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How Long it Really Takes to Transcribe (Accurate) Audio


We’ve all been there. You strategize an impressive game plan, complete with a detailed schedule, and then life happens. A coworker gets sick and you need to do extra work, a client or student needs some more of your time, your transcriber tells you that it’s not possible to get your backlog of video and audio files transcribed as quickly as you thought. Sometimes it’s OK. Sometimes your organization or department has time for surprises. It has time to wait. 

But on other occasions, there is an e-course platform launch coming up, or a growing number of students are griping about not getting their transcripts or captions in time for finals that are just around the corner. At times, this can be critical, and an organization could end up with hefty fines or even lawsuits due to non-compliance. To avoid these scenarios, it’s important to figure out how to get results fast. Specifically, it’s important to understand realistic transcription turnaround time, what options in the market tend to deliver faster average transcription time, and how to this happen without compromising on transcription quality. Today, we’re answering these questions to help make life easier for education organizations


How Long Does it Take to Transcribe Audio with the Available Options in the Market?

How long transcription takes is dependent on a wide range of variables, and each university or education platform needs to choose the best fit for its organization’s specific needs. To make the choice easier, the following is an overview of common options in the market.


How Long Does it Take for Individual Transcribers to Transcribe Audio?

When it comes to individual transcribers, the average time to transcribe one hour of audio is approximately four hours. But, some transcribers quote four hours as the minimum since it can easily reach 10 hours. Transcription time by audio hour varies so much mostly because each audio file is different. If the audio quality is great, there is only one speaker, the speaker’s accent is familiar to the transcriber, and there are no new professional terms or obscure book titles to research, it can go smoothly and quickly.

However, it becomes more challenging to gauge how long transcription takes if the audio quality is low or if there are background noises. Similarly, if there are multiple speakers and some of them don’t speak clearly, if they have similar voices that make it more challenging to understand who’s speaking, or if they have heavy accents, these factors, too, can make things more complex. Even if the audio is great but the topic is highly technical in nature, the transcriber will need to do some research, and it could take longer to complete the transcription.

Whether the transcription itself takes four or 10 hours, turnaround time, meaning when organizations actually receive the transcription, depends on additional factors. Freelance transcribers need to review and proofread their own work. Sometimes it means listening to the audio again, making corrections and editing. Since it is their own work, and they know the organization’s team, they are often very invested in getting the organization the highest quality transcription possible. But all of this takes time. Therefore, it is possible that the transcription itself will take four hours, but the turnaround time will take 48 hours. Of course, an individual transcriber may already be booked for days or weeks ahead of time, extending the turnaround time even further. If they’re solo business owners, they likely juggle many responsibilities in their professional and personal lives and aren’t always able to be instantly available for an urgent transcription project.


How Long Does it Take for Transcription Companies to Transcribe Audio?

Transcription time per audio hour isn’t necessarily different between individual transcribers and transcription companies. The transcription work itself needs to get done by a human being either way. That said, a transcription company, often being a larger business than that of a freelance transcriber, might have the budget for better tools, which might help reduce how long the process takes. In addition, since a transcription company often has a team, there’s more potential for quick availability and faster transcription turnaround time, as team members can review each other’s work and back each other up if someone gets sick or has an emergency.

That said, accuracy guarantees and turnaround times vary drastically between companies. The variation can be anything from one business day with accuracy not guaranteed, to six business days if the audio file is three hours or longer.


How Long Does it Take for Transcription Software to Transcribe Audio?

The average time to transcribe one hour of audio definitely decreases when transcribers use high quality transcription software. But here too, we’ve heard of the transcription turnaround time of four business days, so you’ll need to check with your providers on an individual basis to know what to expect.


Consider doing some research on the best tools, and ensuring your organization’s provider offers them. We’ve found that if transcription companies use automatic speech recognition (ASR) and artificial intelligence (AI), they can cut the turnaround time to one business day or less, even if they have two human beings review what the software had automatically transcribed. In addition, some transcription software products offer transcription in real-time, where the transcription time per audio hour is nonexistent because organizations get the transcription immediately and automatically.


Does Average Transcription Turnaround Time Impact Accuracy?

There is something to be said about taking the time to ensure accuracy. If transcription companies try to reduce transcription turnaround time without setting their team up for success, chances are quality will be compromised. As we said, if the audio quality is high, there are few speakers with distinctly different voices, there are no tech issues to overcome, and no obscure industry terms to look up, a great transcriber equipped with efficient transcription tools will likely be able to produce a high-quality transcription fast.

The key is to find a provider that combines high-quality human intelligence with high-quality artificial intelligence. When a transcription software is empowered with AI, it can learn industry-specific terms, obscure book titles and professional names, plus current events, among others, and then have human transcribers correct any mistakes if any are made at all. This process provides organizations with accurate transcription faster, plus the software gets smarter every time it’s used, as it can learn from any mistakes and correct them in future uses. When organizations combine smart technology with smart human beings, not only does the average transcription time get significantly reduced, but the final result is as accurate as if a seasoned professional dedicated days to make it happen.


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How to Get Accurate, Cost-Efficient Law Enforcement Transcription

Professionals in police departments, security firms, law firms, courts, and government agencies all rely on law enforcement transcription services to effectively do their jobs. This saves time, helps with the submission of accurate evidence, builds stronger cases, and reduces costs. But how does something as seemingly mundane as law enforcement transcription make such a big impact on the legal system? What equipment does an organization need to obtain reliable transcription? What should professionals take into account when considering legal transcription outsourcing? This guide is here to answer these questions.


What is Law Enforcement Transcription?

The law enforcement industry produces a significant amount of audiovisual materials that need to be turned into searchable text to enable more efficient work. 


Examples of Law Enforcement Transcription

Legal transcription companies work on a wide range of projects, from court hearings and depositions to fire reports. One area with a massive demand for services is police department transcription. Police transcription covers investigation reports, surveillance audiovisual materials, victim testimonies, witness statements, suspect interrogations, patrol reports, traffic violations, accident reports, 911 calls, and arrest reports, just to name a few. But why do legal and police transcription services make such a big difference in this important line of work?


Why Law Enforcement Transcription Services Can Make or Break a Case

In law enforcement, a very small detail can mean the difference between evidence that is accepted or dismissed in court. It can also be the differentiating factor between investigators discovering a key clue to solve the crime, or missing it altogether. Although the accuracy of documentation is critical, officers are rarely in a position to perform this function properly on the scene. Using law enforcement transcribers takes a huge load off their shoulders, and lets them focus on what they do best.

More specifically, legal transcription outsourcing saves hours upon hours of desk work, which law enforcers would otherwise need to do themselves. It also costs police departments far more to pay for police officers to sit behind a desk to transcribe, or even hire in-house law enforcement transcribers than to pay to have the transcription work outsourced by a professional service provider. After all, these companies work around the clock to qualify transcribers and ensure the absolute accuracy of their final product. 


How is Law Enforcement Transcription performed?

Legal transcription companies often offer 24/7 services, so that authorities and organizations can receive their necessary documents as quickly as possible. That often means on the same or following day for urgent cases, although other cases may take longer. To ensure timely and accurate service, companies work hard to find and qualify the best law enforcement transcribers, a process that involves many factors. Often, the transcribers that are hired have prior experience in the domain, as transcribers must be familiar with a large number of industry terms to make the process efficient, fast, and cost-effective, without compromising on quality.

Also, due to the sensitive nature of the work, transcribers are often exposed to content that isn’t easy or comfortable to hear, and it’s important for them to fully understand what they’re getting themselves into. For the same reason, transcribers usually go through full criminal background checks before they can begin working. They’re also typically required to sign strict NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) to ensure confidentiality. It is highly recommended to verify that your law enforcement transcription service provider adheres to these guidelines so that peoples’ safety and authentic case outcomes are not compromised.


How Law Enforcement Transcription Equipment Impacts Police Departments and Other Legal Organizations

Both transcription companies and law enforcement organizations need to priorities high-quality tools for accurate and cost-effective transcriptions. Here’s why.


Equipment Recommendations for Law Enforcement Organizations that Want Accurate Transcription

For law enforcement transcribers to provide fast and accurate transcriptions, legal authorities and organizations must provide them with high-quality audio. While it is possible to efficiently transcribe lower-quality audio files, it takes longer and costs more, and accuracy is often more challenging to guarantee. Therefore, providing high-quality recorders and dictation tools for your department. Team members can record via smartphone apps, on the computer, or using surveillance equipment such as cameras. That said, it is also important to ensure the legal transcription companies you consider have an efficient toolbox that can guarantee high-quality work.


Equipment that Smart Law Enforcement Transcription Companies Leverage

Note-taking apps, noise-canceling headphones, and foot pedals that allow transcribers to rewind and fast forward the audio are a great start, but if there is no usage of advanced digital tools the transcription process will likely take longer. The best transcription systems rely on the most important factor for accuracy: human intelligence. Consider what happens when you empower human intelligence with automatic speech recognition (ASR) and artificial intelligence (AI). When a transcription company uses automatic speech recognition, it becomes easier to understand who is speaking, even if there is no video. This way, the chance of mixing up two witnesses’ voices, for example, significantly decreases. Similarly, when a transcription company uses artificial intelligence, the levels of accuracy and efficiency are enhanced because AI technology is all about getting better the more you use it.

At first, the company behind the technology teaches the software by feeding it with data such industry terms, prior court cases, book titles, judge names, and an abundance of additional information, so that the software can instantly recognize as many details as possible from audio files. While the software transcribes audio files at unprecedented speeds, human law enforcement transcribers review the automated text and make any corrections. The software then learns from its mistakes, gets smarter, and makes fewer errors with each future use.


For agencies that are considering outsourcing law enforcement transcription, it’s important to ensure your provider remembers the power of human intelligence. Keeping human intelligence at the forefront and empowering it with smart technology is bound to decrease both department costs and stress levels, as a very tedious aspect of the work becomes simplified. 

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