Recording & Editing

Always remember, the better the quality of the source material, the better the end result. While we can improve certain aspects of poor quality audio, this will cost time and money and there is simply no substitute for your preparation to achieve a good quality recording. Poor quality recordings can also incur higher charges as they take longer to transcribe. Below are some tips on how to achieve a decent recording.

  • Use a good quality digital voice recorder. Analogue (cassette) recorders are susceptible to mechanical wear and tear, cassette damage, motor noise and interruption through changing cassettes. They are also almost obsolete.
  • Familiarise yourself with the voice recorder thoroughly before using it "live". Read the manual and test it in different locations and at different distances from the subject, so you will know what to expect when the audio is played back.
  • Try to choose a location with minimal background noise - away from open windows or doors that overlook busy streets. A cafe is a nice place for an informal interview, but not a good place to make a recording. Rooms with soft furnishings reduce echo, so a cosy office or living room is better than a hall or classroom.
  • Always test the recorder prior to each use and listen back to the test recording with earphones to determine whether the quality is good enough and the subject(s) can be heard. We naturally filter out unwanted background noise when we're listening to someone speak, but a voice recorder captures everything.
  • Always keep a set of spare batteries. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
  • Try to position the recorder or microphone the same distance from each person speaking and away from other noise-creating objects, paying attention to the location of the microphone on the recorder unit. In a one-on-one interview, you can position it closer to the interviewee as typically, the interviewer will be posing previously prepared questions and it is usually more important to capture the responses rather than the questions.
  • Look out for other factors that may create unwanted noise. Some examples include: Teacups on saucers (or cutlery on plates) near the recorder, fingers drumming on the table, participants' feet tapping on a wooden floor or shifting in their seat, nearby air conditioning units or fans, open windows, participants coughing or sneezing. Placing a cushion underneath the recorder (even a hat or glove) will reduce unwanted noise travelling through the surface on which it sits.
  • Try to make your interviewee comfortable with the presence of the recorder, but at the same time, they should talk as if it wasn't there. You, on the other hand, should be very aware that it is there and listen out for external factors that might render parts of the recording unintelligible. For example, if your interviewee is responding to your question and a car horn sounds from outside a nearby window, it can make the response to a question useless. For example:
    I: What do you think of the rate of income tax in the country?
    R: I think the rate of tax is [BEEP!] too high.

    Did the interviewee say "way too high" or "not too high"? These possible responses are conflicting.

    To overcome this, on hearing the interruption, and rather than asking the subject to repeat themselves, you can confirm by repetition. For example:

    I: What do you think of the rate of income tax in the country?
    R: I think the rate of tax is [BEEP!] too high.
    I: So you think the rate is not too high, OK.

  • Have you ever noticed that when you whisper at someone, they whisper back? For this reason, you should speak in a clear tone, not too fast and without muttering and this will encourage your interviewee to do the same.

File Management

Once you have recorded your audio, it is good practice to transfer it to your computer as soon as possible. Using the software that came with your device, save the audio to your computer in MP3 format if available. While we can handle any type of digital audio, we recommend MP3 as it is a widely-used and high-quality compressed format which produces files of a manageable size. WAV files, on the other hand, can be up to 10 times the size of MP3 and can take an unnecessarily long time to upload. It's good practice to rename the recorded audio to something that identifies it for later reference. Backing up your files is also a good idea as data recovery can be very costly.

A good quality MP3 recording (128kbps bit rate) should use about 1MB of memory per recorded minute. So for example, an hour-long recording should result in an MP3 of approximately 55-65MB. To check the file size, right-click the icon, select properties and the details of the file are displayed.

Once you are happy with the format and the file size, you can send your audio files to us for transcription using our upload facility or other file sharing portals such as DropBox or WeTransfer.

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