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In a previous article we described everything that you need to know about recording voice tracks. In this article by Bethany Hiitola, author of Getting started with Audacity 1.3, we will learn all the details of using third-party internet telephony software such as Skype to record telephone interviews. We will also cover how to set up a timed recording.
Recording an interview with Skype
If you are interested in doing more than solo podcasts with Audacity, you can always try creating interview podcasts. You can record these live in your office with your computer's internal microphone, or with additional microphones. However, you can't always perform an interview from the comfort of your office due to conflicting schedules and the location of your interviewee. Hence, let's learn how to record an interview using your phone and your computer.
First you'll need to install another software that allows you to make phone calls using your computer. The program we are going to use for this example is Skype. However, you could use other software that does the same thing for your Internet telephony set-up.
Download and install Skype
Skype is software that allows us to make voice calls over the Internet, particularly to other users of Skype. Some numbers (such as toll-free numbers) are free of charge, while calls to landlines and mobile phones may require a small fee.
For details on pricing for Skype credits for landline and cell calls go to: http://www.skype.com/.
Let's briefy discuss how to download and install Skype.
- First, go to http://www.skype.com/ and download the appropriate version of the software for your computer.
- Once the installation package has been downloaded to your computer, double-click on it to begin the installation.
For Mac computers, a .DMG file is downloaded. All you need to do is uncompress that file and drag-and-drop the Skype package to the Application folder. For any Windows device, an .exe file is downloaded. Double-click on that file to begin the installation. For Linux, there are multiple distributions available.
- If you aren't already prompted to do so, start the Skype application and follow the on-screen instructions to sign up for a new Skype account.
- Once you have registered and signed in, the main Skype screen is displayed, which should look similar to the next screenshot:
Set up Skype for your telephone interview
For our project, we've been using the computer's internal microphone, so there shouldn't be any additional set up in either Skype or Audacity. However, to be sure you may want to check the recording input devices in Audacity to make sure that you can record both sides of the interview. To do this, use the following steps:
- In the Audacity window, go to the main menu, and then select Audacity and then Preferences.
When using a computer running the Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems, you can find these preferences from the main menu. Select File and then Preferences.
- In the Audacity Preferences window, select Devices.
- Check the Device settings under Recording. Particularly if you are using multiple inputs, it may be best to select Stereo Mixer or similar input.
If there are many devices listed with the Recording | Device drop-down menu, perform a few interview tests with a friend on Skype prior to the recording session, to determine which of the connected devices will actually be doing the recording.
You might also want to turn off all notifcations in Skype. These are all of the alert sounds for events such as contacts logging in and out, incoming call alerts, and so on. To do this, follow the steps shown below:
- Open Skype and log in.
- From the main menu, select Skype and then Preferences.
- Select the Notifcations tab.
- Be sure to uncheck the Play Sound checkbox. This will make sure that all sounds are suspended and won't interrupt your recording session.
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Recording the Skype call
When you are ready to begin your interview, use the following steps to call the other party:
If this is the first time that you've used Skype you will probably have to add a few people to your contact list. It's easy; on the main menu, select Contacts and then Add a Contact. Then enter the contact name and telephone number, and then click on Add Number.
- Open Skype.
- In the main window, double-click on the contact to initiate a call.
Get creative! With Skype you don't need to limit yourself to only one other person on the call. Skype allows you to start a conference call with up to five people (yourself included).
To start a conference call, open Skype, and on the main menu choose Call and then Start a Conference Call. On a computer running Windows, you can just click on the Conference button, and then select the individuals that you want to include on your call.
- Once everyone is on the call, yourself included, start recording your conversation. In the Audacity window on your computer, click on the Record button and begin your interview. You should see the digital interpretation of your interview (the blue lines that move with the timelines) in the Project View of the Audacity screen, just like when you recorded a simple audio voice track.
- When you're done, click on the Stop button to stop recording.
- Finally, don't forget to hang up your Skype call! Click on the red Hang Up button in the active call window.
For better volume control
Before you begin recording, you may want to use the Audacity volume control panel to adjust the audio inputs to similar levels (wave and microphone) so that it is consistent for a listener.
As seen in the previous screenshot, the bars give a visual indication of the current audio levels in Audacity.
- The set of bars on the left-hand side shows output volume levels (these are in green); the right-hand side set are the input volume levels (these are shown in red).
- You measure volume levels from left to right, with the far left being silence, and the further right it moves, the louder the audio.
- In stereo recording, the top bar is the left channel and bottom bar is the right.
- When recording, you will see that the bars vary in brightness and will show different indicators or markers. The brightest portion of the bar displays the average audio volume level. The darkest part of the bar shows the highest (peak) audio level.
- The small line or marker shown in the rightmost portion in the bar is the highest audio level recorded in the last 3 seconds of recording.
- If clipping occurrs (audio becomes distorted), an indicator in the far right is displayed. This can be remedied by stopping the recording session, lowering the volume of the input, and then resuming recording.
Using timed recordings
There might be times when you want to set up a timed recording session, instead of having to manually click on the Record and Stop buttons. This can be useful if you are setting up a chat through a conference call for many parties at an agreed upon predetermined time, like a chat with a famous author or celebrity, and you want to pay attention to the conversation. To set one up prior to the call, use the following steps:
- In the Audacity window, go to the main menu, select Transport and then Timer Record.
- The Timer Record window appears with Start and End date and time fields, along with a Duration field. These are very precise, so set them for your call time with a bit of overage, just in case the conversation gets lengthy. After that, click on OK.
A Waiting for Start window appears, as seen in the next screenshot. This shows the time until the time-recording will start, as well as a way to cancel the auto-record option. You can step away from your computer for a short time, but just be sure you return before your call, as Audacity will automatically start recording at that time.
Just remember: don't turn off your computer or allow it to go into sleep mode during the call or recording session!
Once it is time for the recording to begin, you can make your Skype call, or just sit down and get ready to start talking. Audacity will start recording until the allotted time is up.
We described everything that you need to know about recording interviews. You learned the details of using a third party internet telephony software such as Skype to record telephone interviews.
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About the Author :
Bethany Hiitola is a working writer and technology geek. With a degree in Scientific and Technical Communications, she's worked as a technical writer and multimedia developer for over 12 years—she spends the rest of her time as a wife, mother, gadget geek, and Master of the Household. She's written more user manuals than she can count, essays, novels, and a few technical books—including Inkscape 0.48 Essentials for Web Designers. More details are at her website: bethanyhiitola.com