Operated by John-Riley Harper. Dedicated to archiving photography from Utah's underground scenes, as well as other personal projects.

Configuring a System for the Transcription of Recorded Interviews
J ust recently I set up a new computer for transcribing... again. I found myself scrambling all over the place to find the programs that I had put together years ago to make the job easier. This is a note for myself if I have to do it yet again, but it also might be useful for others who are looking to get set up for typing audio files. I mainly transcribe interviews for faculty at a University. They demand fairly accurate, word for word, sigh by sigh transcripts so they can analyze the data as objectively as they can.

Playing the Audio:

I use winamp for playing the audio files. Winamp has an incredible amount of customization options and also allows global hotkeys to be set. This means that I can stay in the typing program and use shortcuts to rewind, pause, or fast forward. Before I figured that out I had to do the very annoying alt+tab / left arrow to rewind in the program / alt+tab to get back to my typing program. I use the dvorak keyboard layout so I bind my rewind, fast forward, and pause to keys that are useful for me, but qwerty typists would probably want to put them in places handy for them. To set them, hit control + p in winamp and click the left menu item that says "global hotkeys." My particular bindings are:

alt + h -> rewind
alt + t -> fast-forward
alt + c -> pause/play

Of course, this can be found at:

Preparing the Audio (optional) :

Sometimes, if the audio has quite a bit of noise I use Sony Vegas to process it. Their noise reduction plugin can take out low hums, high hissings, etc, and their 4-band EQ can allow you to put a spike in the 2300 kilohertz region where a lot of verbal information lays. This can really help reduce forehead wrinkles and wear on the rewind key. Obviously this program is expensive, but if you have an audio background, this little step can save a lot of time and effort later.

Customizing Winamp:

I add two plugins to winamp, the first is pacemaker, and the second is called repeater. The pacemaker plugin allows you to slow down the audio (or speed up if the speakers are quite slow.) Once it is installed, enable it by going to the winamp preferences (control + p) and under the plugins, click the area for dsp/effect and simply click it in the righthand box. The install download is here:


The repeater plugin allows you to change the number of seconds that is rewound or fast-forwarded with each keypress. This plugin is only for the super anal-retentive, like myself! (Normal rewinding, at five seconds, is usually adequate, but if you find it rewinding too much, those wasted seconds add up.) Once it is installed, you change the seconds rewound by right clicking on the actual rewind button in winamp. More options can be found by configuring the plugin in the winamp preferences (control + p) and going to the "general purpose" area in the plugins category. Click the repeater plugin in the righthand box and click configure. The repeater can be found at the following url:


I use TypeWell, an abbreviation system/program that is used at hundreds of schools for doing real-time transcription in classes for the deaf or hard of hearing. They require completion of a training ($400) before one is allowed to purchase their software. Prices for various licenses range from $100 to $600. I think it's quite a good program, using decades and decades of theory to build a strong abbreviation system. I was into Gregg shorthand as a kid and it was a delight to see that they use some of those old ideas. The TW system also derives from the competition between it and other transcription programs, but even neater: they use some of my own ideas for building a quicker system (I've been focusing on techniques to reduce use of the spacebar). You can customize and add your own abbreviations, too, naturally.

As far as speed, my coworkers and I average between 90 - 120 wpm although sometimes, when the groove is on, some of us can get to 140 wpm runs for a good 5-10 minutes. More information about TypeWell can be found on their site:


Of course, you don't NEED TypeWell to transcribe. You can use any program you want to tap into. You could even use notepad combined with a program like ShortKeys to build an abbreviation system from, or type without abbreviations at all. I would recommend MS Word over notepad due to its autosaving features and all its other jazz.

Sharing the Files:

I use dropbox for aligning a folder with a client. That way, they can simply drop an audio file in their folder and I can drop the transcripts in the same folder when I'm done. Easy as pie to pipe. Pretty much everyone is aware of Dropbox at this point, but if you don't, use the following link to register, it'll reward both you and I with 250 extra megabytes. :)



I think that's all! If I think of anything else to add, I shall.

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