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Choosing an Audio Transcription Provider

By Olivia Ignacio

Though it may seem like a simple process, there are several questions you should ask before hiring a transcriptionist to turn your audio file, whether it is a recorded hearing, meeting, or phone conversation, into a certified transcript.

Is the transcription being performed by a person or by a program that computer generates a transcript?

While it may sound quick and easy to simply load your audio file into a program that generates a transcript, the final product may not be what you expected. A human can pick up on words and nuances that computer software may not (for instance, the difference between an affirmative “uh-huh” and a negative “uh-uh”). A human can more accurately ascribe names of speakers to their voices, more accurately transcribe heavy foreign accents and low-volume/unclear speakers, and so on. You can also count on the error rate for computer-generated transcripts to be higher, due to a variety of factors including random noises on the audio, loud background noise, or software malfunctions.

If the transcription is being done by a person, is it being done by a court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist?

The benefits of having your transcriptions done by a court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist are numerous. To name a few, they are a truly neutral party, are familiar with legal jargon and court proceedings, and are familiar with transcript formatting/rules by jurisdiction–all resulting in a professional, easy-to-read, certified transcript.

In addition, having your transcription done by a court reporting service provider ensures they can provide you with the transcript file types you’re used to seeing, including ASCII, PDF, E-tran (.PTX), LiveNote (.LEF), TextMap (.XMEF), Case Notebook (.PTZ), Summation (.SBF), and trial software such as Sanction (.MDB) and Trial Director (.CMS).

Can the transcription provider work with the kind of audio file I have?

A quality transcription provider should be able to handle audio types ranging from standard .MP3 and .WAV files to commonly used courtroom software such as CourtSmart and other proprietary surveillance or video software. They should also be able to access audio from various forms of media you may have, including discs and cassette tapes.

How quickly will I need my audio transcribed?

Those in the transcription industry typically estimate that the time it takes for someone to effectively transcribe an audio is over three times the audio length, accounting for time spent proofreading, re-listening to certain spots, and researching to confirm a term or spelling. So to transcribe a three-hour audio, it will typically take over nine hours — more than an entire work day! Ensure your transcription vendor has the resources to get your transcripts done on time.

Will my transcript be accurate?

The court reporter or experienced legal transcriptionist will always try their best to make the transcript as accurate and complete as possible. Any words they cannot 100% hear or make out, they will simply mark it as “inaudible” or “indiscernible” in the transcript; any speakers they cannot identify, they will refer to them as “Male Speaker 1,” “Female Speaker 2,” etc. To aid the transcriptionist, a list of those you believe to be speaking on the audio would be helpful, as well as any special or technical terms/acronyms they may come across.

Planet Depos’ professional transcription team is at the ready to assist with your audio transcription needs and answer any other questions you may have. Request your transcription now, or contact us at or 888.433.3767.


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