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Research Guides@Tufts

EE-98 Senior Design

Final Video Assignment

Smartphone Settings

Prior to recording, review all of the settings in your application. Where applicable, change settings to the following recommendations:

 
  • File type. If possible, select WAV as this is an uncompressed file format. If you do not have this option know that the higher your bitrate setting, the bigger the file and the higher the quality of your audio recording. Ensure every time you record that your settings are the same.
 
  • Recording quality. Set your recording quality to "high" and change your settings to record in 4800Hz, 24-bit. Your application may only offer 4100Hz or only 16-bit or another distinct combination of settings. Choose the highest quality of these settings. Ensure every time you record that your settings are the same.
 
  • Channels. Some applications may allow you to select Stereo or Mono for recording channels. Set your settings to record Mono.
 
  • Auto Gain Control. Some applications may have an option for Automatic Gain Control. Make sure to turn this off as it will adjust the volume of your recording automatically.
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Airplane Mode. Turn on Airplane Mode to avoid audio interruptions like texts and notifications while recording.

  • Space. If you are using an application that captures high quality audio, make sure you have enough space available for your recordings. If not, either clear space on your phone or select a more compressed file type such as AAC or MP3 or lower the bit rate in the settings. Learn how to check available space on Apple and check available space on Android.

Audio Recording Techniques

Be intentional. Paying attention to your surroundings, monitoring the volume of your recording, and considering mic placement are all important steps to take when recording quality audio regardless of device or application. Below are some recording techniques to consider prior to recording:
 
    • Levels. If you've downloaded an audio recording application more than likely you'll be able to monitor the levels (input audio volume) prior to recording.
    • Color coded meters. Most audio meters are color coded, some are labeled in decibels. The ideal level for a voice recording on a color coded meter would be at the higher end of the green meter with occasional spikes in the yellow.
    • Numerical meters. If measuring levels numerically, aim for the sound to be between -6 and -12.
    • Waveforms. If your application does not include a live audio meter you can do test recordings and monitor the waveforms. Waveforms that are strong and pronounced indicate good levels. 
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                           Too Soft                                                                            Good levels                                                               Too Loud
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  • Audio that is recorded above these points is too loud and will be distorted. If the visual display of the recorded waveform is flat on the top, this means your recording is too loud. Audio that is lower than the recommendations above may be too soft to hear. That said, if you are recording ambience in a quiet space, having lower levels makes sense. Context matters. 
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  • Know where your mic is. Test where the microphone is located on your phone by speaking into the phone and watching the levels. When you see your levels get stronger, this means you are near the microphone. 
 
  • Phone placement. Make sure your hands are not covering the microphone. To prevent handling noise and rustling sounds, place your mic down on a stable surface while trying to avoid laying your phone on a flat surface, e.g. use a mini tripod or make a makeshift support for your phone from paperclips or books. Make sure the microphone is pointing at the subject. 
 
  • Listening. Prior to recording listen to the space. Is the heat on? Are you near a window with heavy traffic? Find a space with minimal background noise to minimize undesired background noise.
      • Turn your phone on Airplane mode to avoid text messages and calls interrupting your recording.
      • If you are having a hard time finding a quiet space to record, try recording under a blanket or in a closet.
 
  • Test test test. After you record a track, play it back and listen through headphones for any interference and check your levels. 
 
  • Identify your tracks. At the beginning of every recording, state what you are recording, e.g., Intro Narration take 3, slower pace. Having this at the beginning of each audio file will help with organizing your files later. 

Project Files vs Media Files

It can be very confusing understanding the differences between media files and project files and knowing what files you need to share with a project collaborator online.
 
    • Project File - Project files are usually a small (kb or mb in size) file that saves information about how your organizing your audio in a timeline, transitions, effects, project settings and other editing parameters.
 
    • Media File - Media files are the raw materials you are creating your audio project with, e.g., field recordings, interviews, voice overs.  
 
When you select "Import" in most editing applications, your media files are linked to the project file.  The project files knows where your media files are saved and references them every time you open the project.  This is why media management is so important - if you move your media files midway through the editing process you may open your project to file that all your media is offline.  
 
To successfully share your editing project with a teammate, they must have access to all the media files on their computer as well as the project file and even despite this it may require they manually show the application where these files are located on their machine.
 
Applications like Garageband will your duplicate media and wrap it inside the project file.  This takes up more space on your computer but when sharing your edit with a team member, you can simply share the project file and it will contain all the media files as well.  

Project Timeline and Settings

Prior to editing, review all of your media.  Check the format, sample rate and bit depth of your media.  In applications that require you to set your project and timeline settings, ensure that these settings match the settings of your media.  If you aren't sure what these settings are, right-click on your media to get more information.  Some applications like Garageband, will automatically set your project settings for you.
 
  • Format, sample rate and bit depth - In most cases, your media will dictate your project and timeline settings.  The ideal settings are a wav file 4800Hz at 24 bit .  Settings lower than these can result in poor quality audio and files stored as mp3's are mored compressed and may have unwanted artifacts. 
 
  • Space - If you are using an robust editing application and working on an older machine, make sure you have enough space available on your machine to edit.  If not, either clear space on your computer or try working on a web based editing application.  If your internet connection is weak and unreliable, try downloading a free application listed above so you can edit confidently offline.  

Editing Techniques

Paying attention to your surroundings and monitoring the volume of your recording are important factors in creating an audio piece regardless of device or application.  Below are some techniques to consider when editing.
 
  • Transitions: Fades and cross dissolves are a great way to smoothly transition your listener from one clip to another.  For example, if you are cutting between two interviews recorded in different locations, adding a fade at the end and beginning of each clip can help blend disparate background room tone.

  • Room Tone:  Room tone is a recording of a location, e.g., the space where an interview is occurring, without dialog.  Recording at least 30 seconds of the space without dialog allows you to continue the presence of the space between edits in an interview without having the track drop to silence.

         

  • Layering: Sound effects or field recordings can help give your piece specificity and can orient your audience to their location in a particular space.  Adding audio with a range of textures and perspectives can help create depth, e.g. recording of a bee vs recording of the ambience of a field that includes distant birds, wind, leaves.
  • Montage: A montage is a sequence of clips that allows you to condense time and space by editing the clips in a relational way, e.g. a series of audio news clips about the same topic over time.  This can help tell your story in a format that supports advances your argument while providing a break from strict dialog.
Clean-up  -  Clean up any unnecessary blips or pops in your audio that your audience may find distracting.  Make sure you listen to your edit through speakers and headphone to catch any issues that may be accentuated through these different playback methods.
 
Feedback- Once you have an edit, don't hesitate to share it with your friends or family!  Sometimes people with the least context for a video can be the most helpful in spotting areas that are confusing, too quick or...a bit boring.  Even just being in the same room with someone listening to your piece can give you space to hear where you can make improvements.