The Art of the Interview

Word Wizards has provided transcription for over 10,000 interviews since we pioneered a method of adding time code to transcripts back in 1995! However, typing interviews is not the same as conducting them. We are now producing a documentary of our own, and we have turned to our friends at Docs in Progress (DIP) to get advice on how it is done. We recently attended a workshop hosted by DIP, led by local documentary coach Adele Schmidt.

Art of the Interview - Behind The Camera

Adele has been a consultant to filmmakers for the last 15 years. She has mentored them at all stages of the production cycle. Films and projects that have been coached by Adele have been broadcast on television, educational outlets, appeared in film festivals, won awards, and secured distribution deals. She is the co-founder of Docs in Progress along with her colleagues Erica Ginsberg and Sam Hampton. Word Wizards has supported Docs in Progress for many years as a corporate sponsor, and we jumped at the chance to participate in this training as we prepare to shoot interviews for our forthcoming documentary film project.

For more about Adele see http://www.documentary-coach.com

Creating Your Narrative

She began the workshop by stating that the answers to a well conducted interview can and should provide a film maker with an excellent narrative, without the need to rely on a voice over to tell their story.  However, the interviewer must prepare in order to get useful soundbites that will further this narrative.  Once the footage reaches the edit phase, it is too late to get the most out of the interview.  You can’t go back to ask questions that you forgot to ask because you weren’t prepared.  People won’t stand for it.  They expect you to be professional and not waste time.

Do Your Homework

Research preparation is paramount.  Since our Doc is about historic events in Eastern Europe spanning from before World War Two to the present, we hired a historian/researcher who specializes in the region.  In addition to knowing your subject, Adele suggests that you must also research the individual interviewee.  With knowledge idea of their personal story, an interviewer can encourage their subject to support the narrative by asking well  relevant and thought provoking questions.  By approaching your subject from a place of understanding, you will gain their trust and get the best content possible.

The Trust Factor

Building trust right from the beginning is critical to conducting a good interview. Always communicate beforehand to clarify the focus of the story you want to tell.  Call your subject to let them know you will require a personal release form to ensure they know it’s coming. Present the release form after the interview. If they ask for the questions in advance it’s OK to send them, some people will want to prepare for the interview and this will give them more time to become comfortable discussing the subject. If it matters, explain what to wear (examples:  solid colors, no white, and no jewelry that clatters or clinks.)

Many people are terrified to be on camera and it affects their performance.  If you sense this is the case, take a break, offer some water, and have a casual conversation.  Reestablish trust often during production, and really listen to your subject.  A professional interviewer must know the subject matter as well as the witness does!

Maintain Objectivity

If you have succeeded in establishing trust, signing the release after the interview is usually not a problem.  People usually will only sue you when you use a soundbite in a context that they didn’t intend.  Even if you are advancing a partisan point of view, don’t let your personal bias impact the interview.  Try to be objective even when interviewing “the Bad Guy”.  They have their point of view too.  Try to be objective, and be a professional at all times.

Be a Good House Guest

Set up in advance and restore the set to the way you found it.  Answers can be repeated for clarity or emphasis.  It’s OK to say “only the best answers will be used.” Coach them to answer in complete sentences. Remind them not to look into the camera. The subject should look at the interviewer, who should be positioned right next to the lens.  A makeup kit with transparent make up is good.  People want to look their best on camera. The person must be relaxed to give effective answers.  Never put the interviewee in an uncomfortable position or with barriers between them and the camera.

Define Your Angle

The best questions are ones that trigger whole stories.  Example: “Tell me the story about when you…”  That is why it is critical to research the subject matter and the individual’s interaction with it.  You must know your angle in advance If you want to depend on soundbites to tell your story it’s too late to figure it out in the edit suite. Don’t cut off the interviewee, but keep them on the subject that supports your narrative angle.  If you solicit unrelated soundbites it only waists time and ends up on the cutting room floor.

Art of the Interview - On Camera

That’s A Wrap

After the interview thank them for participating. Let them know that you really appreciate them sharing their experiences and their time. Restore the location to the condition that it was when you began.  Show them the release and be sure they sign it in your presence and return it to you immediately.  The interview cannot be used for practical purposes without these releases.

In Practice

During the workshop, Adele gave out sample releases and we practiced her interviewing techniques.  By being prepared, doing your homework, acting professional, and staying on narrative, your interviews should provide exactly what you need to tell a compelling story. Check out Docs in Progress online for documentary film classes, workshops, and peer review sessions.




Summer Sale – Save 15% on Transcription

Give your budget a break!

Save big this summer on your next transcription project. Word Wizards is offering a 15% discount on transcription services from July 4th through Labor Day in 2013. This limited time offer wont be around for long, so call or e-mail us today to get started. Click the advertisement below for promotional rates and details. Enjoy your Summer!

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TIVA Talk: Pitching To The Networks Workshop

Pitching Workshop

Since we here at Word Wizards Inc. go through hours of transcription each day we know that while making film and video is hard, the toughest part is actually getting someone to green light your pitch so you can actually get the chance to make it. We all know that making that pitch can be difficult, awkward and just plain nerve racking. Recently TIVA and The National Press Club Studios presented a packed workshop to give people valuable pointers on how to go about making a pitch guaranteed to be a winner. The panelist on this panel included Jane Latman, Senior Vice-President for Development at Investigation Discovery, Amy Savitsky, Vice President of Development at TLC, Genevieve Crouteau, Vice President of Development at Story House Productions and Kip Prestholdt the owner and Executive Producer at Lucky Dog Films.

Pitch Building 101

One of the most important tips to consider when you’re putting a pitch together is to make sure you have an interesting character that will hook people into the show. Setting and content don’t matter quite as much as having characters a viewer would want to keep watching. You also need to make sure you have a decent presentation that gives you plenty to discuss with a network person. Like I said characters are important but you do want to have the most complete package to present and it’s a good idea to have a rough estimate of the budget need. While you don’t need to know the exact numbers, you should have a general estimate so the person you’re pitching to gets a good idea of just how costly the work you’re presenting would be. This should go without saying but it never hurts to practice the pitch with a friend so you’ve gone over it and know it forwards and backwards.

Presenting The Pitch

If you’re trying to get in touch with a network and don’t have an agent, then the ideal person to look for would be the development manager at the network or someone with the word “development” in their title. It can also pay off to try and reach a network through their general contact e-mail address since most of the time, pitching e-mails will be forwarded to the appropriate individual. If you’re e-mailing a sizzle reel or presenting one, make sure it’s less than 6 minutes long, has a link to the rest of your work and that it showcases your characters. When you do try to contact networks, it’s often good to lead with the reel so they get a sense of your project. When you do land that coveted appointment to present your ideas to someone, make sure you go in with a few back up pitches in your pocket. If you present your pitch and the executive immediately says no, you need to have another idea on deck or else the meeting can get awkward quickly with nothing to talk about. It also doesn’t hurt to ask why they said no so you can know what to work on for future pitches. Also learning to take no for an answer is important skill to have as well.

You also want to make sure your pitches are tailored to fit which ever network you’re making that pitch to. If you’re presenting to some place like Investigation Discovery, make sure your show seems appropriate on a network that spotlights crime dramas and true stores with twists and turns. Don’t take a gritty criminal show to a place like TLC which caters mainly to women, targets the heartland states and is toned towards fare with heart, authenticity and the OMG factor. You must research the network beforehand so you can get a feel for it and be sure that your idea won’t seem like an odd duck to them. It may sound like common sense, but many producers have taken ideas that they thought were sure fire hits and got shot down because it didn’t fit the network image. If you do make your pitch and then don’t hear anything back for a while don’t get too discouraged, as getting key decision makers together and deciding on someone’s idea can take a while.

After Making Your Pitch

After you make your pitch, the executive you pitched to may take your idea and decide whether it passes for having some promise or potential. The next step is for them to meet with other department heads. They will discuss your pitch and ultimately decide whether it’s good enough to go forward for green light and production. If they do decide to go forward, most likely the network will choose the partner or production company that you will be working with. If you have lots of producing experience then you may be given an executive producer position on the project and if you’re still relatively new to the business, you may be given an associate producers credit with someone more seasoned helping guide you. While some networks such as Investigation Discovery do both commissions and co-productions with producers, many networks tend to do more commissions and pay a one-time amount.

General Insights

During the workshop, the conversation went into the realm of scripted versus reality with the consensus that even though scripted is not the priority at many networks, it’s becoming a big buzz word. Comedy was also agreed to be another big buzz word as its becoming popular too. If you’re just one person, then it can be incredibly difficult to reach anyone so it pays to find someone who has the right connections and can form a partnership with you. Another key point made was that if you have some unique character that you want to base your show around, get them to sign an agreement as soon as possible and try to do the same with locations. All the panelists had great cautionary tales about how much of a rat race it is to get characters and places secured before you lose them for good. It also gives your pitch a nice added bonus if you have exclusive access to characters and places that others don’t.

 




Silverdocs No More

AFI Docs

A New Partner

Silverdocs, the premiere documentary festival in the Washington DC area, as well as a huge boon to the Silver Spring area, is getting some major changes. Its new iteration, which was announced just last week, will be known as AFI Docs Film Festival and will be backed by car manufacturer Audi instead of Discovery Communications. The new festival, running from June 19–23, will have an expanded presence as well as panels with greater focus on politics and other D.C.-centric issues. The festival will no longer take place solely in its home base of Silver Spring but will be presenting films at DC venues such as the Newseum, The National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History.

Changing Sponsors

The change is a consequence of the festival’s rising prominence on the national documentary circuit, as well as Discovery Communication’s change in corporate focus that has seen it move away from documentary storytelling, according to festival director Sky Sitney. Sitney sees the change in sponsors as positive and thinks it will help the festival to grow and gain an even more vibrant topical focus as it moves further into the heart of DC. She also said that, rather of thinking of it as scattered, instead think of it as incorporating two compact campuses.

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The festival was started in 2003 as a joint venture between Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute. It should be noted that both of these organizations were major catalysts in the rejuvenation of the Silver Spring Area.

The Silver Spring Community Reacts

While it’s being stressed that the festival will still have important events and screenings in Silver Spring with no plans to leave it behind, the reaction locally has been mixed. Many locals as well as those in the production and documentary community feel that something is being lost with the expansion and name change. For years, the fact that the festival took place entirely in this one area has made it an important part of the community. The festival, which has grown to be the pride of Silver Spring, helps shine the spotlight on independent filmmakers and the important stories they have to tell. Smaller companies such as Word Wizards Inc., which thrives on transcription footage and the talking heads footage that are the meat of most documentaries, think it important these festivals go on, even if they’re in new forms.




Marketing Documentaries to Academia: The Perfect Recipe

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One of the obvious reasons why Word Wizards, Inc. loves Docs in Progress (DIP) http://docsinprogress.org/ is that they coach for projects with tons of interview footage.  We at “The Wiz” thrive on transcribing dozens of hours of talking head interviews per week. Transcription is very important to any documentary film maker, whether they use Word Wizards, some other company or (in most cases for people on a tight budget,) do it themselves.  Therefore Word Wizards is proud to sponsor DIP and we attend many of their meetings. Last weeks meeting on marketing to academia was a special treat.

Judith Dancoff

The guest speaker was film marketing Coach Judith Dancoff of New Film Marketing http://www.newfilmmarketing.com/about.php  She spoke about distribution of educational Docs using a strategy called “Distribute It Yourself” (or DIY).  Her strategy is applied specifically to marketing educational documentaries, but can be used to market and sell any Doc.  DIY takes a little bit of extra work but you get to keep all the money as a payoff.  Dancoff wants you to think of the documentary producer as a business person marketing and selling a valuable product to people who need it.

She says to plan two marketing campaigns a year, one early in the fall semester and another in early winter but never Xmas or Spring breaks. The easiest way to break down her strategy is into an easy to follow 3 step recipe:

Step 1: Buy lists of potential academic buyers such as librarians and school content providers from private list providers like R.J. Dill.  rjdill@gmail.com or to reach out to the American Library Association: Contact Personal and Organizational Members using http://bit.ly/Z01rBy 

Step 2: Put together a simple website to market to these people via email blast followed up by personal phone calls.  Academics hate flash so keep your site simple. You can build a very simple Doc site yourself for free using http://www.wix.com.  Or, Word Wizards can design the shell and you fill in the text. For those that want customization, Word Wizards can design a template using a content management system such as WordPress. Your budget will drive the bells and whistles of your website. Check out our portfolio page at https://www.wordwizardsinc.com/design/our-work/.

Step 3: State right at the beginning, both in the subject line of your email blasts; and at the top of your web site what is different, educational and compelling about your film.  Why is your film especially relevant to the academic types that you are trying to sell to?   Review issues of Public Use Doctrine at http://www.movlic.com/k12/faq.html.  Set your price by seeing what other people charge, www.bullfrogfilms.com/

 

 Tom Dziedzic

The fascinating thing about Docs in Progress is that professional film makers like Tom Dziedzic use DIP for coaching (see his award winning Redemption Stone at http://www.redemptionstone.net/ ) as well as want-to-be Doc makers from every walk of life.  With the upcoming tenth anniversary of DIP coming up next year expect to see a lot more about them in our upcoming blog articles.




Need a Little Help With that Documentary?

All Rights Reserved

While to many outsiders i.e. people not in the media or video production biz, making a documentary or any kind of media production may seem like fun, we video professionals know just how much hard grueling work is involved in even the most basic media. Not only are there a seemingly impossible number of steps you have to go through but obviously you want to make sure you’re doing it well. Working in a documentary rich community like the one here in the D.C. Metro area is enormously helpful because of the sheer number of professionals who strive to help each other out. Through each step of the process from conception and story boarding to filming, principle photography and finally editing, transcription and logging there is someone wanting to collaborate with you and make your work that much better. One of these people Adele Schmidt is definitely worth getting to know.

Adele Schimdt brings a decade and a half of valuable experience with her in that time has produced, edited and directed more than 6 long form award winning documentaries. Not only have these documentaries all been shown on National Public Television, they have also participated in over 50 national and international film festivals. So the fact Adele has become a well known documentary coach should surprise no one. She loves helping guide people through the process of making their film and is incredibly passionate about making sure new projects succeed.

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As a coaching consultant, Adele guides filmmakers in all stages of the documentary process. She works with them on research, helping them decide which talking heads and research to utilize. During the production and shooting process she loves to give them pointers and tips on how to create the best possible looking film. Finally during the editing phase, Adele helps filmmakers polish their work so that it absolutely shines. She is a firm believer in transcripts with time code and has referred Docs makers to Word Wizards, Inc. in the past. In addition to personal coaching, she also teaches a number of workshops and seminars during the year around the DC area.

In fact, she has an upcoming seminar on April 20th entitled “Finished My Documentary, What’s Next?” During the seminar Adele will present the first case study using her film Romantic Warriors – A Progressive Music Saga I and II. She will explain how the film has successfully self-financed itself via DVD by targeting social media campaigns and self distribution. Filmmakers will be able to learn the right techniques and methods in reaching the widest possible audience for their projects. To learn more about the seminar, check it out here: http://bit.ly/102sl76

To learn more about Adele and her consulting work, check out out some of these links:

 

 

 




TIVA’s Contract Panel

 

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On Wednesday night TIVA, the Television, Internet and Video Association, held a panel at Video Labs focusing on contracts and specifically how they pertain to the video production business. While contracts are something that most of us in the media and video industry are something most of us don’t like to think about, they are still a vital part of production houses, transcription companies and other media organizations. The  three  panelists at the event were Jim Pennington, Pam Jacebson and Nancy Prager who were incredibly open about sharing their collective knowledge. Some of the main topics covered were line costs, appearance and location releases and confidentiality agreements. Check out the panelists below for some information on them as well as their main points for the panel.

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Jim Pennington, Co-Owner and Business Director at DUO Media Productions

 http://www.duomediaproductions.com/team

As business director, he leads all marketing and proposal efforts, and when projects are awarded, he prepares the letters of agreement (LOAs), personal and location releases, crew and talent agreements, and other contractual documents.  As producer, he provides executive oversight for all aspects of a video project and ensures the project is completed on time, on budget, and to the client’s complete satisfaction. As a writer, he works closely with clients, developing the concept for their videos and the subsequent treatment/script.

Line Costs – Clarity is Key!!! When Jim prepares letters of agreement for clients, he always makes sure are absolutely as clear as possible. One prime example of this would be with Line Costs and how he breaks them down for each project. While many companies would simply list one large sum for the entire project, Jim and Duo Media Productions actually break each individual cost line by line for the project. This way, there’s no miscommunication about whats being covered and the other party can feel comfortable knowing the exact cost of everything. As he says, it’s practices like this that ensures that his company always delivers on their work.

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Pam Jacobsen, Freelance production Manager & Line Producer

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/pam-jacobson/11/856/8b7

Pam has been in the business for almost 20 years working for an impressive lists of companies that include Discovery Communications, Sirens Media and National Geographic Television amongst others. Her responsibilities have included managing all aspects of production operations, balancing a wide range of budgets from the hundred thousands to the millions and negotiating contract compliance and production units. Additionally she has experience advising business units on contingency fund requests, negotiating facilities, assesing deal visibility and supervising milestone payments.

Location and Person Releases – Go with your Gut!! If you have a person or people in the background for a few quick seconds and they are not really identifiable, they are most likely not worth trying to get releases from. However say you’re using a wide lens and a group of people are directly in the foreground with visible faces, then it would be in you’re best interests to get them to sign releases. As Pam stressed, the best idea is to really just go with you’re gut on what you think should be done. She gave similar advice on location releases, saying that if a building is directly in a shot or being used as a shoot location than you need to get a location release from some one authorized to sign such a document. Try to get a release from building management and double check to guarantee that the individual singing it does have the proper authorization.

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Nancy Prager, Esq., Entertainment/Arts Attorney

http://www.pragerlaw.us/

I represent a wide range of clients on matters ranging from intellectual property licensing to estate planning.  Though I am now based in Washington, D.C., I have practiced with firms in Memphis and Atlanta.  Additionally, I have served as a business development consultant to technology companies in both the telecommunications and intelligence sectors. I have addressed the convergence of intellectual property, technology and the creative industries to a variety of audiences including at conferences like SXSW and in publications like news.com.

Confidentiality Agreements – Read before you Write!!! As Nancy astutely pointed out Confidentiality Agreements, often reserved for those doing government work, have started cropping up in the private sector of the media business as well. While these agreements are usually a means to insure that the work involved stays private, the information can sometimes be used against the person who signed them. Make sure to carefully scan through any document you’re asked to sign and especially try to “read in between” the lines to see what information you’re agreeing to. Unfortunately, if someone is not familiar with the language it’s very easy for them to get tripped up. Another good point she had was that today, signing you’re name on an e-mail now counts as a legal signature which is something to be very mindful of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Silver Spring on Screen

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The local DC production and video community is responsible for some truly terrific programs that come out of this area. The big question that comes across many people’s minds is how will the next generation of professionals learn vital film making skills? Luckily there are quite a few organizations such as Docs in Progress that are trying to educate y0uth about the production and film business. Docs in Progress, a non-profit organization based in Silver Spring, seeks to cultivate this talent by offering a variety of classes, screenings, workshops and discussion groups to help celebrate talent in the realm of documentary film. The organization, directed by Erica Ginsberg, aims to provide resources for all filmmakers in all areas whether that be in conception, pre-production, filming, and vital post production topics such as editing, logging and transcribing.

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One of the more interesting community engagement projects they have going on is called Silver Spring Stories. The suburb known as Silver Spring, HQ of Docs In Progress, has undergone impressive redevelopment in the past few decades and has become home to a unique assortment of institutions, organizations, artists, merchants and residents. Docs in progress is trying to capture these stories by having emerging documentary filmmakers of all ages capture them in short 3 – 5 minute videos. Some of the subjects taped include the Maryland Youth Ballet, Tastee Diner, the Gandhi Brigade and the brand new civic center.

Gandhi Brigade

 

Filmmakers are given a choice of different places and people to profile and are then given free reign to document them utilizing the skills they have learned from various workshops and training. They embark in this film making journey and go through all the main stages from writing the pitches, interviewing subjects to cutting it in post production. This work provides incredibly valuable hands on training and Docs in Progress thinks it’s important because of its two fold nature. Not only is it a great way to educate new film makers but also allows them to document a storied and historic community like Silver Spring.

For more info and if interested, check out their site at: http://docsinprogress.org/silver-spring-stories/

Also check out some samples of thier work here: http://www.youtube.com/docsinprogress

 

 

 

 




Guggenheim Productions, Giants in Docs City

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While some big hollywood films and productions have come to Washginton, D.C. to shoot big blockbuster fare, the real work has to do with all the docs that come out of here. The capital city should really be called doc’s city because of the sheer number of documentaries that our amazing film community produces. Lots of hard work goes into each of these often films, from pre-production and shooting to editing, transcription and post production.  One of the biggest companies in the field, Guggenhiem Productions has been in the biz for more than 50 years and produced over 500 titles.

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Their founder Charles Guggenhiem wanted to be known as a storyteller and sought to create a video production company that had the goal of telling powerful stories with a profound effect on the viewer.  He’s received are several academy awards for his films including Nine from Little Rock, about integration in Arkansas. He’s also notable for being one of the first to employ documentary style video production on American Political Campaigns. Starting with Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, he revealed the character of the candidates in an affirmative way and let the issues speak for themselves.

Guggenhiem passed away after a battle with cancer 2002 but not before spending the last 6 months of his life finishing the film Berga: Soldiers of Another War.

The film tells the story of his fellow American infantryman who were captured and sent to a Nazi slave labor camp during World War 2. Even when his health was fading, he completed the film overseeing all final aspects including  logging, editing, transcription and completed post production. Today his daughter Grace serves as an executive producer for many of  the historical documentaries to come out of the company.

One of the amazing things the Guggenheim Productions prides itself on is it’s dedication to history and using the narrative form of documentary to keep it alive for future generations. To that end, they work with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences/Academy Film Archive to preserve critical titles from the holdings. They have also partnered with National Archives to create the Charles Guggenhiem Center for Documentary Film at the National Archives. Not only does the center celebrate the work of Guggenhiem but also honors other documentarians who have made important differences with their work.

Please check out Guggenheim Productions at http://www.gpifilms.com/index.html

 




How Not To Promote Your Work in the Digital and Social Media Realm

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In making any kind of media, there are two main stages. The first is actually making the thing which involves pre-producton, shooting it and then having it transcribed and put into post production. That’s where Word Wizards comes in, we’re happy to work with you on the transcription and conversion side. We want to make sure your work is the best it can be but the part that comes after is one that people just don’t think about as much as they should. That would be marketing and getting your work out there. This process has changed drastically thanks to facebook, youtube, twitter and the fast moving realm of social media. In the old days, you could just send it a few websites, put up a posting or two, send it to a few boards and you would not have to work on maintaining as much of an online persona. Boy howdy, has that gone the way of the dinosaurs, today you need to be constantly staying in touch with your audience and always reaching out or else just get left behind. Follow these steps to ensure that your audience stays small and your work unknown.

 

1. Not utilizing your social links: If you have twitter or facebook accounts, etc.. Do Not Let Them Lie Dormant. If you do this, not only is there no point in having, it also makes you like you just don’t care about communicating with your audience and are just too lazy to give a darn. You should be constantly putting new things on these sites at all times.

2. Never updating your site or blog: One of my biggest pet peeves is going to companies site and seeing that they haven’t updated it in several months or even, gasp, a year. Automatically this makes me think the company just is not paying attention or is very slow. Even if  you don’t have any big projects going on, put something up there almost daily even if it’s something as trivial as some new photo’s related to your work or blogging about news related to your industry.

3. Unwilling to take feedback: Don’t put you video’s or any of your work online if your not willing to take feedback or comments from visitors, even if its criticism. The entire point of a good website and social media in general is that you can actually get instantaneous communication and can interact with people in a way that no other mediums allow. So pay attention to that comment section since people are often giving constructive advice that may just improve the project your working on. In fact you should be asking for feedback when you publish anything online so you can get a good idea of what the industry thinks.

4. Having a negative attitude: While this one may sound silly, it’s quite vital to your site becoming popular and a place people want to visit. While  it’s fine to discuss serious issues people face, don’t dwell or focus on these issues. Yes, people may not agree with what you put on you’re site and can be vocal about it but do not let that drag you down. Not only is engaging them a waste of your time it, also makes you look bad, unprofessional and not some place people would want to visit. Try to maintain a more up beat tone or voice to your site and not get drawn into trivial arguments with trollish followers.

5. Not caring about relationships: Do not abuse or ignore your followers, if you want to get comments and feedback from those who visit your site. You need to respond to the messages or comments you get and try to do it fairly promptly. One of the highlights about social media in general is the fact you get to build these great relationships and can really give your company that human touch. If you can get a regular repertoire going with online visitors, that means repeat traffic to your site and more business as well!!! Do not just let those comments or questions pile you up, it makes people feel like they being ignored and will not want to come back to your site.

 

 

 

 




Transcription Services 101 – Communication and Organization

A professional transcription business is about one thing, words on a page. It’s simple, right? Just plug a media file into your transcription software and bang… Well, as you might know, its a lot harder than that. In this brief article, I want to cover two basic components of the operation that separates the professional transcription company from the “other guys.”

Communication – Get The Info While Being Human

Communication is the key!

The fine art of communication is essential when providing transcription services. There are a vast amounts of variables to consider for any given transcription project. Don’t be shy! Ask the right questions, the first time. A transcription service provider must be diligent about the information they obtain from their clients so the job gets done right. If you want some ideas about what to ask potential clients, or what you should ask before sending work for transcription, check out this article.

10 Things To Consider Before Sending Media For Transcription

Keep in mind however, that good communication is not just about what information you get, but how you get it. Here’s a pro tip, the more “automated” the intake process becomes, the less people think you value them as customers. Furthermore, trust and loyalty come from treating people with integrity, dignity, and respect. In this regard, automated transcription management systems fail to create a sense of connection during the communication phase. Experience is everything, so make it a good one and you will be rewarded.

Organization – Efficiency and Optimization

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Humanizing your communication channels is not enough. Once you have all of the information, you need to develop a way of keeping it all organized. It won’t do you any good if you have three clients but you don’t know which one likes time code, and which one likes verbatim. Depending on your resources, it is a good idea to invest in a project management system of some kind. There are plenty of free ones out there, but if your a large company like, Word Wizards, you need to be able to keep all of your open jobs and contact information well organized.

It may take a little bit of time to get used to keeping track of some many details for each project, but in the end its worth it. After all, thats why they call a business an “organization.” Organization is not just about getting the right thing to each client, but it also helps promote efficiency in your transcription practice. Knowing where all the information is kept, and being able to utilize it quickly, has a significant impact on how efficiently you can work.

Keep a Tight Ship

We hope that this little lesson in transcription services 101 was helpful to you, either as a potential client or as a fellow transcription provider just looking for some good tips on the industry. Make sure to sign up for our mailing list to receive more articles like this. Please leave us a comment if you have something to share. Oh yea, and we invite you to Contact Us for further information about our services, pricing, or even just to chat.




Transcription Turnaround – Honesty, Responsibility, and Accountability

When it comes to the professional transcription services arena, Word Wizards is known for maintaining the perfect mix of accuracy, speed, and price. There seems to be a lot of scammers out there these days claiming to be champions of low price, fast turnaround transcription. There’s an old adage to remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Scam Alert

Standard Transcription Turnaround

Standard transcription turnaround is a company’s base rate for the cost of a transcription project. Comparable to some of the competition, our rates are on par, if not better when it comes to “standard” turnaround. However, our “standard” turnaround is 48 hours, whereas most of the competition considers standard transcription as between 3 and 5 days.

Standards

There seems to be a growing amount of deceptive practices when it comes to turnaround expectations and pricing. Well, that’s what happens when you outsource off shore, you encourage cheating. Many companies advertise 48 hour turnaround for normal projects, but when you read the fine print, there’s an extra day for processing, an extra day for quality control, and an extra day for this or that… Word Wizards always provides straightforward turnaround times and cost estimates for our transcription services.

Priority Rush Transcription Services

Word Wizards specializes in high priority rush transcription and has done so for over 15 years. When deadlines are tight and there’s no room for error, people need someone they trust, someone to be held accountable, and someone who understands how important they are; not just as a client, but as a person. We have heard horror stories from many old clients who chose to explore off shore options for their transcription services and have gotten burned. To make a long story short, how can you hold someone accountable if the company is not based in the U.S.A? The answer, you cant…

Word Wizards proudly offers 24 hour rush transcription turnaround and same day priority rush transcription services. The difference is that we always stand by our work, we are accountable for our quality, and we accept responsibility for our professional reputation, period.

Responsibility




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).




Docs In Progress – Documentary Experts Check Out CloudScript

Last night I had the pleasure of joining Docs In Progress for their Alumni Open House. It was an intimate gathering of some graduates of Docs In Progress courses. Docs In Progress teaches aspiring documentary producers and enthusiasts how to make documentaries the right way, offering a wide variety of courses related to documentary and general film production throughout the year.

Word Wizards CEO with the DOcs In Progress Team

Docs Are King

Docs In Progress is located in downtown Silver Spring, right around the corner from Word Wizards HQ. Word Wizards first connected with DIP through our efforts supporting TIVA-DC, and we have since become a proud sponsor of DIP as well. Docs In Progress invited us last night to meet some of their brightest graduates and to present our new service CloudScript to an audience of accomplished and aspiring producers.

Now Presenting: CloudScript – Time Code Media Player

The presentation was very well received, and I was happy to get some great feedback about our new service. CloudScript is really a powerful tool for documentary production. Not only does it provide a simple and functional asset management system, but it is priced in a way that everyone can afford it, which is critical in these days of super tight budgets and economic uncertainty.

Ben Presenting CloudScript at Docs In Progress

Watch the presentation video below to see CloudScript in action at Docs in Progress! * Note change the player settings to HD for a better viewing experience.




CloudScript – Optimize Your Media Workflow

The Future of Time Code Has Arrived!

CloudScript is an innovative new tool that allows you to sync a transcript or b-roll log with a media player. Simply click on any time code and instantly jump to that point in the file. CloudScript is available in several versions to fit your specific budget and project requirements. Watch the short video below to find out more about CloudScript.

* For a better viewing experience, click on the gear icon in the video controls bar, select 720HD, and then view in fullscreen mode.

CloudScript Lite: Fast, Easy, Inexpensive

This version of CloudScript is designed to fit any budget. Simply upload a transcript or b-roll log and provide a file path and quickly create a media synced CloudScript document. You can use CloudScript Lite 24/7, and it syncs with media files hosted on your local drive or internal network; that means no lengthy uploads or downloads are required. Once your CloudScript is created, just click on any time code to instantly see and or hear that exact point in the media.

CloudScript Pro: Convenient, Simple, Affordable

CloudScript Pro is similar to CloudScript Lite with one major difference, we do all the work for you! With CloudScript Pro we create a media synced CloudScript document for you. All you need to do is provide a file path to the media on your local drive, internal network, or website, and our team will configure the media player.

CloudScript Enterprise: Review, Collaborate, Host on the Cloud

CloudScript Enterprise provides the ultimate cloud based media referencing tool. We optimize your media files for hosting on our secure cloud and compress them for easy distribution online. Then we send you a a CloudScript document that is synced to the media hosted online, allowing you to access your CloudScript from any machine connected to the internet. Share your transcripts and logs with anyone on the team, anywhere in the world!

Get Started With CloudScript

Want to learn more about CloudScript? Visit our website today and get the CloudScript advantage!

http://www.cloudscript.wordwizardsinc.com




New Service Launch: CloudScript – Transcript Media Player

Early this month, Word Wizards began introducing our existing clients and friends to our new service, CloudScript. CloudScript is a simple tool that allows a user to sync a transcript with time code to a media player. In seconds you can have a transcript that allows you to click on any time code in the document and jump immediately to that point in time.

CloudScript - Transcript Media Player

Professional Applications:

Here is a scenario, your writing a final script before sending your raw footage to editing. You have found a quote in your transcript that says exactly what you need it to say. Under normal circumstances, you would have to pull up a media player, and use the scrub bar to manually locate the point in time that your transcript says will contain that video clip. Once you find that spot, you need to somehow figure out if that audio and video is consistent with the rest of your production. There is no easy way to do this for a few or  especial hundreds of independent clips, well there WAS no easy way, until CloudScript came along.

Instant Media Referencing

CloudScript enables you to instantly jump to any time stamp in your transcript. No more scrubbing through hours of footage looking and listening for that perfect shot and or sound byte, its all right there and its FAST! Furthermore, say you took a look and listen to that quote you wanted and the audio was no good, or there were clouds in the sky and it wont work with the rest of the clips from that shot. Well using the “find” function, you can simply search for any keyword or phrase your interested in and quickly identify every part of your raw footage that is related to what your looking for. With just one click, you can see and hear everything that may contain what you need, now that is what we call optimized workflow.

Create and Study Rough Edits

Continuing with our example, you have identified a sequence of ten clips that tell your story the way you want it to, but your no sure the audio and video will flow with continuity and consistency because your ten clips are shot over 10 hours of raw interviews. All you have to do is copy the  time stamps you think are the best into a text file, and run it through CloudScript again. You have just created a rough cut that lets you click on each time stamp in the sequence and easily get a feeling for what the edited sequence would look like. Because CloudScript is subscription based, you can use it as many times as you want as long as your membership is still valid.

Additional Features

CloudScript allows you to sync a transcript with video hosted on the internet. Say you put up footage of an important conference on your website for people to see. Using CloudScript you can create jump points to any time in the footage. This allows you to create “chapters” in online video that can be hosted on your website. Say there were 10 speakers over 8 hours. Simply run your transcript through CloudScript and you can generate clickable links to the beginning of each speaker’s presentation.

CloudScript does not require uploads or downloads of the actual media files to work, that’s how it does its job so fast. All you have to do is simply provide your local file path for the media and upload the time coded transcript saved as a simple text file. Within 5 seconds you receive a media synced transcript that opens in your browser, and with your subscription you can use it over and over again!

Sign Up Now For A Free Trial

Want to see for yourself? Head on over to The CloudScript Homepage and check out our Demo video. If your interested you can sign up for a free trial and test it out yourself. So what are you waiting for, join the 21st century already and optimize your workflow!




Transcription Tips – Add an Amp to your Audio Setup

Contrary to popular belief, transcription can be a dangerous profession. Once and a while, audio gets out of control; background noise, clipping, clicks, the perils are real, and you can save your ears and a big headache by including a simple and affordable audio amp in your setup.

Amp your audio for more control and clarity!

An Amp on Both Your Houses

By including an audio amp in your setup you can have instant control over your audio. There are many benefits to this type of analog audio control, simply dial in your volume and frequency filter preferences. Here are some common examples when an amp can come in handy.

Quiet Audio

Amps allow you to raise the overall gain of any audio source by a significant amount without the introduction of distortion or digital artifacts. This is a very useful capability either while transcribing or while using a transcription in film making or video production. Often scripts are written using the audio before it has been polished by the sound engineer. If you can hear it, you cant determine if that sound byte fits with the rest of your audio, and you wont know if its fit for the editors razor until its too late.

“Hot” Audio

On the contrary, if the audio has been mixed so loud that its deafening, you have percision control over the volume level and can thus easily find the sweet spot that wont hurt your ears and cause audio fatigue. There is no recovery for damaged hearing, so protect your valuable assets, your ears!

Unstable Levels

Sometimes audio will change rapidly in volume up or down because of poor and inconsiderate recording or mixing. Having a physical dial in front of you can save your life if all of a sudden your volume increases by 24 dB. And it can allow you to continue working if all of a sudden the volume drops by an unreasonable amount.

Control Your Frequency

Vocals usually sit in the mid to high mid frequency ranges, dropping off at the lows and the highs. With a decent amp, you can increase or decrease the volume of independent frequency bands so the audio source your working with comes through clean and the rest of the mix falls to the background. Kill; the lows and highs and save yourself some ear strain.

Plug and Play

You don’t need to run out and buy a 1000 watt professional PA amplifier for this type of application. There are many simple affordable amps out there and the simplicity will keep price down and get you working quickly. Including an amp in your audio setup  is a no brainer, for your ears sake you might want to consider this advice.




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!




CloudScript: The Future of Transcription Workflow

Word Wizards is proud to present our newest service, CloudScript!

Over 30 years of working in the media transcription industry has provided our team with rare and valuable insight into how and why people need our transcription services. We have noticed an important trend in the past few years, the name of the game these days is speed, convenience, and price. Production teams must to be able to work faster, more efficiently, and at lower operating costs than ever before to survive. Well, we have designed CloudScript to answer the call for a new solution.

Stated simply, CloudScript lets you click on any time code in your transcript and jump to that point in the audio or video file. Using a simple online form you can instantly convert any transcript with time code into a “media-synced” transcript. CloudScript is intended to make your workflow easier while writing, editing, producing or otherwise working with transcripts.

Watch our short video below for a quick demonstration!

Visit the CloudScript Home Page and Sign Up for your free trial Today!

 




The ONLY I.T.A.R. Compliant Transcription Company

When it comes to a project of a sensitive nature, be it legal, militaristic, classified, or otherwise not intended for unauthorized eyes, who are you going to trust? Now, we are not trying to put down firms who have chosen to enter the transcription industry utilizing offshore labor, in fact we capitalists respect and encourage the process of international competition. However, just ask yourself, when push comes to shove, who are you going to trust with your sensitive media? Unknown, untested, and uncertified offshore options, or the only transcription company in the world (Word Wizards) that fits the qualifications for the U.S. State Department’s stamp of approval.

U.S. State Department - DDTC Logo

Compliance with I.T.A.R. (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) does not come easy. This certification, issued by the U.S. State Department, is generally intended for organizations involved with international arms and military applications. When filing for this certification, we laughed as we checked the “other” category to describe our services, other is located somewhere between nuclear warhead production and experimental particle beam weapon research.

Trust But Verify

What transcription compamny do you trust?

Why would a transcription company choose to get I.T.A.R. compliance? In a global economy, our organization now faces extreme pressure from international competition. One of the stipulations of I.T.A.R. compliance is a strict “on shore” policy for work performed due to the often sensitive military nature of the content of these projects. Well, it appears that our modest U.S.A based transcription company is one of the last of its kind. Yes,  our short term profits may have suffered slightly when the economy tanked and clients explored cheaper, lower quality, offshore transcription options. However, our commitment to providing premium quality transcription services and maintaining a workforce of well paying American jobs has paid off once again.

Why are there no other I.T.A.R. compliant transcription companies, simply because nobody else in the world qualifies.




Video Transcription – A Tool for Pros and Joes

Video transcription companies like Word Wizards have been assisting the professional video production industry for a long time, making the lives of editors, producers, and audio mixers much easier. As with any industry, time is money, and wasted time in post can be reduced significantly with the use of a standard or time coded transcript. On the other hand, we are noticing a recent trend of an increasing amount of amateur film producers and regular house hold consumers starting to utilize the power of transcription services to make their lives easier and make their media more accessible.

Save The Predators

A “predator” is someone who acts as producer and editor on the same project, and in some instances they are the writer as well. Typically, “predators” work for those companies who lack big corporate budgets and are operate out of small, typically unsung post hoses and production companies. A transcript with time code can help these individuals manage their media, organize their product, and make their cuts and refinements with a complete written account of their video reels and the gems they seek within. The predator may be unsung, but they are often responsible for seemingly impossible work loads, and are often known to produce broadcast quality media at astonishing prices. Keeping your predators healthy and happy is paramount, with long hours, insane expectations, and impossible deadlines always weighing heavily on their, and only their, shoulders. Transcripts help these heroes of small cap production stay on target, saving time, money, and stress from being otherwise wasted.

Save the Predators (use transcription services)

Media Management for the Consumer

More and more consumers are turning to transcripts with time code for a cost effective solution to manage personal media such as home movies, video clips, and family audio recordings. Let me play out a scene for you; you have all your old home movies sitting in a box (or boxes) somewhere. Slowly they loose quality over time and so you decide to digitize the footage and store it all on a hard drive. Someone wants to watch the part of your high school graduation ceremony when the speaker says her famous quote that inspired you to achieve greatness. You could spend hours looking for that one tape, and even more time searching for the spot where the graduation speaker says her legendary piece. With a time coded transcript you can use the “find” feature in your word processing software to find her quote and exactly where in the tape it was. Time coded transcripts allow you to search for anything in your media and identify exactly where it is and what it says. Home movies 2.0!

Got tapes? need transcription? Were here to digitize and clarify!

Pros, Joes, and Twinkle Toes

Whatever your reason for shooting video or recording audio, transcription services can make your life better and more efficient. Our mission here is to give you the told to make your media project as easy and efficient as possible while protecting your limited budget and resources. If your new to the concept of transcription, we invite you to try it out and see for yourself how powerful this tool really is.




Transcription Gear: Typing Gloves

If you have every experienced the pains of long term typing fatigue, you know that it can be excruciating. Word Wizards is dedicated to taking care of our professional transcription typists, and we have a new product that seems to help relieve / prevent some of the strain. Presenting, handy dandy typing gloves!

Transcription Gloves in ActionClose up photo of transcription typing gloves.

 

These gloves are for the hardcore transcription professional. Day after day, hour after hour, our transcribers pound away at the keyboard. A lifetime of this abuse starts to add up, and eventually, the transcription professional’s most valuable tools, their hands, start to feel the damage. Its a serious problem, both for those who type for a living, and for those who employ them.

Valery gives a thumbs up while wearing transcription gloves.

It is our duty to take good care of our dedicated transcription specialists, and we have offered to purchase these gloves for our employees who want them. Remember, these gloves wont solve all your problems, the rigors of professional transcription are not for the faint of finger. However, its the little things that add up to preserve yourself in this profession, which is why were happy to provide anything that benefits our transcriptionists and keeps them operating at 100%.




Transcription Tech: MXF Proxy Files and Tapeless Workflow

Word Wizards lives on the cutting edge of the video industry. Thus, our facility is set up to ingest, trans-code, and transcribe all proxy formats. Most transcription companies will make you convert these files yourself and externalize this cost to your team. Here at Word Wizards, we have the technology and the expertise to handle your media no matter what format it comes in.

Tapeless Time Code

If your team is shooting in a tapeless format, send us your proxy files for transcription. Word Wizards can extract embedded time code starting numbers directly from your .MXF files for ultimate convenience.

Currently, there are two professional video cameras that encode into MXF formats.

There seems to be some mystery about how to get time code numbers off of MXF footage. Word Wizards simply drops the media into Adobe Premier Pro 5.5 and takes a quick peek at the meta data. Within that meta data are the elusive starting time code numbers associated with the original footage.

A Reputation for Transcription Excellence

Some transcription companies only except media in a narrow range of formats, and you must provide the starting time code numbers before transcription can begin. The Word Wizards policy is a bit more accommodating. If you shoot it we will transcribe it, period!

All you need to do is send us external hard drives loaded with your proxy files and we can take it from there. Transcription has come a long way since the days of analog tapes and floppy disks. Word Wizards is committed to always providing effective transcription solutions for media of the past, present, and future.

 




Transcription Gear: The Ergonomic Keyboard

Typing hours and hours, day after day can be heavy on the hands. At Word Wizards, we value or speed typists for their high level of education, rapid typing speed, and their overall ability to transcribe in context from any media format with very few mistakes. Here at Word Wizards, the talented hands of our dedicated typists are a vital business asset. Thus it is our duty and responsibility to protect these dexterous digits and joints at all costs! Enter the ergonomic keyboard!

This is a photo of Microsoft's Standard Ergonomic Keyboard
Curves for comfort, safety, and productivity

If your not used to using an ergonomic keyboard, it takes a little getting used to. However, the benefits for our transcribers far outweigh the costs of learning how to use one. Work related carpal tunnel syndrome is not only painful, it can reduce productivity by 100% (i.e. if someone who types for a living can’t type, they face a huge problem). Word Wizards has long insisted that our employees use an ergonomic keyboard during all transcription or speed typing activities.

More ergonomics

Ergonomic keyboards come in various shapes and the price can range form $20 – $80 depending on the features your looking for. The primary benefit comes from a slight break in the middle section of the keyboard. When someone types using a conventional keyboard, their wrist breaks at almost a 45 degree angle. Over long periods of time, this slight break in hand to wrist position can cause all sorts of nasty problems and horrible pain. The ergonomic keyboard allows the hands and wrist not to break and to type while resting in a straight and natural position. In addition, many ergonomic keyboards sit with a slightly negative incline, reducing the impact of the fingers on keys.

Our advise for all of you transcription professionals out there, get an ergonomic keyboard and protect your most important asset!




Transcription Gear: Tinted Glasses Reduce Eye Strain

Word Wizards, Inc. is proud to boast that we take care of our transcription work force. As with any business, keeping our human capitol healthy is paramount to productivity, and more importantly its the right thing to do. We have long insisted that our staff use Ergonomic Keyboards while transcribing to reduce the chance of work related Carpal tunnel syndrome. We are constantly looking for new ways to take care of our loyal transcribers, and are now investigating the merit of a new innovation that can help keep everyone a bit more comfortable.

Look cool, and stay comfortable!

Look cool and feel good!

Have you ever stared at a computer screen for hours at a time and felt the burn of computer related eye strain? Do you work in an environment with blinding halogen lights and or florescent bulbs beating at your brain? Fortunately for you, recent advances in computer eye wear can relieve some of the pain and woe associated with long hours in front of the screen. Our transcription staff has long complained of the painful consequences of staring at a screen for hours on end, and we are hoping that the use of this cool product could help keep everyone a little bit more comfortable.

Transcribe in style and comfort:

Look and feel good

There are many options out there for computer glasses. We are now recommending that our transcriptionists use a pair of these glasses while working for long periods of time. Some are more expensive than others and some can even be outfitted to your existing eye wear prescription. Lets face it, transcription work can be somewhat tedious and boring, and it can be even worse if your eyes start to get fatigued after hours on the job. Word Wizards welcomes any opportunity to keep our people feeling good, especially when the work never stops rolling in and our people are transcribing at maximum capacity.




Analog Transcription – Betacam, VHS, Audio Cassette Tape

Word Wizards, Inc. continues to offer transcription, digitization, and archiving services for Betacam, VHS, and Audio Cassette Tapes.  These long forgotten analog formats were once the backbone of the video and audio production industries in ages long ago. Now, vast stores of Betacam, VHS, and audio cassette tapes sit alone in dark dusty boxes stored somewhere in your footage dungeons, just waiting for one last chance to see the light of day. Even in the age of digital enlightenment, Word Wizards still maintains the proper equipment and expertise to handle these ancestral analog clunkers.

Betacam, VHS, and Video Cassette Decks
Analog Decks: Betacam, VHS, and Tape Cassette

Analog Decay:

Over time analog tapes begin to loose their clarity and quality. Before long, once rich media stored on dusty old tapes will decay to the point of complete uselessness. Post decay restoration efforts of distorted analog material typically are beyond a reasonable budget. Before you loose your valuable assets to the sands of time, take action and let Word Wizards transcribe, digitize, and archive your long lost analog gems.

Analog media decays over time.

Digital Archiving:

The advantage of creating a digital audio or video archive is all about capitalizing on business assets. If analog media will decay over time, it effectively looses its value as an asset to your organization. Depreciation thus occurs physically and eventually all of the financial value of stock footage, old cassettes and other analog media will be lost. It makes perfect sense to invest in the digitization of old media assets to preserve their financial value and maintain the integrity of the audio or video permanently. Word Wizards can and will handle any and every format you can throw our way, don’t let your media go the way of “The Lost Ark!”

Don't let your media assets die alone in boxes!
Top Men…

Legacies of Progress:

Long ago when the world was young and it took rooms full of equipment to transcribe with time code, Word Wizards invested in a multitude of high quality decks to handle any format of audio or video. Once in a while a client still needs us to transcribe or digitize old school analog format tapes. We enjoy doing this type of work because it reminds us of where we came from with a sense of nostalgia. In a time when the majority of firms in our industry have gone “all digital,” we take pride in our ability to remain on the cutting edge while still maintaining our original analog capabilities.




Transcription Tech: A Salute To The Foot Pedal

When we first got into the transcription game, the technology of the foot pedal was top secret and complicated. In fact, we had to pay a private engineer to make our transcription foot pedal system to work properly in conjunction with our secret time code technology. Almost every component in the primordial transcription system was analog, and our competition still doesn’t know how we did it. (little do they know, it was magic! Remember, we’re wizards :)

Your a wizard!
Never forget, we're the original Word Wizards!

Snap to the modern day and we find that foot pedal transcription systems are a dime a dozen, and can be bought cheaply off the shelf. Unfortunately, the innovation of controlling audio or video transcription software by foot pedal is vastly under appreciated. So today I just wanted to give a quick salute of appreciation to the the one that always works “under foot” and never seems to complain. We remind all of our fellow transciptionists that when foot pedals hit the scene, productivity increased to the point where this industry became a full time job.

Always under foot of a good transcription and never complained once!
Respect the pedal...

If you don’t agree with me, just try to transcribe your next 5 hour job without one of these little wonders to help you. Manually pressing the play, pause, and rewind button reduces transcription productivity and efficiency by 50% or more! The transcription world will forever be in debt to the one who took this secret time saver and brought it to the masses. Now the only question is which one do you choose?

Beware The Foot Clan!
Just don't team up with the Foot Clan! (please forgive the Ninja Turtles reference)



Transcription: A Word With Many Meanings

For our first post of 2012, we bring you a short lesson in the language of transcription:

In the English language we have the wonderful tradition of using the words that carry multiple meanings depending on the context. The word “transcription” or “transcribe” is no stranger to the homonym phenomenon. Context is the key and depending on what industry, field, or time period your in, “transcription services” could mean several different things.

Transcription: In biological context

In layman’s lingo, genetics uses the term transcription to describe the process by which cells replicate themselves using DNA and RNA to express different genes.

Transcription in celluar gene activity illustrated by a graphic rendering
Graphic of Cellular Transcription

Genetic transcription is defined as follows by Wikipedia:

Transcription is the process of creating a complementary RNA copy of a sequence of DNA.[1] Both RNA and DNA are nucleic acids, which use base pairs of nucleotides as a complementary language that can be converted back and forth from DNA to RNA by the action of the correct enzymes. During transcription, a DNA sequence is read by RNA polymerase, which produces a complementary, antiparallel RNA strand. As opposed to DNA replication, transcription results in an RNA complement that includes uracil (U) in all instances where thymine (T) would have occurred in a DNA complement…

… Transcription is the first step leading to gene expression. The stretch of DNA transcribed into an RNA molecule is called a transcription unit and encodes at least one gene. If the gene transcribed encodes a protein, the result of transcription is messenger RNA (mRNA), which will then be used to create that protein via the process of translation. Alternatively, the transcribed gene may encode for either ribosomal RNA (rRNA) or transfer RNA (tRNA), other components of the protein-assembly process, or other ribozymes… “

Transcription: In Historical Context

During the early European Renaissance, prior to the invention of the printing press, the “scriptorium” was a place where monks would transcribe copies of texts, (generally religious in nature). Transcribing in this context refers to the process of copying a book word for word and verifying the accuracy of the duplicated work. The “scribes” or transcriptionists would have an individual workspace where they would carefully duplicate the most important texts of the time. To put this in proper context, without transcription, the Renascence would have never been able to take hold and the great ancient works of The Old and The New Testament may have been lost to history.

The official Word Wizards logo, "Old Scribey"
The official Word Wizards logo, "Old Scribey"

Transcription: In the Modern World

The transcription that you are probably concerned with, and we are in the service of providing, has nothing to do with the age of enlightenment, nor the division of cells. Transcription today is all about converting spoken words into digital or physical form. Transcription in the 21st century can be broken down into three main categories:

  1. Transcription of audio / video for production
  2. Legal Transcription
  3. Medical transcription

Each one of these three types of modern transcription has a completely different professional use and method. For example, Medical Transcription is used for long portions of recorded audio, highly technical in nature, coming from a single speaker, and usually transcribed using speech to text technology such as dragon.

Word Wizards specializes in transcription of audio and video for production purposes. To transcribe media of this nature, it is impossible to effectively use speech to text technology, and the use of “time code” is particularly helpful. We often get asked about the various meanings and forms of transcription, so we hope that this article can help clarify the differences between different uses of the word.

The transcriptionists at word wizards working hard
Modern "transcribers"

Hope all is made clear now, if you would like more information about transcription or our other professional services, please don’t hesitate to contact your friends here at Word Wizards!




Time Code: Old Dog New Tricks

Time Code, the stuff that editors once dreamed of. A continuous stream of data (usually audio) that allows video footage to be edited digitally in a non-linear format. Providing transcripts synced to time code was once a very technical and labor intensive process. In fact, when Word Wizards first explored Time Code transcription, the equipment used to generate it took up an entire room! As time went on, the technical barriers involved with time code manipulation for transcription purposes have disappeared, as has the appreciation for this once highly regarded tool.

Timecode displayed on a scene marker.
SMPTE Timecode displayed on a scene marker.

Most production software workstations, professional video editors, and transcription companies use SMPTE Time Code. The following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on SMPTE Time Code:

“In video production and filmmaking, SMPTE time code is used extensively for synchronization, and for logging and identifying material in recorded media. During filmmaking or video production shoot, the camera assistant will typically log the start and end time codes of shots, and the data generated will be sent on to the editorial department for use in referencing those shots. This shot-logging process was traditionally done by hand using pen and paper, but is now typically done using shot-logging software running on a laptop computer that is connected to the time code generator or the camera itself.”

Interesting stuff huh? At least it used to be, but time code doesn’t seem to command the respect it once did, even though it is the key to all digital editing in the industry today. However, this old dog has recently learned some new tricks, and time code is now being used for live entertainment like never before.

Presenting: Serato Scratch Live DJ Software and Video Scratch Live VJ software

Photo of the Serato SL3 package contense
A new spin on time code

Serato SL and other products like it now use time code to control audio signals for live DJ performances and studio production. Using a vinyl record pressed with continuous time code, a DJ can control their entire music library with turntables thanks to the magic of time code. This new application of time code is now the standard for live DJ performance, and it doesn’t end there. With Serato’s Video SL, you can control video footage with the turntable as well,  (now available for pro tools for you pro users). Allowing music videos with synced audio to be “VJed” using turntables as well.

You have to see it to believe it, so check out the video below demonstrating Video Scratch Live.




Understanding Professional Transcription Services

When the Word Wizards go out into the world, we often get asked the question, “what does a transcription company do and why would someone need that?” As always, simple questions require not so simple answers. As defined by Wikipedia, “A transcription service is a business which converts speech (either live or recorded) into a written or electronic text document.” In truth, the function and value a transcription service provides depends on the clients’ specific needs.

For example, a video producer with 12 hours of raw documentary footage will look to us for a much needed time code transcript. Our expert transcriptionists provide a time stamp every 30 seconds that corresponds directly to the footage, as it would appear in the video editing software. This enables a producer or editor to quickly search through their footage and identify and isolate specific portions of their media.

Example of a transcript with Time Code for use by a video producer.
An example of a transcript in MS Word with Time Code for use by a video production company.

Another example, consider a legal expert that has recorded the audio from a 5 hour deposition. In this situation, our clients require transcription services for the production of an accurate text document containing a verbatim account of everything spoken in the session. Thus quality, accuracy, and timeliness is essential to ensure the legal integrity of the transcript.

A cartoon demonstrating the stress of not using a good transcription company.

The world of professional transcription services is always changing and evolving to meet the demands of the current marketplace. Some professionals no longer use a service to provide transcripts preferring instead to implement less than accurate speech to text software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. In the past medical transcription was a highly specialized and highly valued service, now with speech to text, the same service comes off the shelf in a shiny new box.

When Word Wizards began providing transcripts for professional use, we were literally the only game in town. Now we must fight to compete in the global economy, where budget concerns are causing our clients to look overseas for cheaper options, ignoring the lack of quality, accountability, and confidentiality.

A Graphic depicting the global economy in the form of a sphere with flags of each country in 3 D
Welcome to the global economy!

To our great delight, the old saying holds true; you get what you pay for. Furthermore, we wouldn’t be called Wizards if we didn’t have some innovative new ways of adding extra value to our transcription process such as captioning and I.V.L (Interactive Video Logging). Even now we are working on a secret new project that will change the game in the industry, just like we did when we first started adding time code to our transcripts in the early 90s.

A manilla folder with the words top secret in red inside a red box
Shhh!!!

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion with release of our new transcription service, but for now, “The Mogul Project” will remain top secret.