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Podcasting Transcription - Things To Consider When Recording Podcasts For Eventual Transcription?

It's essential that your final edited podcast is of superb broadcast quality or your audience will quickly lose patience and stop listening; this will obviously impact on any future audience you're trying to attract. With this in mind, the recording environment needs to 'managed' even more than normal to ensure your listeners don't struggle to hear your podcast. Digital recorders produce a far superior quality of sound when coupled with an external microphone used in a quiet environment. However, there are still a few guidelines which may be useful to consider before, during and after your podcast, in order to maximise what you gain from your recording, cut down on transcription costs and make the transcriber's job a lot easier!

A variety of podcasts can be transcribed including school lessons, audio tours of museums, oral history interviews, news updates, tourism guides, journals, radio programmes, political broadcasts, sermons, TV commentaries, newspapers, health guides and business meetings. At IB Transcription Services, we have a wealth of experience in what works and what doesn't work when conducting and recording podcasts. These guidelines are divided into dos and don'ts covering facilitation advice and more technical recording tips, as well as addressing any specific podcast transcription issues.

First of all, things you SHOULD DO …
Preparation is key - think about the structure and format of your podcast. Break it into logical sections and make notes or questions for each topic area. Rehearse your questions out loud to gain a realistic idea of how long they'll take. Don't cut out all your verbal 'quirks' or it'll sound wooden, but it's a good idea to be aware of how many 'ers' 'ums' 'you knows' etc you tend to interject as that will take longer to edit out later.

Think carefully about the recording location. Interviewing on location can add atmosphere to your podcast, but try and consider the acoustics of where you'll be recording. A large empty room with a high ceiling produces significant echo, which may interfere with the broadcast quality of the final recording. If you can, record in a quiet, indoor environment.

Brief the participants - some people are seasoned interviewees but some will be understandably nervous about being recorded, perhaps for the first time. Try to put them at ease before you start recording and brief them on the topics or questions you'd like to cover. If you're recording at their location, ask them to try and minimise background noise. You may have to spend some time on arrival asking for radios, computers or televisions to be turned off and doors closed.

Ensure that you run through a few basic microphone techniques - how your subjects 'behave' is as important as the recording environment or the equipment you use. Anyone not used to being recorded may lean too close to the microphone and speak too loudly.

It may be necessary to get permission from your subjects that they agree to be recorded. Although having agreed to take part in a podcast, presumably they'll be aware it will be recorded and broadcast over the Internet! As a matter of courtesy, it might be worth mentioning that you also intend to get the podcast transcribed. If you're using commercial music in the final version, ensure that you have the necessary licences.

Turn off mobile phones - text messages or voice mails emit a radio frequency which is inaudible to the human ear but your recording equipment will pick it up, and the resulting buzzing noise will drown out whatever is being said at the time. Turning mobile phones to 'silent' or 'vibrate' mode is not enough - they need to be turned off.

Ensure everyone can be heard - if any speakers have quiet voices or mumble, they will not be picked up by the recorder, however sophisticated it might be. Invariably, people don't realise they're speaking softly - we rarely 'hear' our own voices.

During the recording - try and pause for a few seconds between each answer and the next question, or when you go on to a different topic. If you make a mistake, just pause and start again. This is a hard technique to master but it will make any later editing much easier.

Be firm during the recording. If interviewees begin to go off at a tangent, you may have to interrupt and steer the interview back on course, although these bits can always be edited out later. If you have several interviewees, they may speak over each other if they become animated. You may need to remind them to speak individually or to repeat what they've just said so you can capture one clear recording of each of their contributions.

Assist in clarification - if the interviewee shows you something, be it a photograph or documents, it would be a good idea to say what IT is for the recording. You may remember what 'that' is at the time but will you later on when it comes to analysing the transcript? And if they just nod or shake their heads, either ask them to say yes or no, or confirm verbally what they've done.

Record on one digital file - don't keep stopping and starting the recorder. Make your recording as one large file. It's easier to edit from one file and not have to paste bits of small files together to form the final edited version.

Test your digital recorder - record something beforehand to check there are no technical problems with your equipment. If you can't plug your recorder into the mains and are reliant on batteries, ensure you have a spare set with you, or a charger, and take spare memory cards if necessary.

Test the sound levels - use different volumes and microphone distances to determine what will work. Use headphones to check the recording levels. What you hear through the headphones is a fair indication of what the transcriber and your audience will hear. If it's too faint, the microphone(s) may need to be repositioned. Most digital recorders will set the recording level automatically, although on some, you can change this setting, which can be useful if you have a speaker with a quiet voice. If you have multiple speakers, you should adjust the microphone levels during the sound check to ensure everyone is equal in volume.

Use an external microphone - most built-in microphones are of poor quality with limited control over volume levels, and this can apply to digital recorders as well. Use a good quality, external microphone. Lapel microphones pick up voices very clearly, but can also pick up the rustling of clothing. Noise cancelling microphones are ideal for cutting down on background ambient noise. For multiple speakers, we recommend using one microphone for every 1 to 2 people with an individual desktop stand for each mic. If anyone handholds their microphone, it will be too noisy. For multiple microphones, you'll need a mixer to connect all the microphones to the recorder.

Keep your headphones on during the recording. This allows you to monitor the sound levels as the interview / discussion progresses and adjust the levels accordingly. Please ensure that the headphones are plugged into the recorder NOT the mixer - the latter will not give you an accurate representation of the actual recording quality. If this sounds too much like 'multi-tasking', you may have to ask a colleague to monitor the sound levels while you ask the questions!

Editing - listen to the entire recording to identify areas you wish to keep and which to edit. At this stage, you can edit out any repetitions, pauses or verbal habits or quirks, although try not to edit too much as it may then sound wooden and unnatural. Make sure you save this edited version as a new file instead of overwriting the original.

Do not record in a noisy environment if it can be avoided. Background noise is often more intrusive on recordings than we realise at the time. Voices can easily be swamped by extraneous noise, especially when people are softly spoken. With some podcasts, a certain amount of background noise may be deliberately included to indicate that your interview has been recorded on location - just try to strike a balance between too much 'background colour' and audibility of the interview!

The rest of the don'ts really fall under common sense principles which apply to all recording situations and relate mostly to the recording environment itself. However hot the day may be, windows should be closed or else the noise from traffic, roadworks or aeroplanes may interfere with your recording. Try not to sit near noisy machinery such as air conditioners or computers, or have crockery near the microphone. It's tempting to have refreshments to relax the interviewees and to have this on the table where the recorder also sits. If you do, the clattering of the cups will be the loudest sound on the recording. Also try to avoid shuffling papers or writing near the microphone if you can avoid it.

In a more conversational type interview, it can be tempting to interject comments during the interview. In normal conversation, we tend to say 'yeah' or 'right' or 'okay' on a regular basis, if only to indicate to the other person that we're actually listening to them. It may be hard but try and break yourself of this habit because your interjections may drown out what the interviewee is saying and these will be impossible to edit out later.

We feel sure that, if you follow the advice above, your final podcast recording will be clearly audible, a joy to listen to and easily transcribed.

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We specialise in digital transcription services including MP3 digital transcription, WAV digital transcription, WMA digital transcription among many other digital audio file formats. We also provide standard audio cassette tape transcription covering micro cassette or micro tape transcription, plus mini tape or mini cassette transcription which is also known as audio transcription or audio typing services. This can be extended to include minidisc or minidisk transcription services. Extensive experience in conference transcription services allows us to offer transcription of conference proceedings including keynote speaker and plenary session transcription, lecture transcription, seminar and symposia transcribing, Q&A session transcription and transcription of breakout sessions, roadshows, roundtable discussions and workshops. Interview transcription services form a core part of our service and include one-to-one interview transcription, as well as multiple participant interview transcription. We are pleased to offer discounted transcription services for charities, students and universities for their research interviews, particularly qualitative analysis transcription compatible with Nvivo and Atlas Ti. Support for oral history interview transcription projects can include both digital transcription services and audio tape transcription. A niche specialty is our podcast transcription services which also covers webcast transcription. Transcription services for authors, writers and journalists can include anything from digital dictation for article transcription and manuscript typing through to research interview transcription. Also offered is focus group transcription, forum transcribing, market research and vox pop interview transcription as well corporate or group meeting transcription services. Word processing services and digital dictation for correspondence is also included. Teleconferences and telephone interviews can be transcribed from digital and analogue formats. Analogue video tape transcriptions are offered along with digital video transcription services. Different transcription styles are available including Intelligent Verbatim Transcription, Complete Verbatim Transcription, Edited Transcription and customised transcription styles for Oral History projects and Focus Groups.

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