All posts by David Toccafondi

Getting your audio/video transcribed

This post is adapted from an email I wrote in response to a question about the best way of obtaining a transcription of an audio file.

Good transcriptions/captions are incredibly useful in a variety of situations, and due to ADA compliance, they’re increasingly a necessity. People usually don’t think about this ahead of time, and I try to encourage people to build captioning into research budgets and grant applications whenever possible because costs add up. The more footage you have, the more likely you’re going to have to get someone else to do it, and even just 10 hours of audio could cost you $1000 to have transcribed by a captioning service.

Some of you may be tempted to rely on YouTube’s automatic captions. By way of example, here’s a video we put up where all of the speakers speak quite clearly:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J93E5s0yHxM

But (as of late 2016) the quality of the YouTube automatic captions—although clearly they’ve made huge progress over the years—still means that they serve no real purpose other than their comedic/entertainment value. They’re good enough only to get a very general idea of what’s going on, and that’s about it. And this is with clean audio and clear speakers with a standard American English accent.

  • It’s not accurate enough for ADA compliant captions or for hearing impaired people to find useful.
  • It’s not accurate enough for a native English speaker to watch the video with the sound off.
  • It’s not accurate enough for non-native English speakers to use increase comprehension or to use with automatic translation services.
  • It’s not accurate enough for a production transcript for an editor to find clips to use.
  • It’s not accurate enough to provide useful search capability.
  • It’s not accurate enough as an alternate way of archiving audio content.
  • It’s not accurate enough to use the transcriptions in a thesis, dissertation, or journal article.
  • It’s not accurate enough to do a qualitative analysis of the text.
  • It MIGHT be accurate enough for some degree of SEO, but it’s certainly not ideal.
  • It’s inaccurate enough that if you’re going to take these captions as a starting point and then go back and edit them, you’re not really saving yourself much time.
  • Inaccurate captions can also detract from the user experience because users end up focusing on the errors instead on your content.
  • It’s inaccurate enough that it makes it difficult to impossible to repurpose the text to other contexts (blog posts, tweets, emails, etc.).

The best transcription software out there still works best when it’s had a chance to learn a particular speaker’s voice, which takes time and means you have to correct the software as you go so it can learn from its mistakes. This is fine when the same person is transcribing their own voice over and over again, but it’s not so useful for just a handful of interviews of each speaker.

I say all of this not to put down YouTube (again, I’m actually really impressed it’s as accurate as it is) but in support of the idea of paying human beings to transcribe it for you—preferably people who are experienced in doing so, but almost any person is going to do a better job than software.

Whether you’re going to hire a service or pay an undergrad to type something up for you, some things to consider, all of which can help determine which route you take:

  1. The fairest way to compare services is to be sure you’re paying per minute of interview, not per minute of time spent transcribing, which will vary from person to person.
  2. Are volume discounts available?
  3. Are educational discounts available?
  4. Try to find a service which guarantees a certain level of accuracy (generally, it’s not going to be usable for most purposes if it’s less than about 97% accurate). Is the provided quality/level of accuracy good enough for your needs? Is it good enough to attach your name and Penn’s name to the final product?
  5. Do you need just a transcript? Or timed captions?
  6. Do you want an “interactive transcript” like what com does with their instructional videos?
  7. Find out what output formats they provide. (is it just straight text in a .docx file w/ a periodic time code stuck in? Timed captions SRT? DXFP/TTML?) The degree of accuracy you need for the timing of the text will partly determine what file format you need. Some are convertible to others.
  8. Some services will transcribe a few videos for free first to see if you’re happy with the service.
  9. How fast is the turnaround time they offer? (Generally you pay less for slower turnaround, but it can be useful to be able to pay extra when you need it the next day) A service is going to provide much faster turnaround time than an individual can because they have many transcribers working for them.
  10. Does your school have an existing relationship with a captioning service?
  11. Do your captions need to be ADA compliant? (Both Penn State and Netflix have had lawsuits against them because of the lack of captioning. Check with your School/center/department to see if there’s a policy regarding captioning you’ll need to follow.)
  12. Do you need a HIPAA compliant service or is the material otherwise sensitive or confidential?
  13. Can you build the cost of transcribing into your research budget or grant proposal?
  14. Do you need all of your raw footage transcribed (as you would if you were editing a documentary)? Or just the final edited version (as you would if you were simply trying to meet ADA requirements)?
  15. Are they a Penn-approved vendor? Can you pay with a purchase order?
  16. Do you need transcription in a language other than English?  (English and Spanish  are pretty easy to find, but there are services that offer transcription in many other languages as well, sometimes at a premium cost.)

 

As far as recommended services, I’m glad to recommend both AutomaticSync and 3Play, both of which we’ve used and both of which we’ve been very happy with.

 

 

Changes in Lynda.com Licensing

lyndaSimpleWhether you’re brushing up an existing skill, learning a new one, or exploring what’s up and coming, Lynda.com is a good starting point and a useful tool for professional development. They offer hundreds of brief courses designed for all learning levels. Content is often presented in 3 to 5 minute segments. Playlists make it easy to manage and customize your experience, and learn at the pace and schedule best suited to your needs. Bookmarks allow easy reference to favorite course sections and the service adds new videos weekly.

The Good News: Through a new, expanded agreement with Lynda.com, Penn full-time and part-time faculty and staff can now view instructional videos on a wide range of software products, technologies, and business topics. The service is conveniently available 24/7, via your desktop computer or mobile device. Just go to http://lynda.upenn.edu and login with your PennKey and password.

The Bad News: As of June 1, 2016, Penn Libraries are no longer able to make Lynda.com licenses available to Penn Students because of a change in Lynda.com’s terms of service. We are very sorry to be discontinuing this popular service, and we apologize for the inconvenience.

If you are a student whose school/department does not pay for you to have access to Lynda, you can explore Lynda.com through a free 10-day trial or inexpensive personal membership options at http://www.lynda.com

Please feel free to send your comments and suggestions to us at wic1@pobox.upenn.edu

Make Comics at the Library this Weekend!

Making Comics copy.pngJoin us this Friday and Saturday in Van Pelt Library’s Collaborative Classroom to make comics and watch others make comics in our “24 Hour Comic Jam,” our delayed celebration of 24 Hour Comics Day.

We’ll have experienced cartoonists here talking about their work and making comics of their own while you watch!

We’ll talk about ways to produce, distribute or market your comics in today’s world.

And of course there will be opportunities for you to make your own comics and get help from seasoned professionals.

Check out the full details at https://makingcomicsatupenn.wordpress.com/portfolio/penns-24-hour-comic-jam/

You’ll also want to check out happenings this weekend at two of the best comic shops in the city, Locust Moon and Atomic City Comics

 

New Wacom Cintiq Tablet in the Media Lab

DTOC_20150903_0020bWe recently acquired a brand new Wacom Cintiq (pronounced WAH-kum sin-TEEK) tablet.  The tablet acts as a monitor, but also allows you to draw directly on them with a pen-like stylus, reacting to pressure in the same way a paintbrush or marker might so that you can sketch, draw, paint, and composite with natural and intuitive precision.

Here, Pat Gabrielli (Penn BFA 2015) is digitally inking and coloring some artwork that was drawn and painted by Penn faculty member and Ulysses Seen artist Rob Berry.  The final images will serve as sets for an upcoming stage production of Watership Down, to be performed by the Simpatico Theatre Project at the Mandell Theater on Drexel’s campus in November.

Please stop by the lab and ask to try out the new Cintiq tablet!