Transcription Services » FAQs


Frequently asked questions


What services does SmartDocs provide?

If it needs transcribing, we are your smartest choice. Our services include:

  • Legal and court hearings
  • Investigation interviews
  • Academic interviews and meetings
  • Conferences, seminars, meetings, presentations and forums
  • Copy typing
  • Formatting
  • Captioning of video content
  • Conversational analysis on request.
What sort of transcribing system do you use and how secure is it?

SmartDocs operates the most sophisticated transcription system available online. You can log on to our secure server 24/7 to upload audio files, select your own turnaround and special requests, check the progress of your files, and download your completed transcripts. Audio files remain on the system for up to 90 days, and then are automatically deleted. Word documents remain for one year, but all files (audio and transcripts) can be deleted on request. Once files have been deleted from our secure server, they cannot be retrieved.

All files and documents uploaded to our website are immediately protected with 256 bit SSL encryption.

What is editing?

Our typists are responsible for typing the transcript, which is then edited for quality assurance. The editor reviews all timestamps (marked where words or phrases have been inaudible to the typist or where the typist has had a best guess) and spot-checks each transcript for quality assurance. Our editors can often pick up words that the typist has been unable to recognise, make corrections to timestamps and review and make amendments to layout and/or template discrepancies. Where the editor is unable to make out the timestamp it will appear like this on the completed transcript: *0:13:12:0 so you can quickly locate any remaining timestamps that are incoherent or inaudible.

What’s the difference between clean and verbatim transcripts?

Our default style at SmartDocs is “clean” transcription. Clean transcripts provide a better flow and are easily understood from a reader’s perspective, omitting um’s and ah’s, broken sentences, stutters, listening affirmations and speech mannerisms (you know, like, sorta thing). Verbatim transcripts (available for court hearings, legal files, record of investigation interviews) capture all word content, excluding um’s and ah’s/vocalisations. Verbatim files are charged at a higher rate due to the additional working time and specialist skill required to transcribe and edit this style accurately.

Strict verbatim, which includes every vocalisation and sound, interruptions, the capture of umms and aahs as well as interviewer interjections, must be indicated clearly on the notes when uploading files. Strict verbatim files incur a 25 per cent surcharge on the standard verbatim rates.

Why does poor quality audio affect the rate charged?

The rate we apply to each transcript correlates to the working time for the typist to type and our editors to check. A poor quality recording which may be distorted or include background noise, or a speaker with a strong accent will take longer to transcribe. Paying our people fairly is how we can offer a quality service with quality-guaranteed transcripts.

Can you identify speakers in Q/A Interviews and focus groups?

SmartDocs‘ standard interview transcripts refer to Q (interviewer) and A (interviewee). It is possible to identify up to four speakers (though sometimes this is challenging if all speakers are the same gender/age group, such as in a focus group). Where there are more than two speakers in a Q/A interview we identify them as say, Q1 and Q2 and A1 and A2, for example. If you would like speakers identified in another way, such as using initials, Male and Female, or by names you will provide on the job, please request this when uploading your audio files. 10+ speaker files will default to Male/Female identification only.

Example of standard Q/A Transcript

Q:   Hello, my name is Joe Bloggs. Can you tell me something about yourself?

A:    Yes, my name is Mary Smith. I am 17 years old.


Focus Group transcripts highlight the facilitator’s comments in bold and all new speakers are transcribed on a separate paragraph. Speakers are not identified, unless requested, and only where it is possible to do so. If speaker identification for focus groups or interviews with four or more speakers is required, it is best to have the facilitator refer to the speaker by name, or ask the speaker to identify themselves before speaking.

Example of standard focus group transcript

Q:   Hello everyone, thank you for coming along to this focus group today. My name is Joe Bloggs and I represent Company X. I would like to start by finding out a little bit about you.

     Hi, I’m Mary and I live in City X and I am 17.

     Hi, I’m Jim and I live in City X and I am 21.

Can I see what a transcript will look like?

Absolutely – we can email you a sample on request.

Can you transcribe from video?

Yes, we can transcribe from .mov, .mp4 and .wmv files. Where speaker identification or placards are required, we can transcribe directly from the video file. We also have software to convert video to audio if you don’t need speaker identification. An administration fee may apply for time spent downloading, converting and otherwise adapting files for special formatting requests.

Can I convert video files to audio myself?

Converting video files to audio will certainly reduce the file size and lessen upload time – but only do this is you have many files, or ongoing files, to upload.   We use and recommend NCH software’s Switch Sound File Converter (especially if you only have a few files to upload), as this can also convert some video files to audio files.  The free trial lasts for 14 days.  Go to   Speak to us first before incurring further costs and we will do what we can to assist you!

Can I post you a DVD, CD or USB, or just link you to my Dropbox?

Yes, by all means send us your audio files on a USB, CD or DVD and we will upload the audio files for you. Please copy the files to your own computer or hard drive first, just in case the delivery goes astray! Administration fees apply for SmartDocs to upload your audio from DVD, CD or via a file sending service, such as Dropbox. Please let us know via email or phone call if you will be sending your audio files by post so that we can confirm receipt.

What are your turnaround times?

SmartDocs provides three options: 1-2 days, 5-7 days, and 7-14 days. Urgent or same day files are available on request. Urgent files must be uploaded prior 11am, and will be guaranteed up to 60 audio minutes. Poor quality audio, including strong accents and distortion, may take longer to return.

Files uploaded after 5.30pm may not be allocated until next business day. We will do our best to turn around files over the weekend, but this is subject to typist availability. Guaranteed weekend turnaround is available on prior request.

5-7 day and 7-14 day turnaround includes weekends, but 1-2 day turnaround does not, unless urgent turnaround is requested.

I have a large file (over 100 minutes long). Can I get it back in the short turnaround timeframe?

Our guaranteed short turnaround is for files up to 60 minutes. If your file is longer, we will always try to return it within 48 hours. We prefer to have a single typist transcribe large documents, ensuring clarity and continuity.

Where we cannot return the file in 48 hours (due to the length and/or complexity of the file) we will return it ASAP after 48 hours or will split the job among two or three typists as separate jobs, naming them Part 1, Part 2 etc. If you would like to split your files into parts, we use and recommend NCH Software’s Slice Audio File Splitter; from This software splits files into equal parts and also names the new files Part 1, etc.  It retails for around AUD$40.00.

My files are too big (over 2GB). How can I upload them?

If you have multiple files that total more than 2GB (our maximum file size), you will need to upload them in batches. If you have a single file that is over 2GB, you will have to convert it before uploading. We use and recommend NCH Software’s Switch Sound File Converter. This is a gem which can convert files from one file type (eg .WAV) to another file type (eg .MP3), which reduces file sizes and should not interfere with audio quality. It will also mean a faster internet upload.

Please email us if you still cannot upload, and we will find another alternative. Note, large files will take some time to upload, depending on your internet speed. Downloading other files whilst you are uploading files to SmartDocs will also slow the upload. There is only so much data a standard Internet connection can cope with.

Who are your clients?

Over 70 per cent of SmartDocs clients are repeat or referred. Our clients include all leading Australian universities and education institutions, as well as blue chip corporate clients and many state and federal government agencies. We can provide testimonials and references from our clients.

Are your typists Australian?

Yes. Our team works remotely, not only throughout Australia but also overseas as expats, so we have typists available around the clock to ensure your transcripts are returned within our guaranteed time frames.

Can I have the same typist for all my files?

While it may not always be possible due to holidays or sick leave, you can certainly request the same typist as your previous jobs, but it may take longer for your transcript to be completed. We will always allocate your work to the typist best suited to the audio provided.

Do you have any tips on how to produce better quality recordings?

Yes – just go to Tips for recording.

I’m having trouble uploading. I get an error message or the job does not contain my audio file.

Just try logging off and logging on again. This very often clears glitches. If that doesn’t work, try using another browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc). You might also remove punctuation marks (& ?‘ ) from the file name. Fortunately, upload issues are rare. Just contact us if you have a problem you can’t solve and we’ll try to help sort it out.

I’m not 100% happy with my completed transcript

We aim to be perfect, but we are human! Tell us just as soon as you can and we will happily revise and re-submit your file as soon as possible at no charge.

What is a transcriptionist or transcriber?  Aren’t they just typists?

Typing from digital audio files, which are often of poor quality, is not easy. Transcribers must not only be good typists with an exceptionally good command of English and grammar, they must also have ears that can really “listen”. People don’t speak in smooth, flowing sentences – they enunciate poorly, mutter, stop and start and talk over each other. They also speak in different ways and with different accents, so the transcriber must be highly skilled.

We try to match each audio file with the transcriber best suited to that particular file. Some can handle strong European accents, but not Indian accents. Some can ignore background noise while others find it difficult to block out. Some excel with Q/A but not with focus groups. Clearer audio and less complex files can be easily matched with the right transcriber and returned as a wholly accurate file. We have many excellent transcribers, but only a few who can work miracles. As a team, we are proud to give you SmartDocs!

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