Best (Free?) Transcription for 40+ Hours of Interviews
September 30, 2022 12:14 PM   Subscribe

I will be doing 40+ hours of interviews over the next several months, often in large chunks of time. The transcripts are essential here: They are the entire purpose of the project. Ideally, they would be accessible during the interview, and downloadable to my computer afterward. The end result need not be word-perfect. On that basis, can you recommend an (ideally free) transcription or conferencing-with-transcription service that I can use a desktop or my iphone?

Although I have no interest in the video, two free conferencing-with-transcription programs Jitsi Meet and RIngCentral allow for unlimited conferencing and include transcriptions. Any thoughts or experience with those apps? Any recommendations for other programs?
posted by Violet Blue to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I remember Jessamyn asking about this a few years back, and I suggested that she put the videos on YouTube, enable auto-captions, then download the resulting text file.

Not sure whether she did this, nor how well it worked, but it sure seems easier to correct captions than to create them from scratch.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:23 PM on September 30, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestion. I'm sure that would work well in many cases, but in this case we'll want way more privacy than that.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:27 PM on September 30, 2022

Otter is the app you need.
posted by carmicha at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Zoom can do that now.
posted by kerf at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Seconding Otter.
posted by joycehealy at 12:37 PM on September 30, 2022

In addition to Zoom, Microsoft Teams also has this functionality, even if the individual you are interviewing has called in on a phone line.
posted by neutralhydrogen at 12:38 PM on September 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Otter wouldn't be free but it's not expensive either. I think their monthly limit for paid account is 5000 minutes. Free doesn't allow uploading files to transcribe.

Anything free will probably be a limited quantity and/or limited formats. The YouTube or a Teams work around could work, but it's far simpler to drag and drop all your files and download all the transcripts at once.
posted by lookoutbelow at 12:54 PM on September 30, 2022

The google Recorder app will do free automatic transcription, and back up to a Google Drive. The transcription may not be word-perfect, and I have not used it extensively, but it has seemed pretty magical the few times that I've put it to use. Worth trying along side the other options given here.
posted by Lafe at 1:14 PM on September 30, 2022

Best answer: Otter is great. They just raised their prices, but I think it's worth it. The free version can do 300 minutes of transcription a month, if you want to do part of it that way. I think Zoom uses Otter's tech.
posted by pinochiette at 1:27 PM on September 30, 2022

Teams has a pretty good transcript function now - you can download it after the meeting in Word format for further editing.
posted by In Your Shell Like at 2:22 PM on September 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

You can set YouTube content to be private only to you, fyi.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:34 PM on September 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Test out Otter.
posted by stormyteal at 3:52 PM on September 30, 2022

I'm using for the Metafilter Podcast transcripts, because the results were the best of the automated solutions we'd seen. I'm on the Pro Annual plan, which allows for 6k minutes/month, unsure how many imports. The Pro Monthly plan is more limited - if I'm parsing the email right, it's 1200 minutes/month, 10 imports/month. It's good at identifying who's speaking, given a couple of examples. With a paid plan, you can add custom vocabulary; it's still very hit-or-miss about names, though. It's also not the best with crosstalk - people speaking over each other. There are ways to automate it joining scheduled Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet chats, which I haven't delved into. They have an iOS app and a web app, which is on the heftier side; it takes a chunk of memory.

On my list to check out: OpenAI's new Whisper speech recognition, which you can download and run on your own computer.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:38 PM on September 30, 2022

Best answer: I wouldn't use Otter for anything sensitive or confidential.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation reviewed the privacy of that and other tools for transcription, so that review is worth checking out.

Zoom's automated transcripts are actually pretty great, if you don't mind cleaning them up a little. You just have to make sure to download the transcript at the end of your call. It's not a bad idea to use Zoom to record as well.
posted by limeonaire at 8:35 PM on September 30, 2022

Pronoiac: On my list to check out: OpenAI's new Whisper speech recognition, which you can download and run on your own computer.

More on Whisper and instructions on how to run it. I have successfully used this and the results were very good. However, it is not fast enough to run during recording of an interview and give you live captions/transcripts; it runs after the fact, on already-recorded audio.
posted by brainwane at 10:40 AM on October 13, 2022

Also check out WebCaptioner. Free of charge, runs in a browser.
posted by brainwane at 7:07 AM on October 19, 2022

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