How Transcripts Help Support Documentary Filmmakers

By: Verbit Editorial
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Roughly 85% of Americans subscribe to at least one streaming service. As the popularity of video streaming has continued to grow, so has the demand for documentary films and series. Documentary short and feature films have been attracting a growing audience in recent years, making production companies eager to embrace the medium.  

Documentary film creators seeking to tell real-life stories need certain tools to produce truthful, accurate representations. For instance, these filmmakers need to preserve the statements that their subjects make throughout filming. Luckily, documentary transcription solutions can help streamline the interview and production processes.

What is Transcription?

Transcription is the process of generating a written record of audio or video content. A transcript may only notate the spoken text of a piece of content. Other types of transcripts include additional non-speech audio elements like sound effects or pauses. Transcription is particularly valuable in documentary production because it can be used to maintain accurate records of on-camera interviews.

There are two primary styles of documentary interview transcription: Verbatim transcription and non-verbatim transcription. Non-verbatim transcription essentially distills an interview down into its main ideas. It does not generally include non-speech elements. The creators of these transcripts will commonly edit for grammar and clarity. Non-verbatim transcription can be extremely useful when the recording is for educational purposes because it eliminates fillers and errors that may otherwise impede the messaging.

Verbatim transcription, on the other hand, is a highly detailed account of all audio elements. This style of interview transcription will include pauses, repeated words, grammatical errors and more. As a result, verbatim transcription is likely the best format for documentary transcription because it accurately represents every element of an interview. For instance, non-verbal communication cues can often clarify an interview subject’s intent or subtext. If a transcript does not include these subtleties, it can fall short of conveying the full story.

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What are the Possible Uses of Documentary Transcription?

Perhaps the most obvious way documentary filmmakers can benefit from transcription is by transcribing their filmed interviews. Much like transcription for journalists, documentary interview transcription provides filmmakers with a convenient reference tool. The transcript preserves an accurate account of everything an interview subject says. These written records of interview content can save filmmakers’ time. Instead of having to watch and rewatch hours of interview footage, they can quickly find the section they need. Also, some transcripts, like those Verbit produces, are even searchable. A user can type in a specific keyword and find the specific time codes where that keyword appears in the recording. Having an accurate transcript of an interview on hand can also help production companies safeguard against allegations of misquotations or misrepresentation.

Documentary filmmakers may also choose to take advantage of documentary transcription post-production. Transcripts can improve the reach of films and make them accessible to a more diverse audience. For instance, accurate transcripts can serve as a valuable tool for those viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Viewers with ADHD or auditory processing disorders also benefit from a written copy of the audio in a film. Audience members watching a documentary in a non-native language may also benefit from the written version.

Creators may also choose to transcribe video to text in order to improve the discoverability of their content. Posting an accurate transcript of a video can enable search engines to crawl the content, thus boosting the page’s SEO ranking. Creators can also review a transcript to pull meaningful quotes from the film to use in marketing materials.

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How to Transcribe a Documentary

It is certainly possible to manually transcribe video content. However, transcribing even a short-form documentary film can be extremely tedious and time-consuming. Transcribers without adequate training are also prone to significant transcription errors, which will require additional time and resources to remedy.

The most reliable means of transcribing a documentary is by partnering with a professional documentary transcription service like Verbit. Verbit employs a dual approach to transcription to provide highly accurate documentary transcription on a budget.

When a user uploads a video to Verbit’s platform, Automatic Speech Recognition technology creates the first draft. Next, professional human transcribers make edits before the client downloads the transcript and film in their preferred file format. This process can generate transcripts with up to 99% accuracy with turnaround times of as little as 4 hours.

Documentary Transcription and Accessibility

The need for filmmakers to produce content that is inclusive of a diverse audience can’t be overstated. Captions, for example, have become a commonplace addition to video content on a wide array of platforms. Transcription is an equally valuable tool when it comes to improving accessibility. There are many reasons why viewers may need or prefer to engage with content in a written format, and transcripts can help meet these diverse needs.

It is important to note that for a transcript to improve accessibility, it must contain a high level of accuracy. Transcription errors can be embarrassing and even offensive, so it is critical for creators to do their due diligence to avoid these mistakes. Professional documentary transcription services like Verbit can help producers safeguard against the challenges posed by transcription errors. Additionally, partnering with Verbit for captioning and transcription can help support accessibility standards like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Proactively providing accurate transcripts can help to ensure more equitable experiences for all audience members.

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Verbit: A Trusted Partner of Media Producers

Verbit’s industry-leading technology solutions can support more inclusive, efficient filmmaking throughout every step of the production process. Whether it’s transcribing documentary interviews during editing or providing accurate captions for a final cut, Verbit’s platform has the tools filmmakers need.

Verbit offers a full suite of accessibility technology, including captioning, transcription, translation and audio description, to meet the diverse needs of creators and audience members alike. The desire for equity in the media is here to stay, and Verbit is proud to partner with a global network of media professionals who share their dedication to diversity and inclusion. Reach out today to learn more about how Verbit’s accessibility tools can help streamline the documentary production process while providing more equitable viewing experiences to all audience members.