The Renegade Writer

Recording Interviews on Skype

My new office doesn’t have phone service (because I’m too cheap to buy it), so I’ve been looking for ways to record interviews with my iPhone. The solutions I’ve read about sound not-quite-reliable to me — also, I have the cheapest iPhone plan, meaning I don’t have many minutes.

My writing buddy and fellow FLXer Elaine Grant mentioned to me that she’s recorded calls on Skype. In case you’re not familiar with it, Skype is a free program that lets you make phone calls through your computer. If you have a video camera in your computer, you can even make free video calls. (My husband video Skypes with his mom often so she can see her new grandson!)

I did some research, and here’s what I found out:

  • It’s free to call another Skype number, but to call a non-Skype number, you need to buy credits (in increments as small as $10) or sign up for their monthly service (which is around $13 per month and gives you unlimited worldwide calls — cheaper if you want only a US plan).
  • Calls to US numbers (and many non-US numbers) if you use credits cost just over 2 cents per minute. There is a small connection charge per call.
  • Ecamm Network is one of the companies that makes a Skype recorder for Macs. They give you a free one-week trial, and if you want to buy it, it costs $14.95. (If you’re looking for a Skype recorder for the PC, try this one).

Last week I bought a $10 credit on Skype and downloaded the Skype recorder. Whenever I open Skype, the recorder automatically pops up. All I have to do is press the Record button — it automatically stops when you hang up the call. The recorder saves the call as a .mov file. The files are pretty big, so instead of e-mailing them to my transcriptionist, I upload them directly to her server using Fetch FTP. This usually takes three minutes or so.

I’ve done three interviews this way so far, and have made a few other short calls, and I still have $7.45 left on my account.

The sound quality on Skype has been excellent; I’ve asked my interviewees, and they say they can hear me just fine. Do test the system out before jumping in with all your cash, though…I’ve heard reports from other writers that they experienced terrible sound quality.

Anyway, thought I’d share in case anyone is looking for a cheap, good call recording solution!

How do you record calls? Have you found a really cool set up? Please let us know! [lf]

Jun 15, 2009 Cool products, Cool tools, Interviewing

13 Responses

  1. Marijke says:

    Hi Linda, I use only Skype now for my interviews. I have had a few sources tell me I sound like I’m at the bottom of a well sometimes, but the recording comes out very well. Almost too well. I can hear it if I turn a page while taking notes, if the neighbour’s dog start barking… ;-)

  2. Gwynneth says:

    Haven’t done anything with Skype but I did just buy the Olympus DS 40 voice recording package along with the TP7 recorder for phones (I only have cell; no land line). Those files are also saved as MS media files which make it easy for uploading.

  3. kim says:

    I was looking into skype around a year ago and it was just too much work to try to figure out prices, etc. — maybe it’s improved now but at the time, their website was impenetrable. If I have to work too hard to figure out what to do or what it’ll cost, or if my eyes glaze over, I move on. (Note to vendors: hire good writers!)

    I just signed up for Google Voice, though — I had an account with GrandCentral so it was easy to switch over. Looks like Google Voice will offer recorded conversations – free. If I recall, you call the Google Voice # from your cell (or any other phone), then dial the # you want to call. Imagine it has prompts. Suspect it also works to have someone call you on your Google Voice #. Haven’t tried it yet, but I’m optimistic.

  4. Ooh, Kim, I forgot that I had Grand Central and now I have Google Voice! But I wonder what file format they save the sound files as?

  5. Diane says:

    I have used Skype for a couple of recorded calls for work, but I recorded them using an Olympus recorder with ear attachment, as Gwyneth mentions above. I love my Olympus!

  6. I use Skype for all of my interviews because it’s more comfortable for me to type and talk this way. Plus, I don’t have a landline and this prevents me from using cell phone minutes. I have the unlimited US/Canada plan for $2.99/month. Best deal ever!

    I’ve tried a lot of recording software and nothing seems to work for me. Maybe I need to revisit this. Occasionally I get complaints about sound quality, and I’m not sure why.

  7. quinn says:

    I’m still using my aging Olympus DVR, with a little earphone mic (Radio Shack) that looks too cheap to work, but it does. Glad to read about your experience with Skype, as I know many writers in other parts of the world have been sing it for years, with mixed success. I actually have an interview tomorrow morning with a source in Scotland, but am resisting the urge to experiment!

  8. Elaine Grant says:

    Hi Linda —

    I’m glad it’s working for you! I used Call Recorder for Skype (a Mac app, costs about $15). Here’s the site: http://www.ecamm.com/mac/callrecorder/. It worked great — once you install it, it comes up automatically when you open Skype. You don’t have to worry that it will record every Skype call, though — you have to click a button to record. I don’t remember what format it saves in, but I can check if you need to find out. I loved it!

    Elaine

  9. Jean Reidy says:

    Hey Linda,
    I have a nifty digital voice recorder that plugs into my regular phone. I’m then able to download the calls (primarily interviews) onto my computer. Of course it works for face to face interviews as well.

  10. cal says:

    I’m also a fan of call recorder — worth the $15 or so to save the interviews as MP3 files. One feature I also like is that you can mark as you’re recording so if you get something good you have a place holder to go back to it, saves a ton of time.

  11. Ed says:

    For Mac users, WireTapPro works like a charm.

  12. You are a frickin’ life saver! I talk to most of my clients via Skype and was just thinking yesterday how much I wish I could record the conversations. Thank you!!

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