A local not-for-profit, Career Insights for Teens, has asked me to prepare video interviews of persons in various careers, to give website visitors an idea of what it’s like to be employed in a certain line of work, what it takes to train for it, and what the job’s advantages and disadvantages are. So, I’ve been working on the best way to conduct video interviews solo, that is, without anyone to help me with lights, sound, etc. Shooting video can get complicated. To do it well takes pricy equipment, considerable learning and practice, and careful planning. I’m still working on all these challenges.
I realized, though, that the interviews in this particular case will probably involve more telling than showing. And since talking heads don’t make exciting video , I began to consider whether audio interviews might be better .
Recently I attended a talk by Terry Gross, the renown host of NPR’s interview show, “Fresh Air.” I’m a fan of Terry’s. She has inspired me to imagine how I might use audio interviews in my work with local communities of faith and other not-for-profits.
Although it sounds like Terry is sitting side by side with her interviewees, this is almost never the case. Instead, she speaks from the WHYY radio studio in Philadelphia, and her interviewee sits in a similar studio somewhere else in the world. How convenient! How economical!
That setup got me to thinking about a similar interview method using Skype, a free Voice Over IP software. I’m very fond of Skype because I use it to talk for free to my son and his family in London. We talk for as long as we like, and sometimes we use Skype video to see each other too. I wondered whether it might be possible to record a Skype conversation. After Googling I discovered, yes indeed, no problem! If you run a Mac, my research says that Audio HiJack Pro will do nicely. If you run Windows, you might try the basic free version of Pamela.
Once I had downloaded and installed the basic Pamela app, I noticed that that free version has a limit of 10 minutes per call. So then I set about to devise a free way to record Skype calls without time limits.
After some experimenting, here’s what I came up with: Set up a recording device, say, a tape recorder or digital sound recorder, half way between your computer’s speaker and the microphone you are using for the Skype call (in my case, the mouth mic of my USB headset). One of my computer speakers is right beside my monitor. I set up my digital recorder about a eighteen inches from that speaker, and the same distance to the mouth mic .
I adjusted my audio settings so that the Skype call playback comes through the speaker, not the ear pads on the headset. So now, when I have a Skype conversation my own voice is recorded by the nearby digital recorder and the responder’s voice comes through the speaker and is recorded likewise.
Since there is no time limit on Skype calls, the length of a recorded conversation with this method is limited only by the storage capacity of my digital recorder. And that’s huge!
Now, imagine what you could do with this free method of recording an interview with someone anywhere in the world! With that person’s permission, of course, you could use it to share your conversation as an educational podcast. Or, if you are on a search committee to fill a vacant position you could interview candidates and then share the recorded sessions with all members of your committee. Or, let’s say you’re on a small committee and the committee’s members reside hundreds of miles from each other. Instead of spending the time and gas money to meet in person, hold a free Skype conference, each of you calling from the comfort of your own home. Record that conference and you’ll have something better than a verbatim transcript, because you’ll have pauses, intonations, laughter, groans, not just words. The uses of this technology are limited only by your imagination.