Recording Skype Calls
This is a simple step-by-step ‘how to' guide to recording Skype phone calls. Skype is a free VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) software tool which allows free calls to be made over the internet. This guide assumes that you already have Skype installed and running on your computer and that your speakers/headphones and microphone are already configured to make and receive calls via Skype.
For those of you who don't have Skype already installed, information about minimum system requirements and how to install and configure Skype is available from the Skype website.
Before you record any calls it is extremely important to ascertain permission from everyone you will be recording. Please refer to the information on clearance provided in the advice document Recording Telephone calls.
There is a wide range of free and paid-for software applications that will allow you to record audio from Skype. This guide has specifically chosen two free software programs which provide simple and quick solutions to recording calls with minimal fuss, although it is worth noting that there are other programs available which are just as simple to use, and some are listed at the end of this guide.
You will need to download either one of two applications from the web. Skype Recorder is a Freeware application which runs on Windows 2000, XP and Vista, and Audio Hijack, a program which runs exclusively on the Mac OSX platform. This guide is spilt into four sections:
- Recording Skype calls on a Windows PC
- Recording Skype calls on a Mac computer
- Production Tips
- Alternative software
1. Recording Skype calls on a Windows PC
1.1 Download and install Skype Recorder. Once correctly installed Skype Recorder will automatically open.
1.2 Open the Skype program, or if it's already running, quit and start again.
1.3 Click on the New Events tab in the main Skype window.
To allow the SypeRecorder plugin to use Skype click on SkypeRecorder.exe, and then in the new window, select the option ‘Allow this program to use Skype' and click ok.
Skype Recorder interface and controls
The interface, as shown here, is rather self-explanatory but each section is described in detail below.
- RECORD, STOP and PLAY (Open) buttons. If the RECORD button is pressed during a conversation recording will begin immediately. The PLAY button opens the folder containing your Skype recordings which are located in the recordings location.
NOTE: You do not need to start or stop recording. Recording mode is either ON or OFF. When recording mode is ON, all Skype calls are recorded to the specified directory.
- Recordings location - Specify the folder for saving recordings on your hard drive. For easy navigation and management of your recordings it is worthwhile creating a new folder on your computer where recordings can be saved
- Recording mode - Recordings can be encoded in three different ways.
- Mono - Both voices are recorded onto one audio channel (this creates a file half the size of a stereo file.
- Stereo - Creates a two-channel stereo recording where the microphone voice is recorded to the left channel and the other voice is recorded to the right channel. This mode is useful for editing recordings later, as the two channels can be separated.
- Joint Stereo - An encoding method using M-S (mid-side) encoding to create a more natural stereo effect. This mode can introduce unwanted artefacts to a recording at low bit rates.
- Recording Bit Rate - Determines the file size and resulting audio quality. The number (32, 64, 128) relates to the amount of bits per second of the recording, where 128kbits/sec is a larger amount of information than 32kbits/sec
When a call is being recorded a notification is displayed in the bottom right of the screen.
And at the end of each recorded call another notification is displayed indicating the name of the file and the length of the recording.
Notes about Skype Recorder
Skype Recorder records all calls to the MP3 format. Skype Recorder is set by default to run automatically upon user login. In doing this it automatically records all of your Skype calls in the background without any prompt from the user. Due to the inheremt clearance issues with recording every Skype call you make, this setting can be changed in the interface by un-ticking the box labelled ‘start automatically at Windows start-up'.
2. Recording Skype calls on Mac OSX
The capture method described here uses a free program called Audio Hijack, which as the name suggests is able to ‘hijack' the audio from other programs into a saved file. The most recent version is called Audio Hijack Pro and costs approximately £30 but the older free version is still available to download from the developers' website on the legacy page.
2.1 Download and install the software program Audio Hijack
2.2 When Audio Hijack is opened two windows will launch, the Main and the Inspector.
2.3 The Inspector window allows you to optimise how recordings are made but in this context we are simply concerned with three things.
- In the Source tab, select Skype as the application.
- In the Recording tab, set the sample rate to your chosen frequency (44.100KHz is recommended).
- Still within the Recording tab, select the directory path where you wish to save your recordings in the 'Save Recorded Files To' dialog.
2.4 You may wish to choose an action on completion of recording from the When Finished Recording Dialog, such as ‘add to ipod' or encode to mp3 with iTunes, although this is optional.
2.5 In the Main Audio Hijack Window highlight (by clicking on) the Skype icon and then click on the Hijack button. You will then be prompted to quit and re-launch Skype if it is open. Unfortunately this step cannot be avoided so always be prepared for Skype to relaunch if it is already open.
2.6 Click to quit and re-launch Skpye.
2.7 When you are ready to start recording click on the Record button in the main window. In the top corner of the main window you can view the recording signal in the small level meter.
Audio Hijack records to the AIFF file format at 16-bit resolution. This is not generally considered to be a standard delivery format, so the option to create an MP3 file mentioned in section 2.4 may be desirable.
- During recordings speak slowly, clearly, trying not to mumble or shout.
- Don't speak over someone when they're talking, especially with um's or err's or lots of yes' and no's. Try to wait for each other to stop a sentence before either of you begins to speak. Getting this right may take a few attempts, since without the visual interaction between speakers it can be difficult to maintain a natural flow, especially if you are unfamiliar with the other person.
- When asking questions try and word them so that the person answering can include the question in their answer. This is useful if you wish to edit out the questions at a later date.
- Test the built in volume meter in Skype to check your microphone level.
- It is always worthwhile making a test recording before any important calls you wish to record whenever possible.
- You are more likely to encounter connection problems which result in poorer audio fidelity when using a slow internet connection. This is worth investigating prior to recording with the other person(s) involved.
- Long distance international calls can often result in an audible delay of the receiving signal. This can become somewhat confusing and lead to stumbled conversations. A quick test can determine whether this is the case and a small amount of practice of leaving a long pause before and after speaking can easily solve this issue.
You may wish to edit your recordings and there is lots of capture and editing software widely available, such as Audacity (free and open source) or Reaper (£30). For a more in depth guide to audio production software, please refer to the advice document Choosing your Digital Audio Software.
Hotrecorder - Voip recording tool with built in audio converter tool
i-Sound - Computer recording tool kit allowing radio, application and Voip recording with real-time noise reduction.
KishKish SAM - Records calls to WAV and MP3 formats. Includes a Skype lie detector.
Pamela - Skype Recording management tool. Offers video and audio recording with sophisticated management tools
Nicecast - Recording for podcast application which allows you to record Skype calls.
CallRecorder - Simple to use Skype plugin to record audio and video.
GarageBand - Free application bundled with OS X, with MP3 upload feature. Can be used as a workaround to capture Skype calls with Soundflower and LineIn.
Soundflower - Free open source internal audio routing tool for passing audio through OS X.
LineIn - Free audio management tool enabling soft play-through of an audio input.