[openai, whisper, translations, transcriptions]

Making transcriptions using OpenAI's Whisper

3 mins

What is Whisper?

Whisper, developed by OpenAI, is an automatic speech recognition model. It can recognize multilingual speech, translate speech and transcribe audios. It has been trained on 680k hours of diverse multilingual data. Whisper is an API with two endpoints: transcriptions and translations. Specifically, it can transcribe audio in any of its 98 trained languages, and it can translate the audios in English only (for now).

Getting started

Unlike ChatGPT, Whisper cannot be used from the browser, but has to be installed locally. It can be used either in Python or from the command line and the setup and usage is very easy. You can upload audio files under 25MB that have the following types: mp3, mp4, mpeg, mpga, m4a, wav or webm.


Whisper is compatible with versions 3.8-3.11 of Python, so make sure you have the right version. To install Whisper simply use the following command in the cmd:

pip install -U openai-whisper

If you encounter errors during this command, you may need an additional tool named rust. If errors persist, check Whisper’s guide

Additionally, it requires a command line tool called ffmpeg. To install it we only need one additional line:

#for Windows using Chocolatey(https://chocolatey.org/)
choco install ffmpeg

#for Windows using Scoop (https://scoop.sh/)
scoop install ffmpeg

#for Mac using Homebrew (https://brew.sh/)
brew install ffmpeg

#for Ubuntu
sudo apt update && sudo apt install ffmpeg

#for Linux
sudo pacman -S ffmpeg

Python usage

To transcribe an audio file we simple give the file as an input to the API:

import openai
audio_file= open("/path/audio.mp3", "rb")
transcript = openai.Audio.transcribe("whisper-1", audio_file)

The output is a json file of the transcribed text.

To translate a file into English we just use openai.Audio.translate instead of the above command.

import openai
audio_file= open("/path/audio.mp3", "rb")
transcript = openai.Audio.translate("whisper-1", audio_file)

Alternatively, we can use the following code which also allows to select which model to use for processing the audio file.


There are five models that can be used for audio processing, which differ in terms of parameters used, language, memory required and computational speed. An overview of these models is available here.

import whisper

model = whisper.load_model("base")
result = model.transcribe("audio.mp3")

It can also detect the language of the audio:

import whisper

model = whisper.load_model("base")

# load audio and pad/trim it to fit 30 seconds
audio = whisper.load_audio("audio.mp3")
audio = whisper.pad_or_trim(audio)

# make log-Mel spectrogram and move to the same device as the model
mel = whisper.log_mel_spectrogram(audio).to(model.device)

# detect the spoken language
_, probs = model.detect_language(mel)
print(f"Detected language: {max(probs, key=probs.get)}")

# decode the audio
options = whisper.DecodingOptions()
result = whisper.decode(model, mel, options)

# print the recognized text

The maximum size of the accepted audio files is 25MB. If you have longer files, you can split it into smaller parts of maximum 25MB. It is best to split the files at the end of sentences, not in the middle of them since this can lead to losing the context. One tool to do this is PyDub Python package.

from pydub import AudioSegment

song = AudioSegment.from_mp3("example.mp3")

# PyDub handles time in milliseconds
ten_minutes = 10 * 60 * 1000

first_10_minutes = song[:ten_minutes]

first_10_minutes.export("example_10.mp3", format="mp3")

To improve the accuracy of the transcriptions you can use prompts. Depending on the given style of the prompt, the model will try to replicate it and deliver a specific style of text (eg. using acronyms, punctuation, filler words).

Command line usage

To transcribe more files at the same time using one of the five models using:

whisper audio.mp4 audio.mp3 audio.wav --model medium

We can also mention the language to perform the transcription:

whisper japanese.wav --language Japanese

To translate a file we can use:

whisper japanese.wav --language Japanese --task translate

See also

Whisper open source code

Whisper documentation

Contributed by Ana Bianca Luca