Podcasting for Authors – Part 3: Recording Interviews

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Podcasting for Authors - Part 3: Recording Interviews
By Dan Shaurette

In this continuing series of articles about podcasting, my goal is to help my fellow authors get familiar with getting the most out of your web presence. As an author, a blog is a great vehicle for sharing your thoughts with your readers, and since it is the written word, it shows off your talent as a writer. Even still, verbal communication is valuable and a podcast allows your fans to hear your wit as well.

On my podcast, I talk about everything and anything. I do talk about my writing and web projects, but it's more about sharing my interests than promotion. Yet, it is promotion, and that cannot be denied. It's one more medium where you have a chance to connect to a reader.

In the last article, I wrote about the technical side of podcasts and explained how you can create a podcast of your own. I covered a lot of ground detailing various hardware and software requirements and best practices.

In this article, I will focus on some ways to record yourself and others for a podcast. Not only will this help you if you plan to conduct phone interviews of other authors, for example, but if you simply want to be able to do a podcast with a co-host without expensive audio equipment.

As I mentioned in the last article, you will need software for recording and editing your audio. I highly recommend Audacity, which you can download for free from: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Audacity is a fully featured, multi-track recording and editing program, which is offered for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Since it works on most computers and is free, it really is all you need for recording, saving and editing most of your audio.

If you are going to be the only person ever speaking on your podcast, then you just need a computer, a microphone, and Audacity. However, most podcats that I enjoy listening to either have co-hosts, "in-studio guests", or recorded interviews. Audacity can still make this possible.

What you need is a way to get everyone's voices onto one computer that will record them. One of the technologies which has come along in the last couple of years and has greatly contributed to podcasting is voice chat and Voice-over-IP (or VoIP) telephone services.

These programs have made it possible to not only speak with many people at once online, but also provide a bridge to standard landline telephone services. The ability to call out or receive incoming phone calls usually cost some money, but at decent per minute fees.

Many services exist to provide the software and channels to do this. The heaviest hitters are Yahoo, Google, AIM, MSN, Skype and Gizmo. All of these programs are free to download and use, and allow free calling between users of their respective networks.

Voice chat is done by using a chat or instant messaging program on two or more computers connected over the internet. This works very well if you and the people you want to chat with all have computers running the same chat program and have a microphone and headphones to hear. Headset microphones work the best. If you or the other people only have speakers instead of headphones, then the microphone will pick up what comes from the speakers and you'll have an echo.

However, if the people you want to talk with do not have their own computer with this minimum setup, there is still the option of VoIP incoming or outgoing PC-to-Phone service. With one of these services, your guests can either use their phone to call your computer, or you could call their phone from your computer. Once the call is made, you are hearing and speaking with your computer and you can begin recording.

Here is a list of the details of the more popular voice chat programs, most of which also have VoIP phone features.

Gizmo: http://www.gizmoproject.com/
- Windows XP/2000 - Mac OSX - Linux - Nokia 770 Tablet
- Built-in recorder
- Phone out - $0.01/minute within US. Other rates Intl.
- Phone in - $12.00/3 months

Skype: http://www.skype.com/
- Windows XP - Mac OSX - Linux - even mobile devices
- Phone out - Free Long-distance outgoing within the US! Other rates Intl.
- Phone in - 10 Euros/3 months

Yahoo: http://messenger.yahoo.com/
- Windows XP - Mac OSX
- Phone out - $0.02/minute within US. Other rates Intl.
- Phone in - $2.49/month

AIM Triton+Phoneline: http://www.aimphoneline.com/
- Windows XP/2000
- Phone in - FREE
- Phone out - $9.95/mo to anywhere.

MSN/Live Messenger: http://get.live.com/messenger/overview
- Windows XP only
- Phone out - $0.019 within US. Other rates Intl.
- Phone in - Not available

AIM 5.9: http://www.aim.com/get_aim/win/other_win.adp
- Windows 98/ME, WinNT4/2000/XP
- Voice Chat only - no phone service

Google Talk: http://www.google.com/talk/
- Windows XP/2000 - Jabber/XMPP clients on Max OSX/Linux
- Voice Chat only - no phone service

Note that I put Gizmo right at the top of the list. It runs on most computers, has a built-in call recorder, and also has competitive phone rates. Gizmo saves recorded phone calls in regular .WAV audio files that you can use Audacity to convert into MP3 for you.

Even if you chose to use another program to have the conversation, you can still record the audio. You might choose to use Skype since SkypeOut calls to telphones within the USA and Canada are free until 2007. This is a great deal and the service works very well. So how do you record that call?

Well, you have two ways. The method I used once upon a time was to connect the line-out from my sound card into the line-in with an audio patch cable. These are relatively inexpensive and can be bought at most Radio Shack and similar electronics stores. You must then set Audacity to record from the "Stereo Mix" or "What U Hear" channel. This routes all incoming and outgoing audio into the Mix for Audacity to record.

This option is doomed to fail for most people because their sound cards do not have a line-in and line-out. Moreover, not all sound cards have the "Stereo Mix" channel, and therefore you could try "Line-In" since you've directed all output back in to that source. Again, this only works if you have a Line-in jack. (Trying to route speaker out into the mic jack is just a recipe for audio disaster.)

There are software solutions that make this more feasible, but they are not free. Many are fairly inexpensive. One option called Virtual Audio Cable (VAC), enables you to record any audio much like the audio patch cables do. You can check it out at: http://software.muzychenko.net/eng/vac.html

VAC allows you to do the same patching of audio output to the input for the purposes of recording them with a program like Audacity. VAC is only for Windows XP/2000 and sells for $30.00. It's a nice program that can have uses outside of recording audio. You can, for example, use it to pipe audio into a voice chat so that you have a live teleconference.

Beware that when you are using the methods above to mix various audio channels, you need to pay very close attention to the volume of the channels. You will most likely not be able to separate the voices after the fact.

Beyond this lies probably the best choice for recording voice chat calls, a program called HotRecorder: http://hotrecorder.com/

HotRecorder can record conversations using Skype, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger 7, AIM, Net2Phone, and FireFly. It costs $14.95 and does the job perfectly.Moreover, calls recorded with HotRecorder have your local audio on one channel and the audio from your guest on the other channel. This makes post-production editing of the chat very easy.

Most people I know use Skype, so recording chats with them is made easy with HotRecorder. However, I have used Gizmo and I personally favor that over the Skype/HotRecorder solution. The audio tends to be a little cleaner and I don't need to use HotRecorder with it.

Just remember, that no matter which software you use to record your conversations, there are laws in many countries that forbid the recording people without their permission. If you are interviewing someone, be sure to let them know you are going to record them and all should be well.
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Copyright © 2006 Dan Shaurette.
Besides being the editor of the newsletter for http://selfpublishedauthors.com/, Dan is the author of LILITH'S LOVE, a modern vampire romance novel, which you can learn more about at http://liliths-love.com/. He also hosts "Is This Thing On?", an eclectic podcast featuring chat, interviews, and independent music at http://is-this-thing-on.net/. You can find out more on his blog at http://danshaurette.com/.

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