For smaller documentary projects, sometimes all that is needed is a simple edit, log and notes. However reality TV, feature length documentaries and other projects usually require complete transcripts that include every word that was uttered, the person who said the words and the time codes when the words were said. Coming up with the transcripts has got to be one of the easiest ways of having the final scripts to get the exact content that is needed. This also enables a person to cut and paste the sound bites onto any paper edit to experiment with the structure and the story.
Dubs of the master should be made first. It is not worthwhile to harm the master tapes as you are trying to transcribe. The back and forth rewinding that usually happens when a person is listening to the tape that will be used to transcribe can damage the tape and camcorder. When you have a lot of space on your computer, it is also recommended that you digitize the data that you want to work with so that you can transcribe it when it is on your machine. This helps to save you one important step as you will end up digitizing.
This may not be practical when dealing with a lot of footage. A professional transcription company can be used when you have to deal with large projects that need to be worked on within the shortest time possible. These companies will charge you to give you a fully typed file or printout of the time codes as well as the content of all of the tapes that were used for the interview.
There are some professional companies that will also have thumbnail pictures of the footage included somewhere within the transcript. You can however embark on the project of transcription when you want to save a buck or two. An assistant or an intern can help you with the process but remember you have to go through their work.
Other than helping you access the content of the tapes that were used or interviews, transcripts can also make sure that you do not make a mistake of misrepresenting what a person meant to say. This usually happens when you are trying to match the sound bites with the person who spoke. This also helps a person to check accuracy easily. A transcript is also required by companies who want to distribute the documentary on TV or theatrically. More on documentary transcription