Audio transcription – the process of converting recorded speech into text – isn’t the most glamorous topic. But there are many good reasons for transcribing videos. Here are just a few of them:
- Transcripts are easily indexable by search engines, increasing your opportunities to rank for long-tail keywords.
- Adding a transcript below your video content makes it more shareable, especially in combination with click-to-tweet plugins.
- Many people prefer to scan a summary of the video content before deciding whether to watch it.
Aside from marketing-focused benefits, one of the best reasons for transcribing videos is to make your content accessible to all your users, including people who can’t hear the audio or see the video.
Posting a transcript alongside a talking-head video, for instance, makes it possible for users with disabilities to read the text or listen to it using screen-reading technology. Transcripts can also be converted into captions or subtitles and synced to the video for an even better user experience.
The downside of transcribing videos yourself is that it can be a long and tedious process, cutting into time that might otherwise be spent creating.
So I’m going to share a few of my favorite tools and tips for transcribing faster that I’ve picked up in my work as a professional transcriptionist. The tools covered here range from free to under $100 USD, and they can dramatically improve your transcription speed, saving you hours of time.
Tools for Boosting Transcription Productivity
Even with a crash course in touch typing and lots of practice, you may never be able to reach pro typing speeds of 80+ wpm. But with the help of technology, you can “artificially” increase your typing speed – in some cases by multiple times.
Here are five tools you can use to do this:
1. Transcription software
If you’re transcribing videos yourself, at the very least you’ll need to install special transcription software to enable audio playback using just your keyboard or a foot pedal. This eliminates the frustration of constantly using your mouse to start and stop the audio.
The following transcription programs have limited free versions with affordably priced upgrades:
2. Transcription foot pedal
Using a foot pedal to control playback is the easiest and fastest way to ramp up your transcription efficiency. I’ve heard several people, initially skeptical, say they don’t know how they ever managed to transcribe without one.
Foot pedals take care of audio playback without the use of a mouse, eliminating the need to multitask with your fingers while transcribing. Many of today’s foot pedals, like the popular Infinity USB, are plug and play, so you can benefit from the extra speed boost immediately.
If you decide not to invest in a foot pedal, you can configure your transcription program to control audio playback using the numeric keypad or function keys, which is still more efficient than using a mouse.
3. Word expander software
Word expander programs, such as Instant Text by Textware Solutions and Shorthand for Windows by OfficeSoft, are another tool of the trade for professional transcriptionists. Used properly, they can increase your typing speed by an estimated 30%.
Word expanders let you define your own text shorthand for commonly used words and phrases, eliminating tons of keystrokes. For example, you might tell the program to expand “tsm” to “thanks so much.”
If you don’t want to pay for a word expander program, you can also use your computer’s autocorrect feature to achieve the same thing – it works the same way, just with fewer features.
4. Noise-canceling headphones
If you’re transcribing in an environment with high levels of white noise, a pair of noise-canceling headphones, like Bose QuietComfort or the Sony WH-1000XM2, can work wonders for your productivity (and your sanity).
5. Voice recognition software
If you find that your fingers get fatigued during long typing sessions, try the “echo dictation” technique by re-dictating the audio and letting a VR program do the actual work of typing.
While there are built-in speech recognition features for PC and Mac, I’ve had the most success using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. You can ask the software to scan specific documents to learn any jargon and unconventional spellings that you use often.
The latest version of Dragon, v15, costs a hefty $300. I’ve used several versions, and everything from version 11 onward works well. So, if you’d like to get your feet wet with echo transcription, consider getting an earlier version of the program for closer to $50. (Make sure to check for compatibility with your current setup.)
Tips for Transcribing Faster
Great tools can make your job a lot easier, but good technique is just as important. Here are some quick tips for further improving your transcription efficiency.
Boost audio quality.
If you know what you’re doing, you can fine-tune audio quality using an audio editing program like Audacity or WavePad before importing it into your transcription software.
That said, you don’t have to be an audio wizard to enhance the audio quality of your videos: Some transcription programs ship with features designed to do just that. For example, to access the audio enhancement features in Express Scribe, go to File > Special Audio Processes.
The three options are:
- Background Noise Reduction. This feature works by eliminating sound below a certain volume threshold. It’s useful for when the background noise is quieter than the speakers.
- Extra Volume Boost. This setting boosts the volume by 10%. This feature comes in handy when you’ve maxed out the volume controls on your computer and you’re still straining to hear the audio.
- High Pass Filter. This setting is similar in functionality to Background Noise Reduction, but instead of differentiating sounds by a volume threshold, it differentiates by pitch, filtering out frequencies below 450Hz. Experiment with this feature on “muddy” sounding files, when the background noise is competing with the speakers.
Easily insert timestamps.
There may be times when you need to make note of the current time position in a video so you can go back and review it later. To do this, you can insert a timecoded tag into the transcript, such as such as [?? 00:07:02]. Typing out lots of timestamps manually is a hassle, but fortunately there’s an easier way.
Using your transcription program’s timecode feature, you can copy the current audio position to the clipboard and insert it using a keyboard shortcut. Since I’m using Express Scribe, I’ll use it as an example here, but you can do this with any good transcription program.
Go to Options > System-Wide Hot-Keys. Click “Add.” From the Command dropdown menu, choose “Copy Time.”
Click “Change” and assign the program a key or key combination of your choice, such as one of the function keys.
Now, whenever you press the assigned key, Express Scribe will make note of your current time location in the file (e.g., 00:07:02) and copy it to the clipboard.
Then, whenever you want to paste the copied timestamp into your document, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + V.
Use autocorrect to transcribe speaker labels.
Repetitive typing of speaker labels can be a nightmare in video files with multiple speakers and lots of dialogue. Using the built-in autocorrect function on your PC or Mac’s word processing program, you can automatically insert generic speaker labels, such as Speaker 1: and Speaker 2: tags.
Here’s how to do this in Word 2016:
Navigate to File > Options > Proofing. Click on “AutoCorrect Options.”
On the AutoCorrect tab, the “Replace text as you type” check box should be selected. Here, you can enter shorthand text, which will be replaced with text of your choice whenever you press space or tab. Click “Add,” and then click “OK.”
In the above example, I have set the keyboard shortcut as “sa.” (I used “sa” because it feels good to me, but you can use any key combination that’s comfortable for you.) Now to insert a Speaker 1: tag into the transcript, all I need to do is type “sa” and press tab. I could use the shorthand “sq” for a Speaker 2: tag, and so on.
This only takes a couple minutes to set up, and it’ll save you thousands upon thousands of unnecessary keystrokes for future video transcriptions.
Using the above tools and techniques, I’ve managed to vastly improve the speed in transcribing videos with only a short learning curve. I hope you find them useful when it comes to transcribing videos, so you have more time to focus on creating good stuff.