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Transcription, Captioning, Subtitles, Accessibility, and Chicken Soup

Making sure that all forms of media, be it audio, video, or printed material are accessible to every person is critical across all platforms. There are numerous and varied ways to enable people to reach content across these essential formats. Transcription, captioning, and subtitle services play a pivotal role in making sure that these forms of content are available to all.

A Personal Touch

Sandy Poritzky (Mr.), owner and founder of the Audio Transcription Center, offers his first-hand perspective on accessibility. Sandy is legally blind and hard of hearing. As someone who is legally blind, Sandy utilizes equipment that assists him with the tasks he completes on a daily basis while running his business. These include but are not limited to a reading machine, hearing aids, and his wife Janice who helps him with a plethora of tasks each day.

Grandma Janice

Janice is also known as “Grandma” of Grandma’s Chicken Soup, an online company that ships soup as gifts for occasions such as get well, bereavement, or new baby gifts. They also make great gift packages for college students! (Visit Grandma’s Chicken Soup to order some delicious soup!)

In regard to his reading machine, the LyriQ Reader, Sandy notes, “It’s a God send for someone who doesn’t see very well, it’s a God send. I can put a whole book on here, page by page, and it will read the book too. I love the machine!

LyriQ Reader, 16-hour battery life, 3 lbs.

Transcription services provide a text-based rendering of audio and video content. Captioning services provide an on-screen overlay of the words being spoken, along with descriptions of other non-speech and sounds like music and sound effects. They serve as a tool for accessing spoken dialogue for communities including those who are deaf, hard of hearing and those who have other accessibility concerns. Subtitle services add written text to audio or video to display the spoken content. They are especially useful for non-native language speakers. Sandy is able to digest this information through the use of his reading machine (pictured above). It helps him listen to printed text by scanning documents and reading them out loud. He is able to control the speed at which the machine is reading, as well as the volume, allowing for greater flexibility and making it more customizable to each user. This is just one assistive technology device that exists in making content inclusive. Other kinds of assistive technology devices that exist to enhance the digestion of material include (but are not limited to): screen readers, screen magnifiers, assistive listening devices, reading pens, braille displays, and other adaptive software.

Transcription and captioning services are crucial in promoting inclusivity and reachability across all platforms of media. These services empower individuals from all communities to be able to engage in most aspects of the digital and printed world.

Authentication – We’re not perfect but we’re damn close!

Authentication plays a crucial role in ensuring the accuracy of your transcript(s). While we provide a 99% guarantee of accuracy, and we know perfection is not possible, authentication gets your transcript(s) that much closer to 100%

Authentication is polishing an already produced transcript to make sure it is as accurate as possible. A trained member of our team listens to the audio while comparing it word-for-word with the transcript. The focus lies on several key aspects:

  • Verifying for accuracy – Is what was spoken accurately reflected in the transcript?
  • Adherence to guidelines – Does the transcript align with the clients’ specific requirements? (ie. verbatim level, the inclusion of false starts, the inclusion of timestamps and placement, etc.)
  • Researching terminiology – Are special or technical terms researched and incorporated properly?

In addition to checking the above, our team member will also make sure that any [guesses?] or (inaudibles) have been scrutinized as well.

There are a few things that authentication is not

Authentication is not an indication that something is inherently wrong or flawed with your transcript. Rather, it ensures a higher level of precision.

Authentication is not a uniform process. This process looks different for each client. While the basic guidelines are followed for each client’s transcript, it is important to keep in mind that each project and transcript are unique, and authentication is adaptable to each project.

Authentication is not a waste of time. We have a dedicated team of authenticators in place to provide this invaluable investment to your transcript(s) in achieving unparalleled accuracy.

There are various reasons why clients choose to authenticate their transcripts. Oftentimes, clients send us their AI-generated transcripts to have them authenticated. Other times, our clients send us archival recordings that require the need for further accuracy checking because of the audio quality. And then there are times when the audio quality is difficult for other reasons: the speakers are heavily accented or there is significant cross-talk during the recording. And yes, there are times that clients decide to invest in having ATC authenticators complete this process on our time when they know their time is more valuable and better spent in other areas that require their focus.

Whatever your reason is for needing or wanting your transcript authenticated, there is no wrong reason! While there is additional time and investment required, the benefit of achieving a near-perfect transcript is a worthwhile add-on service.

If you’re ready to elevate the precision of your transcripts, be sure to contact us and/or fill out our Get A Quote page. Our VP Michael is ready to take your call!

What To Expect During Onboarding As A New Client with ATC

In the first two parts of our blog series about the ATC sales process, we discussed what to expect during a sales call and what to bring to the call as a client. In the third part of this series, we felt it was important to delve into the onboarding phase should you decide to move forward with ATC as your transcription firm. Understanding the nuances of each project is mission-critical to our success in transcribing your content.

So now you’ve made an important decision on the firm that is going to complete your transcripts, but what happens next?

  • How do you get the work to the company to transcribe?
  • How do they know what guidelines to follow?
  • How do they know where to send completed transcripts?
  • Who do they invoice?

There’s a lot involved in the onboarding process, and to get that process moving we offer a 2-page Client Onboarding Form to help us manage your project while also giving us the key insights to be able to complete your project to near perfection (I’ll never way we’re perfect, but we’re damn close).

File Transfer and Platforms

Firstly, you’ll want to track the files you’re sending our way for transcription. An easy method for that is using an Excel spreadsheet. You’ll want to have columns that represent information that is important to you, for example: File Name, Length of Recording, Interviewer Name, Interviewee Name (Narrator), Subject of Recording, Notes about the recording (for instance if there are any accents or pronouns that we should be aware of that might not be common knowledge), and any other information that will be helpful for you and also helpful for us to easily discern the content of each file.

You’ll then need to decide on the platform by which you’ll securely transfer your recordings to ATC. There are many different platforms, and we do not recommend platforms, but we can share the names of platforms that other clients choose to use. We do recommend that you speak with your IT department if you have one, or reach out to an IT consultant with any suggestions that will meet your needs around file transfer speed and security. The main platforms clients use are DropBox, Google Drive, and Box. These platforms all offer various levels of access, security, and storage space.

Guidelines

Next up is guidelines. Give us two clients and we’ll have three sets of guidelines that we have to follow. One for client A, one for client B, and one that neither of them will follow. You may have your own transcription style guide in place. If so, we ask that you send it to us for us to marinate on in advance of starting your transcription project. The team will diligently review all the details, see where any differentiations exist from your style guide to our in-house style guide, and then update the key points for the transcriptionists to be aware of on our transcriptionist portal. If you don’t have a guideline, we’d be more than happy to offer our own in-house style guide that many clients choose to have us work from. Otherwise, check out these options from a couple of our clients:

Columbia

Baylor

On the Client Onboarding Form, you’ll advise us of the person to whom we should send the transcripts. This may be yourself, or you may have a team of people that need to receive the transcripts as they are completed.

Invoicing

Similarly, you’ll need to advise us before we start the project of all the details around invoicing, and to whom invoices should be sent for payment. If a purchase order is required by your institution to start the project we’ll need all of that documentation completed in advance, so that there are no delays in payment. As a small business, cash flow is mission-critical to our continued success, and we need to make sure that there is fluidity in that process without holdups or delays in payment.

In summary, the Client Onboarding Form is going to be the main document we follow to create your account and learn the fine details of all aspects of your project. While this is a lot of information, we promise, this process is rather smooth and seamless.

At any point you’re always welcome to contact a member of the team for assistance, and we’ll always do our best to answer your questions or get you the answers as quickly as possible. We’re friendly, communicative, and our goal is to help make this as easy a process as possible for you each and every time you have recordings to send our way.

What You Should Have Ready For An ATC Sales Call

Welcome back to our blog series on navigating sales calls with the Audio Transcription Center. In part one of this series, we gave you a sneak peek at what to expect during an initial sales call. Now, let’s turn the spotlight on you, the client, and discuss what you should have prepared for a seamless and productive conversation.  

In advance of our meeting we’ll email you our “Client Onboarding Form.” Be ready to provide a brief overview of your project. Things that we will talk about include:  

• The nature of the content to be transcribed 

• Timeframes & deadlines 

• Number of hours to be transcribed 

• Funding 

• Audio quality & audio details (ie. multiple speakers, complex accents, foreign language etc.) 

These details are numerous and varied, but all keys to the ultimate goal of delivering you a transcript that is greater than 99% accurate as our guarantee states, or there’s no charge – no ifs, ands or buts. (But remember, we cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). 

There are some other things to come prepared with in reference to your project. Will your project require any of the following: 

• Verbatim or modified verbatim 

• Inclusion of false starts 

• Speaker attribution 

• Timecoding 
 

We do have our own in-house style guide that we have created based upon many of the commonalities within our own clients’ style guides. You may also choose to send us your own guidelines, or let us know whose guidelines you’d like us to follow. Again, the more information you can provide us on this call, the more accurate of an estimate we can provide to you.  

Our sales calls are more than just a transaction, they are a collaborative approach to understanding your unique needs. Prepare for our call by gathering these details, and we promise you’ll leave feeling like a partner – heard, understood, and ready to take the next step for your transcription needs. 

Stay tuned next month for the final part of our blog series on navigating a sales call with ATC. 

What should you expect during an initial sales call with ATC? 

It’s important to keep in mind that this process might not be right for everyone. If you have a smaller project, with a handful of hours to be transcribed, a full sales call might not be necessary to get you a quick estimate and begin work on your project. Fill out the form on our “Get A Quote” page and we’ll follow up with you within 24 business hours.

Sales calls can often be a choppy, uncomfortable, and stressful situation. A lot of the time you may just want one answer, how much? But, you’re stuck in this sales call focused on one thing, a salesperson trying hard to sell you their product or service. Personally, we know we don’t like that approach and that approach isn’t what we take at the Audio Transcription Center. That approach isn’t what has kept us in business since 1966.  

At the Audio Transcription Center, we want to make this process as easy and smooth as possible for you. In our initial correspondence via email (if you’ve completed our Get A Quote form) or on the phone (as we do often prefer to return a phone call), we set up a time with you to meet with our VP, Michael Sesling, and potentially another member of our team. You’ll receive a meeting agenda and Zoom link prior to our call so you can feel well prepared, and we always do our best to stay within the time constraints that we all have blocked off. We respect you and your availability and know your time is valuable.  

Our meeting agenda is not a strict plan, but rather a guideline to help make sure we hit on all the important points, to help the flow of conversation, and to help you feel ready for our call. Our meeting agenda includes:  

Introductions: Everyone present will introduce themselves. Michael, our VP, will give a brief history of the Audio Transcription Center, and you can give a brief history of your organization and project.  

Discussion: We’ll discuss the oral histories or content you want to be transcribed. This is the part of the call where we usually end up with more questions than answers 🙂 We will discuss ATC’s process including how we receive audio files, what happens when they’re received, what happens once they are transcribed, and what you can expect at delivery. This is also a time to discuss any other questions, concerns, or issues you may want to talk about in detail such as security, confidentiality, or accuracy.  

Funding: It is always helpful for us to know if you have secured funding, are in the process, or are still looking for funding. This will help us be able to assess and establish the urgency or timeline of your project, while also giving us an opportunity to help you depending on what various stage of the funding process you are in.  

Our sales call is a very easy going, laid back process where Michael welcomes you into his home (literally as he works from home). We aim to make you feel as comfortable as possible and make sure you walk away having a full understanding of our process. It’s a time for any questions you may have and for seeking clarification.

Stay tuned next month to read about what information you, as a prospective client, should have ready for a sales call with ATC. 

ATC Client Spotlight: The San Francisco Opera

As you might know by now if you’ve been keeping up with our Client Spotlight blogs, we work with some exceptional, fascinating people and organizations––and this client is no exception. In fact, when we’re allowed to bring up names and specific projects that we’ve worked on (which is rarely, for confidentiality reasons), this is one of the ones we love to name-drop. After all, who wouldn’t want to be a part of the San Francisco Opera’s efforts to preserve their storied history through audio?

That’s right––this month’s Client Spotlight is about the San Francisco Opera, and the amazing initiative to digitally preserve and share various audio recordings from its rich hundred-year history. While most organizations and businesses of the arts choose to record their stories in heavy coffee-table books, the San Francisco Opera chose a different route, more fitting to their artistic medium and infinitely more accessible: recorded audio.

Streaming the First Century: Celebrating 100 Years Through Audio

The project to digitize and make accessible the San Francisco Opera’s historical recordings, “Streaming the First Century”, features 25 audio artifacts from the last century of the Opera’s history, including full performances, excerpted operas, and oral history interviews. The oral history portion of the collection includes both archival interviews with artists as well as contemporary conversations and panels with artisans and administrators. 

This treasure trove of both modern and historical audio content was released in the form of four interactive sessions, each of which contain audio commentary from Company members that help bring expert insight to anyone who would like to listen––or anyone who would like to read. That’s right––all of the audio presented in “Streaming the First Century” is available to read in transcript form, save for the opera performance audio. This means that all of the oral history content is available in both audio and text formats, which is a monumental step in ensuring that this artistically, historically, and academically rich content is accessible to all kinds of people, regardless of their preferred medium or level of hearing. We’ll actually be talking a lot more about transcripts and accessibility in a few upcoming blogs, so stay tuned for more on that subject!

As the transcription service that worked on these publicly-available oral history transcripts, we’re thrilled to see our work exhibited in an unconventional and widely accessible way. Most of the transcripts that we create are completely confidential and used for a variety of private purposes––whether it be for legal, financial, or governmental organizations––so seeing our work proudly displayed for the benefit of all on the San Francisco Opera website is something that we find pretty special. We love the idea of using transcripts as a way to make oral history accessible to all, and we hope we get to work on more projects like this one in the future! 


If you’d like to check out any of the enchanting history we’ve discussed here, we definitely recommend checking out the project in its permanent home on the San Francisco Opera’s website here. There’s a wealth of beautiful performances, glamorous photos, and––if we do say so ourselves––riveting transcripts of interviews, panels, and conversations from the historical to the modern.

ATC Client Spotlight: Carmen Fields

While we’ve had the pleasure of working with many incredible clients throughout our 56 years in business, working with Pulitzer-winning journalist Carmen Fields was definitely a highlight for us. Carmen is a legend in her field, having led a long and storied career in print and broadcast journalism that’s led her to be named one of “Boston’s 100 Most Influential People” by Get Konnected™ and recognized as a “Legend of Roxbury” by Roxbury Community College Foundation for her pioneering work as a black woman in broadcast media. 

But Carmen isn’t only a journalist––she’s also an author. Her soon-to-be-published debut work, “Going Back to T-Town: The Ernie Fields Territory Big Band” is a memoir detailing the career of her father, big-band leader Ernie Fields. At ATC, we had the immense honor of helping her digitize analog cassette tapes and transcribing the contents for use in her upcoming memoir, and while we eagerly await the published book, we thought we’d share one of Carmen’s more recent newsworthy projects here in Greater Boston. 

A multicolor digital painting of journalist Carmen Fields with text below reading "Black Authors Collection Donated by Carmen Fields" and subtext reading "Doctor, Humane Letters '92" by Salem State University.

The Salem State Donation

Last year, Carmen made a groundbreaking donation to the Salem State University Library––her extensive personal collection of books by Black authors which featured several signed, first-edition works by authors including Maya Angelou, Colin Powell, Alice Walker, and Muhummad Ali. The collection also included landmark works by Zora Neale Hurston, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Barack Obama, and Dr. Martin Luther King, all of which are currently in circulation at the university’s library. 

This exceptional collection from Carmen, generously donated to Salem State, has served to enrich the lives and cultural literacy of the student body, as well as to help introduce students of all backgrounds to critical texts by Black authors that have shaped history. The importance and impact of such a donation cannot be overstated, and is only one of many reasons we are so honored to count Carmen amongst our clientele here at ATC

Tough Transcripts: ATC & Problem-Solving

By now, you’ve probably heard us talk quite a bit about accuracy: how important accuracy is to us, how important accuracy is to our clients, and how our reputation is staked on our extremely high level of accuracy. But there’s more to ATC than just our accuracy. For today’s blog we thought we’d discuss another cornerstone trait of our business and our team: problem solving. 

a solved rubix cube sits on a plain background, representing the Audio Transcription Center's ability to problem-solve when it comes to difficult transcription projects.
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Like many businesses before us (and surely many that will come after), we pride ourselves at ATC on our problem-solving abilities. Different industries have different arrays of issues that they face on a daily basis. For instance, at your favorite coffee shop, the problem-solving skills may orient themselves towards handling irritable morning commuters, keeping the different milks stocked and syrups organized, etc. In many ways, we’re no different! Transcription service comes with its own set of unique problems, and we’re ready to handle them.

Maybe we’re biased (ok, we definitely are), but we feel that our team is uniquely equipped for solving the hiccups that come up on an everyday basis. The diversity of our remote team of transcriptionists means that an extremely wide variety of personal interests, degrees, and fields of knowledge are represented, giving us an arsenal of varied expertise that means that we can tackle anything our clients throw at us. And throw they do––whether it’s technical issues relating to uploading and downloading files, difficult, aged audio recordings, hyper-specific grammar and formatting requirements, migrating and digitizing content from old and obsolete pieces of technology, translating and transcribing foreign language audio, and so, so much more, we’ve learned and adapted to handling it all, and handling it fast. We have always relied on our team to use their collective brainpower to solve any problem that comes our way. And that trust has carried us through over 50 years of business. 

So, when you’ve got an old, scratchy recording, or a collection of dusty tapes full of overlapping dialogue, or an oral history in a Spanish dialect, or any problem relating to transcription you can think of, who you gonna call? 

ATC! 

The Art of Questioning: Simple Tips for Conducting Interviews

Interviews are something we’re all too familiar with here at ATC: they make up a huge portion of the audio we transcribe, and as such, we’ve become accustomed to the common forms, techniques, banalities, and yes––even the (occasional) blunders. While it’s only natural for every interview to have its highs and lows, we thought it may be useful to compile a short list of simple tips and tricks for conducting interviews that we’ve learned over our decades of work with oral historians, journalists, authors, and more. We certainly didn’t invent these principles, as we’re not the professionals in this field. Instead, these are the things we’ve gleaned from the experts that we feel are some of the cornerstones to a good interview––and we hope that those of you newer to interviewing get some use from them!

two women sit next to one another with microphones, conducting interviews for a talk show or podcast.
Photo by George Milton on Pexels.com
  1. Planning & The Goldilocks Principle

    One of the most important strategies for conducting an effective interview is preparation. It’s vital to put some planning and forethought into the interview––from both the interviewer and the interviewee––so that both parties feel that they’ve had a chance to fairly represent themselves, had enough time to speak, and had the opportunity to put their best foot forward and relay their desired meanings. But be warned; there is such a thing as too much planning. While it’s common courtesy to provide your interviewee with a list of questions (or, at the least, important talking points) ahead of time, there’s no need to get too specific. Part of the magic of a good interview is the natural flow––and sometimes getting a little off-topic or telling an unplanned anecdote can end up provoking the most stimulating part of the conversation. To avoid stifling an engaging exchange, make sure to plan just enough, but don’t overdo it. Provide your subject with a list of topics or questions, but avoid steering their answers in a specific direction or leading the witness, or you may end up with pedestrian, run-of-the-mill answers that make for a boring interview.

  2. Guidance & Support

    Another aspect of interviewing that often goes overlooked is the importance of support. When we transcribe an interview verbatim––meaning with every “um,” “ah,” “hm,” and false start included––one of the most notable elements of the finished transcript is the volume of verbal supportive cues given. While we as transcriptionists can’t observe the nonverbal encouragement that may be given by an interviewer (nodding, etc), we can observe the verbal ones, and we see firsthand the difference they make in the interviewing process. Though they may create more work for us as the transcriptionists, more verbal supporting cues (in the form of interjections) help interviewees respond better to questions––whether that means further elaboration of a previously expressed thought or the courage to tackle a difficult topic that perhaps they weren’t planning on getting into in depth. While it can seem repetitive to you as the interviewer, nodding along and offering small verbal interjections (“Ah,” “I see,” “Mm,” “Okay”) can really bolster the interviewee and make for a more comfortable rapport. Remember, though, if your recording contains a lot of supportive interjections, it can make transcription harder (particularly for AI), so look for a transcription service that can handle difficult audio––like us! And, to save yourself the trouble of worrying about verbal tics and cues while you’re trying to interview, request a modified verbatim transcript, where we transcribe all of the important content in the conversation and omit the verbal cues and stutters.


  3. Review, Review, Review

    Our last tip may be one we have a vested interest in, but it’s no less important for it: reviewing your interview. Whether you’re going to have your interview transcribed or not, it’s important to review it either in audio or text form to give you the best understanding of the effectiveness of your questions, your tone, your supportive cues, minute details of wording, and more. We recommend reviewing your interview at least a full day after it has taken place, so you can have some cognitive distance from your perceived ideas about the conversation and analyze your questions and your interviewee’s responses more accurately. This review process helps you understand what led to the most groundbreaking moments in the interview, or, conversely, where something might have gone a little awry. As always, if you need a transcript of any interview with an unbeatable level of accuracy, well, you know where to find us!

While these three tips for conducting interviews may seem simple and self-explanatory on the surface, we’ve found that really honing on them results in better, more engaging interviews every time––as well as more interesting transcripts for us! Whether you’re conducting interviews for an oral history, a memoir, an academic purpose, or even an open role at your workplace, these three tips will help guide you towards your ideal interview––and we wish you the best of luck!

The Importance of a Customized Transcript

There are so many things that we customize in our lives, from things as big in scope as the interiors of our homes to things as minute as our shower playlists. But when it comes to transcription, the concept of a customized transcript––matching the client’s content to a transcriptionist with knowledge or background in the topic––is still novel. We don’t know of any other transcription services that utilize this method besides ourselves, probably because it takes a larger, more diverse team, not to mention that the team must be human (not computer AI) and therefore will come with a higher cost to maintain. But customizing your transcript by selecting the perfect transcriptionist for the job has always been worth it to us––because it’s intimately tied to our reputation for accuracy

workplace of modern artist with keyboard representing the Audio Transcription Center's ability to provide a customized transcript for each client
Photo by Skylar Kang on Pexels.com

When we choose a transcriptionist (or transcriptionists) to work on the audio you provide us, we have a lot of talent to choose from. Our remote team is spread throughout the nation, with a wide variety of backgrounds. Everything from their personal lives to their interests are different, but what ties our team together is their education and their exacting attention to detail. 

When a client presents a new project for us at ATC, one of the most important parts in the process of us delivering them an incredibly accurate, perfectly-formatted customized transcript actually happens at the very beginning. The questions that we ask up front––questions about what the project is about, the contents of the audio files, the client’s particular needs, and the time frame in which they need the transcripts delivered––help us determine what is arguably the most important part in our entire work process: which transcriptionist or transcriptionists will be handling your audio! 

We choose transcriptionists based on every project, and every project is unique, even if it seems similar at a glance to something we’ve worked on before. The speakers, the accents, and the nuances of the dialogue in each recording are all crucial pieces of the customization puzzle, and matching content to the right transcriptionist is at the heart of our ability to provide a guarantee of 99% accuracy at a minimum. After all, who better to transcribe audio with a thick Boston accent than a Bostonian, or to transcribe a lecture on Torah education by Elie Wiesel than someone with a Jewish background? While these may not be details that other services take into account, we believe at ATC that custom-matching your content to the person best equipped to understand all the subtle gradations of it is the key to providing each and every client with a customized transcript that we can be proud of, every time.