All projects: DIY-IT Project Guide
This project: Build your own, broadcast-quality Skype Studio
One of the very coolest aspects of my job is I get the opportunity to meet some astonishing innovators, learn about their work, and talk to them in-depth as background for various projects I'm working on.
Sometimes, when working on a particularly complex project, I like to make sure I have a full recording or transcript of my discussions, so I can go back and review exactly what the person said.
I had one of these opportunities recently, on relatively short notice. But there was going to be a complication. The interview subject was going to present me with a series of background slides via an online web conferencing system.
That wasn't the tough part. What made this challenging was we were going to talk by phone, via a dial-in phone number.
That meant that audio would be over POTS (plain ol' telephone system) and video via the Internet. Sure, I could record an audio track off the phone and a video track off the computer, and then fiddle with Premiere until I got the two synced up properly, but I wasn't looking for a new hobby. And I really didn't have the time.
I just needed a clean recording so I could go on and write my briefing paper.
The first thing I needed to do was to get both feeds onto my computer. So, rather than dialing out to the meeting over a regular phone, I used Skype with its landline calling option. That got me the session's audio on the computer along with the video.
I tried a number of Skype-recording add-ons, which also promised to record the screen, but they failed miserably in my night-before tests. In a fit of "what the heck, maybe it'll work," I dusted off my five year old copy of SnagIt. I'd reviewed SnagIt back in 2007, calling it a completely insane screen capture program, with more features than made sense to anyone this side of Arkham Asylum.
As it turned out, SnagIt was -- barely -- able to capture both the Skype audio and the web conferencing video, but it didn't do it all that well. I was on a Windows 7 64-bit system and the old version of SnagIt I had was meant for Windows Vista and XP.
But, I thought, if SnagIt from the Dark Ages almost worked, I'll bet a modern copy of Camtasia would probably do the trick. Camtasia is a full-featured screen recording program by the same people who do SnagIt.
Now, as it turns out, Camtasia appears to have added as many features as SnagIt. Apparently, you can almost produce entire movies with the darned thing. I didn't go there. I had to get something working so the very next morning I could be on the phone with my subject and get a good recording.
Here's where PR people are so valuable to those of us fortunate enough to be members of the press. Kudos go out to TechSmith's PR manager, Natalie, who -- while stranded waiting for a flight in Chicago -- managed to hook me up with a fresh copy of Camtasia.
She also sent me an updated copy of SnagIt, which I will (I promise) install and check out. I'm expecting this much-updated version of SnagIt to also make me eggs in the morning and bake cinnamon rolls.
And so, as the cycle of life continued, night gave way to morning, and the morning hours slowly rolled on, cup of coffee after cup of coffee (no cinnamon rolls, sadly), until it was time for my briefing.
I fired up Camtasia, having had no time to spend reading the documentation. I fiddled only barely with the settings, and crossed my fingers.
The briefing itself was astonishing and fascinating. At some point, I hope I can let you know more about it. But the important thing was I got the recording. Sound quality was iffy -- it was worse on my side, fortunately, which I didn't care about. I got a clean recording of the guru I was talking to, which is what mattered. Camtasia got me exactly what I needed.
I'm sure if I'd actually read any of the documentation or spent more than just a few minutes tinkering with the settings that I would have gotten a pristine recording. But that wasn't the point.
I needed to be able to save a copy of the webcast and the audio in a single file for review. And that's exactly what Camtasia did. It saved the webcast...literally.