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Hardware/software for oral history archive?


I have about 50-60 cassette tapes of oral history recordings that been meaning to edit and transcribe/convert to CD for the last ten years.  :-[

I've read of machines that rip old cassette music collections to MP3, but is that the best format for this use. I need to be able to quickly find and mark the interesting bits (the tapes are not great quality) and decide whether they can be transferred as audio or need to be transcribed.

Has anyone experience with  this kind of thing?

File format probably isn't going to matter terribly much - normally I'd say "use FLAC!", but when source media is casette tapes and the contents are history recordings, I'd say MP3 is just fine. I'd still use at least 192kbps encoding though, and if space isn't a problem, I'd probably still go FLAC even if it's overkill.

I have no idea how you'd go about recording the tapes onto your computer in a comfortable way, though. But I'd think that the best approach is to transfer an entire tape at a time (regardless of quality), and go do something else while it's happening (unless you have some fancy gear, it'll probably be 1:1 timewise) - skipping back and forth on old tapes to find interesting bits sound like a disaster waiting to happen.

Once you've gotten the tapes transferred over, the really important thing is left, though: finding an application that's comfortable for setting bookmarks, scanning back and forth, and is comfortable if you want to transcribe. You definitely do NOT want a standard run-of-the-mill audio editor (been there, done that - 30min interview took me 2½ hours to transcribe).

I think the software I was recommended by several friends was Scribe, but I never got a chance to look at it.

did a lot of this with prison interviews and police recordings (don't even ask).
f0dder is right. I would recommend *not* capturing straight to MP3, but first capture in raw format and run through filters - technology today can do miracles with restoring magnetic soundtracks (they got better at understanding WHAT gets lost once the tape gets old, and consequently how to put it back).
if your time is precious and the material is not very sensitive (like mine was), you might want to outsource to India - there are lots of companies that can do the transcripts for you.

See this DC thread about converting tapes to a digital format.

One of the links points to a fancy piece of hardware to do the conversion, but there are more options that are a lot cheaper (but do not look that nice  :P). Anyway, the thread should give you a lot of leads on how to proceed from here.

Thank you all for your replies.

Outsourcing is tempting, but there are a lot of local idioms and references that might puzzle an Indian. I've used Scribe for transcribing before. It has a lot of useful features like slowing down speech without affecting pitch, which are very useful and certainly a vast improvement trying to transcribe direct from a cassette player - which i have also done. I thinking of compiling a CD around the best quotes and wasn't sure if it could handle that job.


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