What is Transcription For Exactly?

What is transcription for? It is used in a wide range of industries and in a vast array of professional and academic contexts. Transcription is the best way of getting the most out of your audio and video files. Wherever there is long form audio data- there’s a good chance that transcription isn’t far behind.

There are many kinds of professionals from lawyers and doctors to marketing teams and HR professionals who use transcription. Even students use it to make sure that they’re getting the most out of their lectures and don’t miss a key piece of information that is so easily done in conventional note taking. 

In a world that’s driven by data, transcription is essential. What exactly is transcription? How does it work? What are some popular industry use cases? And how do you know what to look for when you need something transcribed? Join us as we take a comprehensive tour through all the aspects of transcription.

How do you get a transcription?

Recording audio is a great way to capture data effortlessly. It can also be a really difficult way for listeners to get specific information from. They have to go back and forth, pause, rewind, play over and over again to catch a key fact, date or statistic. Transcription makes that data so much more accessible and searchable it’s unbelievable until you can quantify it.  It takes the average person, with decent typing skills, 10 times longer than the audio to transcribe it themselves. 

In its simplest form, transcription deals with taking the data from audio and video files and converting it into written text. There are a number of variations on this, this is the fundamental nature of a transcription though.

If you’ve ever tried to transcribe data yourself from an audio or video file, you’ll know that it can be laborious and painstaking work. Studies have shown that it can take 10 times or more for the average typist to transcribe an audio or video file themselves.  Which is why there are a variety of automated and human-based transcription services online to choose from. However, not all are created equal (we’ll get to that later).

Different types of transcription

There’s more than one way to transcribe an audio or video file. And which method depends on the intended use context for the data, and the preferences of the user. While different services will have different names for them, the most common types of transcription are;

  • Verbatim- Your audio or video is transcribed in a completely unaltered form. This means not only a word-for-word transcript is also includes any nuances of speech like “umm”, “uhh”, “y’know?”, false starts, stutters etc. 
  • Cleaned up or Intelligent verbatim- The full word-for-word transcript of the audio with all the “umms” and “uhh”s etc. removed.
  • Notes- Some transcribers will trim off any off-topic talk and condense the audio file down to a series of notes. Some will offer detailed notes, while some will offer bullet points.
  • Subtitles- Video production requires subtitles for accessibility. These often start with a full transcript of the video file which is then converted into an SRT file.

Who uses transcription?

There are many industries and individuals who find transcription useful. Essentially, wherever data is recorded via audio or video, transcription can be useful. Some typical use cases include;

  • Marketing teams using transcription for focus groups, customer interviews etc.
  • Students recording and transcribing important lectures
  • Law enforcement professionals transcribing suspect interviews when building a case
  • Legal teams using transcription for depositions or court hearings
  • Medical professionals relying on transcription to record voice notes
  • Financial institutions transcribing their earnings calls, and board meetings to stay SEC compliant
  • HR professionals transcribing audio or video of employee interviews where a grievance has been aired and / or an investigation is required
  • Business leaders transcribing meetings so that all present and not present can use the data present to inform strategy
  • Video production houses requiring a production script for an unscripted program (e.g. a talk show or reality show). This is reverse engineered by transcribing video data
  • Academic researchers transcribing interviews for their projects

And many, many more.

As you can see, there’s a significant need for transcription which has led to a large (and growing market). Assuming people don’t have the time, required skills or resources to transcribe their own audio or video files, where do they turn?

Call a pro or tap the app?

In the digital age, it should come as no surprise that there are a wealth of automated services for transcription. These Speech-To-Text apps are commonplace and affordable (some may even be free or at least have a free trial). These use Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) software and can transcribe even long passages of audio or video in minutes.

While they are fast and affordable, they are not always as accurate as human transcribers, usually topping out at around 50% accuracy. That rate is likely to be lower if the audio is of poor quality or there is a lot of background noise.

Any time savings made will be lost by having to go through the text yourself and correct any errors. Thus, if accuracy is your highest priority, you’re probably better off choosing a human-based service. However, these are likely to be pricier and have longer turnaround times. However, if you can afford to wait for it, you can usually get a good quality, accurate transcription at a decent price. 

There is no choice that’s inherently right or wrong. It’s simply a matter of knowing the pros and cons of each and making an informed decision as to which is best aligned with your needs. 

What should you look for in a transcriber?

So, now that we know more about transcription, how it works, when and why it’s used we need to talk about what to look for when choosing a transcriber- be it human or automated. You should consider;

  • Security- If you have personal or sensitive data in your recordings, you’ll want to make sure it’s treated securely. Make sure your transcriber is compliant with relevant data protection laws. They should ideally be HIPAA and or CJIS compliant or similar. They should also be willing to commit to a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and or a confidentiality agreement.
  • Flexibility- Can they deliver in accordance with your deadline? Can they work within your budget? Can they give you a discount for bulk orders.
  • Local- Will your data stay in the country? Do they subcontract to teams overseas? This can compromise the security of your data.
  • Accurate- Without an accurate transcript you could find yourself creating as many problems as you solve. Ideally you should choose a service that offers a minimum of 99% accuracy.
  • Easy to use- Whether you choose an app or a human-based service it should be quick, convenient, intuitive and easy to use.

Thanks for joining us on our whistle stop tour of all thing’s transcription. Hopefully, you’ve learned a lot about transcription and how to choose the right service for you!

If you need transcription or have any questions let us know, reach out, we’d love to hear from you.

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