I thought I would use this post to collect some resources on transcribing audio.

Homemade and Cheap

When transcribing audio in the past, I used my iPhone to record the interview and then transferred the “voice recording” into my computer. I used the built-in voice recorder app, the one with the big microphone. You can also use the phone to playback the audio, but you’ll be stuck with the default play-back speed.

On my Mac, I never threw away Quicktime 7, Apple’s older Quicktime Player. As you can see, you can go to Window > Show Playback Controls, and get a speed control. I also find it helpful to stretch the window as wide as your screen, so you have more granular control over moving the playhead as you listen. If you can afford two computers, you can transcribe on one, and use the keyboard of the second to play/pause with the spacebar.

Cheap and Mobile

Perhaps you’d like the features above, but can’t afford to use two computers. You can do the recording and playback totally with your mobile device. I’ve used iPro Recorder from Bias in a school setting. Students have used this app to record audio and it can be speed-controlled right on an iPod Touch or iPhone. Then your computer is free for typing. The added benefit of this app (for kids, especially in a school setting) is that you can publish your audio off the app and access the audio through a web browser. This could also be helpful for sharing your recording with colleagues in a group transcription session.

Update: It seems Bias has gone out of business. Their app for iPhone is no longer available.

Cheap and Mechanical

Andy Baio documents how he used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service to get some of his projects transcribed. For what he put together, there is a small price to pay in terms of technical chops to set up the service, but he paid next to nothing to get his MP3 files transcribed. He provides all the steps, including cutting his longer project into smaller parts, and especially valuable, he includes how he set up his HIT templates to submit his work. He’s a technical guy, so he knew how to host his own MP3 files, etc. Quick turn-around was nice.

Premier Service

If you like the idea of Mechanical Turk but don’t want the hassle involved in Andy’s blog post (above), there’s another service that uses the same workforce but adds quality control and makes it simpler to submit your files. I haven’t used the service, but if I had a lot of of transcription to do, I’d signup in a heartbeat. CastingWords is mentioned in Andy’s post, and it’s used by some reputable organizations. You can get your transcription back in less than a week at the rate of $1.50 per minute. Makes it easy to figure out and estimate your final cost.


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