Transcription FAQ: Good Audio vs. Bad Audio

Setting The Record Straight

Think about a time when you have been talking on the phone and the connection begins to cut out, or you are talking to someone at an event and trying to yell over the background noise, or the volume of their voice is too low? It is difficult to hear what is said and often you have to end the call.

Now, take that same experience and think about how hard it would be to type out what they were saying with correct grammar and 99% accuracy—that is no easy feat even when the audio is pristine.

The guys over at fixing your video produced an excellent video that goes in-depth on the ways to make your audio better. I have outlined the key points below for easy reference, but I highly recommend watching it if you have the time.

Key Points

Can’t you just clean up the audio?

“Well, cleaning up audio is like trying to take salt out of your dinner, once it’s part of the food it’s gonna be hard to take it back out. You might be able to pick out an obvious grain or two but other than that your best bet is usually to start from scratch.”

That is a great analogy because like salt in your food, noise becomes engrained with your file and is almost impossible to remove.

Good audio quality is essential to your project’s success because humans are mostly visual, but sound is integral when it comes to communication. Make sure you take the following measures to record high-quality audio so you do not end up stuck with something you can’t fix in post.

“cleaning up audio is like trying to take salt out of your dinner, once it’s part of the food it’s gonna be really hard to take it back out.”

Cleaning Audio in Audacity

We have written about how to do this as well, but they offer a few unique solutions.

  1. Use the “Effects: Noise Removal” plugin and then “Get Noise Profile.” This step tells Audacity to remove this type of noise from the file. Note: This method can eliminate a lot of the good audio too.
  2. Soundsoak 3: This method uses a similar but a more advanced “Learn noise” method to reduce the aberrant noise.
  3. Use an EQ plugin to bring up the low end after noise removal.

How to keep out background noise in the first place

MicrophonesScribie Microphone

  1. Since they are focused on video, they advocate for lavalier microphones, but if you are not making a video, then we have put together a list of recommended microphones.
  2. They also touch on some other types of recorders such as the Zoom H4N and the Zoom H2 as well as your phone.
  3.  “As a rule of thumb: the closer the mic, the cleaner the sound.”

Avoid The Noise

  1. Some background noises simply can’t be defeated, and you need to move away from the sound.
  2. Microphones are a lot more sensitive than our ears!
  3. The software is only good at removing basic noise.

Always Wear Headphones

Scribie Audio HeadphonesThe only way to know that you are recording clean audio is to monitor it while it is recording. This tip may seem a bit much, but I assure you that you will not regret it. If you are in an interview and are worried about the headphones being distracting to whomever you are recording, then you might try using only one earbud. You can monitor the audio for any spikes or background noise while not making the interview awkward by wearing enormous headphones.

Thanks to fixingyourvideo for creating this excellent resource on good vs. bad audio.

 

A Note From Our Founder: Why We Charge By Difficulty Level

Starting this year, we made an important policy decision; to charge for transcription of audio/video files based on the difficulty level instead of just by the audio minute. It is an important policy change and can destroy our business. As the founder of Scribie, I firmly believe that it is the right thing to do.

Let’s start by defining the difficulty level. The industry standard for transcription of a clean audio file is around 4 times the duration of the file (1 hour long file takes around 4 hours to transcribe). Any issues in the audio file such as accent, background noise, distortion, distant speakers etc., adds a multiple to that time. E.g., files with accented/distant speakers can take twice the time to transcribe just because those parts have to replayed over and over again. That multiple is what we define as the difficulty level of the file.

It is, however, a tricky thing to measure as the customer and the transcriber will have differing opinions. We internally have a voting system and an algorithm which flags difficult files for our admins. The algorithm uses a statistically significant sample size and we believe this is the closest we can arrive to an un-biased consensus opinion.

Once we have measured the difficulty level, we can estimate the cost which it will add to process of transcription. There are four ways we can account for the cost.

  1. Compromise on the accuracy
  2. Absorb the cost ourselves
  3. Ask our transcribers to spend the additional time and effort for free
  4. Charge our customers more

The first option is the easiest one. It’s a good compromise as long as it’s acceptable to both parties. However, it is a slippery slope and has disastrous consequences for a meritocratic system like ours. We grade our transcribers by the mistakes at each step of the transcription process and we cannot trust the grades if there are unknown number of mistakes. Also, it contradicts our quality guarantee.

Until last year we used to absorb the cost. It was viable since our rates were higher. It was however grossly unfair to our transcribers since we demanded the same accuracy without any additional compensation but still graded them based on the same criteria. We lost many good transcribers as a result. I still feel terrible about that.

The third option is a non-starter since basic economics defeats it. We pay our transcribers by the audio hour and a flat rate just leads to a terrible quality transcript most of the time.

That brings us to the fourth option; pass the cost on to the customer. Logically it is the best option to choose, but also the riskiest since it is hard to argue with customers. Operationally, it enables us to compensate our transcribers by the difficulty level which in turn distributes the effort required evenly across our 4-step process and optimizes the accuracy/effort ratio.

Since implementing this policy we have lost many customers and have even been ridiculed publicly. But that is a price we are prepared to pay. We firmly believe that our customers deserve the best quality transcript irrespective of the file and our transcribers deserve the best possible compensation for their efforts. Charging by the difficulty level is the only way we do both and achieve our goal of maximum possible accuracy.

Why Scribie Charges Extra For Non-North American Accents

We have often been asked “Why does Scribie charge extra for non-North American accents?” so we decided to clarify and expand on the reasons behind our decision. Here’s what you need to know:

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Most files that are uploaded on Scribie for transcription are from the US, or at least the speakers are mostly North Americans–so for that reason, we specialize in transcribing North American accents. Naturally, it makes sense that most of our transcribers are based in the US. And this ensures they are familiar with the accents, which in turn ensures flawless transcription in much less time. The result? Faster turnaround, better accuracy, and happier customers.

Generally, we have a flat rate for all high-quality audio files with North American speakers. However, we do charge a bit extra ($.50 per minute) for high difficulty files due to the time these files are. Similarly, we charge a little more for files with a non-North American accent. The main reason is, these accents require specialized transcribers that are familiar with wider accent patterns and can transcribe files with non-US speakers at the same accuracy level. The problem is that these transcribers are rare, which means, if we get too many files in this category, the files tend to get stuck in the pipeline. And nobody likes that.

Basically, we charge more for these files because it costs more to transcribe these file types. It also keeps the transcribers motivated and encourages them to continue to work on such files.

So in closing, the pay rate occasionally changes, but what doesn’t change is Scribie’s commitment to one of the highest levels of accuracy in the industry  Upload your files now and find it out for yourself.

Top Five Recording Apps For iPhone

Looking to record a conversation, interview or business discussion? Forget the age-old voice recorder; rather grab your iPhone. There are loads of cool apps that ensure clarity, so that the final recorded file is easy to understand and transcribe. Here are the industry toppers:

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Voice Recorder: Here is a really simple app that’s easy to understand and works great. What’s more, it also comes for free. It is also passcode protected, just in case you want to make sure your recordings are safe. The app is compatible with iOS 8. Use it to record and store unlimited number of recordings, add them to your favorite list for quick future reference, and for loop function.

Audio Recorder: While this app is also free and simple to use, it is definitely more versatile when compared to the Voice Recorder. Apart from recording your ‘piece’ you can email the file for easy sharing. The app also gives you the freedom to specify the format in which you would want to record or save the file.

Voice Record Pro: This free app takes the recording experience to a whole new level with its impressive import and export functionalities. You can easily access the Google Drive and Dropbox, among many others. What’s more, you could even post your recording as a movie clip on Facebook and YouTube. Cool, isn’t it? Apart from recording, you can attach notes and photos, and keep everything safe with the help of a passcode.

Super Notes: If you are ready to shell out a few dollars for a professional quality recording, here is the perfect app for you. Like most other apps in this category it offers superb recording features and clarity, and is cut out for any situation that you have in mind. What sets it apart is its ability to allow you to add notes and annotations to your recording while you are still at it.

Dictate + Connect (Dictamus): Compared to the other apps in this genre, this one is on the higher end of the price chart. But once you look at the features, you would know why. With this app on your side, you can actually forget all other recording devices. Apart from recording, you can even rewind and overwrite without hampering the audio quality. The app comes complete with instant dictation controls, barcode scanner, easy saving and sharing options, and more.

The world has moved light years ahead of traditional, run-of-the-mill voice recorders. However, before jumping on the digitised bandwagon you must ensure that the app you choose is of top quality. It is also indispensable if you are looking to transcribe the audio files. A good quality file does not only make the job of a transcriptionist easier, it also ensures that the transcription is error-free. That means less back and forth, less wastage of time, and optimum use of resources.

Got a file that you need transcribing? We can help. Contact us today for an accurate and affordable transcription service.

What Qualifies As A High Difficulty File?

Audio Quality photo by Alex Ruban

Explaining High-Difficulty Files

At Scribie, we follow a very straightforward process from ordering a transcription to delivering it. You upload a file, select the desired turnaround time and place the order. Next, our transcribers start working on it while you monitor the progress online.

Once transcribed, the file is quality checked by our dedicated team and delivered to you. The effect? 99% or more accurate transcriptions. While most things remain constant, there is something that keeps on changing in this system — the nature and quality of the audio files.

When it comes to a file that needs to be transcribed, nothing matters more than clarity or sound quality.

In fact, this factor becomes crucial in determining whether a file should be categorized as ‘high difficulty’.

What Is A High Difficulty File?

As you might have guessed, it is a file that is very difficult to transcribe. Maybe the audio is not very clear or maybe there is a lot of background noise, which makes listening in pretty challenging. Here are some common characteristics of high difficulty files.

  • Non-American accents (e.g. British, Australian, Hispanic, Native American, Indian, Asian, African, European etc.)
  • High ambient/line noise (e.g. AC noise, hiss, hum)
  • Noisy background (e.g. if the recording was done in a café)
  • Distant speakers (e.g. if the recorder was kept far away from the speakers, faint voices)
  • Distortions (e.g. clipping, high pitched voices)
  • Disturbances (e.g. typing sounds, audio breaks)
  • Diction (e.g. slurring, rapid speaking, mumbling)
  • Quality (e.g. low sampling rate)
  • Reverberation (most frequently caused by bad room acoustics)
  • Echo (e.g. while recording Skype calls)
  • Inaudible parts

Who Determines If A File Is Highly Difficult?

Your file may sound ‘fine’ to you, but that might not be the case. Since we receive files of varying quality and content, the audio quality of your file is judged by numerous transcribers in our system. The difficulty level then becomes is a relative concept. We believe our transcribers have a better perspective and are in a more informed position to understand the difficulty level of a particular file and hence they are the ones who decide if your file should be categorized as a high difficulty file. We found this is the best solution for ruling out any possibility of subjectivity.

How Does It Affect The Rates?

If you are an existing customer you know that Scribie charges a flat rate for all files. BUT the high difficult ones are an exception. As of January 2016, we have implemented new policies that ask for additional charges for high difficulty files. Since high difficulty files require more time and effort from the transcribers, it is only fair that we compensate them accordingly for it. Plus, the additional pay is the motivation that the transcribers get to ensure that quality is not compromised. Generally, the extra charge varies between $0.50/ minute and $2.00/ minute.  We always inform the customer in case a file is found to be of a high difficulty level. The customer also has the liberty to cancel the order in case he is not willing to pay the extra charge and get a full refund.

We do our best to give you quality transcription within your deadline, even if it’s a highly ‘difficult’ file, and we ensure that the transcription matches the highest standard of accuracy.

Start uploading today.

Why Do We Still Need Humans For Transcribing Speech

siri errorsSo, how is Siri doing on your iPhone. Would you happily replace her with your secretary?

Personally, I won’t, because there are just too many ‘misses’ and ‘trouble spots’ that I wouldn’t want in my business.

The case is almost the same when you count upon software to transcribe your audio files instead of their ‘time-consuming’ human counterparts. Unfortunately, despite several attempts, science has not yet come up with a software solution that would act like Aladdin’s magic lamp. And from what it seems, the genie isn’t coming out any time soon. Why? The reasons are many.

The English language can be very tricky and hence very difficult to master especially when the learner in question is a transcription-software. Homophones pose a problem that most software find impossible to overcome. For instance, will it be sale or sail, no or know, fair, or fare? The list continues. Unlike us humans who are blest with critical analyzing skills, software cannot comprehend the difference. Plus, making these finer differentiations may be very difficult without a context, which might not appear until further into the conversation.
The problem aggravates when the software needs to transcribe an interview or a dialogue involving many speakers. It is easy to guess why. Each of us has a unique style of speaking. This speech distinction becomes far complex as this personal style of speaking is influenced and shaped heavily by our geographical location, our culture, and our upbringing, to name a few. It is impossible to ‘teach’ so accurate a speech recognition to any software.

Audio quality is yet another issue. And a very important one. Any speech recognition and transcription software would need a clear piece of audio. Anyone in the transcription business would know that an impeccable audio file is a rare phenomenon.

Talking about the accuracy rate of a human transcriptionist versus a software-driven one, Xuedong Huang, a senior scientist at Microsoft says, “If you have people transcribe conversational speech over the telephone, the error rate is around 4 percent. If you put all the systems together—IBM and Google and Microsoft and all the best combined—amazingly the error rate will be around 8 percent.”

Now the real question is, would you settle for something that is twice as bad as humans? We know the answer. That is why we offer transcription service that is among the best in the industry. Start uploading your files now!

How Does Scribie Ensure Best Quality Transcription At A Lower Cost

There are many transcription services out there, all clamoring for your attention and money. Not all transcription services, however, are created equal.

Some may charge you a certain standard fee, but then add on fees for additional services. Some may not provide you with the best quality for your money.

Scribie offers you the best quality, 98% guarantee, at a price that doesn’t increase because you want your file as a Word document or because there are multiple speakers in your file. Scribie wants to give you the best quality you can get without breaking the bank.

You may be asking yourself how exactly is this done. For starters, Scribie’s platform is 100% online and service is provided by a large group of qualified freelance transcribers. This means no building or maintenance cost that most businesses have to cover. The freelance transcribers work via crowdsourcing and the work is quality checked by a highly efficient quality control team.call-center-1015274_640And if for any reason, you are not satisfied with the quality of your transcription, Scribie also offers a free re-review.

Now when it comes to pricing, those of you who have audio files that are of a high difficulty to transcribe may have to face some additional charges. This is only due to the fact that it requires more time and effort on the part of transcribers.

These include things like speakers with accents or files with noisy backgrounds, which are not picked by our transcribers as a first choice. These files then get stuck and the only way to get these files done is by giving more incentive to the transcribers.

But even with these additional costs, Scribie has found a way to help. Scribie has recently increased the delivery limit to 4 hours and at the same time, additional charges have been reduced to only $1.oo per minute of audio.

If your file has good audio quality, then you easily benefit from the new lower rates. If you want to save some money and ensure that your file is of good audio quality, check out a recent post on just how to do it.

Scribie strives to give you the best for the least amount of money. We want to give you service and quality that makes it seem as if you did it yourself; service that is up to your standards.

How Can A Good Quality Audio File Reduce Your Cost Of Transcription

When it comes to recording your audio that you’ll later want transcribed, you want to make sure it’s a good quality. We’ve discussed the benefits of this, but now we’ll talk about some steps you can take to ensure your audio is of good quality.

Ambient Noise

One of the first things you’ll want to consider even before you start recording is where. You’ll want to choose a spot that doesn’t have too much, if any, background noise. You’ll want to find a room that’s quiet and has little to no ambient noise. If you can’t find a good spot, make sure you and any guests you may have, speak slower and enunciate.

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Recording Device

You may be wondering if you should use your old digital or tape recorder or possibly your smartphone. If you have a smartphone, use it. Smartphones have great microphones on them that can outperform that of your old tape or digital recorder. If you are using your smartphone for your interview, session, etc. you’ll want to find a recording application. Most phones come equipped with a pre-installed recording app or you can search your app store for an app that fits your needs.

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External Speakers

Now, if you opt to use your laptop instead, it’s best to utilize external speakers instead of those in your laptop. The same goes for recording calls on Skype or Google Hangouts. An external speaker will reproduce a better sound quality and thus a better sound recording. You’ll want to keep your recorder as close to the speaker as you possibly can. Also, if using your laptop, you’ll also want to consider an external microphone. Make sure to position it in a way that it doesn’t produce too much interference or too much rubbing from movement. You’ll want to keep the microphone close to you or whoever is speaking, but not so close that your mouth is rubbing against it.

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Once you’ve got all of your software and hardware issues settled, you’ll want to do a sound check to make sure that everything is coming in clear and get all problems fixed before your recording session.

Noisy Background

It is advisable that if you are recording in a cafe or any noisy place, to reserve the first 30 seconds for the noise. And then after the recording you can use Audacity tool to clean up the file by selecting the first 30 seconds as a noise profile. Refer our blog about how to clean your audio files using Audacity.

If you are planning on typing during the recording, you’ll want to put the recorder on a book. This will help to absorb the typing sounds instead of them being recorded.

As always, Scribie wants to help you in any way we can. By taking these simple steps while recording you can save a lot on the cost and it is also a great incentive for people who are working on the transcripts of these files.

Don’t forget Scribie when it’s time to transcribe your audio or video file. You’ll find Scribie have great transcription rates to fit any budget.

How To Clean The Audio File

Whatever your transcription needs are, you will all have the same start – the audio file. You may be asking, ‘Why would I want to provide clean audio?’ and that’s a very good question.

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It is what transcriptionists use to take your notes, lectures, meetings, interviews, etc. from a few or multiple voices to a readily accessible document that you can use at any time in the future for your reference. With this audio being so vital, it’s important to give transcriptionists the best audio you can provide.

Of course, simply saying that the audio needs to be clean isn’t enough. You’ll want to know how you can do this. Well, fortunately for you, you don’t have to spend thousands or even hundreds of dollars on software or equipment to get this done. In fact, you don’t even have to spend a dime. There is great audio software out there and you don’t have to look any further than Audacity for your needs.

Many people use Audacity, whether they are musicians, voice over actors, or even those who need it for their transcription needs. That’s the great thing about Audacity – its versatility. You can even use it to record your files if necessary, but that’s another blog post.

To clean up your audio, first download your copy of Audacity. Once that’s done, open it up and open your audio file. You’ll want to go to ‘Effect’.

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You’ll click on ‘Noise Removal’.

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From there, you’ll need to get a noise profile.  Find the section of the audio file that you need and highlight that section. Click ‘Get Noise Profile’.
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Once this is done, you’ll want to go back to ‘Effect’, ‘Noise Removal’ and click ‘Okay’ to remove the noise.

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This should help clean up your audio.

For more tips and tutorials on how to use Audacity, simply do a Google search to find ways to maximize your new find. You can even out sound, normalize your audio, export to MP3 (with the help of a plugin), cut and copy files together and so much more.

As always, don’t forget to use Scribie for all your transcription needs.

Why You Should Care About Audio Quality While Recording

Good Audio QualityIt is very important to ensure that the audio recordings that you make for transcription is of high quality. High quality recordings will give you better returns for your investment in equipment and time. The quality could be bad because of many reasons for e.g. bad quality recording tools, recording in a noisy place etc.

The higher the quality of the recording, lesser errors a transcription will contain. Clear recordings mean that the transcribers will spend less time doing its transcription. If the recording is clear the transcriber will not have to replay a specific section over and over to figure out what all the parties are saying.

If these factors are all combined, it is natural that the accuracy of the transcription will also improve.

Time, as Benjamin Franklin said, is money. Clear recordings will save the transcriber’s time. This is self explanatory. This means that the employer saves money. The transcribers will now be free to do extra work, that would not have been possible if the recordings were of sub-standard quality.

The client will also benefit seeing that the transcripts of the recording is delivered quicker. A satisfied customer is much more likely to return than one who received the service that was just adequate.

These are but a few of the reasons why quality audio recordings are worth it.

To get a good audio quality of a phone call or teleconference call recording for transcription, use Scribie’s recently launched teleconferencing and phone call recording service integrated with transcription service. The recording is done off the wire which is the standard and the best way to ensure good quality. Please check the link below for more details.

https://scribie.com/conference/recording

Please send a mail to support@scribie.com for further queries or you can chat with us directly.