How Long Does it Take to Transcribe a Recording?

Aug 11, 2011 | Transcription | 4 comments

Transcription is a high-skill process that involves listening to a recording, researching the subject, understanding context,  and typing it accurate into text. When done right, the process can take a lot of time.

One hour of audio or video can take 4-9 hours to transcribe, depending on the subject, number of speakers, and audio quality.

The total time it takes to transcribe a recording depends on several factors and differs for different types of recordings.

Why do you need to know this?

If you are planning to outsource transcription, this information will help you understand costs and turnaround time.

If you are a transcriptionist, this will help you decide rates to charge based on the time investment required.

Let’s take a look at the key factors that affect transcription time.

1. Subject of the Recording

Any recording that requires researching spellings/terms takes longer to transcribe. That’s why the turnaround time for transcription of technical recordings is usually longer.

An hour-long interview on the subject of university education would probably take an experienced transcriber 4 hours to transcribe.

On the other hand, a one-hour interview on clinical trials for prostate cancer would probably take 5-6 hours to transcribe because the transcriptionist would need to research the medical terms to get the spellings right.

Note: Non-technical recordings with lots of names of places, personalities, books etc. also take longer to transcribe.

2. Multiple Speakers

Many transcription services charge extra for transcribing recordings with multiple speakers. This is fair because accurately transcribing multiple speakers is hard work.

It is however important to remember that it’s hard only if there is over-talking involved, for e.g. a focus group with 5-10 people talking rapidly and often over each other. A seminar with 15 speakers can be fairly easy to transcribe if they present one at a time.

 

3. Audio Quality

Outdoor recordings or recordings made without using external microphones usually have background noise or ‘echo’. These recordings can take significantly longer to transcribe when compared to ‘clear’ recordings because it takes several rounds of listening to understand everything being said.

Read: What’s a good recording?

4. Transcription Style

The transcription style defines how detailed the transcript is going to be. There are three transcription styles that are generally used in transcription – verbatim, intelligent verbatim, and true verbatim.

True verbatim is a highly detailed style of transcription that includes every little detail on the recording including laughter, ambient sounds, etc. This style takes much more time than say intelligent verbatim where all these details are left out while transcribing.

Read: Transcription Styles

All factors considered, here’s a simple guide to transcription turnaround time for a 1-hour recording:

Simple recording (clearly recorded, non-technical content, and no overtalking): 4 hours.

Complex recording (background noise, overtalking, or technical content): 5-9 hours.

Knowing this is helpful in calculating costs if your transcription service charges by hours worked.

Some transcription companies, including IndianScribes, that charge by audio-minute (1 audio minute = 1 minute of recording).  This type of billing is preferable if you need to know the exact cost of transcription beforehand.

Read: What is an audio minute? A Look at Factors that Affect Transcription Rates

How long does it take YOU to transcribe an hour long recording?

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