In this post I'll go over the various solutions to recording conversations and interviews remotely over the internet, using VOIP and hardware work-arounds.
Are you ready?
VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is the transmission of live streaming audio and video, from one computer/device to another, over the internet.
Skype is a well known VOIP call app available for desktop computers, tablets and cellphones. You used to need a third-party app to record Skype conversations, but recently it's been added as a feature. Here is Skype's own How-To on recording.
The How-To article also lists the third-party apps for use with older versions of Skype (version 7 and older). Some are free, some are paid, and their abilities and recording quality vary slightly.
Skype's built-in recording will combine all voices in to one track, so you won't be able to edit individual voices yourself. Some of the third-party apps allow for multitrack recording, for example Ecamm.
Zoom is similar to Skype, and is gaining popularity. It features built-in recording options, and is capable of recording each side of the conversation as separate audio files without the need for a third-party app. Here is Zoom's own How-To guide for recording.
There is a menagerie of VOIP services with dedicated recording abilities designed for Podcasters, Radio, and other broadcast facilities. Their costs and features vary, which one you choose to use will depend on whichever meets your needs best, here are a few of them:
There are a couple of hardware work-arounds for remote recording...
The "Double Ender" Technique
In the simplest of terms, each person records their side of the conversation themselves, separately, while talking over the phone or a VOIP app. Person A might record their voice directly into Audacity, while Person B records their voice using a handheld recorder.
When done right, this method will give the best results than any other.
The Mix-Minus Technique
Using this setup, you effectively record each side of a two-way conversation to a DAW/digital recorder on separate tracks.
This is fiddly to setup, but done right you can get great results. I'm not going to go into the how-to, as it's all very well explained here already.
Tips to get the best results
• Make sure everyone is on the same page, and knows what's what, and presses Record.
• Use the same audio recording settings everywhere, throughout, one both sides, all the time, wherever - different sample rate settings can lead to recordings drifting out of sync.
• Close down all unnecessary applications, especially any that use your internet connection. This goes for you and your guest! Any other apps using the internet connection will reduce the available bandwidth, which will degrade the audio quality and can result in glitches.
• Disable Video, if the VOIP has a video option, turn it off - video will use up a lot of internet bandwidth.
• Everyone wears headphones and turns off their computer's speakers. If your voice comes out of their computer's speakers, that will be picked up by their mic and come back to you as an echo, and will be recorded. And echos are not easy to get rid of in post production.
• Do a test recording. If time allows, do a run-through to sort out any potential problems.
Thanks for Reading!
I'm Adam an Audio Editor & Sound Designer, with over 11 years working experience in the realms of Audio Engineering. I currently live in Cape Town, South Africa, with too many cats and dogs.