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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Audio is a Time-Based Medium

One of the first challenges you have when faced with an audio discovery project is determining just how much content you’re dealing with. In the rest of the e-discovery world, this is measured in gigabytes of data.  That works okay, because with emails and word documents, even TIFF documents, there is a generally understand correlation between gigabytes and the number of pages in question. And this translates into the general work effort you’ll need to go through it all, either with or without a technology assist.

But audio and video are time-based media, and should be measured as such. Again, knowing how many hours you have to sift through will greatly determine the method you choose to perform the discovery. And the problem is that there is no easy correlation between file size and file length.  Why not?

The answer is “bit rate.”  Loosely translated, bit rate defines the number of bits that a given recording system uses to capture the audio and put it into the digital file.  Bit rate is usually measured in Kbps, or kilo-bits per second, and can vary widely from 8Kpbs up to 128Kbps or even more.

If you hear people talk about “compression schemes” this is what they are referring to.  Audio that is 8Kbps is much more highly compressed than 128Kbps. To illustrate, one Gbyte of audio encoded at 8Kbps contains 277 hours, while one Gbyte of audio at 128Kbps is only 17 hours.  You can see from this example that gigabyte pricing for audio projects can have little relation to the amount of audio that you will have to review.

So the next time you are faced with a big project and your client (either internal or external) says “I’ve got 100 gigabytes of audio we need to review” you can be prepared to ask the most important follow up question.

“Okay, do you know what the bit rate is?”

They may not, but this at least starts the conversation down a different path, so you can jointly determine the number of hours in the project which is what really matters.

Welcome to the Audio Discovery Blog!

Rest assured, we realize the last thing anybody needs right now is yet another boring blogspot to monitor, with esoteric topics that would make watching grass grow seem like a night at the Cineplex. (But hey, watching grass grow is at least a real 3-D activity!)

But the fact remains that audio is a burgeoning source of evidence for both regulatory and litigation investigations, and from all the evidence we’ve compiled in the industry, it is evident that this is one type of evidence that is evidently being ignored WAY TOO OFTEN.

We might argue that this fact is self-evident, but then we’d be taking our puns just entirely too far.

So the purpose of this blog is to help enlighten and educate our audience on the ins and outs of dealing with audio evidence, because one thing is very true: audio is not like email, word documents, TIFF images or any of the other kinds of electronically stored information (ESI) that make up the rest of content we deal with in the e-discovery world. Which is why we coined the term…

Audio Discovery.

So, let’s kick this off near the top of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model and talk about how to Identify audio evidence and the likely places it can come from. We have seen projects from many different walks of life: hundreds of hours of body-mic recordings from a personal defamation case; thousands of hours of phone wire-taps in criminal gang activity; even archived radio and TV advertisements (including video) that were searched for false advertising.

But the PRIMARY source of content we see regularly–the content that has literally grown to hundreds of thousands of hours–comes from trading floor activities in both energy and financial services. These tend to be the Big Kahuna matters in the audio discovery world, which if you think about it makes sense. These trading activities are routinely recorded and kept for long periods of time, as in many cases they are the only record of a transaction request. And let’s face it: the last decade has shown that, well, not EVERYONE who engages in this activity has the most stellar reputation. So these recordings have the potential to contain lots of ripe, juicy content that both regulators and litigators would just love to wrap their ears around.

So in upcoming posts, we’ll use these types of matters as the foundation to discuss the elements of audio discovery that will be important for you. Here’s a look at just some of the topics that we’ll cover:

  • Audio is a time-based medium and best measured that way. Measuring projects by the gigabyte could be a big rip-off!
  • Who’s listening? The Federal Regulators, that’s who. And you should be, too!
  • How accurate is “accuracy” in audio discovery, or the trade-off between precision and recall.
  • Audio vs. Text Search: All is Not Created Equal

Throughout this blog, our goal will be to educate and make you think about how audio discovery applies in your world, whatever that world is. Whether you are a compliance manager in a financial services firm, an auditor with a government regulator, or an attorney with clients facing litigation or regulatory oversight, you are now–or soon will be–faced with handling audio evidence in one fashion or the other.

So we want you to be prepared to do it with aplomb. And that means quickly, accurately AND cost effectively.

Audio no longer has to be the “dirty little secret” that gets swept under the rug during a Rule 26 Meet and Confer. With tools and techniques we’ll cover, your Audio evidence can rise up and be Discovered!

About

Can you HEAR me now?

When it comes to audio evidence, the answer is oftentimes “NO!”

And this is unfortunate, because audio evidence (or “sound recordings” as the FRCP likes to say) are becoming a critical source of discovery content in both regulatory and litigation matters. So the purpose of this blog is to help you learn what Audio Discovery is all about and how to do it in the most efficient and cost-effective ways.

As your Bloggist, I bring 20+ years of experience in audio technologies to the table, first in the old Ma Bell system and then later with companies like Cingular Wireless and now Nexidia. So I’ve witnessed first-hand many of the revolutions in digital audio that are now dramatically changing how you manage this important discovery component. In this blog, I will help you navigate these .WAVs so you can be an audio expert too. And if you didn’t get that pun, even more reason to come back often!

Jeff Schlueter
VP/GM, Legal Markets
Nexidia