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Inspiration Lab - General Technology Skills

This guide is home to a few tutorials for basic skills that will be useful for patrons of VPL's Inspiration Lab.

Introduction

This guide provides a very basic overview of file sizes, estimates of how much portable storage you will need for your files, and how much time you will need to save or export your files and projects.  File sizes and transfer rates are very approximate, as they depend on a few factors.

File sizes

File size is mainly the overall amount of data (and generally a larger file will be a longer song or a bigger-looking picture), but there are other factors that affect file sizes, related to quality of the files. 

Generally speaking, the more complex the file, the bigger it is. A text file is very small because it is only written words, while a video, which has audio and video (much more information), is huge. Quality is also a factor; a higher resolution photo or video will be bigger than one with lower resolution.   

Quality also depends on compression rates. See below for more information on data compression.

File transfer Saving, rendering, burning, uploading etc.

The amount of time it takes to save your file depends on several factors, including the size of the file, and where it is being saved to.

Direct “saves” to portable storage like USB and hard drives may be fairly quick, even with larger files- although the speed of a USB will affect the amount of time it takes.

Exporting or rendering finished audio and video projects may take some time. However, sometimes this can be due to settings which are causing things to take longer than they should- if unsure, you can ask staff working in the Inspiration Lab.

Burning to a CD or DVD may take some time as well, depending on how much is being burned. Usually it should not take more than 10 to 15 minutes per disc (and burning may be even quicker than this).

Uploading larger files to e-mail, YouTube, or cloud storage - such as HD video, or uncompressed photos - may take quite some time, especially if it is during a busy time in the library.

Data Compression

The following information may be more than you need to know at first, but it is useful to be aware of.

Images, audio, or video files that are uncompressed can result in very large files. You may use editing software to reformat your files from uncompressed to compressed, and still retain high enough quality for your purposes- however, depending on how a file is compressed, there may be a loss of quality, and if quality is lost in a file it cannot be regained.

Some file formats are effective at compressing the data of an audio file, and reducing file size, while maintaining audio quality- file formats that can do this are "lossless". Other file formats compress data highly, but at the expense of audio quality- these file formats are "lossy".

  • Uncompressed data means there is no data compression. The audio of an uncompressed file is the highest quality, but the file size may be very large.
    • Examples of uncompressed formats include:
      • BMP, usually (image file type)
      • WAV (audio file type)
         
  • Data compression encodes file data so a file is a smaller size than if uncompressed.
     
  • Lossless data compression is a way of compressing data that allows the original uncompressed data to be perfectly reconstructed from the compressed data- that is, files with lossless compression will be smaller than uncompressed files, but the quality will be unaffected (or not very affected) so data is still of the highest quality.
    • Examples of lossless compressed formats include:
      • PNG (image file type)
      • FLAC (audio file type)
         
  • Lossy data compression approximates information, and although this allows for much smaller files, it does mean a loss of quality. If a file is saved and resaved in a lossy format, the fidelity will be lost each time the file is resaved.
    • Examples of lossy compressed formats include:
      • JPG (image file type)
      • MP3 (audio file type)

What File Size Means

A "bit" is a very basic unit of data and can have only one of two values, commonly represented as either a 0 or 1. A "byte" most commonly consists of eight bits.

A kilobyte is 1000 bytes. A megabyte is 1000 kilobytes. A gigabyte is 1000 megabytes. A terabyte is 1000 gigabytes.
 

Unit Size Abbreviation
kilobyte 1000 bytes k / kB
megabyte 1000 kilobytes MB
gigabyte 1000 megabytes GB
terabyte 1000 gigabytes TB

 

This is similar to metric units for measuring distance- for example, there are 1000 millimeters in a meter, and 1000 meters in a kilometer.

How Much Memory Do I Need?

USB drives can range in size. These days, USB drives for sale may be as small as 4GB, and are commonly 32 to 64GB, but may be as large as 256GB.

If you are using your USB drive for Word documents or eBook files, as well as a few images, you will not need a drive that is very big. 4GB or 8GB range will usually be more than enough space for these kinds of files.

However, if you are working on a number of digital video, audio, or high definition image projects, you will need more storage space.

 

Common Media File Sizes

E-book File 1-5 MB
MP3 file 1 MB / minute
WAV file 10 MB / minute
Digitized video

14 MB / minute
(just under 1 GB / hour)