oral-history-recordingAn effective way to collect family histories is to record video or oral interviews. Video and oral histories are valuable tools for capturing and preserving information about events in our lives, our testimonies, and memories that may otherwise be lost.

A video or audio recording lets people use their own words, making it easier to share their faith, testimonies, and experiences in a way that may not be expressed in writing.

Yesterday, I wrote about the new Memories mobile app, which you can use to record video and audio interviews.

This article gives tips on recording audio or video histories:

  1. Decide on an audio or video recording. Decide whether you want just an audio recording or a video recording. Video recordings capture the face and expressions of the individual being interviewed, thereby preserving a more complete history. Audio recordings capture just the voice, but can be done more easily.
  2. Pick the right equipment. The better you understand the equipment you are using, the more you can focus on the interview. For audio recordings, you can use a smartphone or a digital  recorder. Video interviews can also be captured on a smartphone or on most digital cameras. You can also use a laptop with a built-in camera. You and the person you interview can simply sit in front of the laptop.
  3. Check your equipment. Check the battery level before beginning an interview and bring extra batteries or a power cord, just in case. Also make sure you have plenty of space on your memory card for recording the interview. During the interview, it is a good idea to have the recorder close to you so that you can periodically check the battery level.
  4. Pick a quiet location. Recording indoors will usually yield better results than recording outside because it is usually easier to control the noise level indoors.
  5. Look around you. Are there clocks in the room that will chime during the interview? Are there noisy animals or people nearby? Is there a fan or air conditioner nearby? Does the room echo? Are there other electronic devices nearby? Laptops, cell phones, smart phones, and other electronic devices that emit GSM signals can be picked up on some digital recorders. Also, move distracting items from the background.
  6. Check the lighting. When making video recordings, be sure there is sufficient lighting so the people can be clearly seen. Position people so that lighting is on their faces. Angle the camera so there are no bright windows behind the people. Do a test recording to be sure that the lighting is good.
  7. Choose the best place for recorder or microphone.  The microphone should be an equal distance from the interviewer and interviewee to make the sound levels equal. Do your own test interviews to make sure you understand what sounds good and what does not. The top of a table acts like a soundboard on a guitar, magnifying any sound that comes in contact with the table. Therefore, place the recording device on a towel or foam pad to minimize table noise.
  8. Choose the best digital recording format. For best results, record audio in .wav format with a 24-bit depth and a 96 kHz sample rate. If you are worried about file size, an .mp3 format is also acceptable with a 192k bit depth and a 48 kHz sample rate. A .wav format will generate about 34 megabytes for every minute you record. An .mp3 will generate 1.4 megabytes for every minute of recording. For video, record in the highest settings your device and storage media will allow.

For more ideas, see the Church History guide Oral Histories: Collecting, Preserving, and Sharing Church History (also available in other languages).

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