When it comes to transcribing, computers miss the mark. Whether it’s speech to text services or standard captioning, technology hardly competes. There’s an essential human element that just can’t be duplicated.
In some ways, this is one of the points made by the 2013 critical smash, Her, which was released on DVD last week. The film was lauded for its unique treatment of intimacy and interpersonal relationships – and computers.
Set in the year 2025, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a depressed writer who composes sincere, intimate letters for people who are unable to write them themselves, for whatever reason.
Reeling and lonely from a divorce, Theodore buys a personal, talking operating system. He decides to give it a female voice, and with that, “Samantha” enters his life.
Samantha is curious, supportive and undemanding. She’s also extremely intelligent, so much so that she rapidly begins to understand human psychology, despite being a computer.
Before long, Theodore and Samantha grow close and begin a relationship. At first, they’re a perfect match and Theodore learns to come out of his shell again. But eventually Samantha “outgrows” him due to her thirst for infinite (artificial) intelligence.
The theme of transcription resonates throughout the film. In the most obvious way, Theodore interprets people’s keepsakes, as well as generalized thoughts and feelings, and communicates them in the form of letters.
(In 2025, letter writing is a rediscovered art, perhaps because our lives are so saturated with technology that strives to be personal, but can’t quite get it right).
A sensitive guy himself, his letters are heartfelt and poetic, yet surprisingly not cheesy. He’s able to express the nuances of feelings in ways that feel real and direct, as if he were completely in his subject’s mind.
In other words, he’s a professional writer. It’s a position he masters because of his understanding of social cues and relationships (being able to turn a phrase doesn’t hurt either).
People use his service because, we’re lead to believe, communicating online feels detached and hollow, despite being more integral to our lives than ever.
For much of the film, Samantha is fascinated by what it means to be human. As soon as Theodore brings her to life, so to speak, she begins consuming knowledge and building out her seemingly infinite database. It’s a rush for her. She’s thrilled to be alive and deeply involved with another person.
However, as evidenced by her devouring of complex philosophies and scientific concepts – things Theodore can’t quite grasp – she eventually becomes more self-aware, and realizes that she’s not meant for a human relationship.
Ultimately, they aren’t compatible because there’s an essential humanity missing from Samantha. Theodore ends up dating another person. For all of its fascination with technology, Her ultimately shows how it can’t replace people.
At Speechpad, we know this point well. Our work is 100% human-generated. Technology is amazing, but it doesn’t know what it’s like to be human. In the end, that’s the kind of philosophy that you want behind a transcription service.
While it’s not something we recommend, there may have been one time or another where you’ve watched a film that you obtained through less-reputable sources—and it may have had some pretty bad subtitles.
Now, it’s probably not a surprise that a $5 film you bought off the streets of Taipei may have had poorly translated subtitles, but does being on the home-front really make a difference?
Unfortunately, in many cases, it doesn’t. The truth is, when you’re looking for quality transcription services, you have to do your due-diligence in finding a company that works for you. And that could mean a number of things, but specifically, it should fall in line with these simple ways to avoid bad transcriptions.
Simply put, you have to stand up for yourself against bad transcriptions. People will promise fast turnaround times, and they’ll certainly deliver—but it can sometimes come at the cost of shoddy workmanship. Obviously, you don’t have to put up with bad work, just because they “fulfilled” their promise of speed.
The easiest fix for this is to make sure that before you ever even send over a file to be transcribed, you outline how many errors are tolerable to pay someone. Then you make sure that you back yourself up. Take the time to watch the file once beforehand, and send it back if it doesn’t meet your prerequisites.
Now you may not have time to send it back if you’re on a short deadline—which is why so many get away with promising quick times and then not delivering on quality transcriptions. They can sacrifice your service next time, because so many people are coming to them in a rush.
So if you’re crunched for time, and you don’t want to take a gamble on using a company that won’t give you the quality you need, then one of the first pre-screening tests you can give a company is if they use humans or not.
How many times have you used your smartphone’s personal assistant and asked them to give you directions to “ 6 Spooner Street” and it’s come back, “I’m sorry, I cannot find anything matching “The sick spoon and sheet.”
The problem with the technology of tomorrow is that it’s still today, and the only way you’re guaranteed to get an accurate translation is if your transcription company has the best software and your file has perfect sound quality. And even then, accents, colloquialism and more simply don’t translate.
At the end of the day, you may not feel comfortable going on such a wild goose chase for all of the right qualifications, and you may really only be able to afford what certain services are offering. In that case, our best advice is just to ask for some samples of their work: it’s not hard to see when a company does or does not do a good job transcribing an audio clip, just by looking at it yourself.
This is should give you all the insight you need into not getting cheated out of your money when looking for a quick transcription.
So wherever you go, just remember that the power to get a good transcription is in your hands, all you need to do is ask.
Are you a visual learner? Approximately 65% of people are. Visual learners prefer to learn (and learn best) by reading text and looking at visual images such as graphics and charts. Within the population of visual learners, there are people who prefer reading over all other methods of getting information. Visual learners can have difficulty following speeches or lectures, and they recall information better when they can read it silently as opposed to hearing it.
What does this mean for your website? In order to reach 100% of your visitors, you need to provide them with video transcriptions of 100% of your videos.
Videos capture people’s attention and interest. Videos are also great for appealing to auditory and kinesthetic learners. Approximately 30% of people are auditory learners, and about 5% of the population are kinesthetic learners. Auditory learners enjoy videos, recorded presentations, and podcasts, since they can take in the information by listening to it. Kinesthetic learners learn through touch, movement, and physical interaction, and they also respond to seeing other people in action on videos. You can also reach visual learners through your videos by including slides with text, charts, and illustrations.
However, in order to make your video more accessible to all of your visitors and to successfully reach the 65% of people who are visual learners, you need to provide video transcriptions.
In addition to being visual learners, many people simply prefer to read information rather than watching it. A lot of people are busy and in a rush, and they may just have a minute or two to skim the information on your site. These people prefer to glance at a video transcription, scan it for keywords that are valuable to them, and read more if the topic piques their interest. You just have minutes (or seconds) to reach those people. You need to grab their interest and keep them on your site with written information that they can look at and digest quickly, before they lose interest and leave.
Including videos on your website is a great way to engage your visitors and grab their interest. Adding video transcriptions is essential for reaching and retaining all the visitors that video alone can’t keep. Don’t lose your visitors who would rather read the information you have for them than watch it or listen to it. Give them another way to get that information: transcriptions!