Transcripts, timecoding, and you

As the Director of the Audio Transcription Center, I am routinely in meetings with Sandy Poritzky, the owner who started this firm in 1966.  Over the course of my 5 years with the firm, I have listened numerous times to Sandy’s arguments for time-coding transcripts and had many an argument about the topic.

“Michael, my boy,” he’ll say, “why don’t we have time-coding as a standard for all client transcripts?”  “Sandy, the challenge with time-coding is that there is no standard,” I’ll tell him, and then we’ll get into a debate for the next 35 minutes about time-coding.

In the ensuing battles in his office, Sandy, in his inimitable fashion argued that we need to come up with a standard for time-coding that would be included in all client transcripts.  On the counterpoint, in my inimitable fashion, I argued that every client’s needs are so different that there can not be any standard inclusion of time-coding in transcripts.

To be fair, Sandy’s belief is that time-coding should be a standard offering in transcripts, and he understands that every client has very different needs in how time-coding should be included and used in transcription.

Five years later, the battles still linger on, but we now have a conversation with clients about their specific transcription requirements and how time-coding can be a major time-saver in reviewing and editing your transcripts in the long run.

Quite basically, time-coding is beneficial for clients on a few different levels.  One way is for clients to be able to sync up their transcripts with their audio/video files, so that visitors to an online oral history project may synchronously watch the video recording and read the transcript.

For instance, have a look at the website of the Kentuckiana Digital Library, which offers their video footage with a synced transcript.  As Doug Boyd, Director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries writes in his article, “Achieving the Promise of Oral History in a Digital Age”, published in Donald Ritchie’s The Oxford Handbook of Oral History [Oxford University Press, 2011], “By embedding time-code into the transcript, we enabled time correlation between the transcript and the audio or video, yielding an integrated final product where the components work together…Additionally, we created a customized software solution to more easily (albeit still manually) embed time-code markers into the transcript.  The decision was made to embed these markers at one-minute intervals throughout the transcript.  The five-minute interval proved to be, still, too much text to scan while trying to determine the specific location of the information being sought in the audio file.”

We also work with numerous production companies that are sending in their video footage prior to editing.  These clients actually have us time-coding their transcripts at even shorter intervals, so they can easily and efficiently edit sound bites by reviewing their newly time-coded transcripts.

Additionally, if a client sends in an audio file with with poor quality audio, and we are unable to transcribe a word that is said, we’ll put (inaudible) in place of the unknown word.  Time-coding these portions becomes an added feature to help a client easily locate the “inaudible” content in their audio, and review to see if they are able to replace the “inaudible” content with the word that was said.

So in the end, there is no standard need for our clients in how time-codes should be inserted in transcripts, but there certainly is reason to find the time-code formatting that will make reviewing, editing, reading, and watching your content that much simpler.

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