It has been a long-standing rule here at IT Conversations that we don’t conduct interviews over Skype, but recent improvements in Skype as well as additional experience has caused us to revisit that restriction. I’ll be publishing more detailed guidelines shortly, but here’s a summary:
- Record on an external device, not the same computer running Skype.
- Record the two sides of the conversation on separate tracks, then mix them in post-production. This allows you to match the levels and equalization and to eliminate single-track noise with gates.
- Shutdown all other applications on the computer running Skype. The worst offenders are those that use network resources such as email and IM clients, but anything that can take resources from Skype must be halted.
- Have exclusive access to a broadband connection. Another computer or a VOIP phone using the connection can adversely affect the quality.
- Use a standard cardioid microphone, not the noise-canceling type that are part of most headsets.
The figure below illustrates a hardware configuration that works quite well.
- The mixer can be an inexpensive one such as the Behringer UB502 ($35 street price) .
- The pan pots on the mixer are set such that the microphone signal is fed only to the mixer’s left output while the PC’s audio output (audio from the remote speaker) is fed only to the right channel.
- Only the left channel from the mixer (with only your mic’s signal) is fed to the computer’s line input.
- Yes, you need a line input, not a mic input, on the computer.
- Your voice will be recorded on the left track, and the other person will be recorded on the right.
- Likewise, you’ll hear yourself in your left ear and the other person in the right.
- As always, the headphones are connected as late as possible in the audio chain in order to detect as many problems as possible.
Note that this may work well using SkypeOut, which would allow you to conduct interviews with non-Skype users that sound as good as if you have an $800 telephone hybrid. I haven’t tested this to a great extent, so let me know how well it works for you.
Update: Here’s another variation.