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The Infinity USB Foot Control

I don’t think I have loved a piece of technology more than I currently love my new Infinity USB foot control.  I’m  transcribing hours of interviews for my dissertation, and although I type fast, it’s been a very slow process, because the transport controls on iTunes have little finesse, and you need to keep switching focus on the screen, move your hands to stop and start and so on.  Oh for the days of transcription machines which had foot pedals (I used to temp as an audio typist between music jobs, and I loved them).

Searching around the net on Saturday, I read an article about a poor bloke who had spent 40 hours transcribing one hour of audio because he didn’t know about digital transcribing machines (i.e., these days, foot pedal + software).  That’s me I thought, and read on.

Within minutes, I’d ordered an Infinity USB foot control (£47) from Amazon, and downloaded the free transcription software Express Scribe. The pedal arrived yesterday, and the results are amazing. If you’ve ever had to do it, you’ll share my enthusiasm: I transcribed about 15 minutes of audio/3,000 words in well under an hour and a half, and I was getting faster all the time. I’ve also now downloaded the open source QDA software TAMS analyser , which is one of the few programs of its type to work with Mac, and it’s free. (Mentioning no names, but how can you charge $800 dollars for a Windows only program these days? Bloody hell.)

For me, interfaces are much more interesting than the technology behind them. We’re already at a stage where computers can do stuff quickly, and have been for a long time. The challenge now is to find the interfaces which enable us to interact with the technology efficiently and in meaningful human ways.  Frankly, whoever conceived a computer without a foot-control was an idiot: what missed opportunities. Laugh if you like, but I’m saving myself hours and hours that I shall spend doing something more interesting than pointing and clicking at a screen.

For the record, my transcription toolkit, which works brilliantly

  • Apple iPhone voice memo recorder for interviews (+ iTunes to import audio)
  • Macbook
  • Logic Studio (to enhance audio, though there are easier options)
  • Express Scribe transcription Software
  • Microsoft word
  • Infinity USB foot control
20 thought on “Happiness is a USB foot control”
  1. […] Happiness is a USB foot control | Jonathan's slightly less boring-but-useful site For the record, my transcription toolkit, which works brilliantly Apple iPhone voice memo recorder for interviews (+ iTunes to import audio) For me, interfaces are much more interesting than the technology behind them. We’re already at a stage where computers can do stuff quickly, and have been for a long time. […]

  2. I was wondering about the Express Scribe software – I have tried the free download, but was wondering if it’s only free for a certain period of time or just free period, with not all functions available (as with the paid software). Any idea?

    1. I’ve been using Express Scribe regularly for the last four years, and it’s remained free and fully functional all that time. I wasn’t actually aware that there was a paid version. Looking at the ‘pro’ version, there’s nothing in there that I would personally need, although I can see that video dictation could be handy (I just ripped the audio of the video interview, and imported that into express scribe). Strange that they say you need the pro version to use VEC pedals – I’ve got a VEC Infinity pedal and it works just fine with the unpaid version of the programme. Maybe that’s a Mac thing, or new since I got the programme/pedal?

      Anyway if you were forced into buying, the Pro version is only $19.99, and if it’s anything like the free one, it’s a great programme – has never crashed once, and works seamlessly with the pedal. I also use it for transcribing music by dictation, by importing MP3 files. Works like a dream.

      1. I’m a distant ed university student (and legal secretary who does hours of dictation typing at work) I would love the same set up at home to type up my lectures more efficiently. the lectures are in many different formats depending on the lecturer. Would this system work for me?

      2. I’m sure the system would work for you – here’s a list of the file formats (audio and video) that Express Scribe can load. You’ll see that some can only be loaded in the Pro version, but most of the video formats, and the main audio ones – MP3, WAV, AIFF, can be used in the free version. And in the end, if you do a lot of transcribing, $19.99 isn’t a lot for a program that does so much.

        Also, you could some “pro only” formats (AAC, for example) into iTunes first, convert them to MP3, before loading it into Express Scribe if you want to avoid buying the Pro version.

  3. Would that pedal be suitable for DAW, for Sustain, Sostenuto and Damper pedals for piano?
    To directly control the workstation (Reason od Kontakt) via MIDI, I mean.

    1. As far as I know, this would only work if the pedal is registered in the DAW as an interface, i.e. there is some code in the program that recognises the pedal and can assign controls to the various pedal actions. If there is a way of doing it, I haven’t found out yet, but I think the answer is no. It’s a shame, because it would obviously be extremely useful to be able to do that.

      1. Oh, I see. So I asume that the pedal isn’t able (via proprietary software) to send CC#64, CC#67 and such.
        Thanks for your kind answer!

      2. I’m going to have to give it another go, just in case anything has changed since I last looked, but I’ve tried this before with no success: the problem being that it doesn’t show up as a control surface (at least in Logic) in the first place, so you can’t assign things to its functions. I’ve seen somewhere on the web that a more able person than me wrote himself some code to get it to control a media player, but that’s beyond me.

      3. I’m literally in awe! Fantastic job. I think a Youtube channel would be better even than a blog (but with a link to downloadable instructions). Only trouble is, you’ve already done it now, so you’d have to re-do it to film the process!

      4. Oh thank you very much! 🙂
        Well, I’m not really a Youtuber XD but I think that a very detailed PDF would be very useful instead.
        Actually I’m upset these days with so many videotutorials and no printable info… I grew up with books 🙂
        Well, besides that, you are right, I would have to do it again step by step, while desoldering and re soldering the cables wouldn’t be very good for the circuitry. Moreover, the jack is permenently locked by plastic glue that has flowed inside the Korg plastic case interstices, so it would be impossible to extract…

  4. This is amazing! I have been looking at transcription kits etc. and it’s all so expensive. I’m about to start interviews for my dissertation and want to (type) transcribe them all myself. I was getting nostalgic for my days as a legal secretary and trying to figure out how I could best (and most cheaply) achieve a similar set up (tapes, headset, foot pedal, ahhhhhh!). Your solution sounds perfect, thank you so much for sharing!! Excited to look into this and hopefully get it all working for me… 🙂

    1. I’m so happy you discovered the solution, and hope you manage to get it all working. Incidentally, although I haven’t tried it, I’ve just heard about something called USB Overdrive, which as far as I can see would enable you (for £17) to use the pedals within any application on your computer, i.e. you wouldn’t need Express Scribe (or what I now use, Seventh String’s “Transcribe!”). I read about it here:

  5. I just thought I’d update all those interested with the set up I ended up going with. I bought the Olympus RS-28H, for which Olympus offers a free driver download, so you can use the pedal in hot key mode – you can allocate any shortcut key to any of the pedals, it’s fantastic! So I purchased that from Officeworks (I’m in Australia), for AU$128. I use my iPhone voice recorder and iTunes and the free version of Express Scribe. Much cheaper and easier than forking out hundreds for a full ‘official’ set up. The free version of express scribe doesn’t allow you to import mp4 files, but you can right click in iTunes and choose ‘create mp3 version’ and import that. All working well for me and I’m loving it.

    1. Thanks for the update, great to know of another good product. So does the software from Olympus mean that you can assign functions to the pedals that will then work in other applications (i.e. can you assign transport controls that will work in iTunes?)

      1. Wow. I think this makes your Olympus pedal a better buy than the VEC, unless there’s something I’m missing about the programmability of the VEC, or unless they provide software like the Olympus one. Might be time for me to investigate!

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist