The Great Blake's 7 Transcript Project

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The Great Blake's 7 Transcript Project (or "The Great B7 Transcript Project") was completed by fans from Lysator in 1992 and 1993. Earlier transcripts of some episodes had been done by Micky D.[1]

a January 1993 progress report

It was an ongoing project and took several years. There were many comments on the mailing list regarding the difficultiies in spelling, how to transcribe, and who was doing what script. As one might expect, the keeping track of who was doing what was a bit like herding cats.

The project had several leaders: some of them were Michelle D. and Susan Beth (others?).

The transcripts were used for personal enjoyment, but also as a recruiting tool for Lysator. "I agree that it's a good idea to post the transcripts once to rec.arts.sf.tv and advertise the existence of the mailing list and FTP archive there." [2]

In the end, the transcripts were posted to the Lysator archives and can be read here: main page for all four seasons.

Some Anecdotes

  • "Since only three people indicated to me that they felt strongly about including the speed chess moves in the transcript of "Gambit" (still being proofed), I feel better about not including the moves in the body of the transcript, since they have been analyzed in depth elsewhere. I have considered adding the moves (as transcribed in Susan Adair's messages) as an appendix, although this deviates from the usual transcript format. Any strong opinions, pro or con? Let me know." [3]
  • "I have been uable to get the transcripts into my friend's UNIC account to send them to proofreaders. We thought we did it once, but Claudia only got Kermit timing out. It seems to be a problem of Kermit and our telecommunications software rather than UNIX. We've tried a number of suggestions, but nothing seems to work, and Jody does not have a lot of time to play around with it. I can't do anything with my account but send and recieve mail. I do have a lot of transcripts, and would like to make them available. Therefore, I will mail them on disk to someone who can send them to the ftp site. As an inducement, I will include ORACS EGO, a bmp file for Windows wallpaper made by my husband. I can send 5.25 or 3.5 disk, high density or not. I will proofread the transcripts as carefully as possible, or the poster could do that if they wished. I hope to finish Hostage this next week and mail the disk or disks on next Monday." [4]
  • "If someone could tell me the style the transcipt is to be produced in, I will volunteer to transcribe episode 44, Animals." [5]
  • "Now that ALL the episodes have been spoken for, the asterisks don't really convey any useful information and might just as well be eliminated so that the "+" markers stand out more clearly. Or, if Micky wants to chart progress towards completion of the next stage, why not change their meaning to "now being proofed"? Come to think of it, more and more of the transcribers should be finishing up their episodes in the coming weeks and looking for people free to take on the job of proofreading. How about a third marker to indicate "in need of a proofreader" if a backlog develops?" [6]

A Peek Into the How-To

Some Notes on Television Dialogue Transcription: The first thing to realize is that it's not an exact science. Speech is less precise and linear than formal writing, and even trained linguists don't always agree on how to transcribe sounds that get slurred by the speaker. So a transcript is an approximation of what's being said. Second, punctuation is a judgment call, sometimes a highly idiosyncratic one. Was that pause long enough to qualify for a period? A comma? A colon? A semicolon? It's impossible to say merely in terms of time duration.

If you want to try it yourself, I offer the following advice to save wear and tear on you, your tapes, and your VCR. Unless you're a crack dictation typist, you're going to have to play the tape in short spurts and then pause or stop while you type what you've heard. My personal recommendation is to pause rather than stop between each spurt. Some people make audio tapes of the episode to work from to save wear and tear on the videotape, and then go back to the videotape later to flesh out the rough parts.

1. Play the tape for as long a chunk of dialogue as you can keep in your head, then pause and type it in. Then unpause and keep repeating this process until you come to some sort of natural stopping point (such as a change of scene or a new character entering the scene). This will cause you to miss some dialogue at each pause point, but do NOT go back for this information after each pause. It's a natural reaction to missing something that was said, but it would be stressful for you, your tape, and your machine. Instead:

2. When you reach a natural stopping point, THEN go back to the beginning of the current string of dialogue and fill in the gaps, checking what you've already done as you go. Repeat this step as often as it takes to get it all down. Then start the process all over again with the next scene. [And some notes I typed up for Eddie, pilfered from some notes I typed up for [Susan S].] I'll enclose some explanation that I typed up for Susan when I sent her notes for "Bounty":

I suppose I should explain the rationale behind the format I use. I take most of my cues from British TV script format. I don't follow it slavishly, though, partly to save space and partly because scripts and transcripts aren't designed to do quite the same thing. A script is the master instruction set for the cast and crew to make the episode, whereas a transcript is a record of what they've said, and to a lesser extent, what they've done. One thing I do avoid, though, is straight prose description, like you'd find in a novelization. When you turn movies or TV into book form, you're not strictly trying to record what they did, but rather you're reinterpreting for a different medium. It probably makes for easier reading (prose is designed to be read for enjoyment, whereas scripts and transcripts are not), but I'm uncomfortable with even slight incursions of action interpretation. (Not that I'm immune to making a few without realizing I've done it. Betsy caught a few of mine when we were doing "Blake.") So even though it probably makes for a choppier read, I tend to go for a Jack Webb-style of "Just the facts, ma'am" in the stage directions. It's closer to the way scripts do it, although to be perfectly honest, they don't really have hard rules for how to do that sort of thing in professional scripts either, just customs. (They also do their stage directions in all caps, which I find uncomfortable on the eyes and potentially ambiguous.)

I've never personally bothered to establish scene, the way scripts do. Scene establishment in a script can be extremely elaborate or extremely scant, depending on the whim of the scriptwriter. If done punctiliously in a transcript, it could also add an enormous amount of work to your load.

I get obsessive about some small things because I've found that once you set something down in print, people will treat it as gospel for years to come. People read a mistake in Attwood's "Programme Guide" or a story in fanfic, and will genuinely forget that it didn't actually happen onscreen. They even acquire visual "memories" of events that never took place. So before I disseminate something in text, I try to hammer all the mistakes out of it. [Of course, I've just released my preliminary version of the time line, which I know has to have mistakes in it, but I felt I had to say something since someone was coming up with longer seconds and 25-hour days.]

I suppose what I'm really working towards saying is that I don't consider transcription to be any kind of substitute for the videotaped episode, so I've never busted my bottom trying to make it so. I think that the true value of a transcript is as a tool for reference, because text (especially electronic text) is an excellent medium for finding references, whereas if you've ever tried to hunt down a specific line of dialogue in a videotape, you know that tape is an extremely unwieldy reference medium. While we may well read our favorite lines and chuckle, one doesn't sit down with the idea of reading a transcript for enjoyment the way you might sit down and read a novelization for enjoyment, so I haven't personally sweated intervals that might "look a little bare" or lack punch. The only way to get the real experience is to watch the TV screen. [7]
Since Susan Beth described her method, I thought I might as well, too. My computer isn't in the same room as the TV, and I don't type very quickly...I also have back-up copies of the episodes (so I'm not too worried about the wear-and-tear of stopping and rewinding).

Before I start taking notes, I watch the story all the way through, looking for problem areas (in "Redemption," for instance, several scenes have a lot of background noise, and there's the problem of how to describe computer noises to distinguish between the System and Zen, and between the System's two different tones), and of course, I look at what Micky has already done.

Then I pull out the legal size pad of paper...it's easiest for me to go one scene at a time. I do an initial pass and write as much as I can, rewind and fill in the gaps. That usually takes 3 run-throughs, then on to the next scene.

When all that's typed in, I print-out, watch the whole thing and correct. Sometimes, if the ep includes a lot of action, I have to do that twice because I like to add stage directions and want to get them in the right order. Micky caught me out several times in the first two transcripts I did because I wrote in what wasn't shown but was implied. 8-)

I tend to type in a few pages at a time, right after I've transcribed them, because it works into my schedule better. I type out all the names the first time, and I don't spell-check until I've finished.

The format...hmm...I can't seem to get my computer to do right-justified margins for the names, although that is how Micky's drafts and the transcripts currently available by ftp are arranged. So I stick with simple left-justified margins and tabs. It's easy, readable, and, frankly, once you've ftp'd and downloaded a transcript onto your pc, the format is usually screwed up anyway. [8]

References

  1. Micky D. 'B7' Lysator 11 November 1992 (downloaded from Lysator archive)
  2. Betsy R, Jan 25, 1993 Lysator
  3. Kay T, February 17, 1993 Lysator
  4. Susan A, February 23, 1993 Lysator
  5. David S., February 24, 1993 Lysator
  6. Susan B, March 21, 1993 Lysator
  7. Micky, February 28, 1993 Lysator
  8. Sue C., March 5 Lysator