Tuesday, September 27, 2011

InqScribe - review

Last week I wrote about adding transcriptions and captions to YouTube videos, and I wished that YouTube would add a captioning tool. Well, so far, there's no sign of that happening, but a reader pointed out an interesting transcription application, InqScribe, that supports the captioning format that YouTube imports. And it looks like a pretty useful tool for both captioning and transcribing audio. Even better, you can download a 30 day demo for either Mac or Windows.

The InqScribe interface is straightforward; drag either a video or audio file to the top left media panel. There's controls for starting and stopping playback below this panel, and a text panel to type in on the right.

To use the program, you really only need to know three things:
  • The Tab key stops and starts playback
  • Control-tab jumps back 8 seconds.
  • Command-; inserts the current time code.
And away you go.

There are a few other major features in InqScribe; support for a foot-switch control, customized keys and adjustable playback speed, but I didn't really need those to be productive.

Generally, I found the application easy to use, and really useful. But I still found a few things that I'd like to see changed:

I wish you could set the length of the jump back; 8 seconds was a fraction longer than I'd like. [See the comments section for instructions from the developer on how to change this! - Ed]

The Play Rate slider is a little awkward to use. I was always slowing the playback down - so I could keep up! - but there's only a very small range of the slider for adjusting the speed less than 1.0x. It wasn't that I couldn't slow it down enough, I just found it hard to position the slider at a speed I wanted. And if I tried adjusting it, the speed would jump more than I wanted. Either they should make the slider still longer to provide finer control, or allow you to enter a numeric speed.

While I don't want - or need - to type captions onto the video, I wish it had an option to display the captions in playback (if you're creating captions.) It would be useful to provide a clear idea of how the captions appear without having to upload them to YouTube.

Captioned file attached to video on YouTube

Transcribing with InqSribe was definitely faster and more efficient than the way I normally do it. Being able to start and stop the audio with a key-stroke in the same application you're typing in, and being able to jump back a few seconds without starting and stopping really makes my efforts much more efficient (Yes, I'm not a very fast typist!)

You can also use this with a USB foot-switch to start and stop playback, and I'm sorely tempted to get one!

Creating Captions for YouTube
Obviously, creating a transcription is slightly different to creating captions. With captions, you have to add time code points throughout the transcription. If you have long pieces of speech, you also have to decide how to break it up into segments. Doing a good job vs. a great job is probably a skill that takes a while to develop, but even so, I was happy with the results I got on my first attempt.

One trick with captions; if you want a caption to cease displaying before the next caption line is displayed, add a time code with a blank line.

Once the captioning was complete, importing the captions into YouTube went without a hitch. Export the caption file from InqSribe to a Subrip (.srt) file, then follow the regular YouTube import caption file process to add the captions to the video..

You may wonder why you might need something like this when you already have lots of devices and applications that play media and let you type? Maybe you don't, but I've done a lot of transcribing and captions over the last few months using multiple applications, and even two devices, and this is the first time it really felt like something improved the process for me.

I think this is a worthwhile tool if you're regularly transcribing media.

NotesOnVideo: Adding a Transciption in YouTube
NotesOnVideo: Adding Captions in YouTube


Ben Loh said...

Hi Michael,

I'm one of the developers of InqScribe.

Thanks for the thoughtful review. We're glad you found InqScribe useful.

For your future reference, you actually can set the skipback amount. I just posted a help article to show you how.

The play rate slider issue is a good point. This is something that's bugged me as well.

Unfortunately showing captions while you're editing is not all that easy to do. But we would love to see that too.

If you have other suggestions, we would love to hear it.

Michael Murie said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the response, and the tip about changing the skipback time; I hadn't figured that out, and that's really great.

When I wrote about showing captions, I'm not even sure they have to be displayed on the video. The problem I found was that after I did the timing for everything, and then loaded it into Youtube, there were several places where I had the captions coming up either a fraction of a second before or after where I'd have ideally liked them to be.

The thing is, it wasn't enough to make me want to go back and adjust the times and import the file again! But had I been able to do some sort of playback simulation in IngScribe, I might have noticed them then, and made some changes.