you use a spreadsheet template and work on an equation that will automatically fill in a time code based on increments, such as 5-second time stamps. In other words, the spreadsheet would populate the time-code column instantly this way: 00:05, 00:10, 00:15, 00:20, 00:25, etc. However, that's only recommended for those projects when the client is not requesting a PRECISE time stamp. Considering the nature of the audio, someone could be talking for a while or there may be more than one voice in the recording, so it will not always be a "clean cut" time stamp that you could control based on a given interval.
Can transcription plugins recognize different accents?
Some plugins may be available in different accents, so you'll see labels like "English (US)" and "English (UK)," for example, when you're installing an audio recognition plugin. Still, we may have a general idea of what certain accents sound like, but there's always a word here and there that may end up getting lost. Even inside the US, there are so many different variations in terms of accents, so you have to test the plugin if you get audio from, let's say, Boston or New Orleans, to see how the machine will interact with it.
Just as you can't trust machine translations blindly, you can't trust speech recognition either. If you use a plugin or another speech recognition solution, make sure you go through the transcribed content in its entirety to make it 100% accurate. Keep in mind you can't tell your clients "Oh, that's how the machine translation translated it" or "Oh, that's what the speech recognition plugin thought was being said" and you, as a human professional, must be the last quality assurance layer before a project is delivered.
Isn't transcription more expensive than translation?
If someone is a transcriptionist and transcribes for a living, they'll most likely charge more for it. However, when working with translation clients who need their audio transcribed AND translated, their frame of mind is that you'll be putting less effort in transcribing the recorded content ("You're just typing what you hear!") when compared to the actual work of translating the message into the target language. It all comes down to a value-added perception, so it's easier for you to charge "X" for transcription and "X times 2" for translation and make sure that the total price is covering the time you'll invest into the complete service.