TechTip: Make podcasts from Skype calls

Podcasts can be a useful addition to a website. Visitors can download files, store them on a portable audio player, and then play back the recording anywhere, at any time. But producing podcasts can be expensive if you have to buy microphones and recording equipment. Also, while guest speakers can make a podcast more interesting, it can be difficult to organize interviews and travel to meet them. But with some simple equipment and a little technical knowledge it is possible to record interviews over Skype to produce good quality podcasts.

What you need?

Computer (laptop or PC).
USB microphone and headphone set with USB connection, available from around US$20. A headset with a USB connection will give a better-quality recording.
Internet connection.

Software

Skype
Callburner
Audacity

Download and install Skype onto your computer. The program is free and lets you make VoIP calls that are free to other Skype users. To call standard telephone numbers you have to pay in advance for the SkypeOut service. Follow the instructions to set up your username and password.

To record VoIP calls you will need a separate program such as Callburner. This is free to try for 30 days, and US$49.95 to buy. When you install Callburner it will ask if it can connect with Skype. Click ‘yes’. Mac users should try AudioHijack Pro, which costs US$32, and has a similar set up.
After recording a call you will need to edit the audio file using Audacity a free and easy to use open source program.

Set up

Open Callburner, and go to ‘Options’, ‘Configure’ and ‘Recording’. Select ‘Record all voices’ for ‘Skype to Skype’ and ‘Skype Out and Skype In’. Then select ‘Audio encoding ACM’. Browse your computer to find a convenient place to store the recorded files. To make your podcast easy for other people to download you could choose an audio format such as PCM 12,000 kHz, 16 bit, mono or PCM 12,000 kHz, 8 bit, stereo, which will keep the audio file small. If your podcast contains only voices, then this quality will be good enough to playback on a portable MP3 player. You can select ‘Start recording automatically’ if you want to record all Skype calls

Record

Plug your headset into a USB port on the computer. Position the microphone at about nose height to prevent it from picking up the sound of your breathing.

Close all other programs running on your computer – this will help give better results as most of your computer’s performance will go into the recording.

Start Callburner. This should automatically start Skype too. Call the person you want to interview (see box). When he or she answers, or after you have introduced yourself, click ‘Record’, unless you selected Callburner to start recording automatically, in which case the recording will be running already.

At the end of the conversation, click ‘Stop’. Callburner will automatically save the audio file to the selected folder.

NOTE: In some countries it is illegal to record a telephone (even VoIP) conversation without the consent of the other person. Always make your interviewee aware that the call is being recorded.

Edit

Editing your podcasts will ensure that you provide only the information your audience needs. Also, try to keep your podcast short – no longer than 15 minutes. Open Audacity. Click ‘File’ and ‘Open’ to search for the folder where Callburner stored the audio file. You will then see a graphic where the audio is represented as a wave. Press the ‘play’ button or the space bar to listen to the audio.

When you get to a piece you do not need, press ‘stop’ and click the mouse at the start of the first sound in the section. At the end of the unwanted section, hold down the ‘shift’ button and click the mouse at the end of the last sound, or hold down the left mouse button and drag the mouse to highlight the section you which to cut. Playback the selection to make sure you have highlighted only the part you don’t need, and if so, press delete.

The process works very much like highlighting and deleting words in a word processing program, but can take some practice to identify the correct sounds on the wave pattern.

When you have deleted all of the unnecessary parts of the interview click ‘Save as …’ and save your file for uploading to the website.

To make a call using Skype
Start Skype, then click ‘Search for Skype users’. Type in the Skype name of the person you want to call and click ‘Find’. When the name appears in the results, click ‘Add to Skype contacts’. Close the search box. In the ‘Contacts’ window you should now see the name of the person you want to call. To make the call double click the name or on the red telephone symbol.

30 September 2008

Copyright © 2014, CTA. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (ACP-EU)