Phone hacking, the work of evil reporters and dodgy police officers…probably not a suitable subject for this blog?
However recording calls may well be.
I use VOIP (Skype in particular) a considerable amount for work and have recently become interested in recording Skype conversations. The motivation behind this was the need to create a set of video clips for a series of Open Educational Resources I’m working on. We wanted to be able to interview people about certain subjects, but the project we are creating the OER for is an international one and we work as a distributed team. Many of the interviewees live in different countries and we rarely see them. One possibility would be interviewing them using Skype and then recording the audio and video.
There are a number of products that will allow you to record Skype including Camtasia, Pamela and Total Recorder(recommendations from Twitter). Most cost, but quite a few are available for free trial.
More suggestions are available in this blog post: How to Record Skype Conversations: Tools, Resources, Tips.
After taking a quick look at the options I settled on the 14 day free trial from VodBurner.
Some of the key VodBurner features are:
- You can record both sides of any Skype video conversation but on editing can choose to only capture one – this suited me as I wanted video footage of the interviewee, but not the interviewer.
- It captures at full frame rate and maximum resolution for the best quality possible, but you can downgrade it.
- Once the call is complete it generates a single complete video very quickly and in a few clicks.
- You can edit the video prior to publishing using the built in Post-Production Console.
Actually recording calls (with video) was pretty easy, you just follow these steps:
- Install VodBurner.
- After installing, you will see the VodBurner application (mine opened on logging in and on opening Skype).
- Start a Skype video call (using the Skype software).
- Recording will start automatically – this was a bit of a problem as I actually wanted to chat with the interviewee first but I just had to pause the recording.
Once recording it was easy to pause the recording, configure the set up to change the quality of the recording and see statistics for the recording.
My first stumbling block came in the form of disk space. The files created were huge and I needed to dig out an external hard drive to capture minutes of video. I ended up moving the whole VodBurner package onto the external hard drive, this was easy to do and didn’t require and reconfiguration.
The post editing consule is very intuitive and I felt had the right amount of tools/options. It was possible to:
- Trim portions of the call so they do not appear in the final production.
- Add text captions to the final production, with the ability to alter font, color and background.
- Add pictures to the final production.
- Add background audio to the final production, with professional fading options and volume control.
- Add external video to the final production.
Once edited I could:
- Generate ASF/WMV/MP4 files suitable for uploading directly to YouTube and other services – I found that I couldn’t generate MP$ as I needed Windows 7 but we managed to convert the output using Camtasia. The files I intially created were pretty large, which could be an issue.
- Upload directly to YouTube for public or private sharing.
- Generate video with choice of aspect ratio and resolution.
Interviewing on Skype
The first interview went well. I have noted down some key suggestions from my colleague (Ed Bremner) on how to conduct an interview in Skype:
- Opt for 4-5 mins of final material, but recording a bit more material
- Don’t speak over each other; let the other person finish and then leave a split-second before starting to talk.
- Try not to worry too much about ‘fluffs’ as these could be edited out. If you make a fluff, don’t worry, just stop and then start again.
- Try for video, but if the bandwidth was compromising the quality we decided we would just record audio.
- Don’t worry if you don’t get it first time – just have another go.
- Decide in advance whether the recording will be a ‘conversation’ or a ‘talk’ i.e. whether you will have the interviewer’s voice on the recording. The second approach can sound more professional in a short audio clip but is more tricky to do.
- Have the first sentence written down but don’t have any more than that or it will become stilted.
- If you use a ‘conversation’ approach, then you can extend the conversation with some clever questions based on answers.
- Put the basic recording metadata on the front of each recording: Date, topic, interviewee, recording no.
- Take a few mins to listen back to your recordings to make sure they are working.
As is the case with any creating and editing video package, you ‘live and learn’. I found VodBurner intuitive and fairly easy to use. I had a few problems editing out ‘fluffs’ and using transitions so ended up trimming my first video more than I’d originally intended but I’m sure I will get better at this the more videos I create. One option would have been to ask our distributed interviewees to create their own ‘vox pop’ videos, but then I would have been waiting for them to do it. Using VodBurner meant that the ball was in my court and my interviewees didn’t need to download any software, edit and footage or move any files, which suits me (and them) fine.