Raw Digital Files

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Contents

Module Summary

Raw digital files are a basic part of instructional design work. They are a critical element in the building of digital learning objects and other contents. While the “raw” state is a transitory one, the handling of raw files and the maintenance of a pristine set of such files is important for instructional design project health. This short module highlights the uses of raw digital files.

Takeaways

Learners will...

  • define raw digital files in an instructional design context
  • consider how raw digital files are created with authoring tools and equipment
  • review how raw digital files may be acquired and why their provenance is important to know if the files are used for informational purposes
  • describe the relevance of raw digital files to instructional design
  • explain why it is important to maintain a pristine master set of all raw files in their least-lossy format

Module Pretest

1. What are raw digital files?

2. How are raw digital files created? What are some common authoring tools? What are some common types of digital equipment for the creation of raw digital files?

3. How are raw files acquired? Why is it important to know the whole provenance of a third-party acquired raw file if it is used for informational purposes?

4. How are they relevant to instructional design (and particularly content creation)? Why is it important to know all potential possible uses of digital learning objects at the beginning of project design and development?

5. Why is it important to maintain a pristine master set of all raw files in their least-lossy format? What are some examples of raw format file types? Why do some people maintain the original media on which initial video captures were saved?


Main Contents

1. What are raw digital files?

“Raw” digital files are the first or second versions of digital files captured by digital cameras, camcorders, screencast software, audio recorders, diagramming tools, and authoring tools. They are “raw” because these files are unprocessed, unedited, and un-refined. Why not just the “first” versions? The “second” version applies to digital video, which in their initial state may not be editable by computers; most have to be converted into a format (like .avi) that is editable by video editing software. It is usually this second version of the video that is archived (instead of the first proprietary version specific to the camera).


2. How are raw digital files created? What are some common authoring tools? What are some common types of digital equipment for the creation of raw digital files?

Raw digital files are captured using digital cameras, scanners, authoring tools, smart phones, recording devices, and others. Common types of authoring tools include the following: video editing software, diagramming tools, drawing tools, screen cast software, audio recording software, digital learning object software, and others. Some common types of digital equipment for the creation of raw digital files include digital cameras (DSLRs), camcorders, digital audio recorders, web cams, and others.


3. How are raw files acquired? Why is it important to know the whole provenance of a third-party acquired raw file if it is used for informational purposes?

Sometimes, raw digital files are acquired, such as through the federated Creative Commons Search, open-source digital content libraries and repositories, and other means. The provenance of third-party created contents is important if these are used to represent information because it is critical to be accurate. It would be highly risky to infer origins of an image or video or music, without clear and accurate representation from whomever shared the original digital contents.


4. How are they relevant to instructional design (and particularly content creation)? Why is it important to know all potential possible uses of digital learning objects at the beginning of project design and development?

Raw digital files are relevant to instructional design and content creation because these are the essential substances used to create slideshows, videos, simulations, case studies, and so on. Without raw contents, designers and developers would be left only using text…

The reason why it is important to anticipate all possible uses of digital learning objects at the beginning of an instructional design project has to do with legal considerations. If video is captured of a panel of experts talking about a particular issue, they each have to sign releases for all possible anticipated uses of the video and audio. The media releases contain the expected uses. The terms of use for a non-commercial educational context with an accredited institution of higher education is very different than the terms are for commercially packaged learning, say, for a publishing company. To be fully legal, a design and development team has to know the limits of their usage of the raw digital contents to which they have access. Clearly, it is optimal to acquire all possible rights at the beginning and into perpetuity, even for rights that may not be exercised (such as commercial rights in most cases). This way, the funders of the project and the leaders overseeing the work have the fewest constraints on their decision-making.


5. Why is it important to maintain a pristine master set of all raw files in their least-lossy format? What are some examples of raw format file types? Why do some people maintain the original media on which initial video captures were saved?

An important task is to protect all digital files in a pristine master set which is unedited. This set is only accessed if an original image or video or audio is needed for the work. Such files usually retain their original names, and there is usually a (README) document that records all the contents and features of the respective contents (file size, date of capture, and other metadata). [If there are datasets that are in the raw sets folder, these usually have accompanying metadata files as well or “data dictionaries” for larger datasets.] Raw files often contain extra imagery, extra b-roll video, extra ambient sound captures, and so on, for uses in filling out an edited video or simulation. (Sometimes, pristine raw data may be future proofed to some degree through transcoding and other forms of digital preservation.)

It is important to maintain a pristine master set of all raw files in their least-lossy format because the design and development team may need to return to the original files if they change course on a design, if they want the least-lossy file formats for development, if they want to use the captured files for deeper digital analyses, and for a number of other contexts. Remember that once a digital file is edited, it is no longer as informative as it was in its original raw state. Also, it is not possible to revert to earlier phases once a digital file has been edited or special effects applied. Once a digital file is compressed, information (whether visual or audio or other) is lost.

Some developers prefer to even maintain the original SD cards on which images and video were captured…in the raw proprietary format of the camera. This enables some light editing within the digital camera potentially. For others, though, this ties up some memory resources without sufficient additional benefit.

Examples

How To

It is helpful to store files with clear and consistent naming protocols and the necessary metadata. Also, it helps to have a folder structure that aligns with the file types and the parts of the project that the files are for. The structure of such backup files may differ based on preferences of the team. The point is to make all such contents accessible and findable…while protecting the original files.

Possible Pitfalls

Some pitfalls to having a pristine raw set of files is that these take up digital storage space. However, the cost is minimal, and the backup value is outsized.

Module Post-Test

1. What are raw digital files?

2. How are raw digital files created? What are some common authoring tools? What are some common types of digital equipment for the creation of raw digital files?

3. How are raw files acquired? Why is it important to know the whole provenance of a third-party acquired raw file if it is used for informational purposes?

4. How are they relevant to instructional design (and particularly content creation)? Why is it important to know all potential possible uses of digital learning objects at the beginning of project design and development?

5. Why is it important to maintain a pristine master set of all raw files in their least-lossy format? What are some examples of raw format file types? Why do some people maintain the original media on which initial video captures were saved?


References

Extra Resources