Section 508 Compliance – Expert Advice

This post is the start of a new series concerning Section 508 compliance remediation. Our expert 508 compliance team has encountered several workflow errors while using Acrobat for 508 remediation.  These errors cause some serious headaches for both users and clients. As such, we felt it would be useful to cover some of these issues here, along with advice on how to overcome them.

Experience with Section 508 Compliance

Graphic for section 508 compliance

Being compliant with Section 508 does not necessarily mean that the document is completely accessible. Our team has been working to achieve both compliance and accessibility for over five years. We boast 100% USA citizen employment for guaranteed quality, and do not outsource our labor. The issues that we will be discussing in further posts are ones that have come up while working, and which we have been able to resolve.

PDF Experts

XI-Standard in Box

The Word Wizards team has been working with Acrobat for our Section 508 compliance since version 8. When an issue with Acrobat arises, we have worked directly with Adobe in order to solve it. As such, we’ve developed a reputation for being able to resolve some of the most difficult problems with PDF documents. If you come across a problem of your own that we haven’t covered, let us know in the comments! We will be more than happy to answer your questions.




The Art of Selling Yourself – Through Your Resume

There were valuable resume and interview tips aplenty at an informative presentation on resume building, hosted by Women in Film and Video (WIFV) and Women in Cable Television Communications (WICT), at Interface Media Group on April 2, 2014.  The panel discussion was scheduled just ten days before the ever-popular WIFV job fair, so these important tips came just in time for some last minute resume polishing and brushing up on interview skills.

Applicants at the WIFV job fair.
Hopeful applicants will make their case at the upcoming WIFV Job Fair

Packed House

The packed house was not disappointed by the professional advice disbursed by the panel of experts. First to speak was Karen Proctor, who is a senior recruiter at the George Washington University Hospital as well as owner of her own recruiting company, Kreative Recruiting Programs.  She quickly focused on one of the main themes of the evening for creating a successful resume. Rely on short concise bullet points, supported by an explanatory sentence, and lose the lengthy paragraphs.

Karen Proctor
Karen Proctor

Recruiters have to review dozens and sometimes even hundreds of resumes for every opening. So they want you to get right to the point of what you can do for their company, based on what you have done for others before during your career.  If you are lucky enough to get called in for an interview you will get an opportunity to go into the details. In the mean time keep the items in your resume short and to the point.  One highly rated resume had a box in the top right hand corner with the heading “Core Competencies” which contained a bracketed and bold short list of high value items. Put your best assets right up front, where no one has to search for them.

Of like mind with Karen was panelist Ken Nice, who is Program Manager for Yoh Company.  Ken’s recruiting accolades include current clients at Discovery Communications, TV One, and HARPO Studios.  He has been a specialist in temporary staffing at the Freeman Agency in L.A. and manager of temporary staffing at Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA. Ken reinforced Karen’s point that short entries and bullet points are better for resumes than long paragraphs that no one has the time to read.  Both felt that a resume can have more than one page, if the extra space is filled with short but relevant bulleted items.

Ken Nice
Ken Nice

As far as the physical layout of the resume is concerned, for people who have been in the work force for several years, it is best to go in chronological order from your current work experience backwards.  Watch out for unexplained gaps in your work experience time line.  Put more emphasis on the recent events than the distant past.  Education goes at the bottom, as that happened a long time ago for seasoned professionals.

On the other hand, newcomers to the workforce who lack work experience can fall back on education and extracurricular activities.  Both Karen and Ken were in agreement that they don’t really care about what your goals are.  They both assume that since you are talking to a recruiter, that your goal is to get a job.  So strike “my goals” from your resume as irrelevant.  What they really want to know is how can you fill an employment need for the company that is reviewing your resume.

Both Karen and Ken were firm supporters of getting help in employment searches from the social media phenomenon LinkedIn.  For example, it is useful for job searchers to join groups on LinkedIn in their area of professional interest.  If you are going to a specific company to look for work, check who in your network group might already work there, for some advanced scouting help.  You can just type in the name of a company, and the name of people in your group who work there will pop up. Or you can just ask people in your LinkedIn groups for advice on how to approach a certain type of job opening.  Most people on LinkedIn share such information freely.

The next speaker was WIFV Board Member Elizabeth Ventura, who has managed multimillion-dollar production company operations, served as line producer on multiple broadcast series, and managed complex outreach-type hiring events.  The local production companies that she has helped to greatness include Discovery Communications favorites, Team and Base Productions.

Elizabeth Ventura
Elizabeth Ventura

At Base she played a principal role, managing the financial and production operations of this rapidly growing bi-coastal corporation and its affiliated companies.  Her own resume was used as case study of what a production company might want in a production manager.  Again she relies on short bulleted points, but with dozens of impressive credits and references from across the gamut of production management experience.

She doesn’t really care what your formal education is in the production arena.  However, if she is shooting cop shows and you mention that you edited a cop show, you are much more likely to get the job.  Talk mostly about what you can do for the company, based on your assessment of what the job calls for.  She is not a big fan of cover letters; the resume should speak for itself.  Most important is to get right to the point by putting your accomplishments in the chronology.

The final panelist was Katarina Price of Katarina Price Photography who spoke about the value of a good headshot.  Whether you are talent, makeup or any other parts of “The Biz” where glamour is a premium item, you need a good headshot to go along with your resume.  However, she showed attractive headshots of video producers in assertive, provocative, and relaxed poses, which exuded confidence and accomplishment.  Even avatars for Internet usage should be attractive color pictures set in the work environment.  The use of a professional to take the headshot is highly recommended.

Katarina Price
Katarina Price

Some of the other experts discouraged using a photograph as an actual part of the typical production job resume.  However, all of the panelists agreed that the resume was merely the foot in the door to landing the target job.  They stressed that the key to performance during the all-important first interview was to convey an aura of confidence with approachability.  I left with a much deeper appreciation of the job filling process as seen from the eyes of the experts.

Finally, I am sorry to say that Word Wizards, Inc. will not be represented at the WIFV Job Fair for the first time in recent memory.  However, if you want to apply for a position at WW, are a fast typist (at least 75 WPM,) have experience with transcription software, or are proficient in translating in a foreign language, please send us your resume to generalinfo@wordwizardsinc.com.  Best wishes for a successful job-hunt.




Keeping Your Budget Under Control

Getting That Green

wifv logo

As we all know, budgeting your work, especially documentary film work, is not easy.  You must first secure the money, not an easy feat mind you, and then be extremely careful to utilize it to its fullest extent. The still-shaky economy makes it even more difficult for production professionals to secure budgets, since people are still hesitant to give money to anyone even if they have a fantastic, sure-hit proposal. Once you do get that hard-earned or begged-for cash, what is the best way to go about using it? One way to find out is at an upcoming panel called Demystifying Media Budgets, which is being presented by Women in Film and Video or WIFV on June 5th at Interface Media Group. Some of the experts on the panel include D.C.-based writer/producer/director Claudia Meyers, owner and president of Double R Productions, Rosemary Reed, Freelancer Sharon Sobel, and president of Film Odyssey Inc., Karen Thomas. While this event promises to provide some great tips on managing money for your documentary and video production work, I had a few tips of my own that I wanted to share.

Budget

A Technical Hand

While it makes plenty of sense to go the reliable route of Excel spread sheets, paper receipts and data storage, those methods don’t work for everyone. Some great software alternatives include inDinero, Xpenser and FreshbooksinDinero is a great money tracking and finance site for small business, and ideal for freelancers who want an efficient way to have all their accounts in one place. Xpenser is a nice little tool specifically built to manage expense reports with versions available for all the major smartphones, like Android, Apple, and Windows. FreshBooks is a great program for invoices, with apps for all the major mobile systems, and is a great tool for a media freelancer, since it also helps track un-billed time and tracks different rates for different projects.

Ask Around

This is probably one of the most tried-and-true ways to make sure you’re not over-paying for services. While it might seem unwise to be so transparent about money, it still can pay off to chat with other freelancers and media professionals to see how much they’re budgeting for different aspects of their work. It can be a great way to make sure you’re not getting ripped of by overpaying for something when others are getting it for much a cheaper rate. One of the nice things about the D.C. production and media community is that it’s small enough that everyone is fairly open to helping each other out. Another avenue to use is Quora, a type of online search engine that can be really good for generic questions such as, “How much is too much to pay for ____?” While some of the answers may not be incredibly specific, they can at least point you in the right direction and give you a helpful range to work with.




Transcription Tips – Transcriptionist Best Practices

Hello out there in cyber space! On this wonderful Friday at the end of September, I want to share some tips that will help you be a more professional and trusted transcriber, whether you’re working for a company, or you’re a freelancer. Business, government agencies, private institutions and everyday citizens rely on transcriptionists to get the job done with minimal hassles. By following a few simple guidelines, you can make yourself a more valuable asset to your transcription clients.

Be Realistic

My first word of advice is to never accept more work than you think you can handle comfortably and within the deadline specified by the client. People will usually understand if you can’t take a high volume of work, but they will be very upset if you DO take work, and then you fail to complete it up to snub or on time.

In addition to the needs of the clients, you have to consider the long term implications of how much work you take in over time. Pace yourself! Many transcribers burn about because they start by taking as much work as possible and get in way over their heads. For a while you might manage to get it all done but remember, you’re in it for the long haul.

Be Honest

Honesty is always the best policy. Stick to the truth and the facts and people will begin to trust you. Never inflate your page count or labor metrics in any way. Sure, you might be tempted sneak a few dollars extra here and there, but people notice, and they do NOT like it. Like I said earlier, your in this game for the long haul. The best asset you have is your reputation, and honesty get you a long way to trust, once you can be trusted by a client they will be much more willing to send you their work.

Another point about honesty, if you happen to make a mistake, fess up to it right away! Be honest and genuine and fix the transcript errors without complaint or additional charge. Everyone makes mistakes, were only human after all, but if you make them, own them, and show your merit as an ethical person and learn from your mistakes.

Get the Details and Get It Right

Make sure to ask for every specific detail about the job BEFORE you receive the transcription work. Prepare yourself by reviewing the exact requirements of the project and you will spend more time typing and less time fixing problems at the end. You only get paid for the work performed, not for figuring out how everything should look once its all done. With that in consideration, make sure you and the client are on the same page (pun intended) on all the specifics before the typing starts so that you don’t ever have to go back and fix things that could have been avoided.

Here are a few things to hash out with the client before starting a new transcription project:

  • Transcript template
  • Formatting
  • Font and style of text
  • Margins
  • Time code requirements and formats
  • Headers and file names

There are many more things to consider, once you build a relationship with the client they will appreciate you knowing exactly what they want and how they want it.

Do Your Best Every Time

Always do your best work, its simple. I think were about done for this article, but if your interested in receiving more articles like this via e-mail, please sign up for our mailing list (below or on the right hand side bar.) We provide tips on transcription like this, industry updates, technology spotlights, and much more.

Keep your fingers nimble and you shoulders loose, oh yea and if possible, use an ergonomic keyboard (click to read an article about the benefits of ergonomic keyboards).




10 Things To Consider Before Sending Media For Transcription

Hello out there, Ben here bringing you a quick list of 10 things you should be aware of before sending your audio or video for transcription. Taking time to consider these factors can streamline your workflow, save you time, and conserve your budget . So lets get on with it shall we!

  1. File Format – Understanding what format your media files are encoded in is critical to the transcription process. Not all transcriptionists and transcription software systems are created equal, valuable time, energy, and stress can be saved if you provide a clear picture of what type of files will be coming in. Digital or Analog? Audio or Video? AIFF, WAV, Mp3 or MOV, MXF, WMV. Letting the transcription company know beforehand will help keep everything running smoothly and prevent any surprises.  Common Movie Codecs MOV FLV WMV AVI MPG
  2. File Quality –  Remember to start with the highest quality media possible, transcribers rely on the quality and strength of audio signals to do their job. Bad audio quality = bad transcript and usually a more expensive one. Video quality needs to be good enough so if there is visual material or speaker identification required, it can be interpreted without too much effort. Considering those two points, we recommend the media be compressed small enough that it can be easily transferred over the internet, but with enough quality to preserve the audio and or video’s original continuity. For audio, never go below 44100 16 bit. For video, compress as much as you want as long as the important visual ques can still be easily distinguished, i.e. time code windows or speakers faces needing identification in the transcript.
  3. Audio Levels – Transcription, at least our flavor, generally involves a speed typist, a foot-pedal, and headphones. Nothing is more painful to our dedicated typists than throwing on their headphones, listening to a quiet audio signal for the first 10 seconds, turning their audio output way up, only to be blasted once the person starts talking. Try to keep your gain structure hot enough that they can be heard legibly, but not so hot that they clip. The biggest problem is with consistency, keep your levels around the same volume to prevent killing a transcribers most valuable tool, their ears!Audio Waveform
  4. Time Code Details – Time code comes in many flavors in the audio and video world. Knowing your time code specifications beforehand is critical to the transcription company. If you need digital time code added, knowing and providing accurate starting time code numbers will ensure everything stays in sync with your source media. Let the transcriber know if it is burned into the video window or does it need to be added? Analog time code can be a little more tricky. Usually, it is recorded on to one of the stereo audio channels and requires a special reader to transcribe from. If so make sure you record the time code signal at a high gain and encoded in a “lossless” audio format (AIFF, WAV, ext…).
  5. Total Length of Audio / Video – Letting the transcribers know how much audio / video time they will be transcribing ensures that they can plan effectively around other projects they may currently have. This step can prevent failing to meet deadlines because there was simply to much material and not enough time to complete it.
  6. Audio and Vocal Quality – Some companies like ourselves can transcribe, even repair poorly recorded audio files. However, it is critical to let the transcription company know of any problems in the audio source such as; hiss, pops, clicks, background noise, hum, artifacts, clipping ext… If we know problems are there beforehand we can prevent wasting time trying to identify the problems and get right to fixing them. Audio board with lights.    Furthermore, if there are foreign accents, speech impediments, or any technical language of the speaker(s) letting the transcription company know beforehand can save a bunch of time and effort on everyone’s part.
  7. Expected Turnaround – Knowing when you want your transcripts returned lets people plan for the priority of the work. If you need faster or longer than normal turnaround, consider this beforehand and come up with a decision that fits your needs and budget limitations. Word Wizards can provide same day or 24 hour transcription turnaround, but at a higher cost. Consult with your transcription provider for rates beforehand to make sure there are no financial surprises at the end of the project.
  8. Omissions and Exceptions – Any special requests to omit or leave out material need to be established before transcription begins. Sometimes people like to leave out the questions because it  saves page space and thus saves money. Sometimes off camera chatter should be left out, sometimes it needs to be included. Discussing this with your team before sending it out for transcription will make sure you only pay for what you want and you want what your paying for.
  9. Headers and Labels – If you would like a particular header in your transcript have that ready when the job is sent out. Also if you want labels or identification for individuals make sure to include that in your project details before the work had begun.
  10. Location and Security Preferences –Some jobs require a special level security. What are you comfortable with? Onsite – transcription done either in your facility or the transcription company headquarters. Onshore – transcription never leaves the country (often this is a requirement for sensitive government work.) Offshore – If your o.k. with sending the job overseas just make sure your team understands that it may fall into the wrong hands the farther it makes its way away from protected USA cyberspace. Its Impossible!

Taking stock of all these factors before you start the transcription process will ensure a faster and easier transcription experience for you and the provider. That’s all for now folks, stay tuned for more from your friends here at Word Wizards!




SEO Tips: A Nightmare Before Google Sitemap Generator

Happy Holidays from your friends at Word Wizards! This late December blog post is dedicated to telling the story of an attempt at installing and setting up the fabled Google Sitemap Generator. For those SEOs out there wondering if it would be beneficial to install this fancy piece of open source Linux wizardry, we at Word Wizards Web Design have a message for you… DON’T BOTHER!

Now that XML sitemaps are the standard practice of most Search Engines, Google kindly offers a utility that can be installed on your system to automatically generate sitemaps that are optimized and ping Google with any new changes to your web site. They say it is easy, and requires no knowledge of advanced system manipulation or coding. “Easy”, as long as you feel comfortable opening a direct Linux Terminal Shell to your server, and using the command line prompt to hack your own site and install a mysterious unsupported piece of software! There is nobody at Google to call for help, and try asking your hosting service provider and their best tech support will scratch their heads and say, “we have to get back to you on that one.”

Luckily, we have our heads on straight in the web design studio. With seasoned programers, Linux users, and code ninjas all huddling over a secret portal to our sites inner workings, surely we could figure the thing out right? Wrong! With all of our extensive resources put to the task, we succeeded in the upload, the installation, but when it came time to set up the utility and begin the magical sitemap generating process, a nightmare of access issues, port securities, and unspecified functional errors plagued our hard working and frustrated SEO team. Thankfully, Google tech support consists of a series of very well optimized documents explaining the same information over and over again; we eventually realized we were on our own.

After weeks of this working nightmare, the effort was all for naught! It is a much simpler process to use an XML sitemap generator provided for free on multiple third party websites and do the uploading manually. If anyone has ever figured this little puzzle out, I am sure you deserve some credit. However, the lack of internet reviews or blog articles explaining the utility known as the Google Sitemap Generator should be the only answer you require.

Do your own sitemap and you will save your time, energy, and holiday cheer.

Bah Humbug!!!