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Otter.ai is an online app that is designed for transcribing and sharing meeting notes. It is a great option for free automatic podcast transcription. In particular, the ability to easily share transcripts with others and work on them together is super helpful. (Be aware that a google account may be necessary to use this sharing ability.)

As with any kind of automatic transcription, the transcripts that Otter produces will have many errors in them and little punctuation. However, editing a transcript is less work than transcribing from nothing. In addition, Otter’s transcript editor has tools that make the transcription process smoother and faster.

The technology in Otter is designed to learn over time, which means that more you use it the more accurate it should become. Because Otter is an app designed to transcribe meetings in real time, it has a lot of potential as an accessibility tool for gaming. Otter offers ten hours of free transcription per month and one hundred hours of transcription $10/month.

The following are my step-by-step instructions for using Otter to create podcast transcripts. I am using Windows on my computer, so they will be most exact for Windows users.

Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

 

Signing Up for Otter

  1. Sign up for a free account at https://otter.ai by clicking the button that says “Get started now, its free.” There will be the option to sign up with google or to fill out a form. If you use a google account it is easier to use features such as transcript sharing.
  2. You have the option to “Help Otter learn your unique voice” by clicking on the button in the center of the screen or to click on the “Skip this step” link in the upper right of the screen. If you do this step, this test recording will end up in the app for you to experiment with.
  3. Next you will have the option to “Sync your calendar and contacts” by clicking on the “Sync your google account” button in the center of the screen or to click on the “Go to the app” link in the upper right of the screen. This step is not necessary in order to use Otter for transcription.
  4. You should now be in the app.

 

Using Otter to Transcribe an Episode

  1. Log into Otter. Note that for those folks who use a google account to sign up to Otter, this step may not be necessary.
  2. Click on the “Import audio/video” button on the right of the screen.
  3. Either drag and drop the chosen audio file into the upload window or click on the “Choose files” button.
  4. It will upload the selected file or files. Note that the upload may pause for a while at 99%. If this happens, give it a few minuets to go to 100%. Once the file is uploaded the status will say “Success.” When you have all of your desired files successfully uploaded, exit out of the upload window by clicking on the “x” in the upper right of the window.
  5. The uploaded files should be listed at the top of Conversations list in the middle of the page. At this point they will probably be in the process of being transcribed. While they are being transcribed they will say “In Processing…” in gray text below their title. It may take Otter a bit of time to finish processing your episode (for me it took Otter about twenty minutes to transcribe an hour of podcast audio).
    • Note that if you are interested in monitoring the transcription progress, you can click on the title of the file and scroll down to the bottom to find out how much has been transcribed so far.
  6. Once the file is transcribed, click on the title of the file to view the transcript.
    • When you aren’t editing text, you can click on the text and it will play the audio, starting with the word you clicked on.
  7. To edit a section hover the cursor over that section and a gray toolbox will appear on the right side of the screen. Click on the edit button (this is the left button of the toolbox which looks like a pencil). You can now edit the transcript.
    • Edit text by clicking and typing.
    • Otter breaks the audio up each time a new person starts speaking, but it doesn’t always get this right. Use the “backspace” and “delete” keys to delete an undesired break. Use the “enter” key to create a new break.
    • At the start of each break is a time. On the left of that time is a person icon (a circle with a stylized person symbol in it). Click that icon to label who is speaking. A little box will pop up and allow you to type in the name of the speaker (click “Tag” when done) or select who is speaking off a list. Note that once you make these tags you will not be able to change them. If you want to make a change you will need to make a new tag.
    • There is a player down at the bottom of the page which you can use to start and pause the audio. When started, it will play from where your cursor is at. If you leave it playing as you type, every time you click it will start playing from where you click.
    • There isn’t currently a way to easily add music and sound effect descriptions into the transcript. One option for doing this is to add a person named “Sound Effects” to the conversation and write out the music and sound effect descriptions as if “Sound Effect” is talking. The other option is to write in music and sound effect descriptions after the transcript has been exported as text.
  8. When you are done editing, click the “Done” button.

 

Working on Transcripts with Collaborators

  1. If you want to work with others on the same transcript, click the blue “Share” button in the upper right of the screen. It will pop open a box where you can type in names or emails.
  2. Once you share a transcript with someone, you can click on the “Share” button again to review who a transcript has been shared with and change the permissions they have, including revoking access.

 

Exporting the Finished Transcript

  1. Click the “…” button in the upper right corner.
  2. Select the “Export Text” option.
  3. Choose your setting for the exported file. I’d suggest choosing “Text file,” and keeping “Include speaker names” selected. For text files it will show an example of what the finished formatting will look like in gray text below.
  4. Once your settings are chosen, click “Export” at the bottom of the window (you may need to scroll down slightly to reach this button).
  5. A pop up window will give you the option of whether to open or save the file. If you select save, the file will be saved as text file in your downloads folder. It will have the same name as your original audio file, but with “_otter.ai.txt” added onto the end.
  6. You can now open your transcript in any text editing program.

 

Posting a Playable Audio Transcript

Otter provides a version of their transcript that plays the podcast audio while it follows along in the transcript, highlighting the words as they are said. These can be useful, but I recommend using them in addition to text only transcripts, as the playable audio transcript will only work when there is access to the internet.

Posting a playable transcript on Twitter

  • Click on the title of the file to view the transcript.
  • Click on the blue “Share” button in the upper right corner.
  • In the small box that pops up, click on the blue text that reads “Create a link.”
  • A link with then appear. Click on the blue “Copy link” text to the right of the link.
  • You can paste this link on twitter to embed a this playable transcript into your tweet.

Posting a playable transcript on a Website

  • Click on the title of the file to view the transcript.
  • Click on the blue “Share” button in the upper right corner.
  • In the small box that pops up, click on the blue text that reads “Create a link.”
  • A link with then appear. Click on the blue “Copy link” text to the right of the link.
  • Put that link into this snippet of code, replacing the all of the bolded text and nothing else: <iframe src=”https://otter.ai/shared/conversation/a721d4aa2f924400a97c4fb6920dfcb3?noGapBottom=true&scrolling=true” width=”100%” height=”600px” frameborder=”0″ style=”box-shadow: -1px 3px 28px -4px rgba(0,0,0,0.76); “></iframe>
  • This code snippet can then be pasted into the HTML of your website. For those using wordpress sites, what this means is going to the page or post where you want this playable audio transcript to appear. Next, put your cursor where you want the playable audio transcript to appear. Click on the “Text” tab in the upper right of the text box. Paste in the snippet of code (with your link in it). Then click on the “Visual” tab to go back to the normal view. It may take a moment for it to load the playable audio transcript, but it is now in and as soon as you publish or update this post/page it will be available on your website.

 

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[…] for the easiest way to get an automatically generated transcript for a podcast, I’d suggest trying Otter.ai first. However if you already use YouTube or you want to make your podcasts available on YouTube, this is […]

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[…] written about tools that make the process of transcribing podcast episodes easier (Otter.ai and YouTube), but it is also important to know what to transcribe and how the finished transcript […]

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Steve

I have been struggling with the embed function offered here, using a brand new install of WordPress. Has there been any update that you are aware of that would challenge the code offered here? Any suggestions appreciated.