Ideal recording settings to use...

When you want to digitally record an interview, meeting, etc., you need to consider both quality of the recording and the size of the resultant file. There is no point having a very small file size (say less than 1MB) if the recording quality is so poor you can't make out what is being said. However, if you go to the other extreme and have the highest quality, then the resultant file size will be HUGE.

We were recently sent three files, recorded by two different people. The first person had obviously been very concerned about file size. So, while the size of the file was only 5MB, he had used such a low quality setting that the recording was distorted. On the hand, the other two recordings were crystal clear, but then the file size for each weighed in at over 1GB! And all three interviews were approximately the same length.

If you are going to use a smart phone to record, then I would suggest leaving the default settings, as they are normally quite well balanced between quality and file size.

Ideal settings for AUDIO recordings

Before you start the recording device, make sure you have checked the settings. If you can choose which file format the recording will be saved in, select "MP3". As this is the most common file format, it will be very unusual if the equipment doesn't support it.

Once you have selected MP3, if it allows you to change the "Bitrate" then go for 160Kbps or anything that is around this number. This will give you a recording quality comparable with a CD. So, the recording should be clear, without the huge file size.

If you have an unusual device that only has its own proprietary file formats, you will need to check what the instructions say.

Try and stay away from the "WAV" format, unless you have no other choice. This is a high-end recording format, which doesn't compress the file at all. Yes, you will get the best recording quality but the resultant file size will probably be in gigabytes – especially if it is a long interview or meeting.

What about VIDEO recordings?

Videos are a little more complex. Assuming you are not going to need the recording to be HD quality with Dolby 5.1 sound etc., you just want a decent quality picture and sound, but not too large a file size, then we would suggest using the following:

MP4 format with 1024 x 576 pixels output, select a bitrate of 1500 kbps which will mean the file size is 11MB per minute.

If the above seems complex, then check the instructions of the recording device, which should give a good guide on different settings depending on what you want to record.


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