Recording Tips by Wordsworth Transcription Services
When recording an interview, meeting, lecture or other event with the intention of having it transcribed later, you can help make the transcription process as efficient and accurate as possible. While it's not always possible to follow all of these tips, taking them into account can help ensure better transcription by improving sound quality and minimizing incidental noise.
The better the recording, the more accurate and cost-effective the transcription will be.
As much as possible, try to follow these guidelines for best results:
General Recording Tips for Transcription
- Before you start the event, a sound check (where you record a few words from each subject and then listen to make sure the result is clear) is helpful. When doing a sound check, make sure to speak at the distance from the mike that you will be at during the entire interview and be sure to check all participants. We often hear interviewers fooled by a soundcheck where they only listen to themselves speaking directly into the recorder.
- Try to minimize background noise. Some common sources of background noise include:
- Traffic, construction and other street noise coming through open (or even closed) windows.
- Noise from other rooms or hallways through open doors.
- Machinery running in the background, e.g. fans or air conditioners.
- TV sets and radios.
- People making noise in the background.
- Pets or other animals.
- Clocks that chime (especially those that do so every fifteen minutes).
- Doors shutting or slamming.
- Coughs, sneezes, etc.
- If anyone is leaving or entering the room during the conversation, encourage them to close the door softly and encourage speakers to pause while the door is being opened.
- Try to place microphones quite close to the speaker and pointing directly toward him or her.
- If in an interview with only one microphone, direct the mike to the interviewee as it will be less of a concern to miss out on transcription of the questions than the answers.
- If you use lapel mikes, make sure they won't be rubbed by a piece of clothing and that they pick up the speaker's voice when his or her head is turned.
- If recording onto a cassette:
- Make sure the tape is wound ahead or runs for ten or fifteen seconds before beginning to talk; otherwise the beginning of the recording can be cut off.
- If possible, pause the conversation when flipping the tape over. You may wish to time the event and flip over or replace the tape at a convenient natural pause (e.g. when a speaker is taking out visual aids and not talking) when you are close to the end of the tape.
- If you are using a machine that records at two different speeds, you will get better quality sound with the faster tape speed. This is the one that puts less total time on each cassette, but the difference in the sound quality is significant. Using the higher speed will make for fewer inaudible sections during the transcription.
- If it's important to get down references to people, places, Web sites, organizations, etc. that the transcriber might not know or be able to easily distinguish, it's ideal to repeat them clearly or even spell them out.
- Alternatively, if your project involves reference to much jargon, or technical terminology, consider sending the transcriptionists a list of terms likely to have been used. The more context the transcriptionist has, the more accurate their work.
- If you're concerned about sound quality of a recorded interview, you might prefer to have an interviewer repeat important responses.
- If an interviewer is using a standard list of questions, you may want to provide that list with the recorded interview.
- Here are links to some other good resources on making high quality recordings:
- Field Recording in the Digital Age from The Vermont Folklife Center
- How to Document from Documenting Maritime Folklife
- Avoiding Mistakes in the Recorded Interview Process from Northwest Transcribing
- Audio Recordings for Transcription from Penguin Transcription
About Wordsworth Typing and Transcription Services
Wordsworth is a cooperative business. Its partners have worked together on typing, transcription and data entry projects since October of 2000.
Thanks for your consideration,
Amanda and Ken