Audio Discovery: What Do You Ask For?
We frequently get calls from law firms and e-discovery partners with a common thread.
“Jeff, we’ve got a case coming up that’s going to have some audio that we’ll need to deal with. We don’t know much about it, but can you give us a price? It’s about 3 gigabytes of data.”
In an earlier post, I discussed the concept of bit rates and compression schemes to show how knowing at least two data points — the bit rate and the total data size — can help you back into the number of hours of audio in question. So knowing these two elements is a start, but there are other considerations to take into account to get a meaningful picture of the project requirements. Here’s a quick list of questions I would ask, which means they are questions YOU should ask either of your clients (if they already have audio to analyze) or of opposing counsel if you are the ones requesting the evidence.
What recording system was used? There are many different types of recordings systems on the market, but you are most likely to come across some variant of a NICE or Verint system as they are the biggest players in the market. If you can get the system information, the next desirable element to know would be “what software version?” as there were some marked differences in capability from one to the next.
Along these same lines, the next most important question would be “what file format?” The easiest approach is to work with the native formats of each system, but many of them also have the ability to convert to an industry standard like .wav. However, exporting content from many recording systems is — seemingly by design — very cumbersome, often limiting exports to 50 files at a time. If you have thousands of files to pull, that can get expensive and time consuming.
Perhaps the most important, and least obvious, is “where’s the meta-data?” All recording systems will capture meta-data for each recording. This typically includes the date/time of the call, the agent or custodian or channel number that can be tracked to them, whether it was inbound or outbound, or any other pertinent details that can help you streamline your review process. However, the way this meta-data is created and presented can differ vastly between systems.
Some put the meta-data in the filename itself. Here’s an example from a NICE system:
It’s not always totally obvious what each data element is, and many of them don’t matter much, but that’s why it’s important to get the schema from the system to help you out. In the above file, the first set of digits is a system ID, the next set is the start date (Oct. 16 2008 in Euro notation style), then the start time (19:00 hours 25 seconds), then the end date and end time (19:33 hours 54 seconds), and from the schema we knew the channel was 258 and the agent ID was 4136, which tracked to a specific custodian.
And that was an easy one!
Sometimes meta-data will come in on a separate spreadsheet that tracks to each audio file. Sometimes the meta-data is just the directory structure in which the files are placed, e.g.: \\exportset\agentname\2011\02\25\filename.xxx, etc. The most important thing to remember is to just ASK for the meta-data and make sure you get it, in whatever format you can, because it will make the review and production process much more efficient.
Nexidia has created a white paper that covers these topics in more detail, and also provides a template that you can use if you are faced with requesting audio for discovery purposes. This can help you be prepared so when you do finally get started on a project you have all the data you need to make it go smoothly.
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