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Best Practices for Video Production Transcription

This blog post is written with the consumers of video production transcripts in mind, rather than the producers (i.e. the transcriptionist). I’ll post a best practices for transcriptionists soon.

In this post, I’ll lay out some of the best practices you can use to ensure you get a transcript that is both accurate and informative.

A transcript can be an incredibly valuable tool for videographers/video producers, enabling you to dramatically quicken and improve your editing process. Over the years, Rogers Word Service has done a tremendous amount of work with documentary makers, commercial video producers, advertisers, television producers, et cetera. Here are some of the best practices we’ve developed, as well as some of the questions we find are really helpful to ask when negotiating a transcription contract.

1) This one kind of goes without saying, but good audio quality is a must.

2) Trim your file down to eliminate technical comments at the beginning and end, or you can let the transcription service know where you’d like them to start and end. Oftentimes if you don’t, you may get charged for the time spent adjusting lighting, finding levels, mussing with hair, et cetera. After all, if you don’t let your transcription provider know, they will be forced to listen through and sometimes transcribe useless technical comments.

3) If you’d like time stamps embedded in the transcript, make sure you communicate your needs to the transcriber. Our standard practice for time coded transcripts is to put time stamps roughly every 30 seconds, usually coinciding with a speaker change or new paragraph. If you’d like time stamps embedded, for example, exactly every 30 seconds no matter what else is going on, make sure you communicate that need. Also important is communicating where the transcriber should be getting their time stamps from: the audio file itself or from burn codes on the video footage.

4) Specify how precisely you’d like the transcription provider to capture the spoken words. Should they eliminate the “ums” and “uhs”? How about oftentimes meaningless verbal tics like “you know,” and “like”? False sentence starts? Perhaps you’d like the transcriptionist to capture only the ums and uhs that occur in the middle of a sentence, but eliminate the ones that are at the beginning of a sentence. These are all possibilities, and honestly don’t much change the difficulty of transcription; the transcriptionist just needs to know what you’d like.

5) Oftentimes you don’t need the interviewer/crew/producers to be at the same “verbatim” level as the video subject. Let your transcription provider know, and you can potentially save both time and money, as well as get a much cleaner transcript. You can say something like this, “We’d like the interview subject’s words to be captured as precisely as possible, but you can just kind of give the gist of what the interviewer is saying, as they may be off-mic at times.”

These are just a few things that I’ve found to be important in doing transcription for video production purposes. Let me know if you’ve run into any other challenges or come up with other kinds of best practices!

-Paul Rogers

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