Poorly recorded audio turns transcribers into a raging bull

Audio Transcription: The raging Bull

Audio Transcription

Poorly recorded audio turns transcribers into a raging bull

Posted By Cathy Bennett

Why do people record their interviews in noisy places? 

That’s the question many transcribers ask when their pedals are in overdrive as they rewind, play, rewind, play over and over again to make sense of the words lost in the background noise.  Noise that is quite often oblivious to the interviewer. 

The innocent train whirring past the office window, muffled by the double glazing, the hurried footsteps on the wooden floor outside the room, people chatting in the cafe, or bar, phones ringing nearby, doorbells chiming, coughing, sneezing, clicking of pens – even the birds whistling or children playing in the park where interviews are held outdoors in seemingly peaceful places.  This day-to-day background noise is often second nature to us. 

But mixed with a miniscule, powerful microphone, this background noise has the hidden power to transform our calm, professional and efficient transcribers into bullsteaming bulls with nostrils flared enough to pass a train through.  Yes, a scary thought – but a result of having to submit a partially-complete transcript littered with inaudibles.  Our transcribers strive to return a complete and perfect transcript, but as it becomes apparent this will no longer happen, the transcriber begins to go through the transformation to steaming bull, particularly if the audio is recorded in a bar, café or similar.  Their feet begin to stamp on their transcription pedals, preparing for the bull fight ahead.  The transformation continues as they see the cost of the transcription rising for our customers due to extra time required going backwards and forwards to decipher the words, the extra time it is taking the transcriber to complete the transcript, and then additional time required by our customers afterwards as they will need to fill in the inaudibles.

It is sometimes impossible to avoid background noise, and our experienced transcribers do have the ability to unravel a lot of the words caught up in the background noise.  But magicians they are not and many words simply cannot be heard.  So, to minimise this, we have provided a few tips to reduce background noise when recording interviews, which will help to keep the steaming bulls at bay and minimise the cost of transcription to our customers:

Interview recording advice
  1. choose a quiet room – avoid recording outdoors or in public places, canteens, restaurants, cafes and bars.
  2. close windows and doors and put up do not disturb notices where necessary.
  3. place the microphone close to those speaking, and if it has to be moved during the interview, wait until it is in place before proceeding.
  4. use noise-cancelling microphones.
  5. switch off mobile phones to avoid the signal causing interference.
  6. always carry out test recordings prior to the interview to ensure good sound levels and appropriately positioned microphones. 
  7. use lapel microphones with caution as they can sometimes rub when the person moves, obliterating speech.
  8. avoid more than one person speaking at a time.
  9. use clear, concise and loud speech.
  10. avoid rustling paper.
  11. switch off any ‘noisy’ equipment such as fans, or locate far enough away from the microphone. 
  12. avoid eating or drinking during the interview.
  13. avoid people moving around the room during the interview.
  14. where there are interruptions of background noise (even sniffs), pause the interview and repeat the sentence for clarity.

Budgets are tight for everyone and the better the recording, the cheaper it is for our customers.  A perfect transcription relies on a ‘sound’ recording.  Recording responsibly and sensibly will reduce your bills.

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