Achieving an optimal recording for your disciplinary enquiry

The tips listed below are provided in addition to the pointers contained on the Tips for Recording Disciplinary Procedures page.

  • Where possible choose a location where your recording will pick up the least amount of noise from factories, traffic, people, telephones, etc. If necessary, close doors, windows and switch off fans to minimise noise interference.
  • Set your recording device to record an uncompressed file format such as “.wav” (Windows) or “.aiff” (Mac).
  • If you are making use of a battery powered device, ensure that battery life will allow for optimal recording for the required length of time.
  • Ensure that your recording device is not set to “voice activation” mode.
  • Make use of a multi-directional microphone or a device that allows for the connection of multiple microphones.
  • Request each participant in a group session to identify him or herself by slowly and clearly stating their name and their role in the proceedings. This will assist the transcriber in accurately attributing the input to the appropriate speaker.
  • Remind participants to return to the same seating arrangement after breaks.



Visit Etranscript’s website for more information on our disciplinary hearing transcription services.

Achieving an Optimal Interview Recording Quality

The tips listed below are provided in addition to the pointers contained on the Tips for Recording Interviews page.

Interview Transcription Services
  • Where possible choose a location where your recording will pick up the least amount of noise from factories, traffic, people, telephones, etc. If necessary, close doors, windows and switch off fans to minimise noise interference.
  • Set your recording device to record an uncompressed file format such as “.wav” (Windows) or “.aiff” (Mac) or a lossless compressed format such as “.wma” or even “.mp3”.
  • If you are making use of a battery powered device, ensure that battery life will allow for optimal recording for the required length of time.
  • Ensure that your recording device is not set to “voice activation” mode.
  • If possible, make use of a lapel microphone to optimise capture of your respondent’s input. This is especially important if the interview is being conducted in a noisy environment.


Visit Etranscript’s website for more information on our interview transcription services.

Achieving the best possible audio quality for your dictation recording

The tips listed below are provided in addition to the pointers contained on the Tips for Recording Dictation page.

  • Where possible choose a location where your recording will pick up the least amount of noise from factories, traffic, people, telephones, etc. If necessary, close doors, windows and switch off fans to minimise noise interference.
  • Ensure that your recording device is not set to “voice activation” mode.
  • Wait a moment after pressing the record button before commencing dictation.
  • Repeat portions of dictation that may have been compromised by sudden noises such as the ringing of a telephone or doorbell.


Visit Etranscript’s website for more information on our dictation transcription services.

How the process works – getting your audio or video transcribed

Having your digital audio or video files transcribed is not a cumbersome or complicated process at all. In essence: you record and send the audio; I transcribe the audio and send the transcript. It really is that simple.


Etranscript provides the following transcription services:


The Process

  • Once you have recorded your audio or video file, let Etranscript know of your intention to utilise its services. Please include your full name, address and telephone number in your email so that a non-disclosure agreement can be drawn up and sent to you.
  • Once you have received your signed non-disclosure agreement from Etranscript, you may go ahead and send your recordings. Audio files less than 20Mb in size can be emailed directly to us; larger files can be transferred via our encrypted file transfer facility. A dedicated email address will be provided should you wish to email your audio files to Etranscript.
  • An acknowledgement of receipt of your audio file will be emailed to you as soon as Etranscript has received your files.
  • Your audio or video file will then be transcribed into an MS Word document and sent to you via email.
  • An invoice will then be issued which is due and payable on presentation.

How long will it take to transcribe my audio files?

This is one of those “frequently asked questions”. The short answer is “longer than you may think”. The long answer is …


The general rule in the transcription industry suggests that the transcription of  audio recordings can take anywhere between four to six working hours. The reason for the variance is that four hours applies to the transcription of dictation, whereas the six hours applies more to the transcription of focus groups or other multi-voice settings such as disciplinary hearings.


The stated turnaround time will increase, however, if the audio quality is poor. For particularly challenging audio files, the turnaround time for the transcription of one hour of recorded meeting audio can increase by up two hours, i.e. a total of eight hours to transcribe one hour of audio. Charge rates are then adjusted to compensate for the additional time required to complete transcription of the challenging audio file.


PS. I don’t charge for the additional cups of coffee.


Please contact Etranscript to discuss your transcription requirements.

Your Recording is Not Viable for Transcription!

Although rare, it does happen that audio files cannot be transcribed or are just not economically viable to transcribe given that the transcription of the file would take weeks instead of hours.


Etranscript will first attempt to improve the audio file by applying a number audio processes to gain audio clarity but if this proves unsuccessful in improving the audio file to a level that would allow for the production of a coherent transcript, Etranscript will have no choice but to reject it.


It is only on rare occasions that this happens but it is an unfortunate reality, especially where inferior recording equipment has been utilised or where the recording was made in an extremely noisy environment.


To ensure that your recording is of a standard that allows for fluid and accurate transcription, please read the tips listed on Etranscript’s website for dictationinterviews or disciplinary hearing recordings.

Podcast Transcription

I have read a number of articles with regard to the transcription of podcasts and how this might be helpful with website SEO. It stands to reason that if the bot is looking for keyword density and oodles of text, it is going to be beneficial for you (the blogger or website owner) to have the podcast transcribed to text and then to post the transcript on your website.


Your site visitors could even download copies of the transcript if they so require (and if you deem this permissible).



Audio podcasts are most often saved in .mp3 format which (although a compressed audio format) delivers a good quality of audio for the purposes of recording a single voice. The .mp3 audio file format is compatible with my transcription software, as is the .wav file format. It is a recommended practice to first record your podcast in .wav format and once you have edited and tweaked the sound file, you then save it as in .mp3 format before uploading it to your website. You could therefore send either the .wav file or the .mp3 file to Etranscript for transcription. Our software is compatible with many audio and video file formats, a list of these is posted on our website.


Once I receive your audio file, I will transcribe it for you and return a transcript to you in Microsoft Word format. You will then be able to quality assure the transcript and add any finishing touches. It’s as easy as that!

Audio Quality for Transcription

Audio quality is one of those topics that I frequently discuss with clients. I had a conversation with a client today on this very subject. Mr Client had recorded a security-team meeting on his cell phone. I am not a cell phone fundi and made the assumption that he must have some sort of state-of-the-art cell phone with a superior external microphone that actually has the capacity to capture voice input effectively.



When I received the audio from Mr Client, I did a test transcription which resulted in a transcription ratio of between 1:15 to 1:20, depending on the speaker. This means that it would have taken me 15 hours to transcribe one hour of recording. The charge rate then becomes too expensive and the resulting transcript is peppered with “inaudible” gaps. Sometimes we just have to admit defeat and classify it as “not viable for transcription”.


I receive many interview recordings conducted in noisy restaurants. I believe this happens as a result of the researcher offering her interviewee a meal or coffee as a token of appreciation for his time and knowledge. It could be that the interviewee might feel that he is not able to speak openly at his place of employment or feels safer in a public place and therefore chooses the friendly atmosphere of a restaurant where he feels more at ease.


It just so happens that a restaurant can be a very noisy place. Adding to this, speech becomes a little more difficult to discern when the speaker has a mouth full of food. There will be moments of distraction when the waitress takes the order, serves the meals, does follow-up visits or when friends or colleagues happen to visit the same restaurant. The transcript could look something like this.


Stacey: How were you made aware of the new policy?

Peter: Well, I went to the – thank you, that looks delicious – I went to the implementation meetings … mm, this calamari is delicious – the implementation meetings were taking place on a weekly basis – would you like to try some of this?

Stacey: Ah, no thanks. I’ll stick with my schnitzel.

Peter: Oh okay. Yeah, so I knew all along that the policy was in the pipeline and that the implementation was going to happen in the early part of the year. Oh what’s that?

Waitress: It’s the sauce you ordered.

Peter: Oh thanks. Yeah, so I knew about the policy from the start. Could you pass me the salt?

Stacey: Sure. So when was the policy actually implemented?

Peter: Thanks. Yeah, it needs a bit of salt. I think I’d like to order a glass of water as well. I guess the waitress will be back in a few minutes. Sorry, your question – oh yeah that’s better –

Stacey: When was the policy implemented?

Peter: Oh yeah. Well, it was planned to happen simultaneously with the commencement of the FY but then there were some glitches that happened –

Stacey: Glitches? What happened?

Peter: — kind-of toward the end of the testing phase and we had to wait for –

(inaudible cross-talking)

Peter: Ah yes, could you bring me a glass of water please?

Waitress: Certainly.

Peter: Yeah, the implementation. The effective date was the 1st of June last year but it was supposed to have been the 1st of March … and yeah, the system went live and we had the usual teething problems but it wasn’t too bad.

Stacey: You mentioned that you experienced some glitches during the middle of the testing phase. Could you expand on that a little please?

Peter: Well, we were waiting for HR and the operations guys to finalise the restructuring before we could commence with the training. You see what happens is … um, this calamari is really good. So yeah, the training needed to happen before we could go live and the policy implementation had to happen around the same time. It was a sensitive situation because we didn’t want to –

Waitress: Your water, Sir.

Peter: Thanks. We didn’t … yeah, so it didn’t happen until about the end of March I think.

Stacey: What didn’t happen?

Peter: The … the finalisation of the … the restructuring process. You see – Rob, hi man. Good to see you.


Ordinarily the food compliments are omitted when doing the transcription but a verbatim transcript would look something like the above sample. Now imagine the above discussion taking place in an environment that has another 50 patrons also conducting conversations across the table. Throw in a dose of Kenny G in the background and the same 50 patrons speaking even louder to make themselves heard above Kenny G. Now add a mouthful of food to the speaker … and we have what we would call “challenging” audio. It is standard practice for transcriptionists to increase their rates when transcribing an audio of such a nature. It stands to reason that it is going to take a lot longer to transcribe a one-on-one interview conducted in a restaurant, than one that was recorded in a less noisy environment like an office or lounge.


To put this in some sort of context, even the presence of an air conditioner in a meeting room can muffle the voices of the participants. Obviously this will have less impact than the guffawing of the restaurant patron sitting at the table next to you. As insidious as white noise can be (or supposed to be), it can make a significant difference to the quality of the audio presented to the transcriptionist.

So when planning the recording of your next hearing or interview, remember to minimise background noise where possible. It is just not possible to eliminate background noise altogether but you can make small adjustments such as closing windows to minimise external traffic noise or requesting participants not to move around the room unless absolutely necessary. Remind the participants that the session is being recorded and where possible to project their voices strongly and direct themselves towards the microphone.

Video Transcription

Etranscript’s service offering was recently expanded to include video transcription. I had up until this point only transcribed digital audio. After receiving a number of enquiries for video transcription, I decided to purchase the requisite software and equipment. As both the software and equipment required was only available in the US, the purchase was expensive but I believe it has been a worthwhile investment.



I was apprehensive at first, wondering what issues I was going to come up against while learning the new software. I am happy to report that there have been no major issues as yet, other than expensive bandwidth constraints in South Africa. However, the workaround would be to have your DVD delivered to my home-office for transcription or merely extract audio from the video file and send the audio for transcription by means of the encrypted transfer service offered by Etranscript.


Nevertheless, it certainly makes the transcription of group sessions such as hearings and training sessions a lot easier to transcribe, especially when the camera is operated and redirected to focus on each speaker. Attributing names to voices is no longer a complex and cumbersome process of making sound bites for accurate voice-name attribution. I do suspect, however, that it will be a long time (if ever) before businesses will use video recording as opposed to audio recording for conferences and meetings.


Using audio alone for the recording of a 10-member meeting presents some challenges to the transcriptionist. I use audio software to make sound bites of each voice and this certainly helps to make accurate voice-name attribution but it is not perfect. This system only works if all members remain seated in exactly the same position and always project their voice in the same direction. A voice that is captured speaking directly toward the microphone can sound significantly different when the person turns to speak to someone at the other end of the table. This is the primary contributing factor to the increased turnaround time for the transcription of group sessions. The benefits of making a video recording of a meeting or training session would therefore be the reduced cost and improved accuracy of the transcript.


We recently transcribed a video of a meeting held between parties who were attempting informal mediation to resolve a number of issues. The transcript produced from this video included thumbnails of the diagrams drawn on the flip chart and the whiteboard (this cameraman was definitely awake). Besides the fact that it was very interesting work for me, I’m sure the transcript will be a valuable tool during the parties’ preparations for court. (Yup, the mediation was unsuccessful.) However, Etranscript’s client was very happy with the transcript and believes he will now be using the camera more often. Excellent idea!


I have also been transcribing videos of interviews to be used in the making of a local documentary film. In total, there were about seven hours of video (and an additional two hours of audio). I transcribed all the video and my colleague transcribed the audio. We were able to complete the entire project in one working week. We now look forward to seeing “our work” on local TV.


Please contact Etranscript to discuss your video transcription requirements.

Factors that could cause a recording to be deemed “poor”?

A recording being classified as “poor” is preferable to one that is deemed to be “not viable for transcription”. Unfortunately though, a “poor” quality of audio can cost more to transcribe as it will take longer to complete the transcription.


One of the most important factors would be the presence of background noise contained in a recording. While white noise or air conditioners may cause minimal disturbance, the presence of noisy machinery or groups of patrons in a restaurant will severely impact the clarity of the recorded voice input.


Another factor is the format used to record the audio file. Formats such as “.dss” or “.dct” are better suited to the recording of dictation while uncompressed file formats such “.wav” or “.aiff” are appropriate formats for recording groups of speakers or interviews.