Reality and documentary television producers have long relied on human transcribers to help them create a polished product. However, recent advances in automatic speech recognition (ASR) software have led some to believe that this technology could soon take over many of the tasks currently performed by human transcribers.

The Current Challenges of Speech Recognition

It’s no secret that automatic speech recognition (ASR) software is becoming more and more commonplace in our everyday lives. We’re using it to control our devices, to communicate with others, and even to access important information. However, while ASR software may be a good fit for some situations, it’s not a good fit for reality or documentary television producers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges of speech recognition and why it’s not a good fit for this type of production.

Imprecision and False Interpretations

First, one of the biggest challenges of speech recognition is its inherent imprecision. This means that the software often interprets words incorrectly, which can lead to inaccurate results. The imprecision and false interpretations of ASR software can lead to serious mistakes in the final product. For example, a producer may intend to include a clip of someone saying “I’m happy,” but the ASR software may interpret this as “I’m hungry.” This type of mistake can be very difficult to correct and can often ruin the flow of the editor/producer and cost additional editor/bay time to find the correct lines.

Accents and Local Differences

Second, accents and local differences cause problems for ASR software.
The different accents can present a challenge for the software, as can regional differences in language. This can lead to misinterpretations and errors in transcription.

For example, a producer working on a program about life in London will likely have no trouble getting the software to recognize standard British accents. But will run into major problems if someone with a strong Irish accent is interviewed. Similarly, different dialects can also present difficulties for ASR software.

SMPTE Incompatible

Third, ASR software does not work with the SMPTE timecode, which is commonly preferable in reality and documentary television productions. This means that producers cannot use the timecode to track when specific clips were filmed based on the camera timecode. This can make it difficult to assemble the final cut and cost hours of extra AE (assistant editor) time trying to find the correct clips.

Tracking Speakers

Fourth, keeping track of who said what in a program with multiple speakers can be difficult for ASR software. It’s especially in an OTF (on the fly) interview or reality scene with multiple speakers talking. As a result, it is often difficult to determine who said what without extensively reviewing the raw footage first. This is especially problematic for Reality TV shows. In that show following who is talking is essential to keeping track of the plot line.

Punctuations and Grammar Errors

Fifth, producers who rely on ASR software often find that they need to spend a significant amount of time fixing formatting and grammar errors. ASR software relies on punctuation and grammar to interpret speech; it often produces inaccurate results. Often, ASR software ignores punctuation marks or incorrectly produces which leads to incorrect interpretations of dialogue. Additionally, incorrect verb tenses and other grammar mistakes can also cause problems for the producer/editors during post-production.

Specialized Formatting

Lastly, ASR software does not recognize specialized formattings such as Avid script sync, or specialty formatted text, I.E., as-broadcast scripts, dialogue, or continuity scripts which can lead to large amounts of text being converted into gibberish or incorrectly formatted. 

In Conclusion

Finally, some producers may be able to overlook the inaccuracy and formatting issues of ASR software. And they are often accompanied by a high human cost. Fixing erroneous results and formatting mistakes created by ASR software can be an extremely time-consuming and laborious task. In the end, it eats up any cost savings that they may have gained by using them in the first place.  

Ultimately, while ASR software has some benefits, its limitations make it a poor fit for reality or documentary television producers. The imprecision of the software can lead to inaccurate transcripts, the lack of efficiency can slow down production times, and the accents and regional differences can cause misinterpretations. If you’re looking to transcribe spoken words into text accurately, then Daily Transcription is the right choice for you.