Review: Call Recorder
More and more, people are finding that Skype is a great alternative to picking up the phone and calling a friend or colleague, whether they're just a few miles away or halfway around the globe. I use the service to collaborate with people from around the United States and since we both run the free app (get it at skype.com) it's completely free for all parties involved. With a bit of fiddling, you can even set up three way conference calls.
Or you can do what I do: use Skype as a way to record podcasts (I'm involved with two: Boulder Open Podcast and Three In Sight) even when everyone can't sit down in the same room in front of the same microphone. But how do you record Skype calls? That's not a feature built into the application.
That's where Call Recorder for Skype from Ecamm Network came in: I downloaded a copy of this commercial application ($19.95) and installed it on my Mac.
I've worked with a lot of different apps and most of them end up causing you to do things differently, to compensate for having them installed, but Call Recorder is one of the few I've seen where once installed, it's a plug and forget app: a little recording window just pops up every time you launch Skype and you can click the "record" button at any time to start recording the Skype conversation (or video chat!) you're involved with. Very handy.
In fact, if you set it up properly, it'll automatically record every call, meaning you can just focus on what you're talking about or demonstrating, and not worry about the recording at all.
I asked my friend Mari Smith to help me with a quick demo of the audio recording capabilities and here's how that looked...
First, I launched Skype and called her:
The Call Recorder window shows up:
Once the call is connected, everything activates and the big red "Record" button becomes clickable. Easy enough!
By default, the program saves all call recordings in a "Saved Calls" subfolder in your Documents folder:
This can be changed in Preferences, along with a lot of other features, including enabling the auto-record-all-calls feature:
Once you do enable automatic call recording, whether they're video conferences or just audio, they all show up in the "Saved Calls" folder with the name of the other party and a date/time stamp:
The audio quality is a bit tricky to work with, though, because I found that the two tracks weren't balanced, as you can hear in this tiny sample recording:
Certainly it's not something you can drop into your favorite podcast directory or use as a shortcut for making interview podcasts, but if you're comfortable in GarageBand or Audacity, you can adjust the levels and normalize the channels to make a good recording.
As Glen, the programmer, suggests: "The easiest way to split out the tracks is to use the provided "Split Movie Tracks" utility, which is installed to Application/Movie Tools. This will save out a file for each side of the call, which can then each be added to your audio editing program as separate tracks."
Finally, a Google search will reveal that there are a surprising number of different Skype recording applications for the Mac (and even more for the PC), but I'm impressed with Call Recorder and it's now a fixture of my Skype setup. I really like being able to automatically record my conversations for later reference. It's $19.95 well spent.
Disclaimer: Ecamm Network sent us a licensed copy of the Call Recorder software for this review.
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