- By Larry Jordan
I’ve been skeptical of automatic transcription – and still am, for that matter – when creating finished transcripts of programs. But, I’ve found myself using SpeedScriber more and more recently and want to share what I’ve learned.
SpeedScriber is a stand-alone, easy-to-use program that quickly takes audio files (either stand-alone or synced with video) and creates text transcripts from the content.
The transcriptions are not perfect; punctuation and proper names are most often in need of correction. But, the speed and flexibility of this system provide a valuable service when you need text now and it doesn’t need to be accurate.
NOTE: Speedscriber cautions that it “is designed for professional content creators who are transcribing audio or video files with well-recorded audio and destined for editing or distribution. It is not designed for transcription of meetings, lectures or interviews recorded with phones or voice recorders.”
The program itself is free, charges are based on the number of minutes for transcribed audio. Prices range from 37 to 50 US cents per minute, based upon the amount of time purchased.
One of the reasons I like SpeedScriber is that most of my editing these days is audio-only, for my weekly podcast Digital Production Buzz. Unlike other programs like SimonSays, Transcriptive, or Lumberjack System which are tightly integrated into video editing software, SpeedScriber works really well with individual audio files, as well as video.
Before transcribing, I edit the audio in Adobe Audition (or any other digital audio editor) to clean up the text and make sure levels are loud, background noise is reduced and, in general, the clip sounds as good as I can make it.
NOTE: Automatic transcription software gets really confused with low levels, multiple people talking at once, background noise or anything else that makes it hard to hear the principle speaker. You can use lower-grade audio, but the quality of the transcription will suffer.
Once the audio is prepped, I export just the section I want to transcribe as a high-quality WAV or AIF file. If you are working with video, simply drag the entire video clip into SpeedScriber. This will allow you to watch and listen to the video clip during review and editing; there’s no reason to separate the audio from video.
SECRET TRICK: What SpeedScriber does behind the scenes is convert whatever audio you import into a compressed mono audio file (and separates it from the video, if necessary). This allows for fast uploading with sufficient quality for transcription. You are never uploading the actual file. Cool.
The interface is divided into two sections:
- Files to be transcribed on the left
- Files in process or transcribed on the right.
To add a file – audio or video – simply drag it into the left panel. Here, you see the file I used for the Mark Harrison interview. Click a file name to select it and, at the bottom of the panel, you will see a waveform of the file itself. This allows you to play it to make sure you added the correct version. (You can add as many files as you want – the most I’ve batched at one time was ten.)
NOTE: The software also asks, as you import it, how many speakers the clip contains. This helps the Cloud service recognize different voices. The default setting is two.
When you’ve added all the files you want to transcribe, click the Transcribe button at the top.
Learn more about the process, and Larry’s conclusions , here.