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TRANSCRIPTION TIMES

HOW LONG DOES A ONE HOUR RECORDING TAKE TO TRANSCRIBE?
It's a common misconception that one hour of recording takes one hour to transcribe. Far from it!
We speak much faster than we can write or type; otherwise there would be no need for shorthand or stenographers.  It's generally accepted that we speak four times faster than we can type and seven times faster than we can write.

The professional industry standard* allows ONE hour to transcribe 15 minutes of clearly recorded speech. It therefore takes a MINIMUM of 4 hours to transcribe a one hour recording depending on a number of factors detailed below. The following timings for transcription of a one hour recording are based on many years in the business and relate to transcription time, NOT recorded hours.

Dictation, one-to-one research interviews, lectures, telephone interviews, podcasts, webcasts - between 4 to 6 hours.
F
ocus groups, meetings, conference presentations, group interviews, teleconferences, vox pops - between 6 to 10 hours.

Video recordings, time stamps added to transcripts, or all participants identified by name for groups - between 7 to 10 hours.

The type of transcript you require will also impact on timings. The timings above are based on Intelligent Verbatim transcripts as that is the most cost effective option (see our definitions page for more details). If you require a Complete Verbatim transcript, that adds approximately 1 to 3 hours to the transcription time. An Edited Transcript adds between 1 to 2 hours. Poor quality recordings will increase these timings even further. 

*(Industry standards obtained from the Industry Production Standards Guide (1998), published by OBC, Columbus, OH, USA)

WHAT INFLUENCES TRANSCRIPTION TIMES?
It's in the interests of both the transcriber and the client to deal with recordings of the highest possible quality.  No transcriber enjoys working with poor quality recordings, and why invest time, money and effort arranging an event only to scupper it at the recording stage? A poor recording will result in a high number of 'inaudibles' and take far longer to transcribe and will increase client costs. Producing a good quality, clearly audible recording is vital. If we can't hear it, we can't transcribe it! The less time it takes to transcribe your material, the lower your final costs will be.  We are pleased to provide advice on our Guidelines pages on how to make a successful recording. The choice of recording equipment and the facilitation of the event has as much impact as the efficiency of the transcriber.

It may also be useful to understand what factors influence how long a transcription will take to process.

The format and quality of the recording
Digital and minidisc recordings will always produce a clearer recording than any analogue format such as standard audio tapes, mini tapes or micro cassettes. Please see our comparison of digital and analogue recordings. The use of a cheap recorder will be a false economy as the extra transcription costs involved far outweigh any savings made on the equipment.

Whether an external microphone is used
If the in-built microphone is used to make a recording of anything other than dictation, the results will be very poor. External microphones are essential for capturing a clearly audible recording. The position of the microphone is also key. If it's too far away from the speaker (or speakers), much will be inaudible. If there's only one microphone for a group discussion, this will clearly record only the nearest speaker's voice. Please see our advice page on Microphones - they're now relatively inexpensive and you will recoup the price several times over in reduced transcription costs.

The clarity and number of voices
If the speaker's voice is hard to hear either because the speaker is too far away from the microphone, mumbles, speaks too fast or too quietly, this can mean it's difficult to decipher the words.
With recordings of focus groups, meetings or roundtable discussions, transcription can be more difficult due to the multiple voices involved. Obviously, each voice has a different tone, pitch, and speed as well as accent. People in groups have a tendency to all speak at once, interrupt each other or raise their voices if they become animated. Distinguishing between different voices will always take longer than a one-to-one or single voice situation, because the recording has to be played back several times in order to distinguish the different voices.

Whether you require speakers to be identified
With recordings of one-to-one interviews or small groups, identification of the speakers by name is usually fairly trouble free. With large focus groups or meetings where there may be a 'babble' of voices, this becomes more difficult - especially if the transcriber has never heard those voices before, which is the likely scenario. Unless clients provide a voice 'brief' or speakers identify themselves, either at the beginning or throughout the recording, it becomes almost impossible to match names to voices and takes much longer because the transcriber has to 'tune in' to the different voices. We have several tailored transcript styles for focus group situations to enable clients to choose the most cost effective option.

The speed at which they are talking
It may sound odd but if someone is a fast talker, it will take longer to transcribe what they're saying than for someone who speaks more slowly. For example, take two recordings - both one hour in length. The first interviewee talks slowly, 'normally' - the resulting transcription is perhaps 10,000 words long. The second interviewee talks at 'machine gun' speed and the transcript totals 16,000 words. Same length of recording - completely different length of transcript. A fast talker equals more words. More words equals more to type, which in turns equals more time taken.

Whether they speak in coherent sentences
Everyday speech is usually littered with verbal habits and quirks which we generally don't 'hear' in conversation. People switch thought in mid-sentence, add unnecessary 'you knows' and 'sort ofs' every few words, or sometimes don't speak in coherent sentences at all. We rarely speak in the same way as we write. In such situations, the transcriber must go back and work out where to insert the punctuation so as not to lose the thread of the whole piece. The more coherent the speakers are, the less time it takes to transcribe their words. The transcriber can 'type as they talk' and rarely needs to go back and puzzle out the meaning.

The level of background noise
Background noise can make or break a recording, so choosing the recording location is vital, preferably a quiet indoor environment. Our ears can filter out most of the extraneous noise which is constantly around us, from traffic noise, equipment interference, other voices, even background hiss from the recorder itself. Microphones are not so selective - they pick up every sound, giving each noise equal prominence (unless using noise cancelling microphones).

The degree of regional accents
Wherever a recording is made in the world, if the speaker has an accent which is difficult to understand, this will adversely affect the time it takes to transcribe the recording. Some accents are easier to decipher than others, but it will still take the transcriber time to 'tune their ears in' and necessitate listening several times in order to capture what is being said.

The amount of industry specific or technical terminology involved
Material which is full of technical, financial or specialised terminology may be unfamiliar to the transcriptionist. It may be necessary to relisten to words, sentences, or even whole sections several times in order to distinguish the words. In such circumstances, it helps enormously if a glossary of keywords or some kind of brief about the topic involved can be provided in advance by the client, or if words can be spelt out at the time by the person dictating. We can do this research ourselves on the Internet but this all adds to the transcription time.

Please email if you have a specific query.

We specialise in digital transcription services including MP3 digital transcription, WAV digital transcription, WMA digital transcription among many other digital audio file formats. We also provide standard audio cassette tape transcription covering micro cassette or micro tape transcription, plus mini tape or mini cassette transcription which is also known as audio transcription or audio typing services. This can be extended to include minidisc or minidisk transcription services. Extensive experience in conference transcription services allows us to offer transcription of conference proceedings including keynote speaker and plenary session transcription, lecture transcription, seminar and symposia transcribing, Q&A session transcription and transcription of breakout sessions, roadshows, roundtable discussions and workshops. Interview transcription services form a core part of our service and include one-to-one interview transcription, as well as multiple participant interview transcription. We are pleased to offer discounted transcription services for charities, students and universities for their research interviews, particularly qualitative analysis transcription compatible with Nvivo and Atlas Ti. Support for oral history interview transcription projects can include both digital transcription services and audio tape transcription. A niche specialty is our podcast transcription services which also covers webcast transcription. Transcription services for authors, writers and journalists can include anything from digital dictation for article transcription and manuscript typing through to research interview transcription and writers' memoirs transcription. Also offered is focus group transcription, forum transcribing, market research and vox pop interview transcription as well corporate or group meeting transcription services. Word processing services and digital dictation for correspondence is also included. Teleconferences and telephone interviews can be transcribed from digital and analogue formats. Analogue video tape transcriptions are offered along with digital video transcription services. Different transcription styles are available including Intelligent Verbatim Transcription, Complete Verbatim Transcription, Edited Transcription and customised transcription styles for Oral History projects and Focus Groups.

We are pleased to offer free Advice Pages: Equipment FAQs Overview Transcription Times and free Guidelines for: Conferences Dictation Digital Audio / Minidiscs Focus Groups / Forums Interviews Lectures / Speeches / Presentations Market Research Vox Pops Oral History Interview Projects Podcasts Audio Tapes Teleconferences / Telephone Interviews Digital DVD / Video Tapes Webcasts Workshops Our Home Page provides an overview of the wide range of transcription services we provide.

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