I am currently putting some sort of order into a large number of audio files connected with a documentary project I am working on, so I thought it might be interesting to share a few of my own work tips on this particular process. Whether you are working towards a written piece or an audio programme, I hope these will come in handy.
So what is logging? This consists of transcribing a recorded audio interview (in my case writing it into a Word doc). Although this might strike most people as tedious or even superfluous, it is in fact a fundamental step in the process as it will provide you with a ‘blueprint’ that will help shape the editing process (and by extension the finished project) – as well as being a lifesaver at a later stage when rooting through any material you have archived. Another essential area this is going to come in handy for, is working with other people: not everyone will be using the same DAW at all times, so when you can’t rely on Markers and sharing project files, text transcriptions become particularly vital.
1) Remember the teacher in school who used to tell you to write down your own notes and don’t just read from a textbook as it will help you remember? He was right, as that kind of applies here too. Don’t be tempted to use shortcuts. There are a number of audio transcription programs out there, not to mention speech to text facilities on your laptop. Abandon this thought, now. Arm yourself with a lot of coffee, head down, put in the hours and do it yourself, sentence by sentence. Because – and this is the best reason of all – nothing else will give you the intimacy you need with the audio material you have collected.
2) Import the file into your DAW of choice and do a first cull of anything unusable or anything that is off-topic. Gone. See ya. Don’t look back. At this point I chop all the usable sections into rough audio blocks. This is the one time where you have to resist the urge to do any creative editing at all, as it will only come back to haunt you later- just worry about leaving as much breathing room for fades on either side of each block- three seconds is usually plenty. This will give you a sense of how much material you have in terms of time. Now open your word processing file, and let’s really begin.
3) Begin the logging process by listening through the usable files and timestamping every single one of the blocks, transcribing the text as you go. Did I mention coffee? Turn off your phone and any distractions.
4) While it’s ok to transcribe the gist of sentences, always transcribe the first sentence of the block word by word – this will help you visualise and immediately spot and match the text to its audio file.
5) While I certainly don’t recommend transcribing everything word by word, being accurate in terms of your content is absolutely key– do write down if there’s any minor disturbances, interesting impromptu moments, other people cutting in, etc. Being as accurate as you can pays dividends later on, and will save time when editing.
6) At some point not in the too distant future, you will need a break. Usually I tend to stop at a ‘french scene’. This concept I imported and adapted to suit me from my previous life working in theatre: a French scene is basically a point in the play (script) where a character enters or exits the stage, and as such immediately recognizable. As I will more than likely be interviewing just one person at a time, my metaphorical French scene is the break in the subject topic. NOT a different question- these may still be in and around the same issue. When the topic noticeably changes, that’s my ‘exeunts SR soldiers and townspeople’, and my own break. This works for me, might not work for others- what I do suggest is whatever method you use break somewhere that will make it easy for you to pick up the threads when you return from your break.
7) Check, check, check. Listen back once or twice in the same sitting, and look out for any discrepancies between the audio, the timestamps and your transcription. When you feel things are looking pretty good (or when you’ve had enough, or both), go away for a day, then go back and listen again. If the blocks of audio and the text and timestamps match, it’s time to..
8) Bounce the audio file into a single edit, and send both using a file transfer service to anyone you may be working with. If working alone, the prep work is done. Now you have a solid base to start drafting that written interview, writing that article or shaping up that audio project. I hope this helped a little bit…and don’t forget to treat yourself after all this- glass of wine anyone?