Friday, August 20, 2021

Comic Cuts — 20 August 2021

I've had a bit of a breakthrough this week. For ages I have been looking for a way to transcribe interviews that doesn't involve me sitting here listening to a sentence, typing that sentence, listening to a sentence, missing a bit, rewinding the tape, listening to the sentence again and typing it. A full transcript of an hour-long interview can take all morning to type up.

For the Action project, I have been doing partial transcripts of various interviews and podcasts that I have been able to download over the years. I have quite a collection, including shows recorded off the radio years ago that I converted to mp3s, and interviews I have done but not transcribed. To give you an idea, I reckon I have about twenty-one hours of podcasts to listen to and another fifteen of interviews. I don't like to fast forward through them since there might be discussions about other bits of comics history I'm interested in (I have, for instance, been transcribing anything to do with Crisis, as that's another title I want to tackle).

I've looked around several times over the past two or three years for something that might be used to convert audio to text. As I don't have the funds to pay for any professional transcribing programmes, and Windows only has one tied in with an Office 365 subscription, I was looking at various options, most of them costly. The freeware options were usually not that good or very limited. Some that seemed to be worth a look, I found impossible to use.

Until Tuesday, when I discovered that one of the things holding me back was having Mozilla as my browser. Good as it is (and it is good), there are a number of things I need to do that Mozilla struggles with. For instance, I use We Transfer to fire off large folders to people. Not in Mozilla. And I'm pretty sure my problems with Zoom during Lawless might have been caused by Mozilla. And now I find that Mozilla was blocking my ability to use Google Docs' voice recognition programme. It looked like the only way around it was going to be to install Chrome, but Microsoft Edge works just as well... and I already have that!

The results are like a stream of consciousness, with every half sentence and stumble that are a natural part of normal talk transcribed and the AI mishearing 25% of the words. Here's an example:
Jordan oxygen to Jordan with the other artists and it will never turn up. He didn't go, but he was the other one. But I've got a book called in Italian which has got articles about me and about him in which I can't read there in Italian.Yeah.Yes, yes, I see it every now and again. Do you? Yeah oh wow. Yeah he's still right right? Alright, well yes we did that here. The science fiction that's right. Yeah take care hope yes. Well that's why I was asked. That's what this article about this when I was asked out to the Italian thing. But then it just said to me I'm not sure if he's going to turn up.I don't know he like this all things much and and they never did. So yeah, this is all better of it.Yes, so let's say I got to know if I've got movie filmed at the full video. I still love movie film and I took that movie camera at all too when I was at Florence. So yes, I think that sometimes still got. I've got a lot of film with Dennis as well.Yes, that was always say this.
What I need to do now is listen through the recording again and turn that lot into a transcript of what was actually said.

Since most of it is gibberish, you might be asking 'Why bother?' Well, I can do a couple of these gibberish transcripts a day while we're out for our walks, and they're good enough for me to be able to do a search through the text for certain key words. If they appear, and they're two-thirds of the way through the transcript of what was a 45 minute cassette tape, I know I need to listen back to the recording at about the thirty-minute mark. And it will make the interviews searchable when I need information for future articles, or give me a starting point for full transcripts should I want to run the full interview in BAM! or in an index.

I still have a lot of listening to do, but I'm also piecing together what I hope will be a comprehensive history of Action. I wrote an article about Action way back in 1991 that gives me a good starting point. Any useful quotes I've stumbled upon I've dropped into that article roughly where I expect them to be useful.
It's a bit of a mess at the moment — the best I can describe it is like a skeleton with little chunks of muscle and flesh hanging from it — but eventually you'll see it dressed up to the nines with history and facts, sparkling with citations and leaning seductively on a solid bibliography.

It's late. Definitely time to bring this to a close.


  1. For what it's worth, another free option is to upload the audio to Youtube as a private video, and then download the auto-generated closed captions Youtube will make for it.

  2. I hadn't thought of that. I'll give it a try when I get a chance.



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