Recording Skype :: MX Skype Recorder

We went to record The Global Geek Podcast last week and something came up and Knightwise was unable to attend the recording. Knightwise usually records the show on his Mac using Call Recorder. So as you might appreciate, him not able to be there and nobody else with a spare Mac at hand we were stuck. We needed to find a method to record the show and fast!

We went through a few dirty hacks. The worst of which is to change your audio source to Stereo Mix. This mixes everything that you hear back through the sound card. This means that you can hit record on any recording software and record Skype. While this works and flawlessly it has one major and limiting side effect. The other person gets their voice feed back to them with a slight delay. For some psychological reason it makes it nearly impossible to talk properly.

We also considered doing a double ended recording. That is I record my end locally and Tim his. This gives great quality and awesome control over levels. But the drawback here is that you have 2 huge files and one of those files has to get to me to edit it. Because there are 2 files it also means that I have to splice the two together flawlessly to sync the audio. Easier said than done. Extra post production editing is never a good thing.

We checked out a few options that I have checked out before. None are stunning or perfect and most are well below par in every respect. Tim though found a gem that I had not unearthed. MX Skype Recorder. Not a plugin but a separate program that enables you to record Skype with the great quality that we demand and expect for the show. It also has some features that make it ideal.

MX Skype Recorder Interface

Once you have downloaded MX Recorder you need to run the application then run Skype or make the call. You can not start recording mid call. It is as simple as hitting the record button to record a call once you have done this. By default it records an .mp3 with average quality settings. Fine to just capture the call but no good for podcasting. Enter the options.

In the options you can record a call in either a .mp3 (lame) or a PCM wav. The latter is what you want for recording a podcast. As I have said before you should not edit a .mp3 due to it’s lossy format. So I set to it to record a .wav. Now there are two options record as a “mixed” input and output or as a “dual channel”. Dual channel gives you one channel for input and one channel for output. So you have left with one person and right with the other. This is great because with any good audio editor you can get the levels right for each one. Once you are happy with the levels mix the audio into a mono mix then if you usually produce your show as stereo split it into a stereo mix. It might require some amplification after this process, just be careful you don’t clip the audio. I would suggest using a compressor to do this as it is a more balanced method of getting the volume right. Then just edit the show as you normally would.

MX Skype Recorder Options

There are many settings for outputting to a .mp3. Including changing the kHz and sample rate. Use this if you are into doing a raw unedited podcast. Your output is your show. Add ID3 tags and change the file name and you are done. Nice seamless experience.

One tip that I would pass on. Initially the levels were off, by a long way. I was very soft the incoming track was fine. But to try and fix this was a bit of a nightmare as I had already performed the above mixing procedure and edited the show. Now what we found out was that MX Recorder uses the levels that are set in Skype for the outputs. Do a few test recordings and get them right before you record. We also found this went part way to making it perfect. I needed to increase my output locally. We got a magic recording by taking the time to tweak these settings. Use the inbuilt level indicators, get your audio equal. Doesn’t matter it it is too soft you can adjust this in post production. But make sure you are not clipping, you can’t fix that!

The end result was great MX Skype Recorder is a winner in my book. It has a very small footprint and is easy to use. It compresses the file fast and outputs where ever you want it to and stamps it with the date and time. This little app works with multiple callers as well. But remember you have one channel for all input. Everyone that is conferenced in will be on that one channel. Do a test recording and get participants to adjust their output as needed. The mess that would result otherwise does not want talking about.

This program performed well and is one of the best recorders for Skype that I have used, if not the best. One drawback might be that the software is not free. There is a free version that will only record for 5 minutes. But for $14.95 US for the Standard Version it is a small price to pay in my opinion. Nice work by these guys and until Skype get their act together and give us a record button it will do the trick nicely.

Here is the show that I recorded with MX Skype Recorder. I am sure the next effort will be better still as we had a few settings that we could have better tweaked.

As a side note MX Skype Recorder will also record other VoIP applications such as Google Talk and Yahoo! Messenger although I have not tested these applications.

MX Skype Recorder Homepage

The Podcast Network v3.0

TPN V3.0 LogoThis is great news, although it did happen a few days ago now. But when it did we were in full swing getting the podcast ready and that means I have little time to blog anything. The Podcast Network announced the launch of  a brand new version of the homepage.

Complete with Ajax goodness and a completely different look. If you know nothing about podcasts there are links at the top to get you up to speed and listening to some great content. TPN is a the place to look for good regular podcasts. The right hand side menu gives you all the podcasts on The Podcast Network, separated into categories.

If you have not visited The Podcast Network before and want to know what it is all about, now is as good a time as ever. Nice work Cam and the development team. Next the show blogs! (That was a hint).

The Global Geek Podcast belongs to The Podcast Network. Hosted by Knightwise and myself weekly. Here is our latest show if you enjoy it, head over to our blog on TPN and subscribe. In addition to that I also post regularly there as well as here.

TPN V3.0 Screenshot

The Failure of Collective Intelligence

Wikipedia Logo Full SizeI was talking to an associate tonight and we had cause to have a look at the entry for “Podcast” in Wikipedia. My discovery was the bastardized remnants of what was once a very good article.

Not only does the entry now have a warning plastered at the top as to the fact that there may be spam associated with outgoing links. The information in the entry is now totally inaccurate and boarders on heresy. Take this example:

The term “podcast” is derived from Apple’s portable music player, the iPod.

This is total rubbish. In fact this is the exact assumption made by the community at large that we as podcasters are constantly trying to change. More often than not once someone has an idea as to what podcasts are their next question is “Do I need an iPod?”.

The term “Podcast” or “Podcasting” was in fact first coined on the 12th of Feburary 2004 by Ben Hammersley in an article for “The Gardian Newspaper”:

“…all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio. But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”

– Guardian Unlimited [Emphasis added to quote]

This is but one example of numerous inaccuracies that have occurred over a very short period of time to this entry. Right now someone could include that a podcast is a nocturnal rabbit and it would not damage the article. So corrupted is the information that it is good for nothing. Not only that but a cursory look at associated pages and entries reveal further inaccurate and spam laden dross.

Just when I thought that Wikipedia was starting to gain some respect. This is a demonstration of why it is possible that it will never be fully trusted or respected at any level. I am certainly going to use a lot more caution when using Wikipedia as a source of information or reference, on any subject. Until this article and associated items are cleaned up I would discount the whole article as crap.

This brings into question the whole Wikipedia model in that there is wisdom in crowds. However, this proves that there are indeed flaws to making the assumption that collective intelligence is superior. Clearly people other than experts in this field or at least those that have made some sort of research attempt have edited these entries. This has been done more than once compounding the already inaccurate data. This has occurred much quicker than those qualified to do so. The result is an article that is hobbled by rubbish and dosed with spam for good measure.

At this present time on face value the whole article needs to be rewritten and reviewed and then locked down. I have witnessed the failure of collective intelligence.

Want to Know How to Podcast?

GGP Album Art SmallThe latest Global Geek went up today. Knightwise and myself put a lot of hard work into this one. It is the first special edition for the show. We were asked to do a show about how we put the show together. So we did.

This episode is a real behind the scenes look at the podcast. We cover all the on-line and off line applications that we use. The technology behind podcasting. Audio editing and hardware also get a look in. For a budding podcaster it is a valuable insight into podcasting and what it takes. Although I will bracket that with the fact that our show has been going a while now and we have upgraded most software and hardware from the “basics” to more advanced and powerful. So this is not a basic show in terms of what would be the minimum requirements.

Technically the show is a valuable resource for anyone including us. But it was created for many other reasons. We want to connect with our listeners. We genuinely appreciate them and the effort they make to listen to the show. We love hearing from them. Hopefully they will connect with us and feel that they are as much a part of the show and the community as we are.

Added to the complexities of the podcast is the fact that my co-host is literally a world away in Belgium. So we cover just what we do and how to overcome difficulties that arise due to the distance. Not to mention the time space continuum. But as you will hear it feels like Knightwise is next door.

There are some great sound clips included in the podcast. There is a snippet from the very first Global Geek. Wow what a difference in sound quality! It felt great to know that the show had developed and matured as much as it has. You also get a ear in on our pre-production meeting for the show and our sound check. Plus we have pictures on Flickr that we are going to add to through the week and we also made available our unedited show notes for the episode.

One of the coolest things we did for the show was to include a special surprise for the end. I am not going to give it away, just to say that it is a real laugh. I did not even tell Knightwise the secret, he found out just like you can. He had this to say about the show:

“I have tears streaming down my  face as a drive to work!!!!!! Tears with laughter!
You F*%kwitt must have spent all day editing that last bit together!!! It is bloody brilliant!!!!
The rest of the show is awesome! Fantastic job Dave, I absolutely love this podcast!!!
I can see our listeners bubbling with laughter at the end!”

We are our harshest critics. Seriously.

Most of all I think that Knightwise and I have realized that through this journey of podcasting together that we are more friends than co-hosts. I value his friendship over the podcast. I am truly grateful of his friendship and that he joined the show.

Knightwise is a true friend, you don’t get many of them in life. Life is fickle, fleeting and crap at playing fair. Friends tip the balance.

So waste no time have a listen. Head over to the Global Geek Podcast Blog for the Show Notes and subscription details. The music that was used on the show is also available for free download from the Show Notes on the blog. DRM free and legal.

But you can also listen here, please vist the blog and be a part of the show with us!

WordPress.com Adds Audio: Not a Podcasting Platform… Yet

I learned today that WordPress.com has added the feature of both uploading audio files and a player. This potentially means that WordPress could be used as a podcasting platform. The only stumbling block at this point is the RSS feed.

You can now upload a file of up to 25MB onto WordPress. Not bad, but for our show it is short of the file size that we need. But for a lot of podcasts it might be enough, or you could decrease your bit rate to get the file size down. The other thing that has been added is the Audio Player WordPress Plugin. It is a common player that you would have seen before that works very well.

Consider also that unless you purchase more space then you only have 50MB allocated to you as a WordPress.com Blog owner. It won’t take long to use that up as a podcaster (our shows average 32MB each). So there is added cost there as well. But don’t make the assumption that you are restricted to the 25MB limit on file size, or that you have to buy more space here on WordPress.

There is nothing stopping you having the files hosted elsewhere and playing them from your blog here. You might have a server to host files. To demonstrate this I have embedded last weeks Global Geek Podcast that is hosted on The Podcast Network. You could have a file anywhere on the Internet. But just make sure that you host the content and are not leeching it from some poor blokes server! Some consider this theft, as well as bad form. The same as you should not embed photos on your blog unless you host them. But remember files don’t have to be hosted here to be played in the on-line player.

Okay so what is stopping WordPress.com from being able to be the “home” of your podcast? Probably the most important thing of all. You can either host the audio file here or somewhere else right. So that is the restriction on file size out of the way but once you place that file in a player on your blog you need it recognized as an enclosure. If it is not then a podcast it isn’t. The enclosure is what is needed for things like iTunes and feedreaders, “pod-catchers” in general to be able to download your podcast for the user. If it is not an enclosure then it won’t be “seen” by the RSS reader or aggrigator. By definition the audio file not being an enclosure is not a podcast, but an embedded audio file in a web page. Or “streaming audio” in other words.

I have had one file that I linked to here on the blog; recognized as an enclosure. Once, then it has never happened again and I don’t know why not. I sent a support request to WordPress.com and got nothing back. I did nothing different to what I would normally do. Go figure.

Not only that there is no micro-management of RSS on WordPress.com. You can’t tell it what to do, we are at the mercy of the guys at WordPress. They do a good job though, I have never had a problem. But you need this to be able to manage the podcast. The feed is crucial to the success of any podcast.

So while we are able to have fun with a player and be able to upload files now, which is great; we can not look at WordPress.com as a viable cost effective means to host a podcast. It may be something they are aiming for, right now though we have a cool player and that is all. As cool as that might be the file needs to be recognised as an enclosure, once that happens we are nearly there. Next is the RSS… then we might be podcasting here on WordPress.com.

As promised here is The Global Geek Podcast #034 :: Looks are Everything. Check out the Show Notes, links to everything we talk about can be found there. Plus I blog there as well as here through the week.

Nice player eh? Apparently a movie player is coming. Now, I have to figure out how to use the operators to get the colours to match the blog theme…