Journey of a Sound File for Transcription
Voice to Text Transcription Explained
At Alphabet Transcription Specialists, we like to make a big noise about sound files. They are key to our business and make fast voice to text transcription possible. Without sound files, oral communication would have to be recorded in note format and then typed up. This time-consuming and costly process is, thankfully, a thing of the past. The journey of a sound file is, therefore, important.
There are lots of reasons why businesses, individuals and organisations may want a sound file transcribed. At Alphabet Transcription Specialists, we work with a broad range of industries. We provide accurate voice to text documentation to support a variety of projects. Of course, before we can start transcribing, we need to receive an audio or video file. This is where the journey of a sound file really takes off.
In this straightforward guide, we will explain:
• The importance of transcription
• Types of sound files accepted by UK transcription services
• How audio files are received and the pivotal role of security
• The transcription process itself
• How transcribed files are delivered to our clients
We hope you find the journey of a sound file as fascinating as we do.
The Importance of Transcription
Voice to text transcription plays a pivotal role in recording valuable data. The types of data transcribed from sound files can vary immensely. Our clients range from researchers, scientists and academics to law enforcement agencies. Local authorities, the NHS and businesses of all sizes are also clients. Many organisations use our transcription services to provide a written record of meetings. Many others require transcripts of research evaluation, laboratory tests, events, training, seminars and disciplinary hearings, to name a few.
Written data has many uses. Our transcripts are supplied court-ready for PACE interviews. Some of our clients use transcripts of recorded events for promotional and other materials. Printed and digital content can easily be created from transcriptions of product launches and other promotional events. Accurate voice to text documentation can be used for everything from press releases to glossy brochures. In fact, transcription has a growing role to play in marketing.
The Benefits of Outsourcing Transcription
Outsourcing transcription makes sense for many businesses and organisations. As well as ensuring an accurate, fast service, we offer clients the highest levels of confidentiality and security. This is important if your sound file contains sensitive data. It is also highly cost-effective. A staff member, without professional training, will take much longer to type up your file and is unlikely to offer the same level of accuracy as one of our experts. Correcting errors made by in-house typists can be time-consuming and costly.
If you require transcripts of brainstorming sessions, interviews or any other form of oral communication, we recommend you use a recording device. As well as omitting the need for someone to take notes, sound files can be uploaded quickly and securely to a client’s dedicated space on our website. This process means we receive files in just minutes.
Our transcription specialists hear you – literally. As well as being trained not to overlook a single detail, they understand industry-specific terminology. They won’t waste time looking up words, phrases and acronyms because they will already be familiar with them before they start your project. But if they do need to find them, their research skills are second to none.
Cost-Effective Project Management
Our clients value our transcription services because we offer a streamlined approach to converting files. They trust us to get on with the job of delivering a proficient service. This gives them more time to concentrate on managing their business. One of the biggest benefits of our service is that we effectively project manage all transcription requests.
We have the technology to handle a wide variety of sound files. This means our clients don’t have to invest in new transcription technology to satisfy our tech needs. Alphabet transcription services also ease the pressure on clients’ IT systems and tech staff.
On-Demand Transcription Services
We are valued by those who require an on-demand service. We can advise on turnaround times and meet important deadlines set by clients. Keeping an accurate record of data is important for every business and organisation. For a ‘get it right first time’ solution, talk to us. You can find out more about our transcription service and how they can benefit you here. Alternatively, call us on +44 (0) 1707 260027.
Types of Sound Files Accepted by UK Transcription Services
Transcription has embraced the digital era. Physical files, such as cassette tapes and CDs, are now widely considered inconvenient as well as a security risk. Digital audio files are much easier and safer to share. That is why most of our work is digital. Our modern transcription services offer convenience as well as a high level of security. Digital files also ensure a faster turnaround time, which benefits clients’ businesses and projects.
But what type of sound files can be used by transcription specialists? We accept sound files for audio transcription in a huge range of formats. In fact, we have invested in technology to ensure we can meet most clients’ needs. However, before you record audio for transcription, you may want to consider the types of file formats you will feel comfortable working with. The quality of recordings should be of paramount importance.
Sound File Quality and Formats
Use External Microphones
External microphones are a must if you want to achieve a high-quality recording of multi-speakers. We recommend external microphones over integral ones. This is because in-built microphones do not have the spec to achieve the same level of quality. It doesn’t matter what you are recording, an in-built microphone is very unlikely to cut it.
If you are planning to record a major event or conference, you should record using a floating microphone. Speakers on podiums often wear lapel microphones, therefore, capturing what is said in a more accurate way. These simple acts can greatly increase the clarity of a sound recording and aid transcription. An AV company will save you a lot of time and effort.
Eliminate Background Noise
Eliminate background noise wherever possible. This will vastly improve the quality of your recording and sound files. Create a quiet environment. Don’t overlook noise from traffic or work settings. Close windows and doors to prevent unnecessary sounds from leaking into the room. Avoid making recordings in busy public spaces where background noise is likely to severely impact the quality of your recording. The human voice takes second place on a recording, and extraneous noises can often be picked up.
At the outset of your recording, ensure all speakers clearly identify themselves. Make sure they say something about who they are, i.e. name, job tile, what they like or dislike. This simple act helps a transcriber know who’s who from the very beginning. It will enable them to recognise a voice and eliminate any confusion. It will also prevent delays and speed up the transcription process.
Avoid the temptation to simply start recording once an event is under way.
Be careful not to opt for ‘any old’ sound file format. Consider the setting of your recording. Will there be more than one speaker? Is it a structured or live event? Will there be background noise? Do you want background sounds, tempos, audience responses and voice pitches clearly recorded and transcribed?
The length of your sound file is also pivotal to transcription. This is because digital files need to be compressed. If the format you choose isn’t great at handling long recordings, the quality may be impaired. You could even lose data. Consider the amount of data your sound file is likely to contain.
Files that store a lot of data should be saved in formats that can handle it. Not only will this ensure you don’t lose important information, it will make it much quicker to upload to our website and improve the turnaround time.
Confused? Don’t worry. We can offer free advice before you make your audio recording.
Popular Audio File Formats
Below you will find information about the most common types of file formats, which may help you make an informed choice.
Waveform Audio File Format (WAV/WAVE)
Developed by Microsoft and IBM, this type of audio file format has been used since the early 1990s and is compatible with PCs. Often referred to as WAV, because of its file extension, this file format saves data in chunks. It is an app associated with the Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF). While it set the standard for recording multi-channel audio data, it has pros and cons.
We like WAV formats because they provide high quality audio recordings. However, these types of files can be quite large and take longer than some other format types to upload. It is worth noting that WAV is the most likely format a Windows operating system will use for raw and often uncompressed audio.
MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3
More commonly referred to as MP3, this file format is considered a standard technology for compressing sound data into very small files. In fact, it can reduce the size of an audio file dramatically. Typically, you can achieve a compression that is around one-twelfth of the size of the original file. This makes MP3 a very popular file format for audio recordings.
We like MP3 files because clients can readily access the technology. If .mp3 is not already installed in your computer system, it can be downloaded for free from a range of trusted websites. This type of file format is universally accepted as offering high quality sound recordings. It can preserve the detail that some other formats may lose in the compression process.
If you are wondering how sound data is compressed, here’s some fascinating information: digital audio is often recorded using 16 binary digit samples a second. The recording device takes the analogue signal and uses algorithms to reduce data. In the case of MP3 files, powerful audio encoding is used to increase the effectiveness of algorithms.
Digital Speech Standard (DSS)
The DSS file format is considered a quality speech solution the world over. Developed by the International Voice Association, it offers compressed digital files that retain very high-quality sound. This type of file must be recorded on a digital DSS device. The benefits include being able to record, rewind and play. This format is a good option for complex workflows as it has a high compression rate.
You will use up less disk space if you store a DSS file on your computer. It will also be quicker to send to us for transcribing. Drawbacks include poor codec capabilities and not always as good sound quality. Also, the files are not playable in a range of transcription software, and often have to be converted into a readable format.
Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF)
AIFF is the standard sound file format developed by Apple. It is commonly used for storing sound data on computers and other devices. The drawbacks include lack of compression, meaning a file will take up more space on your computer and take longer to share online.
Files stored in this format are sampled at 44.1KHz. They are 16-bit and have two channels for stereo sound. Still hugely popular, this file format preserves good quality sound.
Other Audio File Formats:
AAC – Advanced Standard Audio Coding. Developed to succeed MP3. Considered far more advanced, this file format provides excellent sound quality but is still not as popular as MP3 files.
WMA – Windows Media Audio. Still not as popular as MP3 files but offers excellent quality recordings. Compression may be an issue with large, complex files.
FLAC – Free Lossless Audio Codec. A popular format introduced in 2001. Royalty-free, high-quality compression.
ALAC – Apple Lossless Audio Codec. This is similar to the FLAC format above but sometimes referred to as Apple Lossless.
How Files Are Received and the Pivotal Role of Security
We offer a five-step transcription service. One of those steps involves the uploading of a sound file to our system. This part of a sound file’s journey should be painless. We have developed the technologies we work with to ensure uploading an audio file takes just minutes or less, depending on size.
It is at this point of a sound file’s journey that security starts to play a pivotal role. We work with sensitive data and the security of our clients’ information is at the heart of our business. That is why you will only be able to upload a sound file on our system if you are registered with us. When you open an account, you will be assigned a password protected space on our system.
When you want to upload a file, you simply login, browse on your PC/laptop, and select the relevant recordings. We use 256-bit encryption to provide the highest level of security. This is important to us. We want our clients to be confident about using our transcription services.
256-Bit Encryption is commonly cited as military grade internet security. It protects personal data and passwords with highly sophisticated scrambling. This is important to stop hackers from stealing valuable information.
Encryption works by encoding messages in a way that only those with permission can read it. This technology scrambles data as it enters the internet, meaning it can only be read by a party with the decryption key. These keys play a pivotal role in internet security. They work by being able to understand scrambled data. In effect, they speak the same language as encryption. To be able to read encrypted data, a person must have access to both the encryption technology and its corresponding key.
So, what is military grade encryption? Well, it is what we use at Alphabet Transcription Specialists. This Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) protects information using the strongest encryption known to man. It is used by the military, governments and banks, to name a few. It is highly effective because it uses a complicated secret language. The encryption divides information sent to us into segments of 128 bits and then uses encryption keys to turn it into a secret code. Our encryption key comprises 256 bits. Just to be on the safe side, it scrambles data in no less than 14 rounds of encryption.
256-bit encryption is considered the gold standard among ciphers. The number of possible combinations of keys makes this type of encryption virtually impossible to crack. Being cryptographically strong protects our security from vulnerabilities.
The Transcription Process
Once we have received your sound file, the next phase of its journey begins. You will receive an instant notification, so you will know your file has been received. The recording will be assessed. We then assign it to a transcriber who understands your business. They will have expert industry knowledge. If we discover recording issues, then this is relayed to all clients.
At Alphabet, even our most experienced transcribers don’t rest on their laurels. Before starting work on a project, they will research your topic. This ensures they understand up-to-date information, know about any new or trending words, phrases and acronyms. They will also know about industry-specific abbreviations.
Once a transcriber has the right background information on your topic, they will schedule your project and start transcribing the sound file. When transcribing your data, a transcriber will use a standardised template. It will have been created with your needs in mind. All transcripts are presented in document styles that are visually appealing and easy to read.
Our transcribers are all highly trained, producing work with an accuracy record we are proud of. However, we are never complacent. That is why professional proof readers are an important line of defence. Proof readers play a crucial role in our team. They check all transcriptions for any errors, so our clients don’t have to. At this point the sound file is still on standby – in the event any clarifications are required.
It is important to note that our proof readers will not ‘edit’ your words. They are focused on ensuring text appears as it should. They check a document is grammatically sound and a true account of data on the sound file.
Our proof readers have extensive knowledge of sciences and industries. Just like our transcribers, they understand the importance of accuracy. A medical or science paper, for example, must meet the standards of peer-reviewed journals. The sound file that came to us may contain years of research and may represent a significant investment in a project.
How Transcribed Files are Delivered
Your sound file has effectively ended its journey when the transcription is complete. However, it is the start of a new journey for its legacy. Transcribed documentation is returned to the client via their personal, secure space on our website. It can be accessed in the same way as files are uploaded.
Once an audio recording has been transferred to text by our transcribers, clients receive a notification. This tells them that their text document can be accessed and downloaded to their system. Once again, 256-bit encryption is used.
Now you have your transcribed file, consider how you can use it. If you merely wanted a record of an event, such as a meeting or seminar, you may be surprised to know it has added value. Written material can be utilised. Many of our clients use transcriptions for guides, training manuals, blog posts, promotional materials and even press releases. Text derived from sound files can also be used in reports or retained as a proper record of oral communication.
When it comes to transcription, the journey of a sound file can be broken down. We think of the journey in stages:
• Recording the audio
• Saving and compressing the file
• Uploading the file
• Transcribing audio on the sound file
• Checking and assessing the document for accuracy
We hope you have enjoyed reading about the journey of a sound file. At Alphabet, we never take sound files for granted. We appreciate the effort it takes to record your data. If you want to send your data on a journey to us, you can contact us here.
For further information about our five-step transcription process, visit here.
Let the end of this journey be the start of a new one for you.
The Founder of Alphabet, Denise Elsdon, commenced her training at British Aerospace. Having gained her RSA and Pitman qualifications, she embarked on her chosen career path as a personal secretary. Back in 1995, Alphabet Secretarial Services was born. Since then, Alphabet has provided professional transcription services to amazing clients like the NHS, Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) and others.