Please recommend a workflow for recording interviews.
October 16, 2013 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I need to record one-on-one interviews for a few of my methods classes and potentially, more research in the future. Please suggest equipment and/or software to make this as easy as possible.

I need to conduct several hours of interviews and then transcribe them. I am looking for equipment and software suggestions to make this process as smooth as possible. I live in a very Mac-centric world so any recommendations would need to fit in. I have an iPhone and iPad, but my guess as that a dedicated recorder would work better? Is there any software that will reliably transcribe the audio recording?

I am completely open to suggestions. As for a budget, I was thinking a couple of hundred for a device and about the same for any software. It would be a bonus if the recording device could record live music as well, but that is asking a lot for this price range. Thank you in advance for your suggestions.

I know this thread exists, but 9 months can be a long time in the tech world. I found some good suggestions here, but it doesn't cover everything.
posted by Silvertree to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unless you just want a new toy, your phone will work just fine for recording listenable, translatable audio. As long as you don't wave it around or thump on the table its resting on, it will sound good enough to hear clearly.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:10 PM on October 16, 2013

Yeah, the phone will totally work fine.

For better quality recording, especially if you want to record live music, I really stand by the Zooms. The H1 will run you $100, can record to mp3 or wav, and has really excellent quality.

You can USB it right to your mac, and edit the audio files in whatever software you choose. Garageband is okay, but for waveform editing I prefer Audacity or even WaveSurfer (which are both free).
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:35 PM on October 16, 2013

Several of my coworkers have had great success with the LiveScribe for meetings/interviews because of its ability to record as you write & to correlate the two.
posted by angst at 1:24 PM on October 16, 2013

For the hardware, there was this recent thread: Best Voice Recorder for Mostly Mac User.
posted by scruss at 2:06 PM on October 16, 2013

I do this type of one-on-one interviewing quite a bit and I don't recommend using your phone, even if it could technically record the conversation.

First of all, you'll want to turn your phone off (not just on silent) during the interview and put it away to avoid interruptions and to give the impression that the interviewee has your undivided attention. You also don't want to be fiddling around with unlocking your phone, launching apps and waking the phone from sleep to monitor the recording during the interview.

A dedicated recorder with a hardware button interface allows you to keep it out of sight during the initial greeting and orientation. Having it already on the table would be too presumptuous. Once you explain the need to record the interview and receive permission, you can then produce the recorder, press a single button and then never touch it again until the interview concludes. The LCD display provides a silent confirmation that the recorder is indeed functional, and its screen never turns off during recording so it's never more than a glance away.

You'll almost certainly be able to find a recorder that is smaller than a modern smart phone. My Sony recorder from a few years ago is about the size of a small candy bar. That's important if you're doing field interviews because table space can be an issue.

For transcribing the files, I've found that a foot pedal works well for stopping and starting the playback so that I don't need to remove my hands from the keyboard if I need to pause the file in order to catch up. But in its absence, playing back from the voice recorder itself is generally okay if I set the device adjacent to the keyboard so that my left hand can quickly tap the pause/play button. In that case, the main advantage is not losing time constantly switching applications back and forth between my text editor and the audio player on my PC.

I've never had much luck with automated transcription systems, though if you have an unlimited budget there are some companies that use Amazon Mechanical Turk for transcription.

I wouldn't recommend my particular Sony recorder for your use because its software is PC-only (although you can use Parallels on a Mac). But I'm sure you can find an appropriate device through other threads. The main attributes to consider are an ergonomic play/pause button and a physical switch to prevent the recorder from activating unintentionally. Battery life may also be a consideration. Mine runs on two AAA batteries that last practically forever and are replaceable anywhere I travel more quickly than a device could be charged.
posted by Jeff Howard at 4:50 PM on October 16, 2013

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