We’ll start by understanding some basics. A video is a series of pictures stitched together to give the impression of continuous motion. A video normally comprises of 24-30 frames per second (fps) which means that a 5 – second video shot at 15 fps, is made up of 75 photos (frames). A normal video, which is played back at the same frames per rate as it is recorded, also has an audio component. In many studies, audio, as well as video, these are recorded to capture a process, interaction or a scenario. In situations where the visual aspect that a video brings is either more expensive to shoot or doesn’t add significant value to the study, researchers usually use an audio recording. This recorded data is then analyzed to understand what happened at the time of the recording.
Audio/video is an observation-recording tool that can be employed by researchers to record, review and analyze user behavior or actions in specific scenarios. Audio/video can be easily combined with other design research methods such as interviews, guided tour, task analysis, to record user experience or interaction with a prototype, a digital or a non-digital product and services.
The equipment required to record the voice memos or videos is a camera (these days many phone cameras come equipped with time-lapse recording capabilities), a tripod and a remote. This equipment can be set-up in the same scenario with different users or different scenarios with the same users or user groups. The researcher and the videographer can be different. In situations where the researchers presence is either not required or could affect the participant’s behavior, an audio/video recording mechanism may be set-up in advance, the media can be recorded during the activity and the researcher can listen or view the recording later.
A number of techniques can be employed to analyze audio and visual data to study the interaction between people, digital and non-digital products and prototypes. The choice of technique depends on what line of inquiry the researcher wishes to take. Both audios, as well as video, data allow researchers to collect and analyze data, and disseminate findings to a wide variety of audiences.
|Open||The open approach allows for discoveries where no initial patterns have been identified, limiting any preconceived barriers by the designer.|
- Chances of identifying criticalities are higher
- As the researcher listen or views the recording with an open mind, the possibility of introducing bias or overlooking details is lower
|Different participants or user groups may approach the scenario being recorded differently, which can add complexity when consolidating findings|
|Closed||The second approach is in direct contrast to open approach. Here, the researcher analyzes the footage for a specific event, or with respect to a specific hypothesis that matter to the participants and/or to the research project||As the problem statement or the question to which the researcher is seeking answers is already defined, it is a quicker approach to open.|
- Chances of introducing researcher bias
- Chances of missed specific details because the researcher is looking for answers to existing questions
|Focused||In the focused approach, specific interactions are selected and examined for analysis. The focus is on specific subject or content|
- Quicker than the open approach
- The researcher can devote attention to specific portions of the footage
|Other areas of the audio or video that may be relevant to the subject under consideration may go unheard or unseen|
Advantages of Audio/Video Analysis
01 Large sample sizes
Audios/videos can be recorded for a large number of individuals at the same time for the same or different scenarios; the only requirement is the equipment accompanying the researcher or independent of the researcher.
02 Researcher presence
In cases where a senior researcher needs to be present for a certain observation but is unable to attend a session, the session can be recorded for the researcher to review later and document their findings.
03 No researcher influence
In cases where the recording is done independent of the researcher, the researcher cannot influence the user’s behavior or interactions
04 Missed details
In cases where the researcher was present during the recording, any details that the researcher could have missed can be reviewed and documented when reviewing the audio/video.
Disadvantages of Audio/Video Analysis
01 Time-consuming and costly
The review and analysis of audios/videos is time-consuming. Again, with more number of audios/videos to record, the requirement for equipment and audio recorders/videographers goes up. Similarly, in case the user groups or individual users being shot are experts, they’ll charge a fee to participate in the research.
02 No probing
In cases where the researcher isn’t present at the time of shooting the audio/ video, if later the researcher spots an interesting action performed by the users, there is no possibility of probing the user further
03 Researcher attitudes
In some studies, when the researcher is aware that an audio/video is being recorded, they can become relaxed during the session because any missed detail can be revisited when reviewing the recorded media.
Think Design recommendation
Audio/ Video Analysis is a very powerful tool that can come in handy where many of the research tools may not help. Say, for example, we are designing a mobile app that is used during live stock transactions, in the context. It will help designers to view audio and video recordings in order to assess environment usage… and this will help in designing a meaningful app that is sensitive to the usage environment. Audio/ Video Analysis is also used in cases where security forces want to monitor or neutralize potential threats by analyzing voice calls or videos from security cameras.
As a design researcher, you will use this tool when you want to get quick insights without having to be physically present in that environment. However, it is to be noted here that Audio/ Video Analysis, in this case, is done retrospectively and hence, a researcher/ designer wouldn’t get insight into the current/ live and future scenarios. The time and particular context of recording have to be well understood before making deductions.