How to Convert AWS Transcribe JSON to Readable Text

If you use AWS Transcribe to convert audio or video into a text transcription, you might be underwhelmed at the fact that the output of AWS Transcribe is a JSON file. You can’t really show it to a human end user without first processing it.

Here’s how to import a Transcribe-generated .json file into AWS Lambda from an S3 bucket, convert it into a readable text file, and then export it to a different S3 bucket:

Create Two S3 Buckets

If you don’t already have 2 buckets created in AWS S3 then do so. For this tutorial I will name them:

  • my-source-bucket
  • my-destination-bucket

Create A Lambda Function


  • Author from scratch
  • Name it something like transcribeJSONtoTXT .
  • Use Node 18.x (that is the most recent version of Node at the time this tutorial is being written).

Unless you have good reason, leave everything else the same.

create lambda function

Add Permissions to The Buckets

Once the Lambda function is created, within the Lambda function go into:

Configurations >> Permissions and click on the role name that was created for you.

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You will be taken to the IAM permissions policy page for your role. Select Add permissions >> Create inline policy.

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In the JSON tab of the Edit Policy page add this code, replacing the ARNs with those of your own buckets:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Sid": "GetFrom3", 
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": "s3:GetObject",
            "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::my-source-bucket-us-east-1/*"
            "Sid": "PutTos3",
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": "s3:PutObject",
            "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::my-destination-bucket-us-east-1/*"

Review the policy, give it a relevant name (e.g. Lambda-S3-Read-Write), and save it. What this policy does is allow you to get files from your source bucket and put files in your destination bucket.

Add Code To Lambda Function

Back in your Lambda function’s Code tab, you will probably find a file named index.mjs.

Screen Shot 2023 05 10 at 6.41.14 PM

Go ahead and delete all of the default code. I’ll walk you step by step through the code that you’ll need to replace it with.

First add:

import AWS from "aws-sdk";
const s3 = new AWS.S3();

NOTE: The Node 18 runtime should be bundled with the AWS-SDK. If for some reason you get the error that `AWS cannot be found` then you will have to add the AWS-SDK as a Lambda Layer. You shouldn’t have to, so we will move on.

We will keep the name “handler” for our main export, as this is the default in the runtime settings (i.e. index.handler means “Hello any application that is running this lambda, look in the index file for a function named handler!”).

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So at this point we will have:

import AWS from "aws-sdk";
const s3 = new AWS.S3();

export const handler = async (event, context) => { 


All of the rest of our code will go inside this handler. I will put the full code here with comments in the code:

import AWS from "aws-sdk";
const s3 = new AWS.S3();

export const handler = async (event, context) => {
  try {
    // Retrieve the file from the source S3 bucket with a promise
    const sourceBucket = event.Records[0];
    const sourceKey = event.Records[0].s3.object.key;

    const sourceParams = {
      Bucket: sourceBucket,
      Key: sourceKey
    const sourceFile = await s3.getObject(sourceParams).promise();

    // Convert the file into the transcription text you can use
    const transcription = JSON.parse(sourceFile.Body.toString());

    //Get the Transcribe job name - this will be your output file name later on
    const jobName = transcription.jobName;

    // Get all of the words and punctuation from the items array within the JSON file
    const itemInArray = transcription.results.items;
    // Some variables  you will need
    let speakerLabel = "";
    let showNewSpeakerLabel;
    let content = "";
    //Start looping through the words and punctuation
    for (let transcrItem of itemInArray) {   

      //Sometimes each new item section is still the previous section's speaker
      //Decide if you want to repeat the same speaker's label
      if (transcrItem.speaker_label == speakerLabel) {
        showNewSpeakerLabel = false;
      } else {
        showNewSpeakerLabel = true;
      //Change speaker label to the current item's speaker
      speakerLabel = transcrItem.speaker_label;
      //get the item's current word or punctuation mark
      let itemcontent = transcrItem.alternatives[0].content;
      //Are we showing the speaker label or not? If so, also add two line breaks above
      if (showNewSpeakerLabel == true) {
        itemcontent = "\n" + "\n" + speakerLabel + ": " + itemcontent;
      } else if (itemcontent !== "." && itemcontent !== ",") {
        itemcontent = " " + itemcontent;
      //Add this item's content to any previous content
      content = content + itemcontent;

    // Put the processed file into the destination S3 bucket with a promise
    // Change to your destination bucket's name

    const destinationParams = {
        Bucket: 'my-destination-bucket',
        Key: jobName + '_transcript.txt',
        Body: content,
        ContentType: 'text/plain'

    await s3.putObject(destinationParams).promise();

    console.log(`Successfully processed and uploaded file: ${sourceKey}`);

    return {
      statusCode: 200,
      body: JSON.stringify({
        message: `Successfully processed and uploaded file: ${sourceKey}`
  } catch (err) {
    console.error(`Error processing file: ${err}`);
    return {
      statusCode: 500,
      body: JSON.stringify({
        message: `Error processing file: ${err}`

Click Deploy to save this file.

Screen Shot 2023 05 10 at 7.06.13 PM

Add Trigger

Finally we want to create a trigger so that whenever a .json file is copied to, moved to, or uploaded to your source bucket, that this function is automatically called. So on the main page for your Lambda, select + Add Trigger.

Screen Shot 2023 05 10 at 7.08.16 PM

On the Add Trigger Page, add your source bucket:

Screen Shot 2023 05 10 at 7.07.29 PM

Make the trigger happen for All Object Create Events.

Screen Shot 2023 05 10 at 7.07.48 PM

In the Suffix Field, add .json to that it only triggers when a .json file is added.

Screen Shot 2023 05 10 at 7.07.56 PM

Add the trigger, and you should be done! Upload your Transcribe JSON output file into your source bucket, and then see if the TXT file shows up in your destination bucket. If it doesn’t check the logs in the monitor tab of your lambda function.

1 thought on “How to Convert AWS Transcribe JSON to Readable Text”

  1. Note: this tutorial is for transcriptions that identify multiple speakers. If you only need the block of transcription without identifiers, then after

    const transcription = JSON.parse(sourceFile.Body.toString());

    you can get it with:

    const transcript = transcription.results.transcripts[0].transcript;


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